Packing Light

by Lydia Linton Pontius (Sept. 2014)

Getting ready to travel to the Yucatán? Maybe it's your first trip; for me I've lost count of how many times I have gone, but I am trying this time to travel for three weeks with only a carry-on. Though that might sound simple to some of you, I have to travel with my entire office.

In my last article I wrote about figuring out where you want to stay and what you want to do. Taking that to the next logical step, this is about what you'll need.

When I first started going to the Yucatán there were not the stiff costs or restrictions on luggage and there was not much in the way of stores along the Riviera Maya coast. I went on some trips literally with extra luggage brimming with requests from locals. One time I brought flashlights and batteries, other times goods for spay and neuter clinics or school supplies for children. On top of goods for great causes, there were always the special requests from expats who had cravings for something they just couldn't get—Pop-Tarts, candies, or a part for their computer. All that has changed over the years, making it also easier to grab the things you might forget once you get there.

This trip I have decided, since I always make one of my first stops at a large supermercardo, to forego packing things I can't get in small containers and just pick them up at the store. There's no need to carry a large sunscreen when it is easy enough to purchase there. So I'm saving the room for that extra pair of sandals.

Another thing to remember when you are traveling and want to pack light, is there are great laundry services at the major resorts and local places in all of the major cities and towns. In Akumal, for example, there is the long-standing Mulgrew's Laundry and also another locally owned and operated one in the Pueblo; both will have your clean laundry ready usually in less than 24 hours.

Depending on where you are staying and what your plans are for entertainment, usually you can get away with a couple of sundresses—or for the guys, a nice pair of shorts and casual short-sleeve shirt. During the day you can get by with bathing suits and cover-ups in most the beach resorts and small towns along the coast. I would recommend a light sweater or pareo since the trade winds are almost always blowing, so especially in the evening you may want a light cover-up. The nice thing about throwing in a pareo or two is that there are a number of ways you can use and wear them. Check out these videos for a few ways to wear a pareo: how to tie a pareo and 20 ways to tie a sarong. Or better still, put that on your must-buy list.

Depending on what you are planning to do, you may or may not want to pack your snorkel gear. Most resorts and dive shops have gear available to rent. A must-have is a good pair of sandals or water shoes. Remember it is a karst terrain, meaning it is made out of limestone and that can make for rough walking if you are not right on the powdery sand. These comfortable shoes come in handy for shopping and walks through the ruins or to a local cenote; simple flip flops may not fare as well.

Some of you may be wanting to pack light to leave room for souvenirs. You can find a lot of wonderful art in the Yucatán! Talavera pottery is one of my favorite things to collect—it makes beautiful wall art as well as magnificent dishware. You can even find this pottery as sinks and toilets! Silver is another popular purchase and the handcrafted jewelry is gorgeous. I recommend perusing some of the small, local stores that carry handcrafted pieces of jewelry and artwork from all over Mexico. You won't be disappointed.

Another local favorite is the colorful handcrafted hammocks. You can find them in a number of colors as well as sizes. Many of the locals still prefer a hammock to a bed so, if you ask, they may help you find the best quality.

If artwork, jewelry and hammocks are not your cup of tea, you might be interested in a bottle of tequila. I recommend taking a tequila-tasting course if your resort or restaurant offers one. It is a great way to learn more about the types of tequila and to get some great new recipes.

Most importantly, pack your bathing suits, because the highlight of your trip will indeed be the white, soft, sandy beaches and the crystal-clear waters. The nights are perfect for shopping, eating and tequila-tasting but the days should be spent at the water whether it is the beaches, lagoons or cenotes.

Pack light and don't worry about forgetting things, because you can find everything you need at incredible Mexican stores and markets. Leave your worries behind—and enjoy!