I Love Mexico City So Much, I've Been 4 Times — and These 16 Items Will Make or Break Your Trip
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Over the past several years, I've had the good fortune to visit Mexico City four times — and if you ask me, it's somewhat of an underrated destination. In fact, on my most recent trip, I became aware that there were many more curious Americans than ever before. Since my first visit, I've been telling anyone who would listen to my enthusiastic recommendation to go; frequently, the recommendation would come with a puzzled look and many follow-up questions: Isn't it busy? Is it safe? What's there to do?
Those questions might get asked about any large city, but Mexico City is, in fact, the largest city by population in North America and one of the largest in the world. It's also one of the most culturally significant cities in the world, with a gastronomy and nightlife scene that will continue to intrigue more and more visitors.
There are, of course, the staples like the Frida Kahlo Museum and the National Museum of Anthropology, but Mexico City also surprised me with its stunning Luis Barragán architecture, wild wrestling nights at the Lucha Libre, and the floating gardens and markets of Xochimilco — which turn into a party if you’re there at the right time. Yet, so much of truly enjoying Mexico City is simply experiencing the big city’s cosmopolitan energy by snagging an outdoor seat at a restaurant in Condesa, Roma, or Polanco. With great new hotel openings like the Andaz Mexico City, Casa Polanco, and Ritz-Carlton, Mexico City — just within the past few years, in fact — there’s even more reason to want to visit CDMX in 2023.
As I plan my upcoming trip there in late May, I've started reflecting on my past visits and everything that I've needed or wished I had brought with me on the ground, like a pair of versatile and supportive walking sneakers, a compact-yet-sturdy umbrella, and a travel-friendly water bottle with a built-in filter so I could grab clean drinking water anywhere. Here's everything I'm packing as a result, and I would suggest packing for yourself when you make your way to CDMX.
These woven leather sandals have been around in Mexico since the pre-Columbian era and for good reason. They're easy to slip on, comfortable, and let your feet breathe. I travel to warmer weather climates all over the world with them, and they never let me down — whether I'm sifting through the sand on a beach or hitting the hot pavement of a city like CDMX. I've bought these Nisolo Huarache Sandals twice since I wanted them in two different colors (brandy and tobacco, respectively). I've been wearing them for multiple seasons, and the hand-cut, woven leather seems to get even softer and better looking with age. Thin rubber soles line the bottoms and are also deceptively good at providing comfort for longer walks.
Fans of more casual walking sandals will want to check out the action-ready Teva Men's Hurricane Xlt2 Sandals. They're equipped with memory foam footbeds that contour to the unique shapes of your feet for all-around cushioning and support. Plus, they're quick-drying and impressively water-resistant, so you can wear them on any terrain for any activity.
To buy: nisolo.com and amazon.com, $150
LifeStraw Water Filtration Bottle
To limit my single-use plastics, I've been using LifeStraw's new Go Series Water Filtration Bottle, which directly combines the brand's filtration technology with the portable convenience of a water bottle. I'm definitely packing it for Mexico City because you can fill this bottle up virtually anywhere there's a water source for clean water: a tap in Mexico, airport bathrooms, or a gas station while road-tripping. The two-stage filter improves the taste and protects against bacteria, parasites, microplastics, chlorine, silt, sand, and general cloudiness, which gives me peace of mind. The bottle is also double-wall insulated, keeping water cold all day.
To buy: amazon.com, from $32
On Cloudsurfers Sneakers
Like any major metropolis, Mexico City is filled with unforgiving concrete streets, which can be tough on the feet. Since a lot of walking is guaranteed to get around in CDMX, I like to have some of my most comfortable options along for the ride. The pair that I keep in my suitcase for that exact purpose doubles as running shoes: the Cloudsurfers by On Running.
Pro tip: Though you'll inevitably do a lot of walking, Mexico City is also a great city to jog in, and I always try to get to the Chapultepec Forest running trail if I have enough time in the morning. The cushiony nature of these shoes makes them ideal for just that or walking along some of the jagged, uneven streets you must contend with in Mexico City. They're also stylish in a sleek, head-turning way, but if you want to keep them cleaner on the slightly grittier streets of CDMX, I would opt for the all-black version.
To buy: zappos.com and rei.com, from $150
Having a breathable t-shirt that you won’t sweat through is a must when traveling to Mexico City, and I love this more luxe version for its excellent anti-odor and moisture-wicking. In fact, I’ve noticed that this 100 percent cotton shirt helps me avoid sweating, and it has a more premium feel to it, making it a more elevated piece that I regularly style under flowy shirts or jean jackets and blazers. In a city like CDMX, this allows the t-shirt to do double duty and dress up or down since it’s fitted without losing its roominess and feeling overly fitted and tight. Not to sound gross — but I can also wear it twice without it smelling and needing to wash it, something I can’t say for any of my other t-shirts.
Another quality option is this moisture-wicking short-sleeve shirt from Amazon-favorite brand Magcomsen, which offers UPF 50+ sun protection and is stylish enough that no one would suspect that you're wearing a sporty t-shirt with your tailored shorts or linen pants on activity-heavy days. And, it's only $19.
To buy: bananarepublic.com, $40
Gorilla Grip Compact Travel Umbrella
Rain comes and goes in Mexico City, especially during the rainy season of June through September. While it reminds me of the rain in Miami — brief, but incredibly intense — I was definitely glad I packed a small umbrella on a previous trip when it started pouring buckets during one of my walks around Condesa's charming Avenida Amsterdam. This option from Gorilla Grip comes in three solid colors plus an ironic blue sky print, and it offers UV protection while boasting a convenient automatic one-hand design. Many shoppers also share how surprised they are by the inexpensive umbrella's overall sturdiness.
To buy: amazon.com, $15
Blue Lizard Face Sunscreen
The sun in Mexico City can be pretty intense — in fact, on one trip, when I was getting the scoop on the beautiful new Casa Polanco Hotel, I went outside and sat in the neighboring Lincoln Park (one of my favorites) for about 30 minutes and got a slight sunburn. Because I have more sensitive skin, I've tested pretty much every facial sunscreen there is, and there are only a few that don't break me out, including this sensitive skin option from Blue Lizard. I like that it's a mineral sunscreen, but non-comedogenic (so it won't block pores) and contains hyaluronic acid for an extra boost in hydration.
To buy: amazon.com, $17
UPF Sun Hat
Made with a paper braid, this panama hat is adjustable in size and full of airflow and comes in lots of different styles suitable for all genders. I specifically appreciate the “stardancer” style for its woven pattern around the brim, which can be seen from the top but also peeks through when you see the hat from underneath. With UPF 50+ sun protection, it’s an ideal hat to bring along anytime there will be significant sun exposure. It’s also packable, making it very easy to stash into a bag despite its size, and you can generally keep its shape well if you protect it in your suitcase around other clothing.
To buy: amazon.com, from $35
Everywhere I go in Mexico City, there seems to be a great rooftop pool situation (pro tip: If you filter your hotel searches to include a pool, I can save you some time and let you know to check out both the Andaz or Umbral hotels). With daytime highs ranging from 70 degrees Fahrenheit to just below 85 degrees Fahrenheit and low 80s pretty much year round, when it’s warm enough for a dip, I love to have this Vineyard Vines swimsuit tucked away in my bag.
This specific suit makes my legs look great as a result of the 7-inch inseam, plus, they are somehow fitted but also one of the most comfortable swimsuits I own, something other shoppers clearly agree with me on. I’m also fond of the elastic waistband on these trunks, which is stretchy but sufficient on keeping them in place, even after an ill-advised cannonball. As a bonus, they come in 39 different styles and colors so even if you don’t like a louder print like I do, there’s probably one that’s right for your aesthetic.
If your budget is a bit tighter, given all the fun CDMX activities you might be saving for, I also like this $19 option that has a 7-inch inseam and comes in plenty of bold colors and patterns that'll look great on any rooftop hotel pool.
To buy: vineyardvines.com, $99
Even during the summer, Mexico City's high-elevation climate means cooler nights and mornings that require a light jacket. A jean jacket in a classic medium wash is a great unisex option casual enough to fit CDMX's vibe, and it can be layered over a tee, sweatshirt, or even a sweater if it's unseasonably cool. Need an affordable denim jacket recommendation? Old Navy shoppers rave about this classic, non-stretch jean jacket currently on sale for $55, fitted throughout the body with handsome button cuffs.
To buy: oldnavy.com, $55 (originally $60)
Sojos Retro Round Polarized Sunglasses
A pair of sunnies should undoubtedly always stay in your carry-on bag. But in big cities with lots of pollution and traffic like Mexico City, I wear them even on cloudier days to keep gunk — dust from construction or nasty diesel fumes from idling trucks — out of my eyes. This gray pair from Orlebar Brown is my current favorite, because it feels modern and trendy, thanks to its flatter lens and subtle gradient fade from top to bottom. The retro round style will also fit in with the hipsters of Roma and Juarez. If you're worried about packing a pricier pair, add these lookalikes for less from Amazon to your cart instead. At just $14.99, it won't be the end of the world if you leave them in your room by mistake after checkout.
To buy: amazon.com, $15 (originally $20)
Refrze Airline-Approved Pet Carrier
Mexico City is a very pet-friendly town, and you will see all types of cute, small dogs cruising the streets of Polanco, Condesa, and Roma. The new Andaz Mexico City Condesa even has a "wooftop," a pet-friendly area that combines a beer garden so that owners can enjoy as their furry friends play. Having a sturdy, airline-compliant pet carrier is a must if you decide to bring your pet along, as I'm considering doing for my next trip. This well-priced option from Refze has a variety of colors, including neutral gray, soft blue, pink, and a more regal purple. It's made of a sturdy Oxford cloth, comes with a shoulder strap, and a bowl for pet food that brilliantly attaches to the carrier by velcro.
To buy: amazon.com, from $24
STM Powerkick Fast-Charging Power Adapter
With so much to do, see, and especially taste, I try to pack my days with as much as possible each time I'm in Mexico City. Bringing a charging adapter has become crucial when it hits lunchtime, and I need to juice up. This option by STM PowerKick is one I particularly like because it has suction cups on it so you can secure your smartphone or another device to it while charging. This also comes in handy if you're on a flight to CDMX and want to watch TikToks or the latest episode of Succession you downloaded; since it has a kickstand, it allows you to position your device in a portrait or landscape position.
To buy: stmgoods.com, $70
The breezy, art-filled atmosphere of Mexico City always makes me want to dress a little more bohemian, and the warm weather can make linen a nonnegotiable on sweltering days. These best-selling pants from Amazon are lightweight, made with a breathable cotton-linen blend, and will look good with everything in your suitcase. And, they're on sale.
To buy: amazon.com, from $58 (originally $90)
Activated You Morning Complete Daily Wellness Drink
Having a grumpy travel gut is accepted as a reality when you're on the road, especially in foreign countries where there are always new and exotic foods to try. As a frequent traveler hopping all over the world, I know this better than anyone else, so gut health is really important to me. After all, you wouldn't want to waste a day in Mexico City holed up in your hotel room instead of seeing the Palace of Fine Arts up close and personal. The Morning Complete Wellness Drink was designed with less turbulent travel tummies in mind; it's packed with various strains of prebiotics and probiotics to ensure smoother, more comfortable digestion. It's also formulated with green superfoods to optimize nutrient intake, a metabolism-boosting blend to eliminate bloating, antioxidants, and more.
To buy: amazon.com, $58
The Anytime You Drink Vitamins
Mexico City's pulsing and trendy bars range from hidden speakeasy-type bars like Hanky Panky to the bohemian and vibey Xaman Bar and mega dance clubs like Mn Roy. On a few occasions, I've spent very late nights out at its queer clubs like Kinky Bar — and one thing is for sure, Mexico City knows how to party. As a result, I always pack H Proof's Anytime You Drink Vitamins, formulated to help with alcohol consumption, restore nutrients, and hydrate you with electrolytes. I've noticed that I can avoid a messy, massive hangover when I take them before, during, or even after a big night out. And, even though they're a bit of a splurge for vitamins, when you break it down to cost, each hangover helper is about $3 — which I would argue is money very well spent to avoid a day spent in bed wishing you'd never gone out.
To buy: amazon.com, $59
Avarelle Acne Cover Patch
As someone who struggles with occasional whiteheads from travel-related exhaustion and frequent climate change — but especially in cities like Mexico City that combine brow sweat with pollution — I'm always on the lookout for a great acne cover patch to reduce the appearance of any spots. I've been taking this wallet-friendly option from Avarelle, which is less than $10, practically everywhere I go because they magically clear up my pimples overnight while I sleep. So, whether you're traveling to The City of Palaces to sightsee, for a work event, or just to experience that hard-to-get reservation at Pujol or Quintonil, you'll clearly want to look your best, and these have given me a lot of confidence that I can as well when I travel. With ingredients that include reparative hydrocolloid, antibacterial tea tree, skin barrier-healing cica, and hydrating calendula oil, the patches can tackle any blemish and will leave you with a clearer, smoother, and healthier overall complexion.
To buy: amazon.com, $9
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