After our wedding, we headed out on our honeymoon to Tulum, Mexico. It was beautiful, awesome, amazing, fantastic, a trip of a lifetime. We saved and saved and saved for it.
But before we left, we had to pack. And you know we did it in the most cost-effective way possible.
The first thing we took into consideration was that it’s against my religion to pay baggage fees. (If I had a religion other than straight spirituality, that is. Baggage fees mess with my inner peace.) On flights you get one carry-on item, and then one personal item such as a purse, laptop, etc. I’ve traveled enough to know that there is ALWAYS more to pack on the way back, whether that be because you just don’t fold dirty laundry or you’ve picked up too many souvenirs. So we only packed one bag each for the way there, accounting for a second “purse”/bag we’d have in tow on the way back.
Picking Our Luggage
We had a red-eye flight out of Pittsburgh, and our hotel didn’t have check-in open until later in the day. So we knew we’d be wandering around for a while on that first day with luggage in tow. A backpack seemed like the best option. I have one; it’s huge and perfect for packing full of all those big and little things you need when headed to the hospital for child-birth. But when I’ve taken it on flights before I’ll always have a connecting flight on a smaller plane, and it just won’t fit in the overhead storage compartments.
I learned from The PoPs that Jansport is the way to go when you’re considering a backpack purchase. They have a lifelong warranty on their products, so if it ever wears out, gets a broken zipper, or becomes otherwise incapacitated as a storage device you can get your money back, get the backpack repaired, or get an entirely new backpack all together. The husband needed one for school, anyways. So he picked out a boring grey one, true to suit. I was totally enamored with all the cute and trendy designs they had, but the boring grey one was a trans, and had amazingly comfortable shoulder straps that I knew I’d appreciate during those first-day wanderings.
Those Quart-Sized Bags
I swear they used to let you take gallon-sized bags onto planes for all those liquid-like things you might need. But the current rule is a quart, and the bag must be ziploc (not the brand, just see-through and sealable.) It took some serious plotting out and strategic packing, but we managed to fit everything we would need in 3 oz or less into our two, individual quart-sized baggies:
- make-up (for me. My foundation came in a 1 oz bottle so no repackaging there.)
- Arbonne sun tan lotion. I used to sell Arbonne in general. While I don’t use a lot of their products anymore because of price, their sun tan products can’t be beat. I burn. Period. But I never have when I used these, even when I lived near the southern beach. For Christmas I asked for Damage Control (your basic sun tan lotion) and Glow With It (an after sun lotion that works better than aloe.) For Glow With It I always put it on right after I come in from the sun whether I think I’ve burned or not. Whatever redness I have turns into a tan. And I do. not. tan. It comes in big bottles, so I bought some 3 oz travel bottles from Target for $1/each. We each took one 3 oz container of each lotion. Like I said, I don’t sell the stuff anymore, but Debt Free Tejana does.
- Travel-sized bug repellent. (One each.)
- One 2 oz container of lotion. (Just general moisturizer.)
- Transferred our shampoo into those 3 oz $1 containers. We ended up not needing them as our hotel had shampoo. So we just brought ours back home at the end of the trip.
- One stick of bug-bite relief stuff.
- Travel-sized deoderant. (One each.)
- Eye drops. (I love allergy season! Didn’t have too much of it in Mexico, but they were killing me in Pittsburgh.)
Travel Documents and Paperwork
- On the way back, our FMM (or immigration) cards. These are no joke, people. If you want to leave Mexico, you’d better have yours. We were provided ours on the plane, filled them out, and held onto them until we were leaving the country. One girl on our flight back found herself in a bad spot when she was leaving; she had thrown hers away. They wouldn’t let her get on the plane. Her friend did. She was stranded in Mexico. Alone. I don’t know what happened to her. The airline said they would take care of her, but I’m not entirely sure what that entailed.
- Copies of our passports, with phone numbers for our hotel and the appropriate consulate/embassy offices.
- Money, US IDs, and credit cards. (We exchanged for pesos while still stateside to avoid getting raked over the coals by exchange rates in tourist locations once we got down there.)
- Boarding passes, e-tickets, and flight confirmation codes.
- Maps of all the airports we’d be stopping in. (I like to know where the next gate is before I have to dash there on a thirty minute layover.)
- Information I printed out about a site we’d be going to. We read up on the plane so we wouldn’t have to pay for a tour. More on that next week.
Clothes and Everything Else
- Two pairs of long pants. One we wore on the plane there and back. The other we packed for a trek into the jungle.
- Wore 1 short sleeved shirt. Packed 2.
- Beach dresses for the days I wouldn’t be wearing pants.
- One long-sleeve shirt in case we ran into a chilly night.
- A swimsuit.
- A towel.
- Sandals (we wore our tennis shoes on the plane.)
- Hats to keep the sun off. (We wore those on the plane, too.)
- Lots of socks.
- A camera.
- Plastic grocery bags for wet clothes. (You can pack so many of them…they get so compact.)
- A cloth bag each for all the stuff we wouldn’t be able to fit back into the backpack on the way back.
- One reusable water bottle each. We knew our hotel would have clean water dispensed in the lobby, but wanted a larger container to carry around with us.
- Make-up that wasn’t liquid.
- Disposable razors. Because of all things, they let you bring those on a plane.
Things I Wish I’d Packed
I had very few packing regrets. But I did have a couple:
- Hair ties. I forgot hair ties. And I was at the beach. So annoying.
- I wish I had brought one or two more outfits. There were a couple of days I’d need to change because what we were doing at night was totally different than what we did earlier in the day. So a couple dresses got worn twice. Not that big of a deal.
- We didn’t bring sunglasses. We bought some at a pitstop on the way to the hotel. They were about $11 USD each. Which wasn’t horrible. But we had perfectly good ones at home.
The husband didn’t think we could fit it all into one bag. But we did. I use the whole roll-up-your-clothes method for packing. His was a little more challenging since he had cargo shorts and t-shirts instead of dresses, but we made it work. Really, you don’t need a whole lot when you go to Tulum. Everything is really laid back. There’s not a huge night scene like in Cancun, so you don’t need to pack 70 pairs of heels. (One of his classmates told him that she literally packs an entire suitcase just for shoes whenever she travels.) Most people go to relax on the beach or do yoga or meditate. There’s lots of excursions you can take advantage of, but none where you’d want to be lugging around a ton of stuff.
Wow impressive…you packed all your stuff in a backpack! I need to get my wife to pack like that. I like to pack lightly but don’t know if I can pull that off either unless it was a very short trip. Even when you can’t check in at a certain time, usually hotels will let you leave your luggage somewhere…though I guess you might not want that.
Excellent point! Our hotel was further out than our little pitstop, though, and we didn’t want to pay for travel between the two points twice. If we were going to only have one bag anyways, might as well be a backpack!
I’ve found that most hotels are very considerate about allowing you to store your luggage behind the counter (or in a designated storage room) when your arrival or departure doesn’t align with check in/out times.
I love your organization! It’s inspiring. I use the roll-up method for clothes and I still do some military style folding. Whatever it takes to minimize and save space.
My military-family members taught me how to pack! You guys have the best methods ever.
I am very impressed that you could pack everything in a rucksack! I’m a pretty good packer but I need a carry-on holdall at least. I love the rolling method though, had to teach the boyfriend that one!
I see you have tied the knot, congratulations. I’m seriously thinking about doing the travel fitness vacation in Tulum in August or September.
Do it! It’s an amazing place…and pretty much perfect for you work. I’ll have Tulum posts up every Thursday for a bit!
It’s very impressive that you could fit all of those things into your backpack! I’ve been thinking a lot about packing lightly these days, since in less than four months (just three and a half!) my fiance and I (who will be my husband) are going to trek in Nepal for 2 weeks and then going to Bali for 2 weeks. We are weight limited to 25 lbs each on our trek so it’s a lot to think about! Thanks for the tips.
Oh, man, ours weighed well over 25 pounds. I’m super interested to see how you guys do it!!!
@Victoria On the way back, we definitely needed that extra carry on. So I shoved a couple cloth bags to serve the purpose into the backpack. 🙂 Rolling all day!
You just made my sons day. He was very upset this morning when his zipper would not close. He had to use last years backpack which I was told was uncool for a third grader to have. He will be very happy when he gets home from school. Thank you for the easy to follow instructions.