Tulum is Mexico’s hottest spot right now. It’s known for its beautiful white sand beaches, eco-friendly hotels, yoga culture, Mayan ruins, and hipster vibe. If you’re on social media, there is a good chance you have seen images of its Mayan baths and dreamy hammocks that swoon over the jungle.
When you think of Tulum, you don’t immediately think of it as a family vacation destination, but we started planning our trip when Selah was about a month old and it was our first family vacation! We will eventually take a yearly trip without her, but we want to include Selah in most of our travels, as we see it as one of the biggest gifts we can give her.
A couple things you should know about Tulum in general before booking your trip.
1. You’ll need to decide where you want to stay. Tulum is split between the town (Pueblo) and the beach. Depending on where you are in town and where you’re going to on the beach, it can be a 20+ minute drive, as there is only one road and it sees a bit of traffic. The Pueblo is authentic and where you will get the local vibe. The beach is touristy and where you will get that perfect shot for Instagram.
2. Cash is king. Lots of shops + restaurants do accept cards, but most, especially on the beach, don’t. You must keep in mind that accepting cards relies on WiFi, and in most spots in Tulum, WiFi is spotty. We ran into restaurants that were accepting cards when we came in, but not when we went to pay, because WiFi was not working (ahem… Burrito Amor. Go anyways, its delicious).
3. Tulum, and much of the Caribbean, is currently experiencing a sargassum seaweed problem.
It looks sparse here, but it washes up onto shore in huge sheets, piles up to die, smells like death, and attracts sand flies. Sexy! This may determine if you want to stay on the beach or pick a new destination all together. Rumor is, Holbox + Isla Mujeres are the only two beaches not experiencing the seaweed infiltration right now. But, you ain’t heard that from me, and you should do your own research before booking.
Ok, now that you are equipped with the basic knowledge of this magical hotspot, I’ll tell you about our trip and how we did it with a seriously cute baby.
Let’s start with packing, because with a baby, preparation is key to having a good time! Since I’m packing for two now, I use packing cubes. It’s a serious mom hack. They keep our things organized and they maximize space. This is important because when you travel with a baby, you’re already bringing a car seat and a stroller, so your luggage needs to be efficient!
Below is a list of things that made our trip easy + stress free… I mean as stress-free as you can be with an 8 month old!
1. Plum Organic baby food. If you’re still only breastfeeding, your packing list just got lighter! But if you have an infant that is eating solids, you need to think about the best, easiest, and most efficient (in terms of packing + preparation) way to feed your baby on the go. High quality, pre-packaged food is easiest for my family. I packed one of her small bowls, 2 of her spoons (one for her + one for me, duh), a bib and 7 pouches, with no new ingredients. A foreign country is not where you want to experience an allergic reaction!
2. Diapers, diapers + more diapers. When we travel domestic, I buy diapers when I get to our destination. It’s a packing dream! But, when traveling abroad, there isn’t a way to guarantee the brand/size of diapers you prefer. We are currently using Pampers Pure. They are a big baby dream come true + 12hr, so they are perfect for long day trips/activities + overnight. I packed 44 (left them in their plastic packaging to keep them compact) and came back with 5-10.
3. A swimming hat to protect delicate skin from the sun, disposable swimming diapers, and reusable swimming diapers. I got both because I had never used either before and didn’t know which one was better. Reusable, hands down. The disposable are cute + easy, but they leak fast. When we go to Miami in July, I will save some space in my luggage and leave the disposables behind.
4. Babyganics outdoors kit includes sunscreen, insect repellent + alcohol free hand sanitizer. I can’t emphasize the important of these 3 little items. The sun + the mosquitos (hello, Tulum is in a jungle!) are real real. And when traveling, little ones are touching all kinds of new (and dirty) things. Fighting germs along the way, helps keep colds + other illnesses away. Unless you’re us, and come back with hand, foot, mouth disease.
5. Munchkin travel bath. Our Airbnb only had showers, so we filled up the travel bath by using a water pitcher (didn’t take long at all), and it worked perfect for baths + photoshoots!
6. Summer Infant’s traveling high chair. This may not be a necessity, but it made meals easy + it packed up small.
When packing clothes, I normally overpack because babies ruin clothes, fast! But for Tulum, I only packed one outfit per day because our Airbnb had a washer + dryer, and we used it. I packed lots of suits for Sellie only to realize, I’m more of a European mom and I ended up just letting her go topless. It was easier on all fronts. She hated me squeezing her into suits, and I hated getting her out of wet ones.
Travel + Accommodations
We flew into Cancun + booked a private transfer (through our Airbnb, sorry I don’t have more info) to Tulum, which is about an hour + half south. Be sure to PACK SNACKS! There is only a duty free shop on the way out of the airport and depending on traffic, it will be a minute before you reach your destination. And, there is only one road to and from the airport, so if there is an accident, you may be in the car awhile. Be sure to check what foods are and are not allowed across the border before you pack your snacks!
Selah is a great traveler! We travel in the morning, when she is more predictable and usually naps well. We brought her Maxi Cosi car seat for the transfer from Cancun to Tulum, but didn’t use it for taxi trips around town. If you plan to bring your car seat, be sure to make sure your transfer ride or rental car has a way to secure it. I found a lot of my tips for traveling with an infant, like nurse during take off + landing and book a window seat, on The Traveling Child. Monet is a wealth of knowledge!
We stayed at an Airbnb in town, because part of what we enjoy about traveling is experiencing the local flair.
I wanted to be able to walk to shops + restaurants, and eat eat eat all the local good good. Keep in mind, this is totally possible on the beach, but the vibe will be different. It all depends on what you’re looking for! We love to stay at Airbnbs because you get more for your buck, period. We got a whole house, with a private pool, for what we would pay for one room at a hotel, but not in Tulum because hotels are mostly on the beach, and they are pricey. Here is a closer look at the Airbnb we stayed at in Tulum!
There is an Airbnb for everyone, and one day, I’ll sit down and share a detailed “how to book the best Airbnb” because I truly believe it’s a very tedious art form, but for now I’ll give ya the quick + dirty:
1. Use the filter to only search from Superhosts. This should greatly reduce your anxiety about getting ripped off, as they are given this superior status based on reviews. People who travel think they are super, and who wants anything less than super when they travel!
2. Read the reviews, and only book a place that has reviews. Superhosts will have reviews, with high ratings. Make sure people are talking about the things that are important to you: location, AC, WiFi, the pool, the host, etc…
3. Ask questions before booking! Superhosts are down to answer anything, it’s what makes them super. So if you didn’t see something addressed in the description or reviews, ask!
4. Search the reviews for the phrase, “it was better than the photos!” and piece the pictures together, like a puzzle. Figure out where the kitchen meets the living space, try to determine if the random door off the kitchen is the same door to the main bedroom, and then decide if you are ok with that. Most people feel “ripped off” when they get to space and find out that the pictures were illusions and nothing is how they expected it to be. You usually don’t have to do this with a Superhost’s space, but it never hurts to manage expectations!
When in Rome… or Tulum
Since we stayed in town, we didn’t rent a car. We walked everywhere except to the beach, the ruins, and the grocery store. We took our Nuna Stroller, and it was a champ up + down the Avenida! I brought our Happy Baby carrier for when I thought a stroller wouldn’t be an option, like at the ruins. But, we did end up bringing the stroller and while we carried it through a couple spots, it was totally doable.
Tip! Check your stroller + car seat at the gate to reduce the chance of it getting damaged or lost. We used travel bags for both.
I definitely advise taking a stroller that has a good basket to tote things, that can handle some terrain because it is a bit rough in some spots, and that collapses quick + easy, so you can throw it in the back of a taxi.
Taxis are easy to grab and pretty cheap $100-200 pesos ($5-10 USD), but you should always agree to the rate before you take off. Mexico has a tipping culture. You tip almost everyone, except the taxi drivers! We only tipped a taxi driver on our trip to the Kaan Luum Laguna, because he came back for us. Otherwise, we would have been stranded! Here is some more info on who + how to tip in Mexico! And here is some more info on Kaan Luum Laguna. It’s a great option for swimming since there’s a chance the beach will be covered in seaweed, but it doesn’t have shaded areas, so be sure to have hats + tops to protect the babies’ delicate skin.
There is so much good food in Tulum, and not just Mexican food. There is a wide array of deliciousness to be had! I’m going to keep it cute + brief, but you must try…
Paloma in Coco Hacienda. We found it on our last day, and I almost cried because we didn’t find it sooner. We ended up having breakfast + lunch there. The food, the decor, the WiFi… it’s all so fantastic! Paloma and Tunich (on the beach) are operated by the same couple + have the same delicious breakfast menu, so if you can’t get to one, get to the other.
Don Cafeto. We had breakfast + dinner here, twice. Authentic, good Mexican food with great WiFi! Do you see a first world theme here? Sorry, not sorry. Also, I ate my food too fast to ever get a picture. Again, sorry, not sorry!
Estancia Jujena is a great Argentinian steakhouse! I used to celebrate my birthdays at Argentinian Steakhouses, so I was so excited to come across one in Tulum.
Pizza Manglar was right by our Airbnb and the vibe is perfect! I’m going to go against Trip Advisor and say that the pizza is just ok, but I heard the salads are great!
Posada Margarita. This is probably my husband’s favorite, as he is a sucker for good pizza. It’s a beachfront Italian restaurant that has palapas (cabanas) and if you eat here, you can chill on them all day long. We had breakfast, lunch + dinner here… more than once. We actually spent two whole days of our trip here. The lunch + dinner menu is the same, but they serve pizza up front, at Pizza Posada. The owner is Italian and the food is authentic, fresh and so so good. The WiFi + beach breeze is also so, so so good.
Be sure to check out Calle Centauro! It is pretty touristy, but there are a ton of great restaurants, shops, and it has a vibrant vibe.
Wrapping up with a little FAQ
A lot of people asked if Tulum is possible with a baby, absolutely! I would argue anywhere is possible with a baby since most destinations have local populations with… you guessed it, babies! You just need to plan ahead, be flexible, and manage your expectations. For example, we still got to visit the ruins but had to forgo a tour because it was really hot and it wasn’t realistic to have Selah in the sun for an extended period of time. Also, we still went to the Kaan Luun Laguna even though there is really only one shaded area and you have to leave your things on the dock. We went, but weren’t able to stay all day, like we did at the beach. Having Selah with us is another reason we chose Airbnb over a hotel on the beach. It gave us more space to spread out and mimic systems that we have set up at home. And, we didn’t bother too many people when she threw an epic tantrum because the WiFi messed with the streaming of Little Baby Bum! Having kids doesn’t mean that you can’t travel or enjoy the unique experiences that your destination has to offer. You just need to tweak the plan a bit!
The most popular question was, “Did you feel safe?” This was my first time in Mexico, and while Tulum definitely is a tourist destination, there are some land laws that keep it from becoming Cancun. So, it is still very much an authentic slice of Mexico, and we felt safe everywhere. Our Airbnb was in a local neighborhood, not on the touristy strip, and we felt safe as we walked home every night from dinner. I’m sure there are parts of Mexico that live up to the hype, but there are parts of Nashville, close to my home, that I wouldn’t walk with my daughter, at night. So, let’s be mindful on how we let the media project fears onto decisions we make about others and how we let that fear impact decisions we make about the lives we live, and how far + wide we live them. I highly suggest that you visit Tulum, with or without your baby!
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