Tips for Summer Road Trips South of the Border
The allure of Mexican poolsides, beaches, restaurants, and culture during the warm summer months is hard to resist. It's so easy to just jump in the car and go. But no matter how excited you may be to get there, a little bit of planning will go a long way towards making your road trip in Mexico safe, fun and memorable.
Before You Leave
Like any road trip, you should plan your route ahead of time. If you are driving further than Mexico's Border Zone, be sure to go to the Banjercito website or a local office and obtain a Temporary Importation Permit (TIP) for your trip. Although the Free/Border Zone includes all of Baja California and a large portion of Sonora, driving anywhere outside of those areas without a TIP could cause legal hassles which, obviously, aren't conducive to a relaxing summer road trip. You will need your driver's license, passport, vehicle registration, Mexico auto insurance, and notarized letter from your lien holder if you financed your vehicle.
Speaking of insurance, any road trip across the border will require proper coverage, no matter if you drive your vehicle a mile or a thousand miles within Mexico. Liability coverage is required by law in Mexico and if you get in an accident without it, you could face fines or jail time.
Likewise, any travel within Mexico also requires either a passport or passport card. If you do not already have one, don't procrastinate as the process to obtain one can be inconsistent at best and downright unnerving at worst.
Visas are not usually required but, as with any trip, it makes sense to make sure. As a rule of thumb, citizens holding passports from countries on Mexico's exempt list will not need a visa if their trip is shorter than 180 days.
If children are joining you on your summer road trip, you'll want to get proper permission from their legal guardians, including your own children depending on any custody agreement you have in place.
Pets require two documents from your veterinarian -- a health certificate as well as proof of up-to-date vaccinations.
Of course, you'll also want to be sure your car is in good shape with a recent oil change, tune-up, and any other standard maintenance.
Lastly, have your lodging in place before starting your road trip. Many spots in Mexico can fill quickly during the summer months, so make sure you will have a place to stay. Similarly, have your route planned in advance, including change you will need if using toll roads throughout your travels.
During Your Trip
While driving across the border into Mexico is typically faster than your return trip home, that's not always the case. If you're traveling south of the border on a long weekend, holiday, or during Spring Break, be prepared for some significant delays. Of course, coming back into the United States is well-known for its long lines so be certain to factor enough time into your plans when crossing back over the border.
Once you're in Mexico, remember that most of the country can be very hot during the summer months. While driving at night to take advantage of the cooler air might be tempting, hitting the road during the daylight is always preferred despite the heat. In fact, the US State Department specifically recommends not to travel at night. Of course, driving during the day also requires a certain amount of precaution as well.
Check the fluids in your car, especially coolant, every day before hitting the road. Starting at daybreak, while perhaps not enticing during a vacation, will allow you to drive a good amount before the heat of the summer sun really hits. Make sure you have plenty of water and food in the car to stay hydrated, especially in the unfortunate case of having car trouble along the way. If you do run into car problems or even get into an accident, you can contact the Green Angels, a fleet of trucks with bilingual crews, for emergency roadside assistance.
Like most things in life, a Mexican summer road trip will be much more rewarding with just a bit of planning and preparation. Take an organized approach, be smart, and your summer is sure to be fun and memorable.