Both of my girls took their first trip to Mexico when they were 3 months old. My teenager is now a seasoned traveler and my toddler has been to Rocky Point over a dozen times now.
Now with my first daughter I will admit I was a helicopter parent, my youngest is more “free range”. I remember the first time we took Brigid to Cabo San Lucas, I had one entire suitcase full of pre-mixed formula and diapers. In addition to that we had the car seat, stroller, port-a-crib, and basically the kitchen sink (of course that was the good ole days where you didn’t pay for baggage). The next year, I had a suitcase full of baby food, diapers, the stroller, car seat, etc. That was the year I met another mother with a child the same age. She laughed when I told her what all I had packed. She, on the other hand, had just made a stop at the market on the way from the airport to the resort and bought everything she needed there. Wow, I thought, how brave, how liberating, what if the store didn’t have exactly what I needed? I tried it her way the following year, and you know what, it was great! We bought Jumex Juice boxes, yogurt, cereal, chips, etc. Which are all the essentials a toddler needs, right? And we found out she loved beans, rice and tortillas, and off course cheese quesadillas, aka the Mexican grilled cheese!
Fast forward 12 years to Riley. Now we do still pack a lot because she’s 1, and kids just require a lot of crap until they’re 3 or so. But I try to get away with traveling with the bare minimum.
My biggest travel tip when traveling with children is to stay in a CONDO!!! This goes for traveling anywhere, not just Mexico. Hotel rooms are not equipped for a kid’s level of energy. Hotel rooms are small and cramped, and even suite rooms are too compact for active children.
Probably the greatest advantage to a beach vacation in Rocky Point is that you are staying at a condo with full kitchens. For the same price, or cheaper than a hotel in Cali, you are getting much better family amenities. Also in CA, you are not right at the beach, usually its at least a short drive away, which means packing the kids up in the car, yuck! In RP you can walk right down from your condo to the beach.
For Babies and Toddlers: #1 item is a sturdy stroller. We wrecked our initial stroller that came with the infant car seat in less than a year, due to heavy use and too much sand in the gears and wheels. We bought a jogging stroller, the basic $100 one you can get at Wal-Mart, and the big wheels do great in the sand. **Important note** the stroller doubles as an excellent bag carrier to get LOTS of stuff from the car up to the room. In the condos you may have a 5-minute or so walk to the beach, so with a tired or hyper toddler, it’s really nice to have. And it’s great for carting beach towels, toys, sunscreen, etc.
For Babies: #2 item I recommend having is the pack’n’play. This lovely item is not only useful for sleeping, but time outs, and keeping toddlers contained if you need them out from underfoot for a few minutes. You can nix this item as soon as they are able to climb out, as just happened to us recently, LOL!
Food for kids in Mexico: we have been giving avocados to Riley since she first started on solid foods (it’s a great first food), now that kid will eat guacamole straight from a bowl, which is a huge plus in Mexico where it’s at every restaurant. She also loves the mangos on the beach. If you are on a budget, take advantage of your full kitchen (fridge, oven, microwave, dishwasher, dishes, cooking utensils). Also the Tupperware and pots and pans double as toys, so you can pack less! You can buy milk, juice, cereal, bread, and all kinds of snacks at the markets, or at the SAMs Club on your way in town. The fruit and vegetables are excellent (it’s where most of our produce in the US is from anyway, but it’s several days fresher). Sometimes we just stock the fridge and eat at home the whole trip. We do bring down pouches of the fruit/veggie “smoothies” and lots of goldfish for easy snacks in the car and on the beach.
Don’t be afraid to venture out to try the many great restaurants RP has to offer. Riley has eaten out at the restaurants in RP since she could eat solid food. The Mexican culture is very kid friendly and even the bar restaurants have kids menus and will accommodate for children during the day. Our kid’s favorites are Puesta Del Sol and Wrecked at the Reef on Sandy Beach, Boo Bar in the Malecon, and Capone’s for pizza in the Mirador area.
Miscellaneous Tips: Your condo may not be baby-proof, so you may want to take some outlet plugs. That’s about the only thing we do, and we just shut the doors of all the rooms we don’t want her in. You can also use the stroller, pack n play, or chairs to make off limit areas for baby. Also, we’ve found we don’t need to pack toys other than what she needs to keep busy in the car because you will spend most of your time outside at the pool or beach, shells and rocks found on the beach make excellent toys for small kids too. Also, see above for kitchen play, honestly I am thinking about getting rid of all of her toys because all she does is pull out my Tupperware all day long! Do bring sand toys, a baggie to collect shells in, and a ball for the beach and you’ve got yourself a fun and fabulous family vacation!