Have you ever stared at your suitcase and wondered, "What am I going to pack?" It's a fairly common question for anyone who's ever traveled, but for those of us who love fashion (which I'm guessing includes you, dear reader), that question takes on a whole new weight. We can often be chronic overpackers and are more likely to fall into the trap of spending a fortune on new frocks and becoming perplexed about which pieces photograph well. Sure, there are more important things we could worry about (like finding an affordable flight or the perfect hotel), but if I'm being honest, planning what to wear on vacation can make or break a trip. No one wants to show up to Paris or Cancun only to realize they've packed pieces that don't match the climate, are extremely uncomfortable, or scream "tourist." So when it comes to discerning what's worth the space in your suitcase, it's time that's well spent in my eyes. Of course, not everyone has ample time to think about what outfits to wear, and luckily for them, our team exists.
Not only do my colleagues spend time discerning which destinations, trends, and brands are worth paying attention to, but I've also personally traveled to 13 countries, so it's safe to say that I know how to pack a suitcase. Since I've traveled to various parts of Mexico and am constantly scrolling through Instagram, I figured I'd do the heavy lifting for you and share what to pack for Cancun. Ahead, you'll find 15 capsule travel pieces worth considering putting in your suitcase, along with shopping suggestions and outfit ideas. Consider this your ultimate guide to looking cool in Cancun.
Possibly the easiest thing you can pack for any trip? A matching set. But for a trip to Cancun, there's nothing truly better to put into your suitcase. You'll want to opt for a matching set in linen or cotton, as the tropical climate is hot year-round.
If there's one tourist troupe worth the baggage fees, it's straw hats. Sure, everyone packs a sunhat for vacation, but if you opt for the right woven hat, you won't have to worry about looking like everyone else. Plus, it can transform a simple bikini from typical to theatrical—who wouldn't want that?
Whether you're planning to take a dip in the water or lie out with a great book, you'll want to pack a swimsuit you feel comfortable in. Enter: the one-piece. If you want a unique look, invest in one with a vibrant hue or interesting details (like cutouts or tie-up elements), and you'll be sure to stand out from the crowd.
Maybe it's just because I'm an editor, but when traveling to any destination, I always want to look good. One way to do that is by packing a statement sarong to pair with your swimwear while in Cancun. Opting for one that's sparkly, vibrant, or print adorned will ensure you're serving a look by the shore.
It may seem like common knowledge that you should pack lightweight fabrics when traveling to a tropical climate, but let this serve as your friendly reminder that it will be warm no matter what time of year you visit. A surefire way to still look chic is by packing at least one midi dress (in cotton or linen). Not only will you beat the heat, but this piece can also be styled in numerous ways while you're traveling.
Can you even travel without packing a pair of sunglasses? Jokes aside, sunglasses are a must-pack, no matter what your plans are while vacationing in Cancun. However, to make the most of the weather, I recommend packing a trend-forward pair (think a sport-inspired silhouette or colored lenses) to make your outfits shine.
Avid Who What Wear readers are no strangers to the beloved oversize button-down—it's literally the fashion set's favorite staple. But if you need more proof of the power of this basic, then look no further than the look above. This simple piece is ideal for packing for a vacation, as it can be styled over a bikini, worn with heels for dinner, or paired with denim shorts for a day of excursions.
Call denim shorts basic if you want, but when planning a trip to Cancun, you do have to pack a few basic staples to play with. My rule with packing is that if you can't style something more than three ways, it's not worth the baggage space. No other piece can meet that requirement quite as jean shorts can. But if you find this style feels too touristy, try opting for more fashion-forward pairs in dark washes, or play with the styling to make them feel more polished.
The first thought that may cross most people's minds when packing for a tropical vacation is the heat and, subsequently, the desire to wear the bare minimum of clothing. But for anyone on the more modest side or who generally loves to serve up a great vacation 'fit, you need another option besides shorts. That's where the maxi dress comes in. The key to pulling off a full-length number in Cancun's humidity is opting for an iteration made from breathable fabrics, such as mesh and cotton, with unique details like a one-of-a-kind print or embroidery.
Belly and body chains had the fashion set buzzing last summer, and I'm happy to report that they're still happening. But if you have yet to adopt any form of body jewelry, consider your upcoming trip to Cancun the perfect opportunity to do just that. You can pair it with a bikini for a poolside look or a tank and miniskirt for a cute day ensemble. Either way, it's sure to make any look shine.
Cancun may be known for its beachside resorts and party scene, but don't be fooled. It's actually a tropical rainforest. So when planning a trip to the region, you should find ways to explore the area as well as pay homage to it. And there's no better way to do just that than by packing an animal-print bikini. Whether you opt for cheetah or zebra, a little printed bikini will ensure you'll blend into the vegetation (in a good way).
Crochet continues to be a beloved trend among the fashion set, so why not pack it for a trip to Cancun? The easiest way to incorporate this fabric into your travel ensembles without overheating is by using it as a cover-up after you take a dip in the sea. It will ensure you feel comfortable, and you'll look effortlessly chic.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Platform sandals are the shoes of the summer. And it's not just because they're trendy. They can elevate any and every outfit. You can style them with everything from Bermuda shorts to bikinis to beautiful midi dresses, making them the perfect shoes to pack for an upcoming trip.
Let's be real here. No other accessory embodies out-of-office energy quite like the raffia tote bag. So when deciding what to pack for a trip to Cancun, you must seriously consider bringing along this quintessential handbag, as it will match the low-key vibe of the destination and go with everything else you pack seamlessly.
You've made it to the end of this story, and hopefully, you now have a better idea of what to pack for a trip to Cancun. But if I could leave you with a final piece of advice, it would be this: Don't be afraid to pack a few statement pieces. You'll want at least one fancier dress you can slip into and head out in (even if that's only for your hotel's restaurant). If you're not going to serve looks while you're on vacation, when will you?