What to Pack: Mexican Beach Vacation


Five years ago, I was known as a somewhat legendary packer. Meaning I could somehow fit a two-week vacation into a carry-on bag — and I was endlessly smug about it. When other people’s luggage got lost by the airline, I marinated in my self-satisfaction, knowing that would never, EVER be me.

Fast-forward half a decade, and I’ve evolved into my own worst nightmare — a packing mule. I over-pac,k and I smash everything into a suitcase without leaving enough room for souvenirs. Or I completely forgo the most logical items in favor of the whimsical.

My recent trip to Mexico highlights this fairly new behavior.

Linen Striped Top: APC (Consignment) | Linen Pants: Juicy Couture (circa 2004) | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban
Linen Striped Top: APC (Consignment) | Linen Pants: Juicy Couture (circa 2004) | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

I had been looking forward to my trip to Isla Holbox for months. It’s a sleepy, bohemian island about 4 hours away from Cancun, making it an ideal backdrop for far-flung expat fantasies about quitting your job to open a yoga studio. I love for my clothes to illustrate these types of stories and alternative realities, so I literally storyboarded all my outfits before the trip. (I did this before my Morocco honeymoon, too.)

The first day and a half of our trip to Isla Holbox was sunny and toasty. Because it was so early in the vacation, I didn’t bust out any of my dreamiest outfits. I was saving them (for what, I don’t know).

Flip flops: Havainas
Flip flops: Havaianas

I had packed the entirely wrong type of shoes for the vacation. I had brought leather Isabel Marant sandals and jeweled Stuart Weitzman flip-flops. These choices were disastrous — the leather was not waterproof, and the beaded flip-flops were far too fancy for the environment. Should you find yourself on a beach vacation, just wear unembellished flip-flops. Anything else is just too high-maintenance. (And bring your own — because I was stuck on an island, I had to pay a hugely inflated price — $30! Admittedly, they were worth every penny, just so I could feel comfortable.)

Silk Dress: Secondhand | Flip-Flops: Havaianas
Silk Dress: Secondhand | Flip-Flops: Havaianas

For the balmy evenings, I stuck to simple summer shifts. (The versions I brought were in silk or linen.) Silk can be a little stuffy in hot climates, but the secondhand dress in the photo was selected for its ocean-froth print and the fact that it was well-ventilated (thanks to a large cut-out across the back).

Bikini Top: Target | Bikini Bottom: Rachel Comey (The Dreslyn)
Bikini Top: Target | Bikini Bottom: Rachel Comey (The Dreslyn)

I wound up packing several swimsuits, including a vintage-inspired red polka-dotted number — but I needn’t have bothered. I wound up sticking with this Frankensuit, which I cobbled together from two totally different designers. The high-waisted designer bottoms are by Rachel Comey, and I first spotted them at Bird in Brooklyn — although I wound up buying the bottoms online at The Dreslyn because they were on sale and in my size.

The matching Rachel Comey top was rather dreadful (zero support and a blah design), so I opted for this striped and super-cheap push-up from Target. I was rather pleased with the way this turned out — and for about $100, it cost a fraction of what designer suits typically run.

And then the rain started.

The poncho I bought for a king's ransom.
The poncho I bought for a king’s ransom. (Not seen: the denim sorts underneath the slicker.)

For the rest of our vacation, our little corner of paradise was pummeled with rain, flooding and power outages. (It felt a little like the end of Jurassic Park, when Wayne Knight is embarking on his doomed trip to the dinosaur embryo ferry.)

I knew it was supposed to rain, thanks to my weather app, but I did not think it would be an all-day affair. Moreover, I thought the rain would be warm. I was wrong on both counts, forcing me to make some tough clothing-related decisions. (Questions like, “Do I soak my jeans in the rain or do I wear jorts and freeze my feet?” danced in my head.)

I wound up looking everywhere across the island for an umbrella or a raincoat, and the only thing available was this (used) poncho that had been hanging across a potato chip display. And it cost a pretty penny, too.

My husband refused to pay a king’s ransom for a raincoat, so he spent the rest of the trip in a garbage bag — literally.

My husband in a homespun poncho (i.e., a Hefty bag).
My husband in a homespun poncho (i.e., a Hefty bag).

Needless to say, my dreams of a Pinterest-worthy vacation were quickly dashed. Instead, my husband and I got a lot of laughs and plenty of priceless memories,

Has your vacation wardrobe ever been totally derailed by the weather? How did you cope?