Do You Need a Passport to Go to Cancun?
By Teo Spengler
Updated August 24, 2017
What You Need to Kick Back in Cancun
The minute you mark "Trip to Cancun" on your family calendar, your household buzzes with a new level of energy. Everyone's thinking about snow-white beaches and clear, turquoise water, and everyone needs new bathing suits. But during the pre-trip dreaming, make the time, well in advance, to apply for passport books or cards.
Time was that a U.S. driver's license got you into Mexico, and kids needed only a smile. For a time, different rules applied, depending upon whether you were driving or flying into the country. Today, you and each of your kids require a valid (unexpired) passport or travel document to get into Mexico, and also to get back home again.
Passport Book or Passport Card
Don't leave for Cancun without a U.S. passport book or a passport card for each member of the family. That includes both adults and minor children. You may not need either a passport book or a card to get into Mexico; enforcement can be lax when you are arriving by land or sea. But then again, you might need them, and you don't want to lose precious vacation time at the passport office.
So should you get a passport or a passport card to travel to Cancun? Passport cards are cheaper and easier to get than passports. They are about the size of a driver's license and fit easily into your wallet. But note this: You and your family can use passport cards to get into Mexico only if you are driving or taking a boat to Cancun.
If you are flying into Cancun, forget the passport card, and make sure you have passport books all round. That applies to teenagers, toddlers and babies in arms. To get into Mexico, your passports must be valid only at the time of entry, but check with your airlines, too. Some airlines require that passports are valid for some months beyond the day of traveler entry.
Other Documents You May Need
If you are driving into Cancun, you'll have to get a Forma Migratoria Multiple at the border to present at immigration checkpoints. Get one for free from a travel agent or airline or at a port of entry. Do this even if you are not directly instructed to do so by Mexican officials.
If you are traveling with your kids but without their other parent, you should have a statement from him approving of the trip. Mexico border police don't necessarily ask for this, but the Mexican INM (Instituto Nacional de Migración) does require it.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection strongly recommends that any parent traveling to Mexico with kids but without the other parent obtain a note from the other parent. It should state: "I acknowledge that my wife/husband is traveling out of the country with my son/daughter/children. He/she has my permission."
- State Department: U.S. Passports and International Travel: Mexico
- Smarter Travel: Cancun Passport Requirements: Do I Need a Passport to Go to Cancun?
- San Diego.org: Crossing the Border
- Visas Department of the Consulate General of México in San Francisco
- U.S. Passport Service Guide: Passport Card
- U.S. Passport Service Guide: Does 5 Year Old Child Need a Passport to Visit Mexico?
- U.S. Customs and Border Patrol: Children
From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.