Do You Need a Passport to Go to Mexico?

By Teo Spengler

Updated July 28, 2017

Happy young family having fun running on beach at sunset


Getting your Family into the South of the Border Sun

It won't be hard to persuade the kids to jump into a Mexican adventure. Whether it's pyramids, Inca ruins or warm beaches and sky-blue water, Mexico is close, fun and still considered an international adventure.

Will you need passports for some, all or none of the family to cross America's southern border? No matter what you hear about lax enforcement, get a passport for every member of the family. In some cases, cheaper passport cards will do the trick.

Passports and Mexico

In yesteryear, you could pop across the border with a U.S. driver's license, but those days are gone. Each member of your family now needs a valid passport, and that includes babies, toddlers, preteens and teens. Although you'll hear people say that it isn't enforced, don't take the chance, especially if you are traveling with kids.

The next question is: passport book or passport card? The former is the blue-covered booklet with a photo, a passport number and lots of pages for entry and departure stamps. A passport card looks a little like a driver's license and fits nicely in your wallet.

Passport cards are not just easier to carry, they are also less expensive. The application fee for the passport book is $80 for kids under 16, while the card application fee drops to $15. For adults, the cost is $110 for the book and $30 for the card. Since you have to pay an execution fee of $25 for either one, the card has lots of advantages.

However, you can't use the card for most foreign travel. According to the Bureau of Consular Affairs, they designed the passport card specifically for Americans who cross the northern and southern U.S. borders frequently by land. The card is not good for anywhere but Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean, and it is never valid for international air travel. That means if you are flying to Mexico, you can't use the card.

Other Documents

If you are traveling to Mexico with your kids but without the other parent, the Instituto Nacional de MigraciĆ³n will require a notarized consent form from the other parent. This is part of an effort to prevent kidnapping.

For more information, contact the Mexican Embassy in Washington D.C. You can also ask at a nearby Mexican consulate.