Traveling to Mexico for the summer was the manifestation of our odyssey plan. With the goal of spending more time overseas, I left my job at The Washington Post to start my own consulting practice, allowing me to work from anywhere. My wife transitioned out of Hilton Hotels into a global executive role at a tech company called 3Pillar Global. Months later, my family of three with our puppy boarded an airplane to Mexico City.
Growing up overseas my entire life, I know a summer in one place isn’t enough time to immerse in a culture, but it’s also longer than a two-week vacation. The goal of this post is to empower others to make a similar journey respectfully.
- Check passports and immunizations
- Growing in a place where passports come with birth, we always make sure all three of our passports are always up-to-date, including our five-year-old daughter’s since traveling to Cuba with her as a 12-week-old.
- Mexico doesn’t require a negative covid test, proof of vaccination, or quarantine upon arrive, but we made sure we had our vaccination cards just to be safe.
- Health certificates for dogs are no longer required for Mexico, but we got one from our vet just in case. Upon arriving in Mexico, your dog will be inspected per these orders.
- For me, part of the fun is researching where to explore while there. Compiling recommendations from local friends, blogs, articles, and via Instagram, I created this Google Maps.
- Prepare to be a good guest
- Before traveling anywhere, we read about its history, current context and locals’ perspective on where it’s going.
- We also study local etiquette and how to be respectful as guests in a country.
- Since we knew we’d travel throughout Mexico for the summer, we packed light. We booked hotels or long-term rentals with laundry facilities. That way we only packed a week’s worth of clothes.
- There aren’t car seat laws in Mexico so we were tempted to forgo it entirely, but ordered this lightweight car seat to avoid lugging a big one around.
- Our puppy is intentionally small so we can travel with her in the main cabin of an airplane. We use this carrier that fits under the airplane seat in front of you.
- Most people were masking indoors and outdoors in Mexico City in the summer of 2022. We ordered these adult and these kids masks in bulk. (They are also an effective mask for air travel, which I plan to always use to help mitigate getting sick.)
Once There: Mexico City
For two weeks, we stayed in Mexico City in Centro Historico at this hotel. Staying here put is in the center of many historic sites, easier access to my wife’s business meetings, and a quick walk to a main metro line (which we felt safe using frequently).
While my wife worked full days, I was the main parent with Addy and our puppy. I’d work for my clients early in the morning, during Addy’s “rest time,” and in the evenings. That way, Addy, our puppy, and I could explore every single day. Here are a few of our recommendations.
Where to eat:
- Amor y Tacos, a spacious, no-frills taqueria in Centro Historico with community seating.
- Bagels Lepu, a small bagel shop that opened during the pandemic.
- Barrio Chino, the city’s Chinatown where you’ll find street vendors selling colorful bao with over 30 different fillings.
- El Tizoncito, a corner taqueria that made my daughter’s favorite pastor tacos.
- Expendio de Maiz Sin Nombre, a street-side, no-cash restaurant that celebrates ancient corn with no menu. Sit down and servers will bring you course after course until you’re full.
- Jenni’s Street Quesadillas, fresh quesadillas from a street cart in Roma Norte run by a kind woman.
- LALO!, a popular brunch spot with French toast that melts in the mouth.
- Lardo, a beautifully-designed restaurant with a rich chocolate mousse dessert.
- Los Amantes, a cafe in Coyoacan that served a great chilaquiles (a traditional Mexican breakfast dish).
- Maximo, a top-rated French restaurant in a beautiful space.
- Meroma, a fancy restaurant with pastas and rooftop seating.
- Nosferatu, a tiny pizzeria connected to a wine shop.
- Panadería Rosetta, a popular bakery with guava pastries worth trying. For a less busy experience, go to their second location at Puebla 242.
- Pastelería Ideal, a historic bakery chain where you place pastries on a tray and pay at a register. Addy and I agreed their chocolate glazed doughnut is the best we’ve had.
- Rosetta, a fancy Italian restaurant in Roma Norte.
- Taqueria Tlaquepaque, a taco stand with pastor tacos in Centro Historico.
Where to drink:
- Cicatriz, a neighborhood cafe in Juárez.
- Lardo for their tahini sour.
- Qūentin Café, a tiny design-forward cafe with creamy lattes.
- Rosetta for their negroni made with passionfruit.
Where to explore:
“Be safe” was the number one piece of advice from friends outside of Mexico. Growing up in a big city and continuing to live in one, we felt comfortable in Mexico City by using basic “city smarts” of always being aware of your surroundings, keeping a low profile, and being kind to everyone. Here are a few favorite places we explored.
- Biblioteca Central UNAM, a 1956 library with murals on the outside on National Autonomous University of Mexico’s campus.
- Biblioteca Vasconcelos, a design-forward public library with balconies overlooking the city.
- Bosque de Chapultepec, the city’s largest park with museums, a castle, trails, etc.
- Mercado de Artesanías de Coyoacán, an artisans market in a park just south of the Frida Kahlo Museum.
- Mercado de San Juan, a large market selling all sorts of food and produce with a decades-old cafe in the back called Triana Cafe.
- Murals in Colonia Buenavista.
- Museo Jumex, a modern art museum near the iconic Museo Soumaya building.
- Papalote Museo del Niño, within Mexico City’s largest park, it’s easily the most interactive, most spacious, and most fun kids museum we’ve visited.
- Parque Lincoln, a spacious park with statues of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. with a large gated playground.
- Parque Mexico, a park with a playground, trails, exercise equipment, vendors, music, etc.
- Xochimilco, ancient canals where tourists and locals rent boats by the hour. Skeptical because of the hype, it was relaxing to float down the canals while live music played and our daughter’s face beaming.
Once There: Guadalajara
For three weeks, we stayed in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city. Staying in a long-term rental near my wife’s office, we fell in love with Guadalajara’s unassuming streets and hidden gardens.
Where to eat:
- Brick Lane, a small cafe with a colorful French toast.
- Gallo y Toro, a local’s favorite restaurant with outdoor dining and a massive menu.
- Gran Pan, a small bakery that sells pastries from around the world.
- il Duomo, a spacious Italian restaurant near a mural-lined street.
- Karmele, a popular bakery with fresh pastries.
- La Betty May, a woman-owned restaurant that makes the best tamale in town every Wednesday.
- Membrillo Cocina, a restaurant in a vintage space with an outdoor swing.
- Peligro, a brunch spot hidden inside a courtyard oasis.
- Piggy Back, a kid-friendly, dog-friendly popular brunch spot in the Americana neighborhood.
- Saint Malo MX, a tiny cafe that serves croque madame and pecan pie.
- Yunaites Menjurjes Pueblerinos, a breakfast spot inside a historic market with one long community table.
What to drink:
- Bruna, a fancy restaurant with unique, performative cocktails.
- Elefante Sabio, a large cafe with a full breakfast menu, coffee, and chai.
- Fitzroy, a cafe with a full coffee menu and a spacious courtyard.
- Palomanegra, a tiny woman-owned coffee shop with one of the best cups of coffee in the city.
- Pigalle, a bar with quality craft cocktails in a dimly-lit 1950s mansion.
What to explore:
- Acuario Michin, an aquarium with an outdoor zoo and petting area.
- Casa Iteso Clavigero, a small museum inside a bright yellow Luis Barragan mansion.
- Ex Convento del Carmen, an art gallery inside a 17th century church and convent.
- Instituto Cultural Cabañas, once one of the oldest and largest orphanages and hospitals in the Americas and now a museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site with José Clemente Orozco murals.
- KidZania, a large kid-sized village for kids to explore and learn about different professions.
- Mercado Cuarte Centenario, a 1942 market built to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Guadalajara with food stands inside.
- Mercado Libertad, Latin America’s largest indoor market.
- Parque Agua Azul, a large park with a playground, sculptures, a bird house, and a butterfly pavilion.
- Zoologico Guadalajara, the best zoo we’ve ever visited on a hill with stunning valley views and a ski lift.
Once There: Weekend Trips
Renting a car, we took weekend trips stopping at sites along the way. Surrounded by natural beauty, here are a few favorite trips.
A colonial-era city in a valley with hillside colorful houses, alley markets, and historical significance, Guanajuato, once an important mining town for the Aztecs and then the Spaniards, was the site of the first battle during the War of Independence. It’s the hometown of famous muralist Diego Rivera and home to some of the world’s best naturally preserved mummies. Here’s an Instagram post about the city.
San Miguel de Allende
Once almost abandoned due to a pandemic in the early 20th century is now a popular tourist and retiree destination. Tucked away in central Mexico is San Miguel de Allende, a colonial-era city with cobblestone streets, flower-lined alleys, and towering basilicas. Walk any street and find art galleries, cafes, and rooftop restaurants. There are a few recommendations within this Instagram post.
Not to be overlooked by Puerto Vallarta to its south is a beach town called Sayulita, a popular vacation destination for locals. Once a coconut ranch is now a lively town with markets, murals, restaurants, and a public beach along the Pacific Ocean.
Where We’re Going Next
Staying true to our goal of spending more time overseas, we’ll be based in Washington, D.C., a city that all three of us love, for the school year. Then, most school breaks we’ll tag along on Theresa’s work trips. Next summer we’re hoping to be in Eastern Europe.