Pages Navigation Menu

high desert. small house.

Driving down the Pacific Coast of Mexico – Preparation

We had been planning a trip across the Pacific but after tallying up the travel days, and struggling to find a guaranteed pet sitter, we decided to do something a little more local. Bring on The Mexico!

Why Mexico and Why Drive

Our primary purpose was to start visiting coffee farms. We wanted to visit small plantations, watch the various processing methods, taste coffee on site and start developing relationships with farmers. Coffee grows in the tropics and the closest location is the state of Nayarit, Mexico. One day, we would love to get down to Oaxaca and Chiapas, near the border with Guatemala.

Why drive? With our new set of wheels, we felt 100% confident in exploring new areas. We have extra space in the car, good AC, privacy glass and AWD. Like we mentioned in this post, Toyotas are also broadly serviced in the Americas.

But really, the two big reasons we wanted to take the car were – the dogs would get to come with and we would be able to be independent. We wanted to stay in areas that were outside of the tourist zones. And we wanted to explore neat hiking areas. We would much rather do those things in a vehicle we were familiar with rather than rent one while down there.

We don’t have a lot of photos of Mexico prep, so instead, here are some photos from the month of August. Gourmet pizza from Zeffiro’s in Las Cruces.

Preparing the Dog Team

Once we decided the animals were going with, we immediately investigated the border crossing requirements. I don’t know how it was in the past, but by and large, people on the internet report great ease with traveling with their dogs and cats. Current regulations state that we must have a vet signed health certificate that attests to the animals’ health, that they were vaccinated against rabies and distemper, and that they received, in the last six months, treatment against ecto- and endoparasites (fleas/tickets/worms).

We took the dogs to the vet the second week of August. They had heartworm tests, were given Frontline flea/tick (because it must be witnessed by the vet) and vaccinated. I opted out of purchasing $90 worth of heartworm medicine (one box for Trooper at >50 pounds and one box for Sydney at <50 pounds; each box was $45). Instead, I ordered two single dosages on the internet, a process which requires prescription confirmation from the vet.

We took the heartworm preventatives to the vet the week before our trip, let the vet give them, picked up our certificates and left. (The featured image for this post is Sydney at the vet’s office, very much ready to exit the lobby.)

Two things to note: First, the vaccinations must be given more than 15 days before your trip and the health certificates must be given within 10 days of your departure. Two different appointments! Second, the health certificates must be filled out in very specific ways so it is important to double-check that the vet is aware of the current requirements before prancing off.

The vaccinations were $35 each, heartworm tests $20, Frontline $30ish total and Heartgard $15ish total. Those costs are usually considered ‘normal animal care’ so really, the only cost to prep the dogs was $20 each for health certificates.

We ordered our single doses of Heartgard from Pet Supplies 4 Less online.

Maintenance Items on the Car

We opted to have a few maintenance items done on the RAV4. The rear shocks are the only design tradeoff of the car. In order to maximize the cargo space, Toyota opted for less room for the rear shock assembly. The result is that the Toyota factory shocks may need to be replaced every 35,000 miles. We purchased shocks online (Bilstein Twintube) that are reportedly superior to the Toyota shocks for $127, about the same price we would have paid for Toyota shocks from the dealership. According to one RAV4 owner on the RAV4 forums, they replaced their rear shocks with the Bilsteins and had already surpassed 35,000 miles without any leaking. Very promising.

After speaking with the Toyota mechanic about upcoming normal maintenance items (namely, the water pump and spark plugs), he said the water pump was healthy and that spark plugs were due. So we took care of two normal maintenance tasks, kind of in preparation for our trip.  Trip or no trip, these items cost us about $600 (about 4.5 hours in the shop).

Wind scorpion (also known as camel spider).

Planning and Booking

About 10 days before we were due to leave, I started looking at hotel websites and Airbnb. Because we would be traveling with the dogs, we knew renting a whole house would be the best way to go. More room for all four of us when we were hanging at ‘home’, hopefully a yard for the quick potty breaks, and ideally, a kitchen.

Our coffee farm home base would be just outside the city of Tepic. Tepic is not a tourist town so the house rentals were limited. We were pleased to reserve a wonderful house with large green yard for $35 per night.

After our coffee farm tours, we would stop at Mazatlan for a couple days on the way back up the coast. Mazatlan is a large tourist destination so we had numerous options for ‘whole house’, ‘allows pets’, and ‘less than $40 per night’. We ended up choosing one an hour from the Golden Zone by car (but only a short distance by water taxi) on Isla de la Piedra. The cost for a full house, in a quiet residential area, with private parking and a 5 minute walk from the beach was $25 per night.

We decided to leave the rest of the trip kind of loose. For our southbound journey, if we drove 7-10 hours a day, we would need two days to get to Tepic. Driving home, we wanted to be more relaxed. We wanted to finish our trip and not feel like we needed a vacation (from our vacation). For the return leg, we expected to drive 4-5 hours a day and would stop in whatever safe city materialized around the time we were tired of driving.

Solar eclipse

Vehicle Paperwork and Permit

Our new car had not yet been registered in New Mexico, so we made sure we had our title, bill of sale, etc. (and copies) so that we could support our temporary plate if questioned. We also pre-purchased our Temporary Vehicle Import Permit online through the Mexico website. The permit required a $400 refundable deposit (less if the car is older), which is credited back to one’s credit card once you stop at the border and give back the permit. The cost of the permit itself was not much – about $52.00.

Mexico requires car insurance and after price shopping a little bit, we chose to go with our regular agent. We found a better rate online, but I felt more secure shopping with somebody we knew to be trustworthy. We opted to purchase a year’s worth as it was only $100 more expensive than the two week plan. Total – $315.

Mediterranean food from Santorini’s in Las Cruces.

Other Random Prep

In the weeks leading up to our trip, we attached a sticky-note to the counter-top at work and jotted down anything we wanted to take with us as it came to mind. Headlamps, extra towels (for dogs), wetsuits, etc.

The last shorts I purchased were two pairs of running shorts when we moved to Silver City three years ago. The running shorts work alright, but I kind of wanted a pair of jean shorts for their durability. We picked up two pairs while we were near a Target.

Brian got a haircut.

One of our friends agreed to Fred-sit. As an endangered species, his paperwork process is no joke. We decided to apply for a Pet Passport that will allow us multiple border crossings for the next three years. I made his pet care instructions, purchased extra food, made several ‘destructible snack toys’ (cashew and wood-chunk stuffed toilet paper rolls), and cleaned his cage. We deposited him with his caregiver the night before our departure.

We checked out from our library, and purchased from a used book store, several fiction works we wanted to read aloud during the roadtrip.  We also cleaned the house and staffed the business.

We put our dog paperwork in one file and our car stuff in another. We made copies of everything, including our passports, driver’s licenses and credit cards.

We worked our Saturday shift until noon and then hit the road, heading for the Nogales, Arizona border crossing.

We stockpiled toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls for a few weeks so we could leave plenty of destructible toys. We heard that Fred, as usual, failed to show any gratitude.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *