Doing your research, testing your gear, and packing carefully can make the difference between a perfect dive trip and a frustrating one.
- Test dive all your scuba gear before your trip!
When is your dive gear most likely to break? That’s easy. It is most likely to break when you are on your dream dive trip off the remote island of wherever, where no spares parts are obtainable and gear servicing is impossible. This rule is universally true unless you are an unusual size, in which case items are likely to break just about anywhere, because no one will have a replacement in your size anyhow.
Weeks before a dive trip, test dive your gear – each and every piece you will bring – in the open water if possible, in a pool if not. Evaluate new gear in a controlled environment and address issues immediately.
- Reviewing basic scuba skills in a pool before a trip.
If you have been out of the water for six months or more, consider taking a refresher course , even if you feel that you already know everything. Of course, the benefit of a refresher course will be a dependent upon your dive experience, but in general, shaking the dust off of your dive skills and knowledge will help to increase your enjoyment of diving on vacation.
The main benefit of a refresher course, however, is simply to get you back in the water using your gear in a controlled environment so that you feel as comfortable and confident as possible on the first dive of your vacation. You can even bring your own gear along on a refresher course to ensure that it is all working properly.
If you don’t have DAN Insurance, get it.
- Review Your Travel and Dive Documents
Review your travel and diving documents before booking flights or a trip, and be sure they are up-to-date. The most obvious of these are your passport and dive certification cards. Keep in mind that many remote dive locations do not have reliable internet, and looking up your certification online is not always an option.
Other documentation you may or may not need can include travel visas, medical releases, your dive logbook, and dive insurance. Many standard medical insurance carriers will not cover recompression treatments, double check yours.
Be sure to alert credit card companies that you will be travelling. It is a good idea to carry copies of international toll-free numbers to call in case cards are compromised. Keep in mind that many debit cards and credit cards have daily limits when used at overseas ATMs or credit card terminals. Be prepared!
- Double Check Airline Regulations for Scuba Gear
Carefully research airline policies as to what dive gear you can carry on and what you can check.
If you are carrying your own equipment, be sure to double check airline regulations regarding dive gear, and keep in mind that regulations may be country and airline specific. Items such as HID lights, spare air bottles, spools and reels, and even back plates may require specific packing considerations. Consider carrying print-outs of descriptions for unusual items to be able to prove to airport personal that they are dive gear, not bombs.
Divers will have to pick and choose what to bring in a carry-on and what to put in checked luggage. If possible, carry on delicate items.
Finally, consider TSA-friendly locks, pack and weigh your bags ahead of time, and be sure to allow for sufficient drying of dive gear before you pack it back up to go home.
- Pack Spares of Vital Gear, Parts, and Medicine
Consider what items in your dive gear are easily replaceable and what are not. This will depend upon what gear you use, and where you are going.
Most dive shops have a decent range of rental gear that can be borrowed in an emergency, but if there is an item you cannot live without, pack an extra!
Divers who have allergies or medical issues should pack an excess of the required medication. A major consideration is prescription ear drops for divers with sensitive ears or those who are prone to ear infections.
Be sure to alert your dive shop to any prescription medications you are taking, and check all medications for potential side effects if they are to be used while scuba diving.
- Research Your Dive Destination before Booking a Trip
Research your planned dive destination carefully.
Your research should include everything from surface/water temperatures and conditions at the planned time of your trip, to dive shop reviews, to candid recent photos.
Keep in mind that dive travel can be seasonal.
If there is a specific type of wildlife you are interested in seeing, or a dive experience you would like, email dive shops and ask when the best time of year is. Most dive service providers are interested in providing the best experience possible for clients, take their advice!
In some cases, the off-season is your friend.
Flights, accommodations, and even diving may be less expensive during the low tourist season, and you might be able to avoid crowds! However, sometimes low season is low for a reason.
- Pack Diving Safety Devices
Purchase and learn to use your own diving safety devices, and then carry them on your dive trips.
The first, and most important, is a huge, inflatable surface marker buoy and spool, with a mirror, chemical light stick, and whistle attached in a small pocket at the base. The second is a dive computer.
If you carry a surface marker buoy be sure to alert the dive guide and your captain to its presence and appearance, and discuss the circumstances under which you will deploy it before ever entering the water.
- Plan a Day or Two Off
Plan a dry day or two to enjoy local sites and give yourself a buffer in case of illness or ear problems.
Giving yourself a few extra days can make the difference between a fun dive trip and a disappointing one, so plan carefully. Consider flying in a day or two before a planned live aboard trip to accommodate flight delays or cancellations.
Plan a dry day at the end of your trip to dry dive gear, or mid-way through to see local sites.
You can use your dry day to make up dives if you unexpectedly fall ill, have ear problems, or can’t dive due to weather conditions.
Having extra days can be particularly important when booking courses, in which case a missed day of training can mean the difference between completing the course and having to retake it if you don’t have a few buffer days.