Experience is expensive, which goes along with the old adage that an expert is just a person who’s made every mistake possible in a very narrow field. Whether you’re approaching expert status in the world of dive travel, or you’re just hoping to lessen the cost, we offer these tips on getting the most out of your diving vacation.
1. Don’t overstuff your bags — you’ll need room for souvenirs.
2. Place fins along the edges or top of your dive bag’s main compartment to protect your other gear.
3. Koozies rule! Foam drink holders make great protective sleeves for dive computers.
4. Protect your mask by storing it in an open-heel fin pocket.
5. For added cusion, pack wetsuits around regulators and other sensitive equipment.
6. Don’t forget to pack a few save-a-dive tools, like a crescent wrench and Allen keys.
7. WD-40 or similar lubricant is great for cleaning up bag wheels, dive knives and other items that corrode.
8. Backup gear is great, but do you really need an extra set of booties?
9. A new mask will only work if you remember to clean it thoroughly before the trip.
10. Avoid checking luggage with huge dive flags and other obvious diver insignia emblazoned on it. There’s no need to advertise.
11. Get insurance.
12. Answer the airline staff’s questions patiently and with a smile — they just want to make sure your pony bottle isn’t an incendiary device.
13. Weight limits are stricter than ever. Take the time to weigh your bags before you go.
14. Keep a few heavier items (like dive lights) easily accessible so you can move them from one bag to another if you don’t make weight.
15. Dive bags are heavy, so tip the sky cap well.
16. A smile goes a long way with customs and immigration officials.
17. Liveaboard divers often take two wetsuits so they always have a dry one to slip into.
18. Batteries, batteries, batteries.
19. Sudafed or another decongestant can help you on the flight home if your sinuses act up.
20. Dress in layers and keep it cool. Island airports and other facilities are not always air-conditioned.
21. Wear sunscreen beginning on the first day. A sunburn in paradise is no fun.
22. If the divemaster sets up your gear, check it before the dive.
23. Stash a pen in your carryon for filling out immigration forms.
24. If you’re traveling with new dive gear, give it a test run in a swimming pool or watering hole before the trip.
25. Dive suits have a way of shrinking, especially over the holidays. Make sure yours still fits.
26. Keep a protein bar and bottle of water in your carryon to stave off hunger pangs.
27. Flying to the other side of the world? Stay up as late as possible the night before leaving to lessen jet lag.
28. Baby powder. You’ll know what it’s for when you need it.
29. Keep a firm grip on your luggage upon arrival, not because of crime, but because island cab drivers can be very aggressive in soliciting your business.
30. Get some cash changed into the local currency at the beginning of your trip, even if credit cards and gringo bills are widely accepted. It’s great for tipping and light souvenir shopping.
31. A bottle of the pink stuff can be worth its weight in gold.
32. Forget to log a dive? Check with your boat crew or dive shop, they can verify site names, dive depths and the name of that funny little fish with the thingy on its head.
33. Full-foot fins, even ones that fit like a glove, can cause blisters after several days of hard diving. A simple pair of socks will help.
34. If you rent a car, first find out what the terms of the agreement are and what the local regulations are (do you need a special driver’s license? is the driving on the opposite side of the road? do you need to return the car with a full tank of gas?)
35. Stay healthy by washing your hands the same way you clear your ears on a dive: early and often.
36. If you have a sensitive tummy, beware of ice cubes made from the local water supply.
37. Smile. You’re on vacation!
38. Slip-on deck shoes or Teva-style sandals are better than flip-flops for a week on a liveaboard.
39. Sometimes a bad movie is better than a boring flight.
40. Hardworking dive crews appreciate verbal praise, but a good tip is worth a thousand words.