Forget all the other lists you’ve seen. This ultimate dive trip prep and packing list is the only checklist you’ll ever need to plan the perfect dive trip. Prepare in the months, days and weeks ahead and then pack successfully and quickly for your trip with our tips.
In the dive-trip planning stages
- Make research your after-hours job, choosing the best time and place for your trip based on your available dates.
Skip the popular tourist destinations. Choosing a slightly off-the-beaten-path destination can save you money on airfare and lodging. If possible, travel in the off season or find a location that has no real off-season. Sign up for newsletters from airlines as well as dream hotels and destinations. Join online travel/interest groups. Create flight price alerts.
- Choose the right dive shop.
Experienced divers usually offer the best recommendations for dive shops. Ask your dive friends or check diver social-media sites, not just general travel-review sites.
- Find the best accommodations.
Dive resorts are great, but don’t forget about alternatives like staying at an apartment close to a dive shop. Not only are some places far cheaper than hotels, but making your own breakfast can also save you lots of money. Note: When you factor in the room and board, along with other incidentals, a liveboard can sometimes be a viable choice even for those on a budget.
- Ask the dive shop and hotel for a discount.
The worst they can say is no. Just for asking, I’ve received 5 to 35 percent off.
- Determine where the nearest hyperbaric chamber is.
- Determine if there is a travel alert or warning for the area.
Check your country’s travel advisories like the US. Department of State.
- Figure out how you’ll get to/from the airport as well as what other type of transportation you’ll need.
Once you’ve made your reservations
- Check the passport/visa requirements for your destination. Does your passport need to be valid 3-6 months following your departure date or have a certain number of blank pages? Do you need a visa? (US citizens click here.)
- Make sure you have travel and dive insurance.
- Sign up for alerts about your destination. US. citizens can sign up with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service that registers trips with the nearest U.S. Embassy/Consulate and sends out important info from the Embassy about safety conditions. It also helps the U.S. Embassy and family/friends contact you in an emergency.
- Check recommendations for vaccinations and other health precautions.
- Determine what dive gear you’ll need and check with the dive shop.
Does it get chilly enough for a 5mm wetsuit? Does the shop have special requirements? Do you need to have a doctor’s waiver for anything?
- Consider a refresher course if it’s been awhile since your last dive trip.
- Place an alert on the airfare.
Some sites will pay you the difference if your flight price goes down after you’ve booked it.
- Arrange care for pets/plants/lawn.
- Plan additional activities. You must book some activities well in advance. Come up with a plan B if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
A month before your trip
- Research and prepare for the dive conditions. Are there currents and, if so, how do you handle them? What marine life should you watch for?
- Read up on the location’s culture and etiquette.
Do you need to tip? What is considered an insult? Do you need to dress conservatively?
- Determine what food and water is safe.
- Check exchange rates and decide how you’ll handle money.
- Notify your bank and credit card companies of your travel.
- Check outbound/inbound airline and airport requirements. Determine how long you need to arrive before your flight. Some places require you to check in your baggage multiple hours before take-off.
- Stop your mail and newspapers while you’re away.
- Figure out what you’ll do if something goes wrong en route to the destination. Store your airline’s customer service number in your phone, as well as social media handles. If you get bumped from your flight, ask for cash instead of a voucher. Report lost luggage while still in baggage claim and detail everything included. Determine what must happen regarding insurance, i.e. you often must file a police report immediately for stolen property.
- Get a letter from your doctor for any prescription medications you’re bringing.
Check with the embassy of any countries you are visiting or transiting to ensure your medications aren’t illegal there. Some places have strict laws against even over-the-counter medications.
- Inspect all your dive equipment and make sure it’s been serviced recently.
Two weeks before your trip
- Review your packing list and begin packing.
- Touch-up your ID on your dive gear as needed. (Everyone’s gear can look the same on a boat.)
- Confirm care for pets/plants/lawn.
- Make photocopies of all your travel documents in case of emergency. This includes: passport, visa, vaccination and/or dive-fitness medical certificate (if needed), airline/bus/train/boat tickets, travel vouchers, driver’s license or international driver’s license, credit cards, itinerary including contact details, lodging confirmation, contact details for the nearest embassy/consulate in English and the local language, dive certification cards, insurance, membership/discount cards and the last page from your dive log book. Leave one copy with a trusted friend or relative at home, and carry the other separately from your documents in case of loss/theft and house one copy electronically.
- Make sure you have plenty of room on your camera’s memory card.
- Figure out what (if any) phone/data plan you need.
- Double-check your flight.
- Leave an extra house key with a family member or friend.
24 hours before your trip
- Check in for your flight and make sure you have a seat assignment.
- Set-up your auto-email response.
- Clear voice mail messages and set up a new outgoing message.
- Unplug electronics.
- Put lights on automatic timers to make your home seemed lived in.
- Double-check the weather in your destination and adjust accordingly.
- Ensure that all batteries on your electronics are charged.
- Make sure you’re done packing.
- Schedule payments for your bills while you’re away.
- Empty the trash.
- Empty the fridge of perishables.
- Set a reminder to turn off your heater/air conditioner. Turn down the temperature on your water heater and lock all doors/windows.
Four hours before your trip
- Double-check your flight. (Flights can change or be re-routed.)
- Pack your carry-on with essentials for two days in case the airline loses your luggage.
- Luggage locks and two sets of keys stored separately
- Gear bag and/or mesh bag
- Boat and/or dry bag
- Money belt if you plan to carry cash
- Travel pack/backpack/purse/beach bag
- Nautilus Lifeline or personal GPS
- Carbon-monoxide and oxygen analyzer
- Mask, fins and snorkel
- Dive boots or socks
- Reef gloves (double-check that your destination allows them)
- Weight pockets or weight belt
- Regulator, octopus and dive console
- Dive computer
- Backup dive computer
- Exposure protection
- Dive skin/rash guard (take two so one is always dry)
- Dive hood/beanie/head band/bandana
- Log book
- Whistle or surface noisemaker/mirror/safety sausage
- Spool/reel and DSMB/SMB
- Knife or cutting tool
- Primary dive light and backup light
- Dive flag
- Underwater slate and pencil
- Spare parts kit
- Mask defog
- Ear drops
- Padlock for dive locker
- Air tank and/or pony bottle
- Bungee cord/shock cord/dive-gauge retractor
- Scuba pointer stick
- Lift bag
- Marine life ID and/or dive-destination books
- Ginger candies or anti-nausea medicine for seasickness
- Trash bags for wet gear
- Camera and all accessories
- Connection cables/USB card reader
- Tripod or selfie stick
- T-shirts/casual shirts
- Long pants (at least one pair)
- Light jacket or fleece for colder nights
- Dressy outfit with nice shoes (if necessary)
- Swimsuits (at least two)
- Cover up/sundress/sarong
- Beach towel and/or sport towel
- Comfortable walking shoes, sandals and flip flops
- Toiletries and shower shoes
- Hair accessories like hair ties, barrettes and bobby pins
- Lip balm with sunscreen
- Hygiene products like tampons, hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes
- Nail kit
- Tissue packets (can double as toilet paper)
- Bug spray (See the CDC’s recommendations on which are effective.)
- Sunscreen (preferably coral reef-safe brands)
- First-aid kit
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Electrical voltage converter/adapter
- Chargers for electronics
- Travel documents along with photocopies stored separately
- Credit cards, cash and traveler’s checks
- Books/magazines/eBook reader/music player
- Extension cord with power strip (Not only for your room, but you can be a hero and bring it in your carry-on for everyone to use during airport layovers.)
- Prescription medications in their original containers, vitamins, birth control, OTC medications
- Doctor’s letter for medications
- Eye mask and travel pillow
- Re-usable water bottle for the plane and between dives
- Extra pair of prescription glasses and extra contact lenses
- Deck of cards
- Pen for customs’ forms and misc.
- Ziploc bags, plastic grocery bags and/or eco bags
- Guide book and/or maps (Or download areas in Google Maps on your phone ahead of time and navigate offline.)
- Language phrasebook (or a download for your phone)
- Travel journal or notebook