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How to Plan Your Scuba Diving Trip

Want to experience a different side of your waterfront vacation destination? Consider diving beneath the waves into a vibrant world of shipwrecks, coral reefs, and marine life. Whether or not you’re already certified, here are some basic tips to start planning your diving holiday.


For great destination ideas and when to go, see our 10 Great Scuba Diving Locations Slideshow. And before you go, be sure to upload a new app to your smart phone: PADI recently introduced a free mobile app that locates your nearest dive centers. You can look up hours of operation and which courses are offered.

Not Certified?

  • Many dive shops and resorts offer a discover scuba day-long course. First, an instructor will teach you the basics of diving. Once you’ve got these down, they will lead you on a dive in open water. If you decide diving is something you want to pursue, the open water dive may count toward your certification.
  • All you need to pack is your bathing suit—you can rent everything else, from masks and fins to wetsuits and weight belts. Equipment is usually included in the cost of a guided dive.
  • Diving can be dangerous if you have certain medical problems. If you’re considering the sport, ask your doctor how diving may affect your health.

Getting Certified?

  • An open-water scuba certification process takes 3–4 days. There’s some required reading, course work, and evaluations involved in addition to the water instruction. We recommend taking care of this before your trip—that way you can get right in the water and don’t have to spend precious vacation time in a classroom.
  • There are several certification companies, including PADI, NAUI, and SSI, with PADI being the largest and most comprehensive. Once you begin the certification process, stick with the same company—credit for certification dives doesn’t transfer between the organizations.
  • To ensure a good fit, consider investing in some basic equipment, such as a mask and snorkel, and maybe even a pair of fins. You can rent everything else from your dive operator to avoid baggage fees and maintenance.


  • Remember to bring your certification card! If you leave it at home or misplace it, let your dive operator know as soon as possible—with a little advance notice they can often dig up your certification info online. PADI also plans to add certification information to its mobile app this fall.
  • Many dive operators offer a brief refresher course—if you haven’t dived in a while this is a good way to brush up on the basics before your excursion.
  • Not all dive shops are created equal, and it may be worthwhile to spend extra money for a better diving experience. Some dive shops take out catamarans that carry large groups of people. Be sure to ask about the boat, especially if you’d prefer the intimacy of a smaller group.
  • Be sure your dive operator is affiliated with an internationally known training organization, such as PADI, NAUI, or SSI.
  • Remember you shouldn’t fly or travel to high elevations within 12–24 hours of diving. Keep this in mind when planning your trip so you don’t schedule your dive the day before an early flight home.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of PADI

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