Travel Smarter: Liveaboard Diving

While there are many great local and land-based destinations, a liveaboard might be the ultimate experience for a vacation dedicated to diving. But the benefits of liveaboard diving, such as traveling to incredible dive sites that can't be reached from shore and filling your days with dives, require some extra preparation. If you have decided to take the plunge on your first liveaboard trip, here are some tips to ensure smooth sailing.

When you start planning your trip, make sure you are conscientious about your travel arrangements. Doing a little research about your destination and having an idea of your entire itinerary will be worthwhile. Some exotic destinations require several connecting flights; you will need to coordinate not only your international flight but also domestic travel arrangements from your arrival airport to the liveaboard port. Time is the key factor: You need to have enough time on arrival to make it to your boat and enough time after your liveaboard trip to make your flight back home while also adhering to DAN's guidelines for flying after diving (

You may also need to plan for short island-hopping flights depending on your destination. With limited flights according to a certain schedule and small planes that accommodate only a handful of people, you'll need to know if you should book these flights well in advance of your trip. Depending on the remoteness of your liveaboard, connecting flights on regional aircraft might be part of your travel. Contact the charter operator or airline about their service before you travel — they often have strict baggage weight limits, and you don't want to arrive for a flight with 20 pounds more scuba gear than the airline allows. The fees for overweight luggage are often exorbitant.

A big draw of liveaboard diving is a remote destination, which often means international travel and all the usual preparations that come with it: passports and other documentation, vaccinations, prescription medication regulations, proper currency and credit card notifications. Your passport must be valid for at least six months after your expected date of return or you may not be allowed to leave the U.S. When it comes to money, plan for port fees, departures taxes, marine park fees, customs duties and gratuities (generally 10 percent of the charter fee is a generous tip). Research any regulations for the destinations where you'll be visiting or diving.

It is becoming more common for dive operators to require proof of fitness to dive, so make sure you bring documentation with you. The standard form from the Recreational Scuba Training Council (RSTC) should suffice as long as you have no serious health issues. Answers in the affirmative may require a doctor's clearance.

Leave yourself enough time for other preparations you will need to make. Schedule a certification refresher course if you need it, service all your gear, and make sure your DAN® membership and dive accident insurance are up to date. Consider covering your trip with DAN annual or per-trip travel insurance — don't let an unforeseen snag derail your perfect dive vacation.

To make the most of your diving, make sure you know the appropriate gear to bring. How thick should your wetsuit be, or will you need a drysuit? Your destination may have rental gear available (such as a regulator, dive computer, suit, cutting tools and dive lights) that can save packing space. If you do pack your own, put your regulator, dive computer and mask in your carry-on bag. Because of limited carry-on space, underwater photographers may opt to hand carry their cameras and trust their dive gear to checked baggage. Any cutting tools and cylinders (with valves removed) will have to go in a checked bag, but your buoyancy compensator, fins and snorkel can go in either bag.

Remote dive sites make a surface marker buoy and a signaling device necessary, so pack or plan to rent them. The ability to deploy a safety sausage from a reel while underwater is an important skill to keep you visible while doing a safety stop and as a precaution as dive dinghies patrol the dive site. If seasickness is a concern, stay hydrated and bring medication that you have tried ahead of time so you know how it affects you. Your packing list should also include reef-safe sunscreen or sun-protective clothing, bug repellent, weather-appropriate attire, extra medications, ear-drying aid (50/50 white vinegar and isopropyl alcohol), your DAN membership card and your camera to record all the memorable underwater sights.

By planning before you go, you'll be ready to immerse yourself in the dive trip of a lifetime.

© Alert Diver — Q3 Summer 2019