So here we are in Part 2 of the “weighting” game – what to pack for your scuba vacation. In my last post I talked about what scuba equipment to pack and what to leave home. This time I would like to talk about how to pack to include your photo/video equipment in your list of things to bring, along with the usual stuff, like clothes, toiletries, etc.
KNOW YOUR LIMITS
I think it is a great time to mention that you should always do your research when it comes to airlines’ weight restrictions and baggage fees to know what the weight limits and size restrictions are and how to avoid getting charged those hefty extra fees. When shopping for great fares to your destination, you should always take into account the airline’s baggage policies. Fees can add up quickly and soon that cheap fare might not be such a great deal after all. Check out my checked & carry-on baggage limits guide for weight and number of checked bags allowed, then go to the airline websites for further information on extra baggage allowed and fees.
When preparing to pack for your trip, I suggest you go out and buy one of those lightweight digital scales for weighing your bags. You can generally find one in the luggage section of your local discount superstore. I use mine to weigh my luggage while packing, and then throw it in my carry-on for the return home because when I have to pack again I never remember how I packed in the first place, and I always manage to pick up something to bring home with me every trip. If you are traveling in a group and are the only one who has a scale with you, trust me, you will make friends fast.
NOW LET’S GET DOWN TO THE NITTY-GRITTY
When faced with the daunting task of figuring out what I need to pack, I like to use a checklist. After several trips you generally have your routine down, but you never know when you might forget that very important item. So don’t. Pull out your checklist and make things easy on yourself. I thought I would help you out by including my diver’s packing list and my handy-dandy pre-trip checklist for you to use. Please feel free to adjust them to suit your needs.
With my list by my side, I begin putting stuff on my bed that I plan to pack. I generally do this process a few days before the trip so I can make sure there is nothing I need to run out and get. Clothes for a scuba trip are pretty easy to pick out. A bathing suit (or two), a couple of rashguards, 1 or 2 pair of shorts, 3 to 4 t-shirts, and a sarong (or two) for the ladies. This should get you by for a few days. My husband and I often pack light on the clothes then take advantage of the resort’s laundry service so we can save room in our luggage for more important things, like camera gear. If there is no laundry service, pack a little bit of detergent for a quick rinse in your room’s sink. Also, I like to travel in sweats or something a just little lighter that may be too bulky for your luggage, but you will enjoy having with you when you have a cool night while on vacation.
ANOTHER ITEM ON YOUR CHECKLIST MIGHT BE YOUR MEDICATIONS
If you need to bring prescription medicine with you, make sure to keep it in the labeled bottle and pack it in your carry-on. I like to put all my toiletries in my TSA-approved quart-size bag because it is just so much easier than worrying about not having it with you if you should arrive at your destination, but your bags don’t.
NOW COME THE ELECTRONICS
I layout all my electronics, photo/video equipment, necessary chargers and chords, and lots of back-up memory disks and flash-drives. If all your equipment uses the same usb chord to download or charge, then don’t pack more than one chord. My husband and I generally pack our laptops in our carry-ons and we download our photos/videos every night to a flash drive as backup. If you don’t have room to bring your laptop, then I suggest a memory card for each day of the trip. Cards are relatively cheap these days, so in hopes of preventing the loss of precious pictures, I suggest putting a new card in your camera each day so just in case there is some camera malfunction, or dreaded housing leakage, not all your recorded memories will be destroyed. Speaking of housing leakage, make sure to have a small save-a-camera kit with you. Mine contains my lens cleaners, spare o-rings and lubricant, a jeweler’s screwdriver, and desiccant packets. Two tips: 1) Always make sure to use the lubricant recommended by the o-ring manufacturer because mixing brands may lead to the o-ring swelling and failing; 2) If you want to pinch a few pennies, there is no need to go out and buy special desiccant packs. I make a collection of packs during the year from the ones I find in my supplement bottles and new shoe boxes. When the humidity is getting to my cameras, I just put them in a gallon-sized plastic bag with a bunch of these packs, zip up the bag and generally in a few hours my camera is good to go again.
TIME TO ELIMINATE
Ok, once you’ve laid out your clothes, toiletries, scuba gear and camera gear, look it over and eliminate anything you don’t absolutely have to bring. Now it’s time to pack. My husband and I generally pack one bag with scuba gear, and one bag with the more bulky camera equipment (ie, housings) and clothes to cushion it. More fragile things like our cameras, lenses, and dive computers go in our carry-ons, along with one day of clothing and our essential toiletries. If there is room, I might squeeze in my dive light, but I pack the batteries in with the scuba or camera gear, whichever bag is lighter. Once you’ve packed your bags, weigh them and adjust or eliminate as needed. It may be a little anal, but I often unpack the bags the night before leaving and go through the process all over again just to double-check and see if I can leave anything behind.
One last tip for the photographers out there. If you find yourself exceeding weight limits in your carry-on or other bags, one option to take a pound or two off may be to get one of those photographer field vests with all the pockets to wear onto the plane. You can stuff your pockets with chords, memory cards, lens filters, small lenses, a flat strobe, small charger or anything else you might think will fit, in order to lighten your bag a bit. Once you are past the luggage scales, you can make the vest more comfortable by putting some of the items into your carry-on, or if you have room, the whole vest.
A FINAL WORD TO THE WISE
When you have everything sorted out and are packing your carry-on, remember to keep all those things you will be using during your trip easily accessible, especially things like your passport and liquids you have to pull out for the TSA. Once you reach TSA, you might want to take out those items from you bag that may raise suspicion along with your laptop and other items. For me, I always get pulled over for my wide-angle lens, even when I have it out of the case and in the tray for examination. The agents always have to ask me what it is and then they send me on my way – it never fails.
So hopefully I’ve provided you with some helpful tips, maybe some you’ve never thought of before, and made what can be the most difficult part of the trip a little easier.
Do you have any handy packing or travelling tips you’d like to share with other divers? Please share your tips in the comments below.
Like what you’ve read? Want to learn how to better enjoy your scuba diving vacation? Maybe you’d like to travel with Delightful Departures on an upcoming adventure? Become part of the Delightful Departures community. Discover different destinations and travel tips in our biweekly newsletter. Join today.