I was a graduate student when I started scuba diving. Needless to say, graduate students are not know for having copious amounts of spare cash. Nevertheless, I managed to take some memorable dive-oriented vacations.
Now, to be completely honest, scuba diving can be an expensive hobby, especially if you don’t live near good dive sites. However, with the appropriate planning there’s no reason why someone on even a modest income can’t enjoy what the world of scuba has to offer.
As with all things budget related, it’s all about priorities. In order to take scuba vacations, you have to want to do so more than other, perhaps more immediate, things.
I don’t eat out a lot. I don’t have cable. I don’t buy many clothes. I don’t purchase tons of toys and gadgets. In my mind, a single dive trip is worth more than a PS3, XBox 360, and big-screen TV put together. I have made diving a priority in my life, and as a result, I get to go diving many times a year, despite living in an area unfriendly to recreational divers.
You may not need to be as drastic as me. Perhaps you just want to dive once a year or so. That’s fine. The point is that you need to know where diving lies in relation to other things in your life that tug at your wallet.
Now that you’ve decided that scuba is something you want to spend money on, we can focus on reducing how much money is required.
We can break dive vacations down into three costs:
- Travel expenses. You need to get where you’re going somehow, unless you’re lucky and have good local diving. Usually this will be air fare, but it could be a train ticket, or gas for your car.
- Accommodations. While traveling you need to eat and you need someplace to sleep.
- Scuba expenses. It costs money to actually get in the water. Boat fees, rental fees, and other expenses can add up.
We’ll tackle each of these one by one.
Probably one of the best ways to reduce travel expenses is to double up. Going to Florida for a family reunion? Stay an extra weekend and make it a dive excursion.
Have a business trip to North Carolina? Rent a car while you’re there and go diving in the Outer Banks.
Keep an eye out for these opportunities. Basically anytime I go anywhere I check if there’s diving nearby.
Aside from this, you need ways to reduce your traveling expenses. There are entire sites dedicated to this, but here are a few ideas:
Timing. Flying in the summer, especially recently, can be outrageously expensive. However, go in September and easily pay half for the same trip.
On a finer scale, if you can fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, or even sometimes Saturdays, you can save money. Try to have a flexible schedule, and check a variety of dates.
Airlines. Check many avenues for getting to your destination. www.kayak.com is an excellent starting point for checking many airlines simultaneously.
Keep an eye out for budget airlines as well, especially if you are flying in Europe. They’re not luxurious by any means, but they’ll get you from A to B.
Location. Be flexible in your location. Maybe you have a rough timeframe when you can travel. Instead of getting your heart set on one location, keep a variety of options open, and check fares to all possible locations.
Dive destinations can be remote, resulting in expensive direct flights. Look on a map for nearby locations you can fly into, and then take a bus / train / hopper / ferry / hopper flight into your final destination. The combined expenses may be much cheaper than a direct flight.
Frequent flyer miles. If you’re a frequent flyer, then I probably don’t have to tell you to consider using miles to get to your destination.
Travel expenses can be a hefty cost, but there are options for those of us on a budget. The key is to be flexible.
The most significant cost when traveling is often accommodations: food and a place to sleep.
As with travel expenses, there are websites dedicated to saving you money, but here are a few specific ideas:
- Off-season. Rates for off-season travel can be much lower. Have you detected a theme? Summer vacations are unnecessarily expensive.
- Mooching. Do you know anyone you can stay with near your destination? Renting a car and staying a short driving distance away can still save a lot of money.
- More people. Get a room, and pack people into it. Splitting a room four ways instead of two saves you half your money. At the prices charged per night in some tropical destinations this can really add up.
- Priceline. Try using www.priceline.com to “bid” on a room price.This usually works better very close to the travel dates, but it can save you money far out as well, especially for off-season travel.
- Cook. Instead of eating out for 3 meals, consider cooking in your room. Even with minimal kitchenware, you can churn out some tasty meals for cheap.
- Bring your own food. My favorite, bring your own food. I like to stuff microwaveable, refrigerator-free meals in my suitcase when I travel.
Be smart, do your homework, and accommodations don’t have to break the bank.
Unfortunately, scuba-related expenses are often the least flexible. We do have a few options, however:
- Shore diving. Boat trips can add up, s consider a shore diving destination. This can be especially advantageous for longer trips.
Packages. It is definitely a good idea to buy a package whenever possible, instead of paying for 2-tank dives individually. This reduces your per dive cost. You can often get a discount on gear rentals when purchasing a package as well.
Also, look into packages that combine diving with accommodations. These are quite common in most popular destinations. Just make sure that the combined price is actually a deal.
Equipment. Rental fees can add up quickly, so having your own equipment saves money. Granted, scuba equipment is expensive, so you’d have to dive a lot to break even.
Start with mask, snorkel, and fins. They’re cheap and easy to travel with. Plus, they double as snorkeling gear.
If you have active scuba diving friends or family, think about borrowing equipment from them.
Scuba diving is not a cheap hobby, but it doesn’t have to break your budget. Plan well and be flexible, and you can probably afford more trips than you previously thought.
What are you favorite tips for saving money on scuba diving vacations? Leave a reply in the comments section below.
Photo by alamosbasement