For Liveaboard Diving
If you are planning a liveaboard diving vacation, the liveaboard dive companies usually provide a fairly thorough list of what you should bring and what you should leave at home. This list is assuming you are using the BCD, weights, wetsuits, and booties (if needed) of the diving company. If you plan on bringing those items, just add them to your checklist.
Regulator: I always bring my own regulator and a couple extra mouthpieces. I just like knowing that my equipment is in excellent working order and super clean. I usually pack it in my checked baggage.
Mask and snorkel: I ALWAYS bring my mask. I guess I have a funky face, but I have a hard time getting just any old mask to get a good seal. Also, a lot of divers I know don’t like to dive with a snorkel but bring one. Many places allow you to go without, and many do not. As a former instructor, I was one who would not allow it.
Dive computer: I never dive without one, never borrow one, and I always bring a backup battery.
Dive Logbook: if you still use an actual logbook, it’s good to have just in case your dive computer dies, you’ll have a backup. Some dive companies still ask you how many dives you’ve logged, and others still ask for a copy of your dive logbook.
Dive skin: I like to bring a dive skin everywhere. I don’t always use it, but it makes life easier and it offers some protection from stinging creatures, plus it makes getting on the super thick wetsuit that doesn’t exactly fit you perfectly sooooo much easier.
Gloves: My husband likes to dive in gloves, I hate them. Some places insist on gloves. In other places you would wish that you had them because the rocks can be sharp if you must hold on to something. There are many times I wished I were wearing gloves when we were on the anchor line doing safety stops in strong current due to stinging and sharp growths on the line.
Rash guard: this is a good alternative to a dive skin, but I usually bring both.
Lights: if you know you will be doing night dives, I would at least bring a backup light. Many dive companies have lights for you for the night dives but having a backup that you know works and is bright enough (think LED) is critical to a good night, cavern, or cave dive.
Dive knife: a sharp one. You will have to put this in your checked baggage because they are no longer allowed in carry-on baggage. If you knew how many times I’ve had to use my dive knife for just about anything and everything un-knife related, you would carry one even on land.
Backup mask strap and keepers: critical since all mask straps and keepers are just a little different and the dive company may not have one that fits your mask.
Carabiners: I always bring these with me on every dive and every trip. They are THE most useful piece of equipment I own.
Safety gear: most liveaboards will let you know what safety gear is required; however, I always bring my own based on my training. This includes a whistle or BCD air horn, a mirror, a safety sausage, a reel and line, and a first aid kit from DAN.
For Boat Diving
If you are planning a scuba diving vacation that includes boat diving, most dive companies usually have good equipment, but it does depend on the level of dive operator you have chosen. This list is assuming you are using the BCD, weights, wetsuits, and booties (if needed) of the diving company. If you plan on bringing those items, just add them to your checklist.
All the stuff from the liveaboard list above plus the items below.
Dive duffel bag: you may bring one for a liveaboard too, but you’ll definitely need a sturdy dive duffel that can hold all your stuff (with a working zipper) when you go on boat dives. And make sure all the stuff you’re bringing fits in it with the zipper closed before you pack it.
Tank O-rings and dental tool: maybe this is just an instructor thing, but this is very inexpensive, doesn’t take up much space, and usually can be packed in a carry-on.
Quick dry towel: I like to have something compact on a dive boat to wipe my face. Depending on the dive boat, you’re often exposed to splashing, wind, salt spray, or other peoples’ greasy sunscreen. It’s nice to have something to be able to wipe your hands and face with and dive boats don’t normally have anything available.
Water or Powerade/Gatorade: most quality dive boats have something for you to drink, however we’ve been on our fair share that don’t have cups, or enough for everyone. I always bring something for myself and stick it in my dive bag.
For Shore Diving
If you are planning a scuba diving vacation that includes shore diving, most of the Shore diving, scuba diving vacation, liveaboardcompanies (which are usually the same companies as the boat dive companies) have good equipment, but it does depend on the level of dive operator you have chosen. This list is assuming you are using the BCD, weights, wetsuits, and booties (if needed) of the diving company. If you plan on bringing those items, just add them to your checklist.
All the stuff from the liveaboard list above plus the items below.
Booties: you can rent these at most dive shops, but you will definitely want booties for shore dives.
Dive flag: many places don’t require a “diver down flag” for shore dives, but many do. Check with the local dive shops and see if you will need to use one and if they rent them. If not, there are many inflatable options on Amazon or dive shops that you could easily pack and bring with you. Don’t forget to bring an extra reel for the dive flag.
Note: some shore diving companies will rent or sell these items and that might be a cheaper way to go so you don’t have to haul all this extra gear in your suitcases.
This is just stuff that we always bring no matter where we’re going as a “just in case they don’t sell it there” option.
Seasick medication (you just never know – some places don’t have seasick medication)
Good sunscreen (I use spray-on greaseless no-run super duty sunscreen (SPF 50+), and you can’t always find that everywhere)
Hair ties/bands (I refuse to cut my hair short just to dive and believe it or not, you can’t always find hair bands that won’t rip out all your hair everywhere in the world)
Batteries – but this is only if you need uncommon batteries. We purchased some great underwater torches/lights one time and didn’t bring batteries, and we couldn’t find 9V batteries that fit these lights anywhere. But make sure you check your airlines; some won’t allow batteries anymore.
Ibuprofen and acetaminophen (something else you can’t always find, and if you’re allergic to a lot of other stuff, this is essential)
Snacks: we always bring a little something (granola bar, dried fruit, etc.) because I have low blood sugar, but it’s a good idea for everyone. That’s why dive boats usually feed you something because diving takes more out of you than you think.
Note: If you have allergies, medical conditions, or anything that medical professionals need to know if they have to treat you in a foreign country, make sure you have a medical bracelet, medical card, and there’s even great medical apps for your phone. I even carry extra laminated copies of my medical info just in case.
Most important – have fun!