How many vacations turn out exactly as you expected them to? Sometimes people expect too much and are very disappointed when not everything goes as planned.

Going on a diving vacation to some distant Caribbean island is not as easy as getting on an airplane. There is a great deal of preparation involved. But, there is another thing that can make a vacation much better and safer, from a personal point of view. That is attitude. If you leave home expecting an island to be at least as pretty as the travel poster, be prepared. Those beautiful palm leaves shading your private balcony could very well be placed there by the photographer’s assistant. And, that muscular man and gorgeously tanned blond woman are both probably models; the photo of the dive shop’s brand new rack of tanks might have been taken eight years ago.

This is not always the case, but it can make for some disappointing first impressions. One way to avoid this is to select a destination that friends have been to recently and can confirm is as the brochures claim.

Many divers enjoy trying a new spot. This can be risky but also very exciting and rewarding. Trying an unknown location demands a certain attitude. It is very important to expect things to be different. Optional plans, such as packing up and going to another place, or perhaps making a different type of vacation, should be well thought out before getting on the plane. Any vacation must have options regardless of where you go. Planning an exact, nonflexible itinerary with no margins for any changes has made many people very unhappy for their entire trip.

Sunbeams fall into the dim shadows of a cavern in the Solomon Islands.
Sunbeams fall into the dim shadows of a cavern in the Solomon Islands.

Another dangerous, but too common attitude is to expect one island to operate just like another. Too many times a diver is overheard saying, “But that’s the way they do it on . . ..’ Or, even worse, “We don’t do it like that back home.’ The fact that things are not like back home or elsewhere makes a vacation interesting, perhaps inspiring and educational.

Contrary to the promises of many travel agents, it does rain, and there are storms, in the Caribbean. Planning a vacation around 24 hours and seven days a week of sunshine can lead to a most disappointing time. If it rains, go diving. You get wet anyhow. Just bring something to dry off with after the dive and a sweatshirt to keep warm. It is surprising how chilly the tropics can get when the sun is not out. Besides, there are also many things to do indoors or under a beach umbrella.

If you are traveling with a large group, make sure your leader is competent and not just along for a free ride. One absolutely perfect dive trip came to a most ragged conclusion because the leader forgot to reconfirm everyone’s airline tickets back home. Even if you are alone, make sure your travel plans are confirmed. There are not too many ways to make the end of a vacation worse than sleeping in an airport.

More and more divers are going on vacations to take pictures underwater. If your entire dive vacation revolves around a camera, you had better seriously think about carrying spares of everything. How many times have divers been almost in tears because their camera or strobe flooded? If spares are not financially possible, try to arrange to stay near a place where repairs or rental equipment are available. There are at least two strobe companies that now keep their units at resorts available to the distressed photographer as temporary replacements. (This is providing you were using their unit when the problem occurred.) Should replacements not be available, try taking pictures topside with your land camera. If you cannot take wide angle shots because that lens is out of commission, try close-ups or vice versa. No strobe anymore? Available light can give some very nice results. If you limit yourself to one very specific type of underwater photography you are limiting your chances of that 100 percent wonderful vacation.

Personalities can conflict anywhere and no place could be worse than on a dive boat – especially if you are living on it for a week or more. Before you make a definite commitment it might be a good idea to meditate for a while, clear your head and get ready to have a good time regardless of how obnoxious one of the other guests might be. Many perfect vacations have been dashed on the rocks by just one person. Sometimes being just good and blunt about your feelings will straighten the problems out. Or, simply ignore the person and carry on.

Resort personalities can be equally as bad but at least it is easier to get away from them awhile on an island. A place with a good selection of dive operators can eliminate this problem.

A vacation must be a vacation, something where you can relax and do what you want; not something to which you bring all your worries and anxieties. Don’t carry a suitcase full of great expectations  – just a few clothes, your dive gear and an attitude that no matter what happens there will still be something to do that is fun.

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