Stress Free Travel…..is it really possible?
Traveling “stress free” is easy, you just have to know a few tricks. Most travel problems are easily avoidable. Utilize the information below that has been acquired over many years of travel. We have seen and heard about everything you could possibly imagine. We could tell you a LOT of stories but will save that for the next time you are on a trip with us over a cold one!
In addition to the stress many people encounter just by attempting to get to the destination, there are other stressors than can make travel seem uncomfortable. After many years of frequent travel and observing countless travelers, we have some tips you may find helpful.
It is normal to be somewhat grumpy on travel days. Sometimes travelers can get too grumpy though. The leading cause of being grumpy on travel days is a lack of preparation and understanding of the travel process. When it seems like things are going wrong it’s easy to try and blame others for what is often times your lack of preparation or understanding of the travel process. Its also easy to “fly off the handle” when trying to find solutions to problems when in fact you will get much further by being civil to anyone you are working with. Contact the group leader or travel provider and discuss the issues. It would be a rare occasion that we could not find a solution.
• Study this travel guide. Most stress is caused by a lack of knowledge and preparation. Don’t be afraid to call the shop, swing by or just shoot us an email for more information.
• Do LOTS of research on your destination. The more you learn about the destination including but not limited to the terrain, climate, culture, customs, resort, accommodations and diving, the more confident of a traveler you will be. The less you know the more you will look like a clueless tourist and will stick out in a crowd, possibly being taken advantage of. It will be unlikely that you can maximize the time on your vacation as well
• Be familiar with time zones, currency, exchange rates, electricity type, language etc.
• Know the name of your travel provider(s) whether land, sea or air. Be familiar with your resort(s) and activity centers as well.
• Stay well hydrated. While en route, avoiding alcoholic beverages before and during the ride can prevent sickness, hangovers, dehydration and other uncomfortable feelings.
• Eat foods that you know will not upset your stomach. This will be appreciated by all that sit next to you as well. Remember….you are there to make friends too!
• Research the resort. Are the docks close to your room? Are their lockers/locks for your equipment? Are there elevators? Does the destination accommodate special diets such as vegetarians or picky eaters?
• Start researching the destinations demo-graphical area, resort/live-aboard, dive shop, land based activities and anything else that peaks your interest.
• Evaluate the divers and travelers checklist in this guide. Take inventory immediately. DO NOT wait until the last minute to utilize the checklist. Last minute preparations are a huge stressor. It is possible that you will need to order something or simply not have time to run errands.
• Do you have some one to take care of your house, pets, children etc.?
• Make sure that all of your job responsibilities at work will be covered well in advance.
• Check your Passport making sure you know where it is, check it for damage, accuracy (name changes) and dates valid for at least 6 months from your return date.
• Make sure your equipment has had its annual service and works properly. DON’T assume! Just because it worked a year ago does not mean it is still working.
• Tune your Scuba skills up in a pool, a local lake or you may even want to consider taking a continuing education class. Avoid waiting until you are on the trip to realize you are rusty as you may lose dive time and frustrate other divers. A confident diver will be able to efficiently board a dive boat showing good boat etiquette, efficiently unpack their gear bag, efficiently assemble equipment and enjoy the boat ride to the dive site. You should comfortably be able to don equipment and enter the water being ready to descend without feeling rushed. While diving, you should obey all local rules, have control of your buoyancy and not violate standard dive practices.
• Pack at least 72 hrs before the trip. Document items you will still need to use right up to the day of the trip and lay the note on top of your luggage. You will probably find that in that 72 hours you will add to your list and be confident the day of travel you are not forgetting something.
• Avoid over packing. You do not need your entire closet and bathroom. It will go unused. This is one of the most common rookie traveler mistakes.
• Show up to the airport at least 2 ½ hours early. That might seem a bit early but it is the industry standard for international travel. If you forget something at home you may still have time to go back and get it! It’s also a great time to mingle with other travelers in the group getting pumped with anticipation of the destination. Travelers that are not checked in within 1 hour of the flight may lose their tickets to Stand by passengers. If you miss the plane there is typically nothing that can be done, you have ruined your trip.
• Keep your eyes on your luggage at ALL times. Airport transfers to and from hotels, airport luggage screeners, hotel lobbies etc. are just a few places to mention that are easy to lose your luggage. Losing luggage can spoil a trip. If you are on a bus transfer they may make multiple stops. Make sure yours is not being mistaken for someone else’s. Most luggage looks about the same and can be confused so keep an eye out. Mark your luggage clearly so it can be quickly identified from a distance. Securely put your contact information inside and outside your bags.
• Pay attention to all briefings from Bluewater Divers travel guides, airline attendants, baggage handlers, travel representatives, resort representatives, dive guides and any other informant that may be working for us. You must understand “island time” it is unpredictable and information is often minute to minute. You may also be a great help in passing along accurate information.
• On travel days where you will be exposed to security searches, consider what you are wearing. How much metal will you have to take off for the detectors? How easy are your shoes to remove? Baggy clothing will often times “red flag” you. The temperature at your departure city may differ from your destination, are you dressed appropriately. These are just examples.
Ok, we have your attention now. Years ago we could fit everything we thought you needed to know on 1 piece of paper. Every page of this guide has importance, some of which is redundant to ensure you understand.
How many times have you been on vacation and seen travelers stressing, losing their cool and missing the point of a vacation? Perhaps you have been that person. It happens more than you think. Like most things in life, you get out of it what you put into it. This guide has just about everything you need to know and then some to avoid rookie travel mistakes. If you follow this guide and apply our suggestions, you will look and feel like a savvy traveler. It is tempting to skim through sections or completely avoid them if you already feel confident as a traveler. It is quite possible you are a Savvy Traveler, still give it a chance. Take what you want and leave the rest.
As you read through the following pages, even the Savviest of all travelers will find something they have not encountered. Nothing is fictitious in this guide. In fact, if you really think about it, there are some really sad but funny stories behind almost every line written in this book. We all do stupid things. Its funny to look back on some of them and poke fun of ourselves.
This guide is not supposed to scare you or make you feel like a dummy. It is simply a great way of avoiding hurdles other travels have had to learn the hard way.
At Bluewater Divers we have been helping people avoid travel frustrations for many years. When you travel with us its like taking a limousine opposed to the city bus. We make sure that we only travel with reputable airlines (even if that means paying a bit more), we only use the most reputable dive operations and other various activities. We stay at resorts that are diver friendly and present the way you would expect (often exceeding expectations).
Traveling outside the U.S. requires a passport. If you already have one, check the expiration date. It must be valid for at least 6 months from the day of your planned vacation return to be accepted in most countries. If you do not have one, do not waste time getting one even if you do not have a trip planned. One of the most common frustrations we see in our customers is when the opportunity arises to go on an international trip and they do not have a passport. We don’t want to have to look you in your regretful eyes and say “I told you so” as we have unfortunately done many, many times in the past. Passports are cheap but can take several weeks or even months to get. Go to the travel section of our website and click on “Passports” to learn more and get the ball rolling.
This guide is not meant to scare anyone or sound negative. Here is our though process, when you are in a fun environment, its easy to have fun. When things go wrong, even something simple its easy to get in a bad mood. We hope to load you down with every travel situation and ways of avoiding them.
Over the last decade we have watched literally thousands of travelers to develop this guide. At times, it will appear to be quite harsh. We have found that by being polite and not telling it “how it is”, some travelers will not be able to maximize their experience.
Its funny to look back on some of them and poke fun of ourselves. Join us on one of our trips and we might tell you some of the stories!
Coping with Mental and physical stress while traveling
Traveling can be physically and mentally challenging. It is very important to exercise your body and mind while en route. There are many methods travelers can use to prevent potential health related issues such as, but not limited to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). You can also make a long journey seem significantly shorter by stimulating or relaxing your mind with the below suggestions.
• In the few days before travel, exercise. This may help your body and mind. It may also help condition your body for that long plane or ground transfers.
• While traveling on an airplane or other forms of transportation with limited space, keep your body moving. Use the following exercises to help keep blood flowing through your body:
1. Take your shoes off (make sure you have on clean socks) and twist your ankles side to side, up and down, then in circles clock and counter clock wise frequently.
2. Pull your knees up towards your chest if space allow one at a time, 5 reps each while sitting in your seat. Repeat this as often as you are comfortable or at least once per hour.
3. Take advantage of the situation when someone sitting next to you gets up. Stretch out, just about any type of movement is better than none!
4. Frequently stretch out any way that is comfortable and non offensive to others.
5. Change your sitting and or leaning position as often as possible.
6. Be very careful about taking sleep medication. Your body could be distorted for long periods of time. If you decide take sleep aids, make sure someone is checking on you frequently and can assist you if we land prematurely. Consult with a physician and read the warning labels to make sure you understand what you are taking and how it will effect you. Encountering unforeseen side effects on a long journey to a foreign land is not an ideal situation.
7. Every hour or so get up and go to the bathroom (put your shoes back on first). While in the bathroom, if room allows, spread your legs to shoulder width, keep your back straight with your head straight up and balanced over your knees and squat down as far as you can then thrust upward. Repeat this at least 10 times. Yes, people may stare when you come out. Just smile!
Stimulating your mind while en route can be very rewarding. You might be surprised at the quality of life you will have when comparing having nothing to occupy your mind vs. being entertained. Overall, you will more than likely be less of a grumpy traveler than if you go unprepared.
• Some travelers choose to use medication to relax or sleep. For the right person and the right situation this may be ideal. Consult with your physician first. If you still choose to medicate, have someone available to check on your periodically. If you are in a medicated form of sleep you may sleep in an awkward position, you may not be able to function in the event of a premature landing or a number of other potentially uncomfortable situations.
• Take distractions with you. Anything that will keep your mind stimulated for example: a T.V. show that has high energy and excitement that keeps you wanting more. You can download the entire season of TV shows you may not have time to watch at home. Bring your chargers on board with you as well. In the event of a travel delay, you can more than likely find a power outlet.
• Take snacks! The snacks or meals some flights provide are often not fulfilling or desirable. Make sure you are familiar enough with the itinerary to see how much you need to prepare for. Sometimes connections will be so tight you will not have time in-between connections to eat. Plan for delays.
• During your flight you may also want to take instructional manuals on recently purchased items such as cameras to become familiar with.
• If you are taking a scuba diving continuing education class or are thinking about it, while en route is a great time to read the training manual.
This section covers General Equipment protection
• Be VERY careful if you bring electronic equipment such as laptop computers, digital cameras etc. not to let them set in your cold room and then take it outside. The extreme temperature differences will cause extreme condensation and possible malfunctions. A trick shared by many travelers is to store your electronic devices in a secure, dry portion of your bathroom, closet or drawer wrapped in towels so it won’t get cold in there. If you need to take it outside and know that it is cold, turn the device on and let it run for at least 15 minutes. This will allow the device to slowly warm up from the inside out.
• While traveling with air tight containers such as dive lights, dry boxes, camera housings etc. you make absolutely sure that during air travel there will be a significant pressure change. This change in pressure can not only cause damage to your equipment but make it near impossible to open once you land.
• Take lots of spare batteries. Rechargeable batteries are a wise investment so you are not throwing away batteries and the charge typically lasts longer.
• Bring extra memory cards for your camera and if possible a way to back it up such as a computer.
• Be aware of the power supply at your destination. Many electronic gadgets designed to be used in the USA operate on 110V. other countries may use not only a different voltage but a different plug outlet. Adapters may be found at many different retail outlets so that you may use your equipment. Even countries that use 110V that are compatible with gadgets designed for the USA may not have a ground plug. That’s the 3rd, round prong coming out of your gadget. So, for less than a buck you can buy an adapter that will make your gadget compatible with the electrical outlet.
• If you are bringing lots of gadgets it’s a good idea to bring an electrical strip that has multiple plug ins.
• Batteries need to be taken out of anything you have in your checked luggage that could accidentally turn on. Many screening stations at airports will not allow installed batteries in large items like dive lights with out removing them. Small items like computers, hand held games etc. are typically no problem. Often times traveling from the USA to foreign destinations is no problem, however many foreign destinations often times will restrict batteries.
• Avoid “flashing” your fancy equipment around in public. In some destinations you are bringing more “non-essential” equipment valued higher than a local annual household income. Although there are not many issues with internal theft at major resorts, use common sense. Don’t make it tempting or easy for someone to take your belongings. Most situations are quick grabs, not pillaging through your luggage and drawers.
• Be aware of Legal and Cultural issues with electronics. See the Legal & Cultural section for more details.
• WARNING: You may not be protected with your home/renters insurance in the event you have a loss. See the Travel Insurance section for more details.
An experienced traveler knows that travel delays and lost luggage are simply a part of travel you have to risk to enjoy the benefits of travel. If you have never been delayed or lost luggage, knock on wood because it’s just a matter of time. Although it will always be frustrating there are ways of dealing with these situations that may ease the tension and lead to fast, fair and acceptable solution.
Preparing yourself for potential problems
It is a great idea to try and prevent problems from happening before they actually happen by properly preparing for travel and understanding travel procedures. In addition to utilizing this guide, familiarize yourself with the travel provider (air, sea or land) website where you can typically find a great deal of information regarding your source of travel. The TSA website www.tsa.gov may also offer you great travel tips. Assuming travel is self explanatory is a mistake!
Should a problem arise you are more likely to make progress to finding solutions if you are knowledgeable with the travel provider and TSA policies and procedures. A knowledgeable traveler will typically be confident and will keep their cool while looking for solutions instead of irrationally yelling, threatening and acting out other desperate non-productive behaviors.
Dealing with delays
Dealing with travel delays is mainly about attitude. If there is a travel delay there is typically nothing you can do about it. It is important to find out what is going on so pay attention when a delay is announced. Travel representatives typically are already working on solutions before you know there is a delay. Each traveler must typically be dealt with on a case by case basis as many have different final destinations. Your travel transportation may be delayed for a few minutes, hours or even cancelled. In some cases the travel provider may put you on a competing travel carriers transport whether land, sea or air to make the situation right.
It is not a bad idea to keep major travel providers contact information such as airlines, ships and buses handy in your cell phone. If you know that you are stranded, start calling other travel providers. Often times the clock is ticking and it is a race against other stranded travelers to find alternatives. If you were smart and purchased Travel Insurance you may have less to worry about than you think.
Keep in mind that as frustrating as it is, the travel industry cannot control the weather. The travel industry is also closely monitored on scheduled maintenance but mechanical difficulties still cannot be predicted with 100% accuracy. Delays typically cost the travel industry thousands of dollars so they don’t like it any more than you do! Having this information does not make the reality of your frustrating travel delay go away but it should help you to be more understanding and be able to more rationally approach the travel representatives in search of solutions. Even if you are dealing with a near impossible situation where you may risk missing another connection, try to remain calm. Your adrenaline will undoubtedly be pumping and your anxiety level will be off the scale but sometimes there is just not much you can do. Prepare yourself before any flight for worst case scenarios.
Dealing with lost luggage
Considering how many thousands of bags the travel industry deal with every day, it’s a wonder more bags are not lost. All things considered, an experienced traveler knows that it’s a rare occasion to have significant issues with lost luggage. Having said that, if you have never lost luggage, travel enough and your day will come.
You can do a lot to prevent luggage from disappearing by following simple travel provider and TSA suggestions, policies and procedures as well as using common since. Not getting your bags on time may be just the beginning of your problems, you may not get them at all! Make sure your luggage size and weight is within the limits advertised by your travel provider. If you are using multiple travel providers such as switching air carriers, using “island hoppers”, bus transfers etc. label your luggage well and put additional contact information inside your bag. Make distinct markings on your bags so they won’t be confused by other travelers. Keep your luggage in direct contact until you release it to the travel provider. Lost luggage often occurs in parking lot shuttles. Know how to ID and describe your bag and its contents in detail.
keep your luggage tracking number that will typically be a small sticker placed on the jacket of your boarding pass (or equivalent) given to you upon checking in.
Make absolutely sure that you take all of your medications, cell phone, chargers and anything else you may need in the event that your luggage is lost. Most people would agree that it is much better to have lost luggage on the way home so you at least have everything you need while on vacation. Once you are at your destination and you do not have all of your luggage, keep your cool, the travel provider will typically be very helpful in getting you the necessities. If you start demanding “gold plated hair dryers” and other non-essential items they will more than likely lose interest in going out their way to help you. If you lose your luggage on the return flight typically they will drop it off at your house in the next few days.
Making it right
Many travelers understand that all business are going to have problems, how each company deals with those problems is what determines how good of a company they are.
Many businesses, especially the travel industry deal with irrational people every day that leaves them with a low tolerance for jerks. Many irrational travelers believe that the travel industry can control weather. That is obviously not true. They can also only do so much to predict mechanical difficulties. These irrational travelers make it tough on good travelers because the travel representatives don’t know if you are just looking for a “handout” or have a legitimate issue.
If you approach a travel representative with a smile and let them know that you are in need of assistance you will usually get someone that sympathizes with your situation and is eager to find solutions. Don’t be afraid to let them know the urgency of your situation but don’t overreact and push the “panic button” or lie about the urgency of your situation if it is a minor issue. Typically the person you are dealing with is not the cause of your problem so don’t treat them like they are. If you keep your cool and a smile on your face they know that you are not a jerk like the people they have undoubtedly been dealing with all day.
Depending on the severity of your situation you may on a “case by case” basis be entitled to airline gift certificates of various amounts, food and hotel vouchers, toiletry kits or allowances, upgrades to 1st class etc., sometimes airline vouchers or reimbursements must be mailed out to you at a later date.
If your luggage is damaged or something is missing make sure you make the claim right there. It is difficult to file a claim once you have left the airport and may have to pay for damages to your luggage and contents yourself.
1. Take a photograph of ALL items laid out next to your luggage. This will ensure you do not forget to claim anything lost and assist your case in receiving a claim. For extra credit you may lay your current travel documents in a legible fashion next to your luggage as well for the purpose of photographic evidence.
2. Consult with your home/renters insurance carrier prior to traveling and tell them you are leaving the USA with $xxxx worth of valuables. More than likely they will suggest you need more coverage. An Articles policy is standard.
3. If your current insurance is inadequate, go to the DAN website www.diversalertnetwork.org and click on insurance, then equipment. Its very inexpensive compared to a full loss. Travel providers are reluctant to pay on claims usually due to excessive amounts of fraud and other variables. Check the travel providers policies before traveling.
4. If your equipment is stolen most insurance carriers will require a police report.
5. If you feel that your travel provider(s) are responsible make sure you claim it BEFORE you leave the airport.
Each individual may be more or less tolerant of travel “Kooties” than others. Although there is no way to be certain you will be exposed to contaminants, you can certainly take precautions to reduce the risk. Become educated on the areas you are traveling too and then use common sense.
• The areas Bluewater Divers hosts group trips and promotes are not known to have serious threats of health issues. Having said that, the world is in a constant state of change and isolated exposures as well as outbreaks are difficult to predict. We are also not doctors and cannot recommend the proper course of action should you inquire about immunizations. The Centers for Disease Control or CDC has a lot of great information to explore on this issue at www.cdc.gov/travel and stays current.
• Water – Many resorts claim their water is filtered and safe to drink. It is strongly recommended that you use caution and common sense before drinking foreign tap water. Having said that….its hard to go wrong with bottled water! Brush your teeth with caution, watch out for ice or foods that have been prepared in tap water such as Tea and Salad. It is not uncommon for travelers avoid water all together on international trips. Dehydration is one of the leading causes of Decompression Sickness (DCS). Think ahead for all of your excursions to make sure they include water.
• Food – Make sure your food is cooked (thoroughly), boiled or peeled. Other wise be warned! Also use common sense. Find out if your food has been in contact with tap water before being cooked. Use caution when ordering drinks that may have ice or frozen mixed drinks.
• Insects – Think ahead and take precautions to prevent insect bites. Mosquitoes and many other insects carry potentially harmful diseases. Many travelers do not think they would be in danger simply going to dinner or a trip to the market with out insect repellent. There are many forms of insect repellents on the market as well as home remedies. The best course of action remains to avoid situations that could involve insects at all costs.
• Medical care – avoiding situations that would require foreign medical care is ideal. It is highly unlikely any of your existing medical insurance will cover you outside of the USA. Many foreign destinations may have a different level of care and technology than you are used to. The Divers Alert Network (DAN) provides limited forms of medical support. You can pick up a flyer here at the shop or link them through our website. Traveling without DAN (or equivalent) insurance is quite frankly foolish. DAN evacuates on average of about ½ divers and ½ non-diving related injuries such as moped accidents at the time this guide was written. If you are injured, medical care is more than likely going to involve more than a call to 911 (does not exist outside the USA). Just to get you to a local facility with more than likely limited care it may be a huge ordeal. If you do not carry DAN (or equivalent) insurance, evacuating you back to the USA could exceed $10,000.00 US. Some remote destinations require multiple airplane transfers, a boat and a donkey to get to your destination, add an emergency to the itinerary and you have a problem!
In this section we will cover legal & cultural concerns
Be very careful when traveling outside and inside the USA when using electronic equipment such as cameras and phones. Due to heightened security, religious believes and other various reasons you may be restricted or require a permit to film or photograph in certain areas.
Filming restrictions – Make sure the areas you are filming are not restricted areas. Inside Airports around the world cameras, cell phones and video recorders are highly restricted. For further information visit www.tsa.gov. Other restricted areas may include but not be limited to airports, government buildings, various religious buildings areas where professional photography may be taking place etc. Most popular destinations have literature available via the web. We also carry many helpful publications on popular destinations that cover a wide range of topics.
Crime – Laws outside the USA may be very different that what you are used to. Crimes that may considered petty such as theft, vandalism, ignoring traffic laws etc. may be very serious offenses in foreign countries or possibly not considered crime at all. You may be required to surrender your drivers license if caught driving a moped with out a helmet. You may be incarcerated if you are involved in a traffic accident until you are able to pay for damages.
The bottom line is, be cautious and respectful. Avoid situations that may end up in conflict such as political, cultural or religious debates. Do not drive while intoxicated. There are dozens of other examples. Often times people do not heed these warnings until they are faced with a challenging situation. At this point, there is little that can be done. Hindsight is 20/20.
Cultural – it is very important to respect the cultures around the world that you visit. On Bluewater Divers trips, respect is expected. Although some travelers may not agree with believes of some cultures it is not your “turf” and you should avoid those areas with strong cultural believes if you do not wish to respect their culture.
You should always ask permission before taking pictures of someone. In many cultures it is believed that by taking someone’s picture you are stealing their Soul. In other cultures they may simply want monetary restitution. There are many other reasons you can find with minimal search efforts, however the bottom line is to respect the culture.
This section covers luggage limits and allowances
Luggage allowances/limits are always changing. Due to this our guidance in this section is fairly generic but we will not leave you hanging. Use the information provided and you can save time, money and protect your investments better.
Luggage size, weight, restrictions & allowances – Due to the continuing fluctuation in luggage allowances in the Travel industry we kindly refer you to the travel carrier (airline, ship, bus etc.) for current allowances/restrictions. Make sure that each piece of luggage you bring has a very durable and legible contact tag. Shop wisely for luggage and don’t be afraid to ask us for advice. Again, this is what we do for a living and we sincerely understand the challenge of meeting these restrictions.
Pack too heavy – You will be charged over limit fees, it is also possible your bag will be refused and the heavier the bag, the worse it will be treated.
Pack a large suitcase too light – your items may be tossed around inside the loose bag and damaged.
Find luggage that is just the right size for what you plan on taking.
WARNING: showing up to check in luggage that is in violation of current restrictions is your fault for not familiarizing yourself prior to the trip. When traveling with Bluewater Divers we do everything in our power to keep you informed, however the responsibility still lies on you. Travel is a fast paced business and they will show little to no sympathy for ill prepared travelers. Furthermore, becoming angry will only worsen the situation. This can delay or cancel your trip as you may not have time to re-pack before your scheduled flight.
• Some travel carriers have “extra bag” allowances. These allowances can include dive gear, golf clubs, bicycles etc. MAKE SURE you print that policy off to take to the ticket counter as you check in. often times attendants are not aware of these “secret allowances”. Travelers that participate in rewards programs may also be eligible for extra bag allowances for elite type statuses.
• Travel with roller bags and/or backpacks. There may be very long walks with your luggage. Practice “stacking” your bags if you are brining more than one so you are prepared for long walks if you are put in that position. Hand held bags are not recommended.
• Place contact information inside and outside of your bag. In the event that your bag(s) become “lost”, it will greatly increase your chances of getting it back.
• Pack in a way where you can use items such as wetsuits to cushion your fragile items.
• Pack a mesh “boat bag” empty in your roller bag. Once you get to your destination, transfer your dive equipment into your mesh bag. DO NOT bring your roller bag on the dive boat.
• Confirm that your bag(s) are within the limits that your travel providers policies are written
• On the return trip make sure your equipment is dry or it could weigh significantly more that if it were dry. It will reduce the potency of that special smell your equipment produces after dives as well.
Tipping comes in different forms.
Some operators prefer daily tipping while others prefer you wait until your last day to tip. Some operations are traditional and prefer cash (local currency). Other operations have unique systems such as a Christmas fund. Christmas funds go into a box that does not get opened until Christmas and then divided equally amongst the staff. Some destinations will leave an envelope in each room requesting any gratuity be placed in it. There are hundreds of destinations and tour operations around the world, each with different preferences. When in doubt, ask what method is appropriate.
• Tips for the dive / tour operators, restaurant wait staff etc. Should be budgeted into your trip. 15-20% of the cost of the excursion/meal etc. is standard for good service. WARNING: some areas automatically add gratuity to the check, especially for large groups that is easy to over look.
• Make sure that you are aware of the currency they check is created with. Do not automatically assume US Dollars is the currency.
• When you are participating in an activity where several people are involved that are eligible for tips OR on a multiple day excursion where the same workers may not be present every day, make sure you ask someone in charge what they appropriate method of tipping is.
• Often times when you are tipping for services there are more workers behind the scenes that are eligible for tips that you may not know about. The general rule of thumb is to give gratuity in an open fashion. Example: on the last day of your dive excursion a group leader may collect everyone’s gratuity (in cash) and give a short statement reflecting the groups appreciation of the great service and would like to thank them with tips. That way the entire boat crew sees this and will undoubtedly approach the person you gave the tips too so they can divide them appropriately.
This section covers Travel precautions
We loaded this section with information many travelers wished they would have had looking back in retrospect. This information is meant to inform you and encourage you to properly prepare for your vacation, not scare you. We believe it is better to have something and not need it, than need something and not have it.
• If you travel without travel insurance, you are taking huge unnecessary risks!
• If you travel without diving insurance such as DAN, you are taking huge unnecessary risks!
• Know your limits, physically and mentally. When your understanding of an activity is in doubt, ask!
• Take a photocopy of the picture page of your passport and keep it in a separate location from your passport. In the event that your passport should be lost this will help expedite the process of getting you back into the USA. Protect your Passport as you would your wallet. In addition, you can register your travels with the Department of State at https://travelregistration.state.gov if your Passport is lost this will also help expedite the process.
• It is highly recommended that you bring only 1-2 credit cards. Document which cards you are taking by getting front and back photo copies. Also document the 24hr contact line for each card (800 numbers are typically not valid outside the USA). Also make sure you come prepared with any information you may need to confirm your account in the event that you have to report your cards lost or stolen. In the event you lose your credit cards it should be as simple as getting your pre-documented information together and contacting a few numbers. You have not known stress until you lose your cards and have no idea how to go about canceling them. Try and avoid situations that would leave you vulnerable. You may also consider emailing information to yourself that can electronically be pulled up if needed.
• It’s not a bad idea to bring a very low limit credit card as well as your normal one for deposits on vehicles and other items that may require a credit card deposit. In the event that you are accused of damaging the item you left the deposit for they can only take so much without arbitration. FYI, many destination will not allow you to leave the country without resolving the issue.
• To rent a car, motorcycle, watercraft etc. come prepared to give a credit card deposit. There are typically no exceptions. Make sure you get your credit card voucher back and shred it.
• Keep your vital medications and other necessities with you. If your luggage is lost there is little that can be done regardless of how important it is to you. Think ahead, think of worse case scenarios such as being delayed getting home by several days. Of course you hope that never happens and it is highly unlikely, however possible.
• Before traveling inform at least 2 different people of where you are going, where you are staying and when you are supposed to be back. If you do not have anyone you are comfortable giving your travel information to you can register with the US State Department. In the unlikely event that there should be an incident they will begin an investigation shortly after your scheduled return date if you do not contact them. For more information go to www.travel.state.gov.
Dealing with annoying travelers
If you have not met an annoying traveler yet, you will. If you do not hear anyone talking about the notorious annoying traveler, it might be you! Typically the annoying travelers
are attention seekers. Although there may be many different ways to deal with various scenarios we feel that the best way to handle this is to not give them what they want…attention. It’s easy to feed into controversial debates over politics, religion etc. It’s easy to wrap yourself up in gossip and negativity but it always leads to the same outcome: Frustration and disappointment.
When annoying travelers do not get attention they will typically calm down and be quite pleasant to be around or they will go find others to annoy. Don’t feel bad about confronting inappropriate behavior or in group situations inform the group leader and they should handle it.
Buyer be ware…
When you travel with Bluewater Divers we see through scams, we typically know how to tell what is legitimate and what is not with few exceptions. We have researched and experienced the resorts, restaurants and activity operators. Although things are always changing we are typically able to stay on top of our resources ensuring a fun, safe experience with minimal surprises.
Black & White scams
It is very easy to get caught up in the moment while on vacation. When you are in a good mood you are more likely to be care free. Tourist Predators take advantage of this loose attitude at almost every major destination in the world. Do you remember the old saying… “if its too good to be true, it probably is”? Real-estate scams are currently one of the biggest tourist traps but certainly not the only one. Many of these Tourist Predators are very pushy and camp out in front of popular areas waiting on tourists (prey) to pay attention to them. They are often in portable booths offering FREE meals, fishing trips, rental cars etc. We do not want to spend much time convincing you that a scam is a scam. If after this warning you still decide to participate in these scams, don’t say you were not warned.
Bait & Switch scams
Often times you will be solicited to participate in an activity or invest in some sort of product. Make ABSOLUTELY SURE you know exactly what is involved and see it in writing. You may think you are paying for one thing and get something else. When you complain, they tell you that you purchased the wrong product but for more money, you can have what you really want. EXAMPLE 1: You are tempted to sign up on a Scuba Diving excursion and see a flyer with a really nice boat. When you get to the dock after you have paid your non-refundable payment you find that the boat you are going on is nothing more than a dingy! If you wanted the big boat it costs more! EXAMPLE 2: you decide to sign up for a “Swim with a Dolphin” excursion. After you pay your non-refundable fees you may have to wait several hours to be transported in a less than desirable bus only to be in the water with Dolphins that are behind a pin that you cannot access. That’s why you find out that it was more money to actually get to touch and swim with the Dolphins. They claim you paid for an “encounter”.
This section covers additional expenses you may incur while traveling
One of the best ways to avoid getting “nickled and dimed” while traveling is to do your research. Taking a trip with Bluewater Divers is like taking a limousine opposed to the city bus. We prepare you to travel like a pro before the trip. We also are able to take care of most hassles and prevent most problems from happening before they happen. We can say this with confidence because we travel frequently and do our research on the destinations we lead groups to.
Sometimes paying for what you believe is the primary cost of the trip can only be the beginning. If you are not an experienced traveler or not a good researcher, you can end up paying more than the cost of the trip just in incidentals.
• Transportation – Baggage fees, seat class upgrades and ground transfers should be considered.
• General expenses – In addition to the cost of souvenirs, meals and drinks outside the package arrangement, transportation, dives and other tours outside the package have additional costs.
• Departure taxes –Most international destinations will have a $20-$40 departure tax due in the airport in cash at the time of departure.
• Marine Park fees – Some areas will have Marine park fees in order to dive or snorkel which are typically $2 to $25.
• General Tipping – Tips for the dive / tour operators, restaurant wait staff etc. Should be budgeted as well. 15-20% of the cost of the excursion/meal etc. is standard for good service. WARNING: some areas automatically add gratuity to the check, especially for large groups that is easy to over look.
• Dive Tipping – Tipping is usually done on the last day of diving unless otherwise specified. Make sure you ask what the preferred method is. If you were involved in a situation where you required additional assistance, please tip on the spot and in addition to a normal tip to ensure they know you are appreciative of their assistance during your moment(s) of need. If you continue to require assistance that is not typical, continue to take care of them by tipping and express your gratitude. Operations are typically not required to go beyond normal services.
• Currency – Make sure that you are aware of the currency used. Do not automatically assume US Dollars is the currency. Exchange rates fluctuate and should be researched prior to travel. There are often fees associated with converting money. Travelers Checks are typically not accepted at dive destinations and only certain types of credit cards.
• Security deposits – To rent a car, motorcycle, watercraft etc. come prepared to give a credit card deposit. There are typically no exceptions. Make sure you get your credit card voucher back and shred it. Use common sense if letting someone else be covered in any way on your security deposit.
• Snacks – If you did not plan ahead, you may end up paying premium prices in airports for snacks, meals, batteries, pillows etc.
• Upgrades – Many destinations offer “upgrades”. If you did not do your research, you may find that the package you purchased is not what you thought. You may have to pay nominal to outrageous upgrade fees to get what you want. Common upgrades may include, but not be limited to Ocean View rooms opposed to Garden/parking lot view, premium dive sites vs. not so premium sites, basic food/drink meal plans vs. what you would expect to eat/drink etc.
This section covers how to make a bad situation have a happy ending
• Travel insurance – It is your responsibility to request or obtain travel insurance. This will secure a refund or partial refund in the unlikely event of trip interruption, cancellation etc. You will not be covered if you do not purchase an insurance plan. Although we are not an insurance provider we have made purchasing Travel Insurance easy through our website in the Travel link under insurance or you can fill out an application in the store. You are in no way required to use the insurance we promote, other insurance carriers are available.
• Dive insurance – It is your responsibility to obtain Dive insurance to cover you in the event of a dive related accident. Some plans will cover your equipment, evacuation and many other options. The most expensive plan is well worth the less than $100.00 per year in coverage. Family plans are also available. We are strong supporters of DAN, the Divers Alert Network. You can purchase this insurance through our website or just fill out an application through the shop. Diving with out insurance is incredibly irresponsible and is very costly and potentially dangerous to you. In some destinations you will be refused treatment until you can provide proof of a means to pay. DAN is widely recognized and accepted globally. An average treatment for an uninsured dive related accident is in excess of $6,000.00. That does not cover extra expenses such as evacuation, additional lodging and travel interruption penalties. DAN covers all those and more. DAN also has a great support line. You are in no way required to carry DAN insurance, other insurance providers are available.
• Equipment Insurance – there are a few options for protecting your investments. Most travel providers do not cover more than a few hundred dollars if anything at all even if they are responsible for losing your luggage. Some homeowners polices will cover you but may also get you with restrictions or deductibles. Having said that, the best way to protect your investment is to contact your Homeowners/Renters Insurance agent and apply for an “Articles Policy” or equivalent. You can also find various Equipment Insurance providers on the web. You can link to one we know and trust which is DAN through our website or go to www.diversalertnetwork.org