Gin-clear ocean, bommies teaming with life and gobs of bottom time - or hours waiting for your room, gear problems, silted-out reefs and no nitrox. Only one of these sounds like the ideal dive trip. The difference? Planning.
1. What, where, when. Agree on your objectives: What you want out of the trip, where you'd like to visit, and when you'll be traveling are critical decisions. Then evaluate destinations and dive sites near each.
2. Quality is key. It's easy to find cheap places to stay, and you might be pleasantly surprised. More often, you get what you pay for. If the hotel seems too good for the price, it's probably not. Research and read reviews.
3. Pretest Check out all gear in advance. The local pool or OW dive site is ideal, but even a bathtub is better than learning somthing's malfunctioning while descending on dive No. 1. Regulators, BCDs, computers, masks, fins, snorkels - check it all. Fresh batteries go in everything. Check all O-rings. Inventory and restock your Save-a-Dive kit.
4. Pack with care Make lists to ensure nothing is forgotten, checking off each item as it's packed. Number your bags to ensure you don't lose track of one.