Diving the Florida Keys – Packing and Planning

, Diving the Florida Keys – Packing and Planning
What an exciting adventure – a dive trip to the Florida Keys, and the very first thing I like to do is plenty of research and make some lists! Although some people prefer to be completely spontaneous; I prefer the planned route, with many of the major decisions already made, but with wiggle room for exploring and adventure. For this trip from Northeast Florida down to Key Largo for some diving with Quiescence Diving Services, a three-day trip was planned. , Diving the Florida Keys – Packing and Planning My dive partner and I tend to use both Google Maps and Waze for comparing the routes and driving times, and we like to “turn it on” and check again a day in advance to see if there are any new slowdowns or detours so our estimated drive time is realistic. We wanted to visit the Key Biscayne Park on the drive down, check into our hotel, meet our group, and have dinner together the first day. , Diving the Florida Keys – Packing and Planning We knew the second day would be spent on two dives – hopefully one reef and one wreck, and the third day would be reserved for the drive home. All of our dive planning is conducted well in advance. We consult members of our dive club, NAS Jax Skin and Scuba Club. With over 35 members, and tens of thousands of dives under their dive belts, they offer hundreds of years of knowledge and experiences at dive sites all over the world. Then we book our accommodations and dives, check cancellation policies, times, depths, and all those travel details. For this trip, we stayed at the Homestead Air Force Inn. , Diving the Florida Keys – Packing and Planning For planning the packing, we always like to open up our dive bags and thoroughly go through each item. I use a simple notes app with checkmarks. When I am planning on going on a trip, everything I want to take is in the list, and unchecked. That way, I have days and days to add to the list so there’s nothing forgotten at the last minute. As I pack, I check items off my list as they go into a gear bag. When I return from a trip, there’s one more important stop. I uncheck items as I unpack – this lets me see if there is anything that did not make it home with me, say, a pair of booties left on a dive boat that must be replaced before the next trip. It’s better to find out if you are missing items long in advance so you have time to replace them. That takes care of dive gear. , Diving the Florida Keys – Packing and Planning Next comes personal packing – I like to plot out exactly what outfits I will wear each day, with a few alternatives in case of warmer or cooler weather, in order to keep the luggage to a minimum. For women, styling a trip around fewer pairs of shoes can significantly reduce the number of different-colored accessories and the volume of clothing packed. How many times have you gone somewhere and worn only about half what you took? Every time you travel; try to reduce the list. Wearing something twice is not a horrible dilemma, either! I have a couple notes lists for typical trips – “Three Night Cruise Summer” or “Seven Night Cruise Winter” to make routine travel easier. , Diving the Florida Keys – Packing and Planning My own personally-developed packing system for road trips is putting every item of clothing into a rectangular bag; folded and showing. It’s like a filing cabinet with every file folder tab sticking up – only with clothes. I put outfits together, with foundation garments folded in the bottoms. Well-folded shirts arrive with fewer creases that a shirt that starts out on a hanger, then gets tossed around the car! As I wear outfits, they get re-folded, and move past the shoes to the “dirty” end of the bag. When I’m ready to leave, my bag is already packed, and I already know exactly which items need laundering. This method also makes it easier on any roommates – you are living out of your bag, and you never have to worry about leaving anything behind or in their way! For toiletries, I use an envelope bag roughly the height and depth of my clothing bag. This one happens to be from ThirtyOne, and I have several sizes of the same bag. They work great because they are so square, and everything is accessible from the top. This one has a clear plastic top, which is handy for protecting the contents from drizzle or the dusty bottom of another travel bag. , Diving the Florida Keys – Packing and Planning I suppose I really am a bag lady – I have specific bags for each aspect of a trip. One for diving gear, one for clothing and toiletries, one for camera equipment, one for coffee… I like the idea of having each specific set separate so anyone can see what’s in the bag and grab and go with the correct one, and have everything for that task in that bag. , Diving the Florida Keys – Packing and Planning Coffee. Relationships have probably been nearly ended over coffee preferences. You know if you ever are in a big city, what looks like a couple mile drive – somewhere like Tampa or Miami – can be a half-hour drive each way. Neither of us likes weak hotel dishwater coffee; so we bring our own kit! We use an electric kettle, a hot plate, a French press, and a espresso pot. I picked up a ceramic French press specifically for travelling – the thin glass-walled ones I prefer at home are just too delicate. This one is not as easy to see your water level, but what it lacks in visibility, it makes up with durability.   , Diving the Florida Keys – Packing and Planning I pack a wooden stick for stirring the coffee in the French press and to use to remove the coffee “puck” from the espresso maker, as well as a small whisk for the sugar for Cuban coffee and stirring creamer into coffee, baggies of coffee freshly-ground; one for French press, one for the Cuban coffee, a tablespoon measure, a press, raw sugar, and a plastic measuring cup – less breakable, and very light. Funny enough, the glass-walled French press allows you to see the level of water you need, and make a permanent marker mark to show you how full to fill it – but the ceramic French press does not. Many of the supplies are packed inside both the French press and the water kettle for transport. , Diving the Florida Keys – Packing and Planning We don’t like to accept plastics for beverages, so we bring our own water bottles. These are all Specialized water bottles designed for cycling. We find they fit easily in every cup holder in any vehicle, slide easily into dive bags, don’t leak or spill, don’t sweat excessively, and they keep water cold for a decent amount of time – several hours. They fit into a small soft cooler that can further lengthens their “cold time,” and also hold some fruit and snacks for the drive, then folds neatly when not in use. , Diving the Florida Keys – Packing and Planning Always, I bring a book, and I try to make it one about the area where we are travelling. For the Florida Keys, The Barefoot Mailman by Theodore Pratt was the perfect companion. It’s a story about the mailmen who used to deliver mail by walking the length of Florida’s East Coast from Palm Beach to Miami. , Diving the Florida Keys – Packing and Planning The camera equipment is my dive partner’s section of responsibility. He makes sure all batteries and spare batteries are charged and ready to go, housings, handles, and appropriate backs / displays included, sd cards and spares empty for new shots. This trip, we added some camera case desiccant by WoCase anti-fog inserts. , Diving the Florida Keys – Packing and Planning This trip, we planned to possibly dive a few of the sites along the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Shipwreck Trail, so, we brought the passbooks for recording those dives. , Diving the Florida Keys – Packing and Planning Last, I added just one more spare bathing suit. I have found some attractive, sensible suits from Beach Diva that have coordinating pieces so you can use the bottoms with a more substantial top for diving, then use the bottoms with a more beach/pool-suitable top for socializing after the dives. I’m always on the lookout for stylish swimwear, and this one with the snake skin pattern was right on trend, and the side ties are decorative. For diving, lack of buttons and decorations that dig into your flesh under a wetsuit is key, as is lack of side ties that are risky when climbing a boat’s boarding ladder whilst protecting your modesty. The first photo in this article is my most important piece of travelling gear; my foul weather jacket. This one is bright and breathes well. I found it at West Marine. I actually have had several compliments on this jacket, though it is completely a technical, useful item. I’ll cover foul weather gear decisions in another upcoming article! Let me know if you’d like to see my packing lists. They are thoroughly, obsessively, completely comprehensive! My favorite cruise line: RCCL, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line I can get ALL my dive gear AND clothes and shoes in this: Akona Roller Dive Gear Travel Backpack Bill’s bag  fits either all his dive gear and clothing, or both our sets of dive gear into his BLACKHAWK! Enhanced Divers Travel Bag with Wheels That red tag on the bag – our Divers Alert Network insurance! Where to dive out of Nassau on New Providence Island: Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas What to Read Next: Akona Adventure Rolling Dive Bag Review Or: Air Force Inn Homestead Lodging Review Or even: Jules Verne Undersea Lodge – Salvaging a Dive Trip

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