Whether or not to get certified before or on your vacation is a great question which is asked very often. And there are really three options here, getting fully certified at home before you go, doing the entire thing on your vacation or doing half and half. Let’s take a look at these options separately.
First, getting certified before your vacation is a great option given a few scenarios. You will need to have the time and dedication to do it. Open Water certification is about a 40 hour course which I recommend you do over the course of a few weeks. Don’t do a quick four to five days and think you know what you are doing. It takes time and practice to assimilate the skills. I recommend a couple of nights a week for a month or so. There are three parts to a dive course. First, you will do “book” work which nowadays can be done in an online course or in a traditional classroom and there is an exam you will need to pass. Then you will do pool training where you learn the basic skills. Finally, you will need to do four “open water” dives. These can be done in a lake, quarry or in the ocean if you live nearby. Advantages to doing your cert before you travel is that you obviously don’t need to spend any time ON your holiday doing any of this and it will probably be less expensive than doing it in a holiday location. The disadvantage is that if you live inland, you will probably do your open water training in a location that is just not all that fun!
Option number two is to do your entire certification while on your trip. The advantage is that you are doing your diving in a wonderful diving location with actual fish to see! However, I think there are many disadvantages. One would be weather. If the weather kicks up you may not be able to complete your training. Secondly, you will be immersed in diving for most of your vacation and will be reading and studying for tests. Third, if you find that you need extra time to learn you may be out of luck. Some people need more time to assimilate the skills and feel rushed trying to get certified in a short week vacation. This can lead to you not enjoying either your class or your vacation.
So let’s look at option number three which is what I recommend. I recommend that you do at least part of your certification before you go. What that means is that you would be doing something called a “referral”. As I mentioned, getting certified to dive requires three parts; book work, pool training and “open water” training in a lake, quarry or ocean. You can do two out of three at home before you go on vacation. This saves you having to spend your holiday buried in your book and studying for the exam. Also, most of the major dive training agencies have e-learning you can do online. So you do the book and pool work at home and then you go on your holiday and do four open water dives demonstrating your skills to the resort instructor. If you plan this for the first two days of your trip (you can only do a maximum of 2 training dives per day) then you can dive as a certified diver the rest of your vacation. This is a great option if you live in a place where your option for open water training is a rock quarry in December in the north! A couple of things to note doing a “referral”. You need to complete the open water training within 12 months of completing your exam and pool training. Unless you come on a dive trip with us at Global Dive, expect to pay additional for your open water training. Also, you MUST have all of your signed paperwork in hand and have passed the final exam to qualify. I also recommend setting all of this up with the resort ahead of time. Not every resort or location will be able to complete your training so be sure before you go. Finally, you can cross train with certain agencies, meaning if you begin your training with PADI you can do your open water with NAUI though you may be asked to do a few different requirements. Your final open water instructor will become your certifiying instructor and you will be a part of the agency they represent.
Whichever option you pick, the most important thing is that you get out there, get certified and HAVE FUN diving!
To your adventures!