TRAVEL ON THE SHOULDER Savvy travelers — especially to the Caribbean or Mexico — hit the reefs during late summer and early fall. Not only do many hotels and resorts slash their rates during these times, but this is also when you’ll find the warmest water and calmest conditions. The shoulder season coincides with hurricane season, which has its risks, but can bring discounted rates up to 60 percent. Be sure to keep a close eye on the forecast and heed any warnings from the National Weather Service.
DIVE THE SHORE If you’re looking for a lot of diving for a little money, shore diving is the way to go — all it will cost you is a rental car, tanks and gear for the week. A few destinations, like Bonaire, boast a robust shore-diving scene, but you can also find great shore dives in the Cayman Islands, Hawaii, Indonesia and the USVI, among others.
GO CONDO Rent a condo, house or villa rather than a hotel or resort package: You can find more-spacious accommodations for less money. And having your own kitchen lets you stock up at the grocery store rather than eating and drinking out every night. Check sites like vrbo.com or airbnb.com to find affordable vacation rentals big enough for the whole family.
HOP ON A LIVE-ABOARD It’s tough to beat a live-aboard when it comes to value. Pay one price to get meals, accommodations and unlimited diving all in one place — not to mention a chance to explore some of the hottest dive sites in the world. Sign up for e-newsletters generated by live-aboard companies — when they have empty spots to fill, they’ll often send out e-blasts with last-minute discounts.
AIRFARE 101 One of the biggest expenses of any dive trip is airfare; unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet for saving some green. Getting the best prices requires a three-pronged approach: 1 Stick with destinations at or near a major airport. 2 Make a comprehensive search — prices can vary wildly across online booking sites and individual airlines. 3 If possible, start shopping three months to a year before your trip — booking ahead offers more-reliable savings than trying to snag a last-minute deal.