How to Dive On a Budget Part II - Destinations

After we wrote PART ONE, we decided we would take a trip to show just how inexpensive diving can be, even when you push the limits on drive time. Our goal was simple - make a weekend trip to a single destination where we can get in great dives and be back to reality and rested for work. For less than a car payment. Vortex Spring is a great freshwater dive site in the Florida panhandle. Crystal clear, relatively warm water and easy diving make it an ideal spot for a getaway. Here are some highlights from the trip.

We chose Vortex Spring in Florida for this trip for several reasons. First, it’s in Florida and we’re in the middle of an Indiana winter. We drove out of an ice storm and it got warmer and warmer as we headed south. This is good for the soul. Second, this was a perfect way to show how affordable a quick dive trip can be in a great location with clear water. Third, Ben had been recently and knew the accommodations and the site well. We booked a room with kitchenette, queen bed, and queen size pullout couch for $104/night x 2 nights. With the hard part done, we raided our kitchens for food and stocked a cooler so we could snack along the way. Ben made pizza dough so we could have an awesome dinner after diving all day. 

With rooms, site, and food taken care of, we needed a ride. It was either Ben’s Escape or my quad cab F-150. The Escape would have been cheaper from a fuel standpoint, but I wanted the extra leg room. Plus, we wouldn’t have been able to see out the back mirror with all our gear in the SUV. We drove Saturday afternoon and arrived at 12pm local time. We dove all day Sunday and came back Monday since it was Martin Luther King weekend. Obviously, this could be shuffled back a day to be accomplished in a weekend. 

All in all we spent $283 each for three people. Not too bad for a short destination trip to Florida! We could have spent CONSIDERABLY less money on this trip if we’d wanted. We stopped at Sonic Drive In on the way down and again on the way back up (They don’t have one close to us and we love Sonic - $56). We drove my big ol’ truck (-$50), and we opted for a room with kitchenette. (-$100). That would have put us at $183 each. 

This was an extreme weekend trip for sure. We pushed the limits of what is feasible time wise. But the important point is that even if you live in the midwest, a quick trip to somewhere warm need not be a massive investment in money or vacation days. Even better, for only a little over an hour of additional drive time, many other Florida dive sites become available, including the Gulf of Mexico.

There are a lot of divers who only dive on vacation at the resort. There is nothing wrong with this; but please don’t forget all the unique dives you can experience for a fraction of the time and money. Look what we did for less than your car payment! Short dive trips like this make for a great escape from midwest winters. They work great inside a regular weekend, but if you have a long weekend available to you, even better! If winter time diving is not for you (and we certainly realize it is not for everyone), these kinds of quick trips offer a great opportunity to keep your skills sharp, log some dives in the cold months, and have a nice getaway during the bleak months of the midwestern winter.