For the really snarky answer to the question in the title I would answer: Ahead of time. However, you probably don’t want “snarky” and you just want a reasonable answer. So, here It is: Ahead of time.
It’s not snarky; it’s true. To ensure that you have truly quality snorkel gear that fits correctly AND to save money, you should buy snorkel gear for your vacation at least a month before going on your trip.
There are a couple of determining factors when you decide to buy snorkel gear for your vacation:
- Is it a snorkel trip/vacation or is it a vacation that may include snorkeling?
- Do you want to store and keep your snorkel gear for later use?
- Are you planning on doing lots of snorkeling or going on later vacation and trips?
- What’s your budget?
- How old are the people you’re buying the snorkel gear for and can they swim?
The last point is important because if they are not good swimmers or are nervous about the water, then a good snorkeling vest helps with confidence and safety.
Why Buy it Ahead of Time?
Simple, if you’re going to take my advice and buy your snorkel gear online rather than at an expensive dive shop or at a generic retailer, then you’ll want to know if the gear you bought fits correctly and if it is comfortable.
Buying it ahead of time gives you a chance to try on the gear, adjust it for comfort and if you feel that it just isn’t going to work out then you can return it for a different set. Or, you can decide to visit a dive shop after all or just rent it when you get there.
You don’t EVER want to buy snorkel gear while on your trip. Most vacation locations where snorkeling is an activity or the main event know that you’re willing to (actually, need to) spend money in order to do it. For that reason they’ll jack up the prices on even the most basic of snorkel sets and individual gear. Not to mention the large amount of money that they’ll charge you for accessories such as underwater cameras, de-fogger, water shoes, water-proof cases, etc, etc. Believe me, they’ll convince that you’ll need all of it. Dive shops and water front snorkel shops and rentals are notorious for this.
Plus, do you really want to rent snorkel gear?
Do you really know if it was cleaned and sterilized after the last use? This is important in all snorkel gear but especially snorkels, masks, and (above all) rash guards and wet suits. People urinate in wet suits…why would you rent one?
In Hawaii, I never allow my guests to rent snorkel gear. I have a couple of extra sets that I loan out to select people and ALWAYS clean them well. I’m talking family and close friends, here… I never loan it out to people I don’t know. Also, if my guests feel that they need a wetsuit or a rash guard or even want their own gear, I tell them the same thing that I’m telling you now: Order it online prior to coming.
“I have a Local Dive Shop…Should I Buy My Snorkel Gear There?”
You could, yes. Most likely you will find quality gear at dive and snorkels shops. However, be careful of the rule above. If you have a local dive or snorkel shop in your area then that means you’re coming from a place where diving and snorkeling is already a hobby or tourist attraction. It’s possible that the gear is over-priced. However, maybe not. Check out snorkel gear prices on places like Amazon (that’s who we affiliate with!) and compare the prices online to that of your local shops.
Why Can’t I Buy Snorkel Gear at a Big Retail Store?
Because it’s crap gear. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. Seriously, you don’t shop at WalMart or Target (no offense to either store) for the top quality. You shop there because of discount and value. They provide the best prices on low to mid quality stuff.
Here’s another tip: Having good snorkel gear could mean the difference between a safe, enjoyable snorkeling experience and drowning, injury, or death. A leaky mask can cause a child or weak swimmer to panic, cramp, inhale water and get into some serious trouble.
You don’t buy snorkel gear that’s cheap. You buy snorkel gear that is quality. For sake of safety and enjoyment.
I’m not saying that everyone needs to have a $100 snorkel set, a wet suit, rash guard and all the trimmings. What I am saying is that you should buy snorkel gear brands that are known for making it and that consistently produce quality gear and products. In my personal opinion, and having reviewed, seen and, worn MANY different snorkel sets by different companies, I believe a decent quality adult snorkel set should run about $45 to $70 and a kids set will run between $40 and $60. Of course, if you DO want a snorkel vest, rash guard, and/or other accessories then that price could go up.
Bottom Line and To Sum This All Up
When you go to buy snorkel for vacation there are 6 main factors to consider:
- Determine what kind of vacation this is.
- Buy it ahead of time so you have time to return or re-order.
- Never rent if you can help it.
- Compare prices online to that of local dive shops.
- Try to avoid large retailers if possible
- You don’t have to spend lots.
As always, and above all, enjoy your snorkeling time. We strongly feel that with quality snorkel gear you’re going to fall in love with the activity. It is relaxing, healthy, and wondrous. Do it safely and enjoy everything that is just below the surface of the water.
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