Planning the Perfect Honeymoon
BY CINDY BURCH
A honeymoon is a special time and should be a memorable experience. However, planning for a honeymoon can be a daunting task with everything else swirling around in the life of a soon to be bride and groom. There are so many options to consider, from worldly destinations to realistic budgets. Every couple is different. Some couples want to be dropped on a beach and not have to move for 7 days. Other couples are looking for a more adventurous honeymoon filled with hiking to waterfalls or skiing the Swiss Alps. Some couples are looking to cross something off their bucket list – like a safari in Africa, or a riverboat through the Amazon. And some couples imagine themselves roaming around Europe with gelatos in hand and seeing everything there is to see.
One of my favorite recommendations for a honeymoon destination is Portugal. This unsung European country has finally solidified its place on the honeymoon hot list—and deservedly so. It is home to adorable coastal cities like Porto, top-producing wine regions in the Douro River Valley, hippie-chic beach towns like Comporta, and the spectacular Azores archipelago. Most young people in Portugal speak English and go out of their way to be friendly and helpful. The food and lodging is much more affordable than most European destinations and there are so many amazing things to see and do.
If you don’t have time to apply for passports and want nothing but sun, sea and sand, then the US Virgin Islands or Hawaii are great choices. For winter wonderlands with snow I would recommend Jackson Hole for an upscale rustic lodge vibe or Santa Fe for a romantic casita with the smell of pinion wood wafting in the cool crisp air.
Although I am a big fan of private villas or vacation home rentals, if you plan to travel from one place to another every few days it makes more sense to book hotel rooms. I like small boutique hotels that have the flavor of the country you are visiting, rather than large hotel chains with rooms that all look alike. I usually search on TripAdvisor.com for the top-rated hotels and then cross reference them with a site called Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
Once I find a few hotels that interest me I start checking online rates. However, if you call the hotel directly you can usually get a better price. I also learned a little trick from an expat owner of a boutique hotel in Istanbul who contracts with online booking sites. She is required to save a percentage of her rooms for those contracted companies, so if a hotel shows they have no vacancy you might find rooms left through sites such as Expedia and Hotels.com.
I was recently trying to book a hotel in Spain and was told they were full so I jumped online and was able to grab two rooms through Booking.com. If you don’t mind paying up front there is a great site called Jetsetter.com that offers exclusive deals on the world’s greatest properties. All of the resorts and hotels they feature are hand-selected by their globe-trotting correspondents with special deals lasting just a few days. I was able to book a premium room at a five star hotel in Madrid for $167/night that normally goes for $682/night.
If all the research and time isn’t your thing in finding the perfect place to stay then booking a cruise is a good option. Just make sure you are not planning a cruise during spring break or holidays where you are sure to have numerous children on board. If you want to do something truly unique, I recommend Lindblad Expeditions. Operating a fleet of small ships, Lindblad can nose into ports where large cruise ships cannot go. Lindblad’s emphasis is on active exploration, learning and sustainable tourism in places like Alaska, Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands.
Remember your honeymoon is a much-needed respite after months of wedding prep. For many couples, it’s also the trip of a lifetime, but it does take planning.
A few steps to help make it a successful and romantic adventure:
I have listed a few steps to help make it a successful and romantic adventure:
Start Early to Get the Best Rooms and Prices
The ideal time to book your honeymoon is six to eight months prior, especially if you're planning to go to a specialized or popular resort, as premium rooms will book up early. Upon check- in, don’t be afraid to ask for another room if you don’t like the one a hotel has assigned you.
Don't Rely Entirely on Web Research
Post to social media and crowd-source your friends for recommendations. Talk to friends and family who have been to the destinations you are considering and get their opinion.
Consider Using a Travel Agent
If you want extra guidance planning your honeymoon, a travel agent can come in handy. They can save you endless research time and can offer first-hand destination knowledge and be a good resource in case of emergencies. Highly consider purchasing travel insurance as well.
Set Aside an Appropriate Budget
Make sure you understand what is included in the cost of your bookings — for example, does your hotel rate include breakfast and transportation to and from the airport? If you are flying to Asia or Africa have you budgeted for vaccines and visas, which can be costly.
Balance Adventure with Relaxation
Explore new lands and take part in exciting activities together, but also take time to recharge before getting back to reality. Many couples will get so excited to finally get to go on their dream trip together, that they try to cover too many things in a limited amount of time, which can be exhausting, and not the point of a honeymoon! Take time for each other, and make sure to schedule some resort days to soak up some R&R&R (rest, romance, and relaxation).
Don't Wing It
It may be tempting to choose a destination and just figure out accommodations and dinner as you go, but remember, your honeymoon isn't like any other vacation. Give yourself a break by planning an itinerary and making sure you have confirmed reservations for everywhere you want to stay. It’s a good idea to have special dinner reservations and any activities secured as well, especially if you are traveling to a destination during peak tourist months.
Let the Airline and Hotel Know it’s your Honeymoon
If your flight isn’t full most flight attendants will try to upgrade a couple on their honeymoon and many hotels offer honeymoon packages that include couples massages and other perks that you would have to pay for otherwise.