This article originally appeared in Martha Stewart Weddings
For stress-free vacation planning and a trip that's nothing short of perfect, follow this checklist.
Designate a Honeymoon Planner
Things will run more smoothly if one person is responsible for the majority of the travel details. Often, it's the partner who is handling fewer of the wedding-related tasks. So if you're booking caterers and finalizing your playlists, hand those resort brochures over to your spouse-to-be. This means that he'll do the majority of the research and act as the point person for travel agents, hotel and airline representatives, or tour operators.
Set a Budget
Once you know what you can reasonably afford to pay, you can hone in on destinations, hotels, and activities. While that private helicopter tour over Kauai's Na Pali Coast might have to wait until after you've bought your first house, don't cut anything out without crunching the numbers first. Sometimes the locations that require an expensive flight (like Thailand) actually offer truly affordable accommodations.
Consider the Season
Take in the big picture: When it's summer here, it's winter in the southern hemisphere (and vice versa). And remember that some regions go through nasty weather spells during certain months. Costa Rica in the rainy season (June through November), for example, is not the spot for the couple seeking uninterrupted beach time.
Seek Out Bargains
Sign up to receive alerts on airline and hotel deals. Track airfare with sites such as Yapta or Airfarewatchdog. Also consider "friending" companies on Facebook or following them on Twitter, because they often announce discounts there.
Try to reserve your flights and lodging at least six months out, especially for popular destinations like the Bahamas, Jamaica, Cancun, and Los Cabos. This time frame also holds true for "trip of a lifetime" experiences like hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, or staying in an overwater bungalow in French Polynesia. In other spots, you shouldn't have a problem booking two months in advance.
Use Your Maiden Name for Flights
Planning on taking your partner's name? Remember that you won't actually be able to use it until a few months after the wedding, when the paperwork is complete. To that end, be sure to purchase plane tickets using the exact name that's on your passport or driver's license.
Secure Your Phones
If you absolutely need cell service, contact your provider for roaming-charge rates. Even with short term international calling packages, calls will usually run between $1 and $3 a minute. For shorter vacations, you can rent a phone with international capabilities before leaving (Mobal is a reputable company). For a longer trip, consider purchasing a couple of cheap phones, sim cards, and prepaid calling cards upon arrival. Or, leave your phones behind, and head to the hotel computers to communicate with family and friends via e-mail and Skype.
Opt for Trip Insurance
It's a small price to pay for peace of mind. Compare policies and prices online with an aggregator site like InsureMyTrip.com. The best plans include "cancel for any reason" clauses, which cover work conflicts, medical issues, baggage loss, theft, and acts of nature like hurricanes. If you're thinking about skiing or diving, look into supplemental insurance (many basic plans won't have your back during "risky" activities). And don't purchase anything until you've read the fine print carefully.
Pack the Essentials
Bring along printouts of any and all e-mail confirmations you've received, from your hotel to the kayaking excursion operator. Slip a photocopy of your passports into a safe place, and pack chargers for your electronics. Also research your destination's electricity situation (will you need adapters and converters?), and pack a travel alarm clock if your cell phones won't have normal service. Finally, insect repellent, a small umbrella, and zip-close plastic bags almost always come in handy.
Leave a “Travel Packet” With a Relative
It's always a good idea to give someone in your family enough information so that they can track you down if they need to. E-mail them a copy of your itinerary and the contact information of each hotel; a list of credit card numbers to expedite their replacement if lost; and, if you're traveling abroad, a photocopy of your passport's photo pages.
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Stay in an Overwater Bungalow in Bora Bora
You’ll probably never want to leave (ever) when you set foot in your villa at <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/bucket-list-honeymoon-destinations-overwater-bungalow-tahiti-bora-bora?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort</a>. Personal butlers will deliver whatever your heart desires and swimming is as easy as diving off the swim platform into the clear, bathlike waters below. If you do emerge, the resort’s sprawling grounds, made smaller with beach-cruiser bikes, are lush and fringed with palm trees and beaches. The spa is tucked away on an island in the middle of its own lagoon, where tropical fish and corals were raised in a protected environment, making it an ideal snorkel spot. <em>Photo by Zach Stovall</em> <strong>Related: <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/article/Overwater-Bungalow-Honeymoons-Bora-Bora-Tahiti?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">More overwater bungalows in Tahiti</a></strong>
Dive the South Pacific in Fiji
Described as a diver’s paradise, Fiji’s reefs are teeming with an underwater parade of hammerheads, turtles, mantas ... you name it. But you don’t have to be certified to get in on the action: shallow depths mean snorkelers can also take in the same amazing sights, like coral in every color of the rainbow. For an ultra-romantic topside escapade, stay at in a beachfront bure (bungalow) at private-island resort <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/bucket-list-honeymoon-destinations-fiji-resort-fiji-honeymoon?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">The Wakaya Club & Spa</a>. <em>Photo by Chris Mclennan</em> <strong>Related: <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/articles/south-pacific-honeymoons-guide-to-fiji-tahiti-and-the-cook-islands?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">South Pacific Honeymoon Guide</a></strong>
Make Like Royalty in Ireland
Even if you’re not Will and Kate, you can still act like royals on your honeymoon and the Emerald Isle offers just the place: <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/bucket-list-honeymoon-destinations-ireland?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">Dromoland Castle</a> in County Clare. Cozy up in the Honeymoon Suite's drawing room, with a couch, daybed, dining table, flat-screen TV and chandelier. The upstairs bedroom (yes, upstairs) is perched in a turret overlooking the ivy-covered castle below, while the adjoining bath has a blissfully oversize tub, perfect for two. <em>Photo by Shutterstock</em> <strong>Related: <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/7-venues-for-a-castle-wedding?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">7 Venues for a Castle Wedding</a></strong>
Bike Down a Volcano in Hawaii
Riding a bike in Maui might not seem extraordinary — until you consider the route is an adrenalin-pumping, 6,000-foot plunge down the outside of Haleakala volcano. (And you don’t have to be in Tour de France shape to make the ride.) Of the nine companies that offer volcano bike trips, <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/bucket-list-honeymoon-destinations-maui-hawaii?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">Haleakala Bike Co.</a> offers the freedom to ride the route at your own pace rather than with a tightly packed guided group. Even with the 1:30 AM call-time, all it takes is one amazing Haleakala sunrise from the 10,000-foot summit to see why the ancient Hawaiians called this mountain “House of the Sun.” Stay at luxe <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/bucket-list-honeymoon-destinations-maui-hawaii?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua</a>, and post-ride you can soothe your muscles with a massage at the spa. <em>Photo by Joe Yogerst</em> <strong>Related: <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/10-romantic-beach-honeymoon-destinations?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">Best Beach Honeymoon Destinations</a></strong>
Explore Machu Picchu in Peru
There are two ways to get to the breathtaking Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary: by foot, via the two- to five-day Inca Trail, or for those on a tighter itinerary, by a three-hour train from Cusco. The sights will be too much to appreciate in one afternoon, so book a room at <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/bucket-list-honeymoon-destinations-machu-picchu-0?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">Orient-Express’ Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge</a>. The convenience that comes from sleeping at the top of the hill, next door to the entrance so you can come and go as you please, is priceless. <em>Photo by Susan Moynihan</em> Related: <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/article/adventure-honeymoons?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">9 Honeymoons for Adventurers</a>
Never Leave the Room in St. Lucia
You don’t go to <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/bucket-list-honeymoon-destinations-st-lucia-0?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">Jade Mountain</a> resort for its beaches, even though the volcanic sand sparkles in the sun and there’s fantastic snorkeling right off the shore. You don’t go for the activities, even though they range from hiking to sunset sailing. You don’t even go for the food, created by a James Beard Award-winning chef. You go for the rooms, so divine they’re called “sanctuaries.” Each comes with a private butler who will deliver that amazing food (passion-fruit waffles for breakfast, couscous-crusted mahi for dinner) along with anything else you might desire. Need a massage? Therapists bring portable tables to perform their services en suite. The only thing missing from your sanctuary is the fourth wall, offering a stunning view of the iconic Pitons. <em>Photo by Jade Mountain</em> <strong>Related: <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/8-romantic-hotels-with-ultimate-honeymoon-suites?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">8 Ultimate Honeymoon Suites</a></strong>
Go on Safari in South Africa
Your bucket list will receive a gigantic check mark when you spy all of the Big Five animals — elephants, rhinos, Cape buffaloes, leopards and lions. But this is no ordinary safari: <em>This</em> honeymoon-worthy adventure is <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/bucket-list-honeymoon-destinations-south-africa?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">&Beyond’s Five-Day Ngala Experience</a>, a luxurious safari crafted to guests’ interests. A helicopter tour is included, plus you certainly won’t be roughing it with a personal butler, private dinners and pre-heated beds. <em>Photo by Thinkstock</em> <strong>Related: <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/best-honeymoon-destinations-2013?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">Best Honeymoon Destinations of 2013</a></strong>
Get Star Treatment in Mexico
Sure, celebs like Jennifer Aniston and Bethenny Frankel have relaxed around the adults-only pool, and George Clooney and Brangelina are known to frequent the resort’s three restaurants. But the best part about <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/bucket-list-honeymoon-destinations-cabo-san-lucas-mexico?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">One&Only Palmilla</a> in Cabo is the staff will make you feel just as famous when you check in. Your personal butler will greet you with a welcome carafe of tequila. Ask him to book a snorkeling trip on the resort’s private yacht to Lover’s Beach — a great spot for couples who want to pack a lunch and spend the afternoon on a quiet sandy cove. Ramble down to the beach and relax on a floating bed and keep an eye out at the swim-up bar — you never know who you might see. Photo by One&Only Palmilla <strong>Related: <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/romantic-hotels-and-resorts-with-private-plunge-pools?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">8 Suites with Private Plunge Pools</a></strong>
Ride an Elephant in Thailand
Trekking through the jungle in Thailand is pretty cool; trekking through the jungle in Thailand on the back of an elephant is even cooler. <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/bucket-list-honeymoon-destinations-thailand?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve</a>, offers the experience, ending with a panoramic view from the top of Naga Mountain. After your adventure, head back to your luxury digs with soaking tubs (yes, tubs — one in the bathroom and one outside in a stone garden) and a lavishly oversize bed, comprised of two California king mattresses linked together and covered with the softest linens imaginable. If the property seems a bit familiar, it's probably because it was featured in <em>The Hangover 2</em>. <em>Photo by Shutterstock</em> <strong>Related: <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/13-affordable-honeymoon-destinations?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">Best Affordable Honeymoon Destinations</a></strong>
Cruise the Galapagos Islands
Couples fascinated by nature should head to the Galapagos for a once-in-a-lifetime excursion. For centuries, the wildlife here has evolved away from humans — aside from Mr. Darwin and his lot. A good way to explore the islands: a cruise on 32-passenger <em>M/V Evolution</em>, arranged by <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/bucket-list-honeymoon-destinations-galapagos-islands-cruise-animals-ecuador?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">International Expeditions</a>. By day, spot Blue-footed Boobies, sea lions, penguins, lizards, giant tortoises and birds. Once dusk settles in, return to your floating hotel for cocktail hour and dinner, followed by the most amazing star display you’ve ever seen. <em>Photo by Hilary R. Brown</em> <strong>Related: <a href="http://www.destinationweddingmag.com/gallery/12-best-cruises-for-honeymoons?src=SYN&dom=huffpo" target="_hplink">12 Best Cruises for Honeymoons</a></strong>