Photo by Gannon Photo
My husband and I don't agree on everything, but one thing we both agreed was no beaches on our honeymoon. We don't ever sit still, so two weeks of sitting in the sun wouldn't have been us. We travelled on a whirlwind tour of Oregon and Washington, skiing, hiking, camping, and tasting LOTS of great beer and coffee.Some of our biggest challenges when planning the honeymoon were:
- How to save money when not staying at an all-inclusive?
- Where are some of the hidden gem locations?
- How can we narrow down our options?
- Are there particular times of year to avoid certain locations?
This week I hit the pavement to find out some secret pro tips when planning your honeymoon. I interviewed 5 of the best honeymoon and destination wedding planners in the country to find their top secret tips.
We wanted adventure, well you certainly get what you ask for. We barely made it back from our honeymoon in one piece. There were two memorable star-gazing experiences which could have been our last.
It could have been when I skied down a black diamond and realized that you really do see stars when you hit your head too hard. But no, I think it was the adventure of getting stuck deep in the woods.
You can rent one of the little cabins perched on stilts that the forestry service use to watch for forest fires. Imagine... no lights, no running water, no electricity, just you, your spouse and the stars.
We had to drive through 20 miles of forest roads - read no cell service - to get there. So, when our rented jeep got hopelessly stuck in the snow as the sun was setting, we were a bit stunned. Rather than start a fire and set up camp, when we didn't know if there were bears or mountain lions in the area, we tried a last ditch effort at the cell phone on the last bit of battery juice.
Somehow our cell signal bounced all around the mountains to a 911 dispatcher 2 ½ hours away. Just before the battery died, I was able to tell her exactly which mountain road we had been traveling on at what speed, for how long. There was no GPS back then and it wouldn't have worked where we were anyway.
We settled in for an evening of granola bars and sleeping in the jeep, when much to our surprise, an hour later a tow truck showed up! He got us out of the snow, wouldn't take any money, and got us in touch with the forest service.
They set us up in another lookout which wasn't blocked by snow or bears and we were on our way! Having backup plans is crucial when planning your honeymoon.
For our honeymoon, my hubby spent months searching out the best locations, plotting out a route for our tour, reserving rooms and negotiating rates. Any advice ahead of time would have saved him lots of time and definitely money.
1. How can you save money when not staying at an all-inclusive?
For our honeymoon trip, we booked individual nights at campsites and bed and breakfasts. If you're going the hotel route, I found out that staying at one chain, or using airline miles for your hotel can help you to save big.
Connie Riker, from Create the Moment Travel says "you can lower your costs by ensuring the property you select is within easy walking distance to a safe area where there are lots of dining options. This allows you to experience the local culture and environment without a lot extra costs of cab fare."
Lillian Miller, from Lttravelconnection offers, "Request the menus from the restaurants on and around the property so you have an idea of if it just makes more sense to do all-inclusive."
"Always ask about any complimentary honeymoon package the hotel may offer." says Nancy Barkley of Honeymoonsandgetaways.com.
"Rent scooters or bikes for getting around instead of taxi expenses." adds Sheila Michels of Hometown-travel.com.
Tracey Younes of GTStravelservices.com offers, "Some hotels have non-motorized water sports included in what's called a 'resort fee' depending on location, so this can provide an expanded array of 'free' activities."
Photo by Caitlin Lisa
2. What are some "hidden gem" destinations that are just as fun as but less expensive than the more well known places?
"Honestly, my hidden gem is Thailand. Thailand is an amazing country with such variety of environments and culture to experience. And you can stay in completely amazing resorts for so much less than you can in other areas. Of course, "less expensive" is in the eye of the beholder. This is still a trip with a comma in it, but the experiences you can have will just knock your socks off, especially for the value." says Connie.
Sheila suggests, "Panama, Columbia, Nicaragua are becoming great alternative options. Explore other alternatives in Mexico. Try Manzanillo, Huatulco, Isla Holbox or colonial cities like Merida. Try something different and go to Estonia or Montenegro, new emerging destinations hitting travelers' radars."
"Don't assume that the well known places are more expensive! Perhaps a garden view, instead of an ocean view or beach front." adds Tracey.
Nancy offers, "Belize offers so much for couples, snorkeling, diving, Mayan sites, cave tubing, wildlife sanctuary, zip lining."
"Places like Colombia, Belize, Panama, Honduras and Nicaragua especially. They are full of unspoiled beaches, inexpensive but luxurious hotels and fresh food." says Lillian.
This couple ventured to a beautiful beach in Norfolk for an indescribable destination wedding and honeymoon! Check out their highlight video to relive their experience!
3. How can you narrow down honeymoon options?Lillian lays it out pretty simply, ask yourself these 6 questions:
- What is my budget?
- How many days do I have available for the honeymoon?
- Do I have to travel nonstop or is it more about the destination?
- What are my interest?
- What is the weather?
- Will it be peak season and what is going on with the country?
Connie adds a couple more crucial questions:
Tracey adds, "Do you mind spending a full day of flying to get there, or do you prefer a destination that is a little easier to get to?"
"Do you want to wait another month or two for better weather? Off season? Should we stay longer in the standard room or shorten our trip a few days and do the suite?" asks Shelia.
Many times only one person is in charge of the honeymoon planning. Nancy highly recommends keeping everyone informed of all decisions.
4. Are there particular times of year to avoid certain locations?
"Holidays. Holidays. Holidays. If you have no other option, book at least 10 months or more in advance. Better being too early, then too late!" says Sheila.
"Yes, and no." says Nancy. "I have many couples that want to spend 3 weeks honeymooning in Europe, however the pricing in the summer when they are getting married will be high and not within their budget. Many of my couples are choosing to wait on their honeymoon and travel to their dreams destination when it is a bit off season, weather still good, but pricing better and not as many tourists. It really depends on where you are looking to travel, another reason you should plan your honeymoon with a travel agent, they will be able to guide you on this as well."
Basically, this is where the expertise of a professional planner of travel agent comes into play. If you "hire" someone who specializes in the area you want to visit, that's when you can save some serious cash.
Want to know why I put "hire" in quotes??? Because most of the time, hiring a honeymoon planner is completely free. Seriously.
Had I known that, we would have done hired a planner in a heartbeat. Honestly, I thought that honeymoon planners were just paid representatives from the all-inclusive resorts. Instead, they're the ones in the know about all the best destinations and the ways to get the best deals.
Here are the reasons I found it best to hire a planner rather than try to plan the honeymoon yourself
- They can save you HOURS of searching on the internet
Although it's fun to search all the exotic locations on your own, a seasoned pro may already know the best spots and best deals. And let's face it, your boss doesn't pay you to plan your honeymoon on the web at work.
- They understand the difference between cheap and value
While you may be able to find a $100 plane ticket to Tahiti, if it takes 4 days in travel time from your 7 day honeymoon, it doesn't hold much value.
- They can listen to both of your visions for the trip and make recommendations that meet both of your needs
Planning a honeymoon can cause stress as you both try to compromise your vision for the trip. A planner may know of a location that doesn't require any compromise at all - that you never even considered.
- They know a lot of the staff at resorts and can get you deals you wouldn't have access to otherwise
When a planner sends a lot of business to a resort, the resort tends to treat their clients extra special and offer all kinds of freebies you'd never get on your own.
- Travel agents are an emergency plan
If you run into any trouble with the trip, customs, or resort, your planner has your back and can help you navigate to get everything working again.
So, next time you're tempted to plan a romantic getaway without the help of a pro, save yourself time and money.
Ariane Fisher is the COO of WeddingMix, where you can get an amazing edited GoPro Wedding Video for your destination wedding or honeymoon.