What could be better than boarding a plane with your new hubby and jetting off to a breathtaking locale, where you can (finally) spend some romantic time alone? But travel — whether for your honeymoon or anytime thereafter — often comes with out-of-this-world price tags. Peggy Knipp, a honeymoon expert and the Senior Travel Specialist at Honeymoons Galore travel agency, says her clients spend anywhere between $4,500 to $20,000 on their honeymoon (not too far off from the cost of an average American wedding). Here's how to plan an incredible post-wedding trip for less, no matter what your budget is.
Photo courtesy of Kamalame Cay
1. Factor in spending money before you book. My husband and I booked a hot-air balloon excursion prior to our honeymoon and forgot to confirm the price. We were hit with an extra, unexpected bill at the end of our stay — not exactly what we wanted to deal with on a carefree, relaxing trip. Knipp says I’m not alone: “More often than not, the couple hasn’t even thought about activities, food, and entertainment expenses." She suggests all-inclusive options, like Sandals resorts and cruises, or setting aside money for spa treatments and excursions before booking your flight and hotel.
2. Be flexible with flights. Travel sites like Kayak.com allow you to search for flights based on factors that can significantly alter prices, such as the number of stops or time of day. By purchasing tickets for a red-eye or multi-stop flight, you can save hundreds on airfare (and gain a few extra hours to explore the duty free shops!). You can also use Kayak's Explore tool to browse a world map for flights and destinations based solely on your budget.
3. Split up your stay. We’ve all been there—you start browsing photos of the hottest hotel in your destination of choice, "just for fun." But before you know it, you're justifying the $700 per night room (The hot tub! The plunge pool! The view!). Knipp says you don't have to abandon your dreams just yet. “Let’s say you want to spend six nights in Bora Bora. Some couples get so intent on having the glamour of an over-water bungalow, but you don’t need to have it for the entire stay,” she says. Knipp recommends bunking up in a less-expensive beach villa and just spending the last two nights over the water.
Photo courtesy of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts
Couples looking to vacation in the Caribbean might want to spend a few nights on a more affordable island, like St. Lucia, and finish off the trip somewhere pricier like Turks and Caicos. Not only can you save some cash, but you also get the experience of visiting somewhere new.
4. Be open to new ideas. Just like you realized you had to sub orchids for peonies to stay within your wedding budget, you’ll need to be open-minded for your first trip as husband and wife. Knipp suggests visiting less-popular areas of typical honeymoon destinations (among her favorites: Le Casa Que Canta in Zihjutaneo, Mexico). She also recommends driving honeymoons to eliminate the cost of airfare altogether — like the iconic route along the Pacific Coast Highway.
5. Flaunt your newlywed status. Knipp never books a honeymoon without notifying the hotel of the client’s V.I.P. status. “They might give a bottle of champagne or a rose petal bed-covering. The small touches matter," she says. Whenever my husband and I travel, I call the hotel in advance to let them know that we're taking a romantic trip and I would love to know what they can do to make our stay extra-special. We’ve received complimentary bottles of wine, massages and free breakfast. Always be extra polite — it helps!
Photo courtesy of W Retreat & Spa, Vieques Island
6. Reach out to friends and family. “Most brides and grooms already set up homes together and they don’t need another coffee pot,” says Knipp. That's why she launched a Honeymoon Registry where couples can register for spa treatments and romantic dinners on the beach instead of food processors and baking trays. Brides and grooms can also ask their loved ones to gift them frequent flier miles to book flights. Even if the miles won’t cover the full ticket price, they can be enough to secure an upgrade to first class.
7. Do your research. “The biggest mistake people make is not knowing the destination or the hotel,” says Knipp. Books like the Frommer’s travel series are great for browsing pre-planned itineraries and reading reviews of budget-friendly hotels and restaurants. Knipp also suggests books by Karen Brown. When you do find the right destination or hotel, click around on travel sites like TripAdvisor.com or Concierge.com for feedback from other travelers and learn how to get the most for your buck. Always check the publish date for reviews, and look for consistency (sometimes hotels post reviews for their own properties).
8. Check for deals. Before hitting the “Confirm Your Booking" button, check the packages section on the hotel’s website. If you don’t see one, give them a call. Many resorts offer a free night if you spend a certain amount of time there, or cheaper rates for daily breakfast if you pay in advance. The same is true for traveling off-season. My husband and I vacationed in Greece last May and paid $100 less per night than if we went the following week (June fell into high-season).
9. Check (and double check) discount sites. I’m a big fan of LuxuryLink.com, a website where you bid on or buy discounted travel packages. Unlike other travel discount sites, packages include fun extras like welcome cocktails and airport pickups. However, Knipp says it can be better to just book through the hotel and avoid a middleman for any future transactions, such as last-minute cancellations or switching your check-out time. “If something goes wrong, you’ll want to talk to an actual person, not a website,” she says.
This Hawaii property is listed on LuxuryLink.com. Photo courtesy of Turtle Bay Resort.
10. Talk to your hubby. Knipp’s number one piece of advice for brides on a budget? “Sit down and discuss your idea of a honeymoon with your fiance’s idea of a honeymoon and meet somewhere in the middle,” she says. “Understand what you both want and you’ll get the most out of your trip.”
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