Photo Courtesy of Ridgeline Adventures, Lake Wanaka
A generation ago, honeymooning might have meant holing up in your room for the length of the vacation, but today’s couples seek more adventure and activities. And excursions—off-site guided experiences—such as hiking, city touring and skydiving complement any romantic getaway. Here, some tour-booking tips I’ve learned over the years.
1. Do the research
Think about your interests before arranging your trip. Hitting the beach is usually a honeymoon given, but you’ll probably want to do a little more. If you love hiking, take a longer look at Oahu, since climbing Diamond Head is a beautiful—and memorable—experience. Ditto for Cape Town, South Africa, home to Table Mountain, some of the world’s best surf breaks and fantastic wineries. If you want to offset your beach time with world-class museums, consider visiting Greece or Los Angeles. Knowing what your destination offers will give you a better idea of not only what to expect, but also how to pack.
2. Make a schedule
I tend to book my excursions after arrival, preferring to get the lay of the land before choosing what to explore. Although, this approach can sometimes backfire: I didn’t make prior arrangements for a shopping tour of Bangkok’s night markets and left Thailand without a single souvenir. If you know you must absolutely visit Costa Rica’s famous cloud forest Manuel Antonio, book the day trip while you are arranging your hotel stay. Many travel websites, such as Orbitz and Travelocity, offer package deals that include air and lodging along with marquee excursions. If you’re using a travel agent, be sure to ask for her recommendations and have her arrange some of your activities ahead of departure. Keep some days free, however, to hop on tours that you may not have known about, like I did in Mexico when I went whale watching in the middle of a surf trip—cool!
3. Go with a name
Chances are if you book through your travel agent, you’ll get a trustworthy tour operator. The same holds true with utilizing the hotel’s concierge. If you’re unsure where to find a reputable Jet Ski rental office in the Bahamas, for example, ask the local tourism office who they recommend.
4. Crunch the numbers
One time in Hawaii, I ended up on a snorkeling trip with about 100 other passengers.That was not an adventure I would have chosen, and I kicked myself for not asking about the size of the boat when I booked the excursion. If you want to avoid crowd scenes at spots like Hemingway’s house or the ruins of Machu Picchu, ask about individual tours. Or hook up with another couple at your resort for a semi-private adventure—you’ll save some money and make memories with new friends.
As with all things travel-related, you’ll need to factor in tipping. Most travel experts suggest a 10% gratuity for the guide (20% if the experience was exceptional).