The honeymoon is a much-needed respite after months of wedding prep. For many couples, it's also the trip of a lifetime — the first long, exotic trip you'll take together. While it sounds heavenly, the task of honeymoon planning (on top of wedding planning) can get stressful. We talked to travel experts to get insider knowledge on how to plan a honeymoon that's low on stress and big on savings.
1. Start Early to Get the Best Prices
Wondering when to book a honeymoon? The ideal time to book your honeymoon is six to eight months prior, especially if you're planning to go to a specialized resort, as premium rooms book up early.
2. Work Together
When it comes to wedding planning, dividing and conquering is often the best approach. But not when it comes to the honeymoon, says Jim Augerinos of Perfect Honeymoons. Too often, if one person handles the planning, you end up with a trip that's more tailored to his or her desires. Unless your spouse-to-be is uncommonly perceptive about your travel wishes and peeves, honeymoon planning should be a joint effort.
3. Don't Copy Someone Else's Honeymoon Itinerary
Wedding planning can be so overwhelming that it's tempting to simply copy another couple's honeymoon itinerary. They had a blast, right? Your pals may have loved that no-stress all-inclusive resort, but you might find it tamps your adventurous spirit. Or maybe you've heard your parents reminisce about their honeymoon in Bermuda your whole life. Just because they'd like to revisit their 'moon vicariously doesn't mean it's right for you. It's okay to solicit advice from like-minded friends and family, but take it with the proverbial grain of salt. This is your big trip; tailor it to you and your fiancé.
4. Be Specific About What You Want
When you think "exotic destination," does that mean a luxury resort on an island renowned for its natural beauty? Or do you define it as a faraway foreign country where you don't speak the language? The difference between your "relaxing" and "boring" isn't always immediately clear. Talk it out with your fiancé and figure out what you both really want. And, according to Linda Dancer, of Honeymoons Inc., if you're using a travel agent, a good one will know the right questions to ask to help figure it out.
5. Don't Rely Entirely on Web Research
Starting your honeymoon planning with a Google search is perfectly fine, but don't rely only on search engines. Sometimes reviews can paint a picture that doesn't match reality, and it's best to thoroughly vet your ideal destination by talking to friends and family who have been there, and/or a travel agent. According to Augerinos, "We won't sell a destination unless one of us has been there personally. We like to think of ourselves as human Trip Advisors." Instagram is also a great resource to see pics that real people have snapped of certain locations, and geotags make it that much easier to pinpoint amazing locations.
6. Consider Using a Travel Agent
If you want extra guidance planning your honeymoon, travel agents can come in handy. They have insider knowledge on deals and discounts and cultivate personal relationships with hoteliers, which can sometimes mean a room's suddenly available in a booked-solid hotel. They also save you endless research time and can offer first-hand destination knowledge. "I like to say our service is threefold," says Augerinos. "We help you choose the perfect destination with the right fit, we do all the planning and researching, and we provide clients service while they're on their honeymoons. My job is not finished until my clients return home."
7. Set Aside an Appropriate Budget for the Honeymoon
Weddings can get costly quickly, and it's tempting to take it out of the honeymoon budget. But think about it: The typical wedding ceremony lasts six hours. How long is a honeymoon, on the other hand? Typically, it's the honeymoon usually lasts 10 to 14 days. Which one do you think you'll remember more? "It always scares me when a couple wants a seven-night luxury stay with an ocean view and can only afford five nights in a two- to three-star hotel. You just know they're going to hate it," says Dancer.
8. Be Aware of Hidden Costs
Weddings and honeymoons are already expensive, and the last thing you want is to be caught off-guard with any last minute surprises. "Sometimes visas, and airport transfers and fees can cost upwards of $1000," warns honeymoon planner Katie Frederick, founder of Ever After Honeymoons. "Make sure you understand what is included in the cost of your bookings — for example, if you're going to a really remote island, does your hotel rate include transportation to and from the airport?"
9. Know that You Don't Have to Leave for Your Honeymoon Straight Away
It happens in movies: The happy couple floats strait from their reception to the airport, en route to their honeymoon. But the pros advise giving yourself some time to catch your breath between the ceremony and the big trip. You may have had a little too much to drink the night before, and you'll definitely be exhausted, so give yourself a chance to rest. "Leave on a Monday or even Tuesday following a Saturday wedding," says Augerinos. Or, wait as long as you need—maybe for after a big work presentation settles down or when you can get the best weather in your preferred destination.
10. Balance Adventure with Relaxation
For most couples, a mix of adventure and relaxation makes for the perfect honeymoon. You'll want to explore new lands and take part in exciting activities together, whether that means pony trekking through the rain forest or exploring Paris on foot. But you'll also need time to recharge before getting back to reality. Be sure not to wear yourselves out—or give yourselves an opportunity to get bored.
11. Don't Wing It
For the more adventurous types, it's tempting to choose a destination, book a hotel for the first night, and take it from there. In fact, that may be how you always travel together. But, remember, your honeymoon isn't like any other vacation. It's the pause between one of the biggest—and busiest—moments in your life and the business of navigating a new reality together. Give yourself a break by going with a basic structure—booking your hotel rooms for the whole stay—then make room for adventure by choosing activities on the fly.
12. Sample the Culture
Don't wait to arrive at your dream destination to give it a taste. Go to a restaurant or whip up a specialty from the region to really immerse yourself in the culture while you plan. Or turn to your Netflix account and cozy up together with a movie that shows off the location's scenery or culture instead. You'll be daydreaming about your honeymoon every day leading up to it!
13. Post Your Plans to Social Media
Your honeymoon will be filled with Insta-worthy moments, but the planning process is worth a post on your social network, too. Once you have selected your honeymoon spot, post a status on Facebook, or do a callout for recommendations. Not only will it feel great to share the excitement with your loved ones, you may even get some insider advice from others who have previously visited the area, including any honeymoon mistakes to avoid!
14. Schedule Surprises
While it is great to work side-by-side with your fiancé to plan your honeymoon, try to sneak a few surprises for him in there, too! Pricey or full-day activities are best to discuss as a duo, but adding a couple's massage into the mix or scheduling a special dinner unbeknownst to your new hubby is the perfect way to add a bit of excitement to your vacation.
15. Be Mindful of School Holidays
This is one of those honeymoon planning tips that is easily overlooked, but is critical: Before you book your honeymoon, check school schedules so you don't end up traveling when there are a bunch of screaming kids running around. And avoid family resorts. Instead, choose a resort that caters to couples and has all the romantic bells and whistles, like outdoor showers or daily breakfast in bed.
16. Do Room Research
Say you want to be in a suite on the west side of the hotel so you'll be able to sip champagne and watch the sunset from your balcony. It's important to have that room intel. The reviewers on TripAdvisor post room tips, and some even share photos of their views.
17. Let Your Hotel Know If You Have Any Special Requests
Even though you want to keep your schedule as flexible as possible, some things do need to be booked in advance. For example, many resorts offer just one private dinner on the beach each night, so that would need to be reserved as early as possible, advises Frederick. "Don't forget to tell the hotel that you're on your honeymoon — many places offer perks such as special turn down service or breakfast in bed. Most places offer honeymoon packages that include couples massages and other perks that you would have to pay for otherwise."