No matter where you are in the stages of wedding planning, the opportunity to switch gears for a moment and start thinking about how to plan your honeymoon is always a welcome break. There are so many topics to discuss! Where in the world might the two of you want to go? How long should your honeymoon be, and when would the best time be to take your honeymoon, officially? (You'd be surprised at how many couples delay taking their honeymoon for better timing, whether that's coinciding with work calendars and vacation days, or just the best time of year to visit your dream honeymoon destination). And, if you're going to delay your honeymoon, would you want to plan a post-wedding mini-moon getaway, too?
The bottom line: After months of wedding prep, your honeymoon should offer some much-needed relaxation and quality time together and may be one of the biggest trips you've taken together so far. While it sounds heavenly, sometimes the task of honeymoon planning (on top of wedding planning) can take a stressful turn. We talked to a few travel experts to get some inside knowledge on how to plan a honeymoon that's low on stress and big on savings.
1. Start early...
Wondering when to start thinking about booking your honeymoon? The ideal timeframe is six to eight months prior to your travel dates, especially if you're thinking about European honeymoon destinations that coincide with the summer travel season. "January and February are great times to start planning a July or August honeymoon in Europe," says NYC-based honeymoon travel pro Laura Freeman, founder of The Trip Trotter. "These are not mega hotels that have thousands of rooms available."
2. ...And sometimes earlier
Airlines regularly change routes, hotels update pricing, and while all of these variables are in play, if you have your sights set on some seriously far-flung adventure destinations, you might want to look at planning your honeymoon as far as a year in advance. "Patagonia trips should be booked a year out," says Freeman, because the peak travel season is so short. (Same goes for Antarctica cruises).
3. Plan your honeymoon together
While dividing and conquering can work for wedding planning, it's not always the best approach when it comes to planning your honeymoon, says Jim Augerinos, president of Perfect Honeymoons. If one person handles all of the planning of your honeymoon, you might end up with a trip that's more tailored to their desires. Unless your spouse-to-be is uncommonly perceptive about your travel wishes and peeves, honeymoon planning should be a joint effort.
4. Don't copy anyone else's honeymoon itinerary
Wedding planning can be so involved that it's tempting to copy another couple's honeymoon itinerary. But while your friends may have loved that no-stress, all-inclusive resort, you might find it tamps your adventurous spirit. Or, maybe you've heard your parents reminisce about their honeymoon in Bermuda your whole life... but that doesn't mean it's right for the two of you. It's fine to solicit advice from friends and family, but take it with that proverbial grain of salt. This is your honeymoon, after all, and it should be tailored to your interests.
5. Be specific about what you want
When you think about exotic destinations, does that mean a luxury resort on an island renowned for its natural beauty? Or are you thinking about some faraway foreign country where you don't speak the language? Daydream with your partner to figure out what you both really want.
6. Don't rely (entirely) on online research
Starting your honeymoon planning with a Google search is perfectly fine, but don't rely only on search engines, says Augerinos. Online 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 professional, too.
7. Think about 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 available in an otherwise fully-booked hotel. They can also save you endless research time and 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."
8. Set a budget for your honeymoon
Your wedding expenses can tally up quickly and it's tempting to delve into the honeymoon budget to cover any excess costs. But let's pause for a moment and really think about this: On average, wedding ceremonies and receptions lasts six to eight hours, while honeymoons last anywhere from seven to 10 to even 14 days. While you'll never forget the memories of your wedding day, there's something to be said for the special memories you'll create on your honeymoon, too.
9. Be aware of hidden costs
When you're planning your wedding and your honeymoon, the last thing you want is to be caught off-guard with any last minute surprise expenses. "Sometimes visas, airport transfers and resort fees can cost upwards of $1,000," says California native Katie Frederick Jacobson, founder of Ever After Honeymoons. "Always 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?"
10. FYI, you don't have to leave for your honeymoon straight away
Yes, it happens in movies, you know the scene: The newly-married couple floats strait from their wedding and/or reception to the airport, en route to their honeymoon (or mini-moon). Now back to real life, where our pros advise giving yourselves some time to catch your breath between the ceremony and the big trip. Whether you're flat-out exhausted or didn't hydrate properly during the weekend's events, odds are that immediately following your wedding festivities you'll appreciate a good night's rest. "Leave on Monday, or even Tuesday, following a Saturday wedding," says Augerinos.
11. Sample the culture
One reprieve from wedding/honeymoon planning? Well, there's no reason to wait until your actual honeymoon to give your dream destination a taste! Look up a nearby restaurant or whip up a specialty from the region to really immerse yourselves in the culture. Another option: Turn on your Netflix account and cozy up together with a movie that shows off the location's scenery and culture. You'll be daydreaming (or actually dreaming) in no time!
12. Post your plans on social media
No doubt 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 destination, definitely ask for recommendations. It will feel great to share the excitement with your loved ones and you may even get some insider advice from others, too.
While it's totally okay to be over-the-moon excited planning for your honeymoon, when it comes to social media, it's best to keep the actual specifics a little more vague. Your whole social network doesn't need to know exactly when you'll be away, for how long, or where you'll be staying. There's plenty of time for all of that when you get back!
13. Let your hotel know if you have any special requests
Say you want to be in a suite that faces West so you'll be able to sip Champagne and watch the sunset from your balcony—it's important to make sure that your hotel has that room intel, notes Freeman. And even though you want to keep your schedule as flexible as possible, some things do need to be booked in advance: 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.
14. Schedule surprises
While it is great to work side-by-side with your significant other to plan your honeymoon, try to sneak a few surprises 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 they might not know about in advance is the perfect way to add a bit of excitement to your romantic—and hopefully memorable—honeymoon vacation together. Cheers to you both!