It's a crazy time: You're about to spend the several months (or year!) in the throes of wedding planning only to spend the 48 hours after the big day on Cloud 9 while reliving all the excitement. So where are you supposed to find the time, energy and motivation to prepare for your honeymoon? "Sometimes brides are so focused on the flowers, dress, wedding guests, seating arrangements and more that they overlook planning this best and most enjoyable part of the process," says Paula Rizzo, Emmy Award-winning television producer and founder of The List Producer. And not only is the honeymoon meant to be a fun and exciting time for the new couple, but it's also meant to be a well-deserved relaxing break from the wedding stress. Here's how to make your post-wedding vacay the most incredible and unforgettable experience for you both.
Don't Wait Until the Very Last Minute to Plan
Brides and grooms often leave honeymoon planning to the last minute. A destination may be in mind, but leaving it to the very end will only make your trip more expensive and also compromise on your experience. Start your honeymoon planning as early as you start your wedding planning. If it's within your budget, this is a good time to contact a travel agency that can help you spread out the costs over a few months, which will reduce the financial and scheduling stress. "Planning your honeymoon can actually be a nice break from the wedding planning process, as you essentially get to put together the dream vacation you'll take just after you said 'I do,'" says Megan Velez, of Destination Weddings.
Talk About Honeymoon Wants, Wishes, and Expectations
Even before you begin planning your honeymoon, you'll want to have a discussion about what kind of trip you want to take as a newly married couple. Do you want to go to an all-inclusive resort, or do you want to take a cruise or a road trip and see a number of different places? You'll also want to look at the geography and decide on what type of scenery you want most. Are you hoping for someplace tropical? Mountainous? Historic? These factors will help you narrow down the location itself. "Picking a honeymoon destination should be a true reflection of who you are as a couple," says Lydia J. Redmond, director of weddings at The Ritz-Carlton Resorts of Naples. "Your honeymoon should be a 'trip of a lifetime,' so choose a destination you'll never forget and dream about returning to on future anniversaries." Look for travel itineraries and trip plans on travel blogs to help take the hassle out of figuring out how to pack in all the things you want to do into one trip. "Most itineraries will even share the restaurants they ate at and hotels they stayed at, which will help save you time reading reviews on the best local spots," says Liz Ise, Dallas-based wedding planner.
Set Your Budget and Try to Stick to It
Don't stress yourself out by planning something that isn't within your means. It's always better to over budget and end up under budget than vice versa—especially when the goal is to start your life together, which involves a laundry list of future expenses like purchasing your first home! Be realistic about what you want to spend and what experiences you are looking to share, and allow ample funds for those experiences. A great solution is to set up a honeymoon registry in advance that allows guests to help with some of your travel costs or enhance your trip with special services and experiences. "As many couples already have the house and kitchen items off a traditional wedding registry, a honeymoon registry can be a great way to fill in the gaps," says Ise. And don't forget to maximize the perks of getting married! "If your wedding venue has a rewards program, take advantage of earning points for a future hotel stay to redeem on your honeymoon," says Redmond. "Lots of hotels have credit card partnerships too, so take advantage of opening a new card and earning even more points for travel."
Decide on the Best Time to Take Your Honeymoon
Because so much energy goes into planning the big day (or in many cases the big wedding weekend), many brides opt to postpone their honeymoon plans for weeks or months after their wedding day. "This not only allows brides to focus on the events of their wedding, without the added stress of packing for a trip and preparing to leave the day after their wedding for a week or two, but it gives the bride and groom something to look forward to once the excitement from their wedding day has slowed down," says Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor at Orbitz. Settling into your new married life is also an important consideration that could determine when you should take your honeymoon. Want the respite of a honeymoon but don't have the time? Try a mini-moon! Check out a new city in the U.S. that neither of you has been to. Take a road trip or quick flight to start exploring new places, eat like a local and enjoy a shared experience that's new to both of you. That'll give you the relaxation you deserve and help you feel like a newly married couple.
Narrow Down Your Options
Once you've talked about the big-picture honeymoon concepts, make a list of your top destination sites and have your sweetheart do the same. Then pick one from each list and research those in more detail. "It's much easier to compare prices and amenities when you're only looking at two choices," says Rizzo. "And there's nothing worse than information overload and analysis paralysis." Give yourself a cutoff date for when you'd like to finalize your honeymoon destination so you can move your focus to the next aspects of planning.
Delegate Planning Responsibilities
You know how friends and family always say, "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help"? Well, they actually mean it! "Make a list of all the stuff you're doing that you don't need to physically be doing yourself," suggest Rizzo. "This could include making appointments with vendors, comparing prices, finding florists in your neighborhood, etc." Free up your time by asking a friend or family member to do that research for you or hire a professional. Another great solution is to have your spouse handle all the honeymoon plans while you take care of the wedding details. He knows you best and will be able to put together the perfect trip without needing your constant input.
Book Your Airfare and Hotels
Once your destination is set in stone, you can start shopping for airfare to find the most competitive pricing available. "The closer you get to your departure date, the more likely it is you'll pay a premium (and be stuck in a middle seat)," warns Emily Bernard, founder of PlacePass, a website that enables people to find and book tours and activities in more than 180 destinations. "Tuesdays are typically a good day for snagging airline travel deals, so aim to do your searches then." Next: Lock in lodging. Hotel? Airbnb? Glamping? If you're heading to the Caribbean or Mexico, all-inclusive properties can take a lot of stress out of planning and are also very economical. Look for 'resort credits.' You'll see this term used at a lot of big resorts, all-inclusives, and cruises. "Essentially, a resort credit is free money to use at the property on everything from golf to spa services," says Tornatore. "Look for resorts that offer this perk to save money on some of the amenities you'll likely be booking during your honeymoon stay." Don't hesitate to call or email the hotel to tell them you're on your honeymoon. "Hotel properties love to spoil their guests and give them reasons to talk about what a great stay they had—and hopefully come back again!" Tornatore says. "You never know, you might find a bottle of champagne in your room the next day or some special touches that you wouldn't otherwise get."
Book Transportation To and From the Airport
Although it's not the most fun, planning transportation to and from your resort is incredibly important. You don't want to be stranded in a foreign destination with no ride. "Don't assume Uber works everywhere!" warns Taylor Methfessel, a honeymoon expert planner at luxury travel agency SmartFlyer. "Instead, arrange transportation logistics through your travel agent or with the hotel directly to avoid stress and confusion." This is the best way to stay safe and relaxed!
Plan Your Activities, Excursions, and Experiences
Booking excursions in advance not only gives you something to look forward to but also bears cost savings for early reservations. "Excursions help you make the most of your time there and create memories from your getaway!" says Valez. "Try scheduling your excursions for later in your trip, as the first few days should be devoted to relaxing and unwinding from the big day." You'll have much more energy once you've had some time to recover. Many resorts offer onsite activities to take part in, like spa services, wine tastings, and musical performances. Reach out to your honeymoon specialist or property coordinator to see if these are included or discounted in your package. If possible, plan your trip with one day of relaxation (massages, laying out at the beach) for every day full of activities and adventures so that you're not returning from your honeymoon even more exhausted than you were before you left.
Get the Major Travel To-Dos out of the Way
Things like exchanging currency can be really difficult to remember the week before your wedding when there are a million other things to do. For brides taking a honeymoon a few weeks or months after the wedding, it's important to remember that your passport and driver's license have to match exactly. So, if you don't have time to order a new passport, you may need to hold off on changing your name legally until you return.
Pack Smartly, Well in Advance of the Big Day
Make a detailed list of everything you'll need: Clothes, sunscreen, currency, everything! Then, make a plan for when you'll buy these things. That might mean doing a little online shopping a few months in advance for some clothing or accessory items you might want to have with you. "I recommend getting started on this at least three months prior to your wedding," suggests Lindsay Bishop, wedding planner in Charleston, South Carolina. Pack as much as you can prior to the week of your wedding. If you're traveling to a different climate, this will be really easy, since you won't be wearing those clothes anyway. Get your suitcases together and put them somewhere easy to spot, so that you don't forget them when you leave for your wedding.
Your honeymoon is supposed to be one of the most enjoyable parts of the wedding process. You just spent time celebrating the biggest day of your life surrounded by all your loved ones—what better way to kick off the weekend than to jet off to an incredibly romantic location with the love of your life? Don't let the planning process stress you out too much and focus on what matters most—celebrating this momentous occasion with your new spouse!