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Splurge sensibly on your honeymoon

SmarterTravel

You’ve booked the caterer, chosen a band, and are putting the finishing touches on your floral arrangements. Now comes the fun part—choosing where you’ll spend your honeymoon. Whether you’re planning an extravagant getaway or a budget-conscious excursion, you’re going to want to get the best value for your first trip as a married couple.

We’ve come up with three key questions to help you get that value.

What’s your timing?

When are you planning on taking your trip? Seasonality and peak tourism times will greatly affect the quality of your honeymoon and its price tag, particularly if you’re headed to a destination such as the Caribbean, Alaska, or Europe. Conversely, if you are willing to take chances with the weather at an off-peak destination, such as the Caribbean or Alaska in fall, or Mexico or Latin America in the summer, you’ll spend significantly less and may get a better deal on accommodations, entertainment, spa treatments, and other perks. Many travel providers especially appreciate and reward visitors during low travel seasons.

As the dates of your honeymoon will most likely closely follow your wedding day, learn which destinations will be a good bargain for the season in which you’re traveling. To start, read SmarterTravel.com’s series on the best bargain destinations, published four seasons each year.

What’s your budget?

When budgeting for your honeymoon, plan to spend a few thousand dollars on your trip, particularly for destinations requiring air travel. Rosie Amodio, executive editor for TheKnot.com, a popular wedding website, noted today’s average honeymoon costs between $2,000 and $5,000. There are a variety of components to take into consideration, including airfare, accommodations, rental car, dining out, entertainment, and shopping expenses.

Neal Kramer, president of TheHoneymoon.com, stated the “current industry average honeymoon” costs around $3,800, but also emphasized the trip could be measured in terms of luxury. “A one-week stay at a deluxe hotel in Mexico, Hawaii, or the Caribbean may be $5,000 to $10,000 with air, but a two-week honeymoon in South Africa and Botswana in more modest properties could be in excess of $10,000 due to air costs and expenses.” Consequently, our third and final question may be the most essential in planning a great trip.

What’s most important to you?

While it may seem obvious, it’s key to determine the “must have” elements you want in your trip, so you can budget accordingly and splurge in the areas you’ll most enjoy. On the flip side, determine what’s less important so you know where to cut back. In addition, “[know] what you’re willing to give up in case you’re both on opposite sides when it comes to selecting a destination,” Amodio recommended.

For example, if you love resorts, budget extra for your accommodations, as these properties cost more than a standard hotel, and cut back in other areas such as nightlife or dining out. However, if you don’t care much for fancy hotels, but would love to go snorkeling, diving, and parasailing during your trip, earmark your funds for the best outdoor recreation tours and suppliers, and choose more modest accommodations.

However you decide to spend your time and dollars, make sure you’ve put together a trip that will best reflect your tastes. “The couple needs to decide what type of honeymoon is going to create that memorable experience that will stay with them for a lifetime,” Kramer, of TheHoneymoon.com, explained. “Years from now, they won’t remember what they spent, but they will certainly remember a truly exceptional honeymoon experience.”

Alternative ways to add value to your honeymoon

Consider the following possibilities to help make your honeymoon go from special to spectacular.

  • Get a honeymoon registry: Many couples are already well-established, and don’t necessarily need the traditional registry items such as home appliances, linens, etc. A current trend is registering for honeymoons using services such as TheHoneymoon.com and Traveler’s Joy. Couples register for different elements of their honeymoon, such as hotel rooms, gourmet meals, luxury spa treatments, airline tickets, and more, which guests can then put money toward or purchase entirely for the bride and groom.
  • Ask for special perks: When making travel arrangements, be sure to mention you’re planning your honeymoon. Many providers have special programs and discounts for newlyweds, offer free upgrades, or provide other value-added perks, such as champagne, strawberries, and the like, to help make your experience memorable.
  • Make your money go farther: One of the biggest budget busters is heading to a foreign destination where the dollar is weak against local currency. Check to see where the dollar is strong: Many of these destinations can be great locales for a romantic, unique honeymoon. If you have your heart set on a place where the dollar is weak, such as Europe, read our advice on how to save despite poor exchange rates.

Once you’ve picked your travel dates, outlined a budget, and determined which activities and amenities will make your honeymoon special, sit back and relax, knowing your first trip with your spouse will be a truly memorable one.

Beyond Hawaii: Experts recommend great value destinations

According to Modern Bride magazine, Hawaii has been the most popular honeymoon destination eight years in a row, followed closely by Jamaica and Mexico. However, we asked Amodio and Kramer to recommend their picks for great destinations, emphasizing value for a variety of travel tastes.

Rosie Amodio recommends:

  • Vieques Island in Puerto Rico is very hot right now. Because much of the island was used as a naval testing ground until the early nineties, tourism is only now beginning to develop. As a result, your dollar goes far—beaches are pristine and take a little maneuvering to get to. Unlike many Caribbean islands, the port cities aren’t cruise ship stops so you’re not pushing through throngs of tourists. The accommodations prices are also much more reasonable than most Caribbean islands.
  • The Florida Keys are good for the couple who want to spend their honeymoon on a beach, playing tennis, golf, or fishing. You get a tropical feel, but the flight’s shorter (cheaper), the accommodations prices are more reasonable, getting around is easier, and there are fewer tourists than in St. Thomas.
  • Cruises are another great bargain. From Carnival all the way up to four-star Crystal and Silversea, the advantage is that everything is included. So if you want a second helping of the filet, just ask. They’re also a great way to see a bunch of destinations, whether it be Europe, South America, or the Caribbean. You do most of your traveling while you sleep and wake up in a new place each morning.

Neal Kramer suggests:

  • When it comes to value, it’s very difficult to beat the all-inclusive properties in the Cancun/Riviera Maya area. Good airfare can be found from U.S. destinations and a wide range of resorts are available, from first-class to intimate deluxe properties.
  • Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Bali) combines cities and fabulous beaches to make an exotic honeymoon destination that offers luxury, adventure, romance, and unique cultures.
  • While London, Rome, and Paris prices are out of sight, Eastern European cities such as Budapest, Prague, Krakow, and Dubrovnik offer a wealth of history, culture, great dining, and nightlife at a much better value than Western European cities.

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