Thanks! You're all signed up.

X

The world’s most romantic destinations

SmarterTravel

Maybe you’re young and in love. Maybe you’re happily married but looking to rekindle a lifelong romance. Or maybe you’re still waiting to meet the love of your life. Whatever the case, there’s no better recipe for romance than travel.

This month, we’re highlighting some of our favorite romantic destinations: why they’re romantic, when they’re at their most charming, and how to visit them without paying a penny more than you have to.

Maui

“Hawaii has always been thought of as the ultimate romantic destination,” says Amy Ziff, Travelocity‘s editor at large. And the most romantic of the Hawaiian islands? That honor goes to Maui, the Valley Isle.

“We knew we wanted to go to Hawaii for our honeymoon,” says Stephen Bennett, who along with his wife Celeste chose Maui for their first vacation as a married couple three years ago. “It was the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure.”

Ah, Maui. From the artsy boutiques of Lahaina to the 10,000-foot heights of Haleakala, the island’s volcano, Maui epitomizes everything there is to love about Hawaii: sparkling waterfalls, perfect snorkeling, rainforest and volcano hiking, and—of course—the beaches.

When to go

Maui is great year-round, which is a good thing for both its tourism industry and travelers looking to save some money. Even during its off-peak seasons, the island weather is perfect. You can save by traveling there when demand for hotels and island activities are lighter, particularly September through November when hotels offer reduced rates. Airfare typically drops in the fall as well.

Finding a good deal

Both Aloha and Hawaiian Airlines offer frequent sales for Hawaii flights departing from the West Coast. Low-cost king Southwest, through a partnership with ATA, now also offers connecting service to the Aloha state from its many departure cities.

A great place to start for airfare-and-hotel packages is 4Hawaii.com. It posts deals from multiple travel providers, and its prices are frequently the best as well. Pleasant Holidays and Liberty Travel are two other options for affordable packages.

Paris

No discussion of romantic destinations is complete without Paris. There’s a reason why the city is synonymous with romance, and it goes deeper than the tangible. Its street-side cafes, world-class dining, and famous museums are a part of it, sure. The sights and sounds—the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Montmartre—are part of it, too. But there’s something intangible. A certain je ne sais quoi that sets Paris apart.

Boston native Heather Murphy recalls one particular evening during an October visit. “It was a beautiful fall day,” she says. “We sat in front of the Eiffel Tower and sipped wine under the stars.”

“Paris is great any time,” agrees Ziff. “Even in the winter, it’s gray, it’s chilly, but it’s still marvelous.”

When to go

Paris and its environs experience cold winters and warm summers. It’s best to stay away from both and travel in the shoulder months—particularly March, April, October, and November. If you must plan a summer trip, when the prices and the crowds are at their peak, avoid August: Some restaurants and shops close for part of the month, when most residents take their annual vacations.

Another reason to visit before the summer this year: In January, France approved the implementation of a new airfare departure tax that will take effect on July 1. The fee, which is earmarked for aid to developing countries, will be assessed on flights departing from France. Your return trip to the U.S. could go up by more than $40 depending on the seat-class you fly.

Finding a good deal

We typically find the best rates for Europe vacations from wholesaler Go-today.com, which has a huge selection of packages to destinations across Western Europe. One recent sale featured a three-day “Paris Getaway” starting at $399, including airfare and hotel accommodations. OctopusTravel.com has an even larger selection than Go-today, but prices are hit or miss. Another good bet is EuropeASAP, which recently offered a London and Paris combination package starting at $649.

California Wine Country

“The days were long and lazy,” says Lisa Barter, who honeymooned in Napa Valley and plans to return soon for an anniversary trip. “We took our bikes out nearly every day. It was just perfect.”

Perfect is a good word to describe California‘s northern wine country, Napa and Sonoma both, though the two areas probably couldn’t be more different. Napa is geographically small and unified by the valley that defines the area, centered around St. Helena; it’s also more commercial than laidback Sonoma and its family vineyards, which are spread across a wider area.

Like their unique wines, though, the areas’ differences are to be celebrated. No matter what your tastes, there’s something for any romantic getaway in Napa or Sonoma.

When to go

When to go has as much to do with what you want to see as with what you want to spend. In the fall, the harvest festivals add a certain vibrancy to wine country, and the vineyards are draped in the golds, reds, and browns of seasonal foliage. The weather is warmer in the summer, and the vines are still lush with grapes.

Weekends during the summer months tend to be the most crowded times, as the vineyards fill with daytrippers from the nearby Bay Area. Because of its size, however, Sonoma tends to be less crowded than Napa—even in the summer months.

Finding a good deal

Getaway Adventures is a great place to start your search for Wine Country activities. It features options for both Napa and Sonoma, and offers—among other options—unique kayaking and bicycling tours.

Caribbean

“We wanted a beach vacation,” says Jennifer Friedberg, who planned a fall honeymoon with her fiancee Andrew in 2005. “Our initial thoughts were Hawaii, Tahiti, the Greek Islands, or the Caribbean. They all sounded amazing, but based on the amount of time and money we had, the Caribbean fit the bill.”

The Friedbergs ultimately chose the Caribbean for its convenience and its variety of options. They planned a September trip, and September in the Caribbean means the best islands to visit are those outside the hurricane belt: Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, collectively known as the Dutch ABCs.

Other good options:

  • St. Lucia, which hasn’t seen a major hurricane in years, and this year plans to have 900 new hotel rooms available by the spring.
  • The twin islands of Antigua and Barbuda, hidden gems traditionally visited more by Europeans than Americans, but which in late 2005 welcomed new direct U.S. departures from Delta.

When to go

The busiest season for Caribbean travel is from mid-December through mid-April. Consequently, the best time to visit for lowers prices and smaller crowds is outside of this peak season, particularly November and May. These two months avoid the hurricane season (which runs June through October) but still boast pleasant weather and plenty of things to do.

Finding a good deal

CheapCaribbean offers a wide array of island destinations that many other vacation packagers aren’t able to cover. Another good bet is eLeisureLink.com, which has a much smaller selection but typically offers some of the best prices for Caribbean travel.

Most of the major airlines offer good deals to the Caribbean as well, both airfare-only and package deals. American and US Airways frequently have good deals, for example. Wait for these carriers to announce a sale, though—otherwise the “everyday” prices aren’t as good as a package deal you might find with a packager like the ones mentioned above.

Mayan Riviera

Mexico‘s renowned Mayan Riviera boasts mile upon mile of beaches, warm weather, and Spanish-infused colonial cities that still thrive today. A host of upscale resorts dot the coastline, while ancient ruins await couples venturing deeper into the Yucatan Peninsula.

“We were able to get a lot more bang for our buck in Mexico,” says RaeJean Stokes, who “weddingmooned” (a combination wedding/honeymoon) along the Mayan Riviera.

While the area is still recovering from Hurricane Wilma, substantial reconstruction has already begun. The southern Mayan Riviera also fared better than other parts of the coast. Playa del Carmen, for example—where Stokes and her husband vacationed—is an alternative to the harder hit Cancun and Cozumel, and offers equally romantic beaches and resorts.

Stokes adds, “The resorts had done a great job of repairing the damage from the recent hurricane. If you never left the resort area you’d only see hints that something had happened.”

When to go

The best months to visit on a budget are October and November, dry months that are typically the most cost-efficient as well. This avoids the worst of the hurricane season—the month of September—and typically sees fewer crowds than the denser summer months.

Finding a good deal

Pleasant Holidays is particularly strong on Mexico vacations. Vacation Outlet is another good place to find low prices; one recent package listed at $799 for four nights in Cancun plus airfare from Miami. Expedia bundles airfare and accommodations as well, and had some of the lowest prices available in our search.

Salzburg and Vienna

Like Paris, Salzburg and Vienna are classic European cities with storied pasts and a lively present. This is also a special year for both, as Austria celebrates Mozart’s 250th birthday with hundreds of performances in Vienna and Salzburg. The cities also promise unannounced outdoor performances and free chamber music concerts in public buildings.

When to go

“As soon we start getting that warm spring weather in Europe, fares begin to soar and they don’t come down until after Labor Day,” says Ziff. This year, especially, Austria is planning a huge tourism push to coincide with the Mozart celebrations. It’s a good idea to get a head start on the festivities by booking and traveling early, or waiting until the weather cools again for crossing the Atlantic.

Finding a good deal

Booking an airfare-and-hotel package is one of the best ways to save on travel costs to Europe. That’s the case for Austria this year as well. Austrian Airlines Vacation Center‘s “Mozart Memories” package combines three nights in Salzburg and three nights in Vienna, as well as daily breakfast, and one dinner followed by a performance of Mozart’s work. The package starts at $949 per person and is valid for travel through October 31.

Anywhere, any time

Of course, romance is much more about the who than the where. Sometimes, it’s also about the when. You don’t always want to wait for better prices. You don’t always care where you go—just that you’re together. And in today’s world, where so many Americans are in long-distance relationships, it can be harder than ever to plan a real vacation together.

If you fall into that category, give Meet Me In a try. It allows travelers from two different starting points to customize an itinerary together and meet up in another city where there’s good prices and last-minute availability.

Sometimes that’s all it takes to keep the romance alive: new destinations, new experiences, and new memories to share.

Top Fares From

Comments