Planning a wedding can be all-consuming, with months or years of planning, late evenings, and not to mention the actual day, which is both beautiful and exhausting for most couples. But the light at the end of the wedding tunnel is the honeymoon – a glistening getaway, to celebrate an enormous commitment with the one you love. Sounds like heaven, right?
For some couples, it is. But for others, the honeymoon planning takes a backseat to wedding planning, and as a result, the ill-timed trip ends up being an extension of the wedding – stressful and expensive.
We consulted a few travel experts as well as ordinary people who have been on honeymoons to give you their best what to do’s and what not to do’s after your I-do’s.
Here are their 10 best pieces of advice.
- Wait to go if you can. This may not work for every schedule, but the number one piece of advice we were given was to not leave the day after the wedding for your honeymoon. Why? You may be hungover, you may still have family in town who want to spend time with you, you may want to sleep for 16 hours instead of waking up early for a flight to the Caribbean, etc.
“We spent two days in a local hotel after our wedding and it was the best decision ever,” said Allison Cooper of Gainesville, Florida. “We barely had time to eat on our wedding day there were so many people to talk to. So we holed up in our room and slept and ate and then we were actually able to enjoy our honeymoon in Mexico without feeling like we were wasting our vacation.”
- Consider making it part of your registry. According to statistics by The Knot, most bride and grooms contribute 43% to the wedding budget, (of which the average was $32,641 in 2015!) and 12% of brides and grooms fund the entire wedding. For a lot of couples, there’s not a lot of extra money – which is where a honeymoon registry comes in. The most popular honeymoon registries are Honeyfund, Wanderable, and Traveler’s Joy.
“Since we lived together three years before our wedding we were set on most household goods,” said Natalie Markham of Ocala, Florida. “So we created a honeymoon registry and were surprised by how many people wanted to contribute.” She added, “A honeymoon is so much better than another blender.”
- Do what you want. There’s no one way to do a honeymoon. All-inclusive resorts and cruises aren’t right for every couple. In fact, statistics reveal that more and more couples are using their honeymoon as an opportunity to travel together and try new things – rather than relax on the beach. Westin Resorts recently released a study showing that couples are packing more adventurous activities into their honeymoon travels and visiting more destinations in less time.
“Statistically, people are getting married later in life and, more often, have the flexibility to travel as a couple before the ‘big day;’ so what couples are looking for in a honeymoon has changed dramatically – from travel dates and ideal destinations to their desire to keep their wellness routine intact,” said Bob Jacobs, Vice President, Brand Management for Westin Hotels & Resorts.
- Consider staying close to home. According to the Westin study, 3 out of 4 American couples choose to honeymoon in the U.S. and Canada – many of them seeking outdoor experiences like hiking and skiing.
“We both love to ski and figured, why fly to Europe to ski after our December wedding when we could do it close to home and still get back in time to spend Christmas with our families? We went to Aspen, just a quick flight from our home in Salt Lake. It was cozy, exciting, and romantic,” says Lacey Oliver of Salt Lake City. “And less expensive than some of the other places we considered.”
- Plan it together. “My husband wanted to surprise me for our honeymoon, which was sweet, but also hard. I had no idea what to pack or plan for (do I get a spray tan? A new bikini?) and once we got to the Bahamas, it was a lot of stuff he wanted to do – like windsurfing and kayaking when all I really wanted was a spa day and to read my book by the pool,” Melissa Lancaster told us.
Planning your honeymoon together helps you avoid Melissa’s experience. Plus it can be a good way to avoid the post-wedding blues that sometimes come after the wedding.
- Get passports taken care of well in advance. Check your passport well in advance to make sure you have more than six months left before it expires. And since they take about 5 weeks to process, give yourself plenty of time so it doesn’t hold you up.
And if you’re taking your husband or wife’s name, make sure your airline tickets and passport match before your honeymoon. Likely, you’ll need to book your tickets and apply for your passport in your maiden name. Once you return from your trip, you can make a certified copy of your marriage license and send it along with a Passport Amendment Application. They’ll update your new name at no charge.
- Adjust your expectations. If you plan to sightsee, adjust your expectations since it’s your honeymoon, and you may spend more time together than you would exploring the sights. And since many couples have been together long before their honeymoon, their expectations of a rapturous experience often falls short.
“We had been living together for three years before our honeymoon, and traveled a lot in that time,” says Brad Louden of Columbus, Ohio. “So we treated our honeymoon like a special trip, with more splurges than we had done on past trips and more time discussing our future and life together.”
- Tell people it’s your honeymoon. Specifically, your resort or hotel. Many of them have special deals or suites for honeymooners, and others will include a bottle of wine or special gift upon arrival. Other hotels (such as Hyatt), offer couples a free night or two (or more!) for their honeymoon if the wedding is booked at their location.
- Don’t procrastinate booking it. As soon as you send out your save-the-dates, book your honeymoon. The sooner in advance it’s planned, the less expensive the tickets and reservations will be. According to a study, the best time to book airfare is 54 days in advance, and the best day of the week to book them is a Tuesday.
- Make sure you take one. The best advice of all? Go. And not just because it’s a great experience. But because according to a study at Emory University, couples who take a honeymoon decrease their chances of divorce by 41%.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!