After linens, signature cocktails, reception playlists, and which shoes you’re going to wear, it’s easy to get caught up in the wedding planning process and leave the honeymoon decisions until the last minute.
Before you can book your accommodation or plan any activities, you need to actually have a place in mind. And since you’re sharing this trip with someone (no flying solo here!), you’ll need to agree on a destination with your partner.
Ah, yet another big decision to add to your ever-growing list.
My advice? Just as your wedding gets broken down into many tiny tasks here and there, tackle your honeymoon trip planning the same way.
The first step is figuring out where to go. It requires a little brainstorming, a bit of research, and perhaps some negotiation on both sides, but it’s all worth it to pick the perfect honeymoon destination for you and your favorite person.
Compare notes from your respective bucket lists.
The best way to begin the whole honeymoon planning sesh is to think of where you’d both really really like to go. After all, this trip is going to cost you a chunk of change, whether you travel luxe or on a budget, so it may as well go towards a location you’re both super stoked on.
After saying “Yes!” pretty much the first thing I wanted to know from my partner was where he wanted to honeymoon.
“Sure. How about Japan?”
“Yup. What about Hawaii?”
“Sounds great! Or maybe…”
We both love traveling, so practically every suggestion sounded fantastic. However, after throwing around a few ideas, it got a little challenging to stay on top of things. To keep your thoughts straight (and to keep personal preferences from being influenced by your future spouse), grab a pen and paper instead.
Sit down and make a list of places you’re beyond excited to see in the world or experiences you want to have, and get your partner to do the same, separately.
Pinterest — or simply looking at a map — can help. And whatever you do, ignore that nagging voice in your head discouraging you from any of them (“It’s too expensive,” “You’re not that good of a hiker,” etc.). Take this opportunity to just dream.
Once you’ve done this, compare notes with your partner and see what matches up and/or could geographically make sense to pair together. You don’t need to make any decisions yet, but look closely for:
- One location you both love and want to visit. You may discover that South Africa is high on both of your lists.
- Two or more locations which can easily get paired together. Consider places you can catch quick flights or overnight trains in between, or even make use of airlines that offer stopovers. Use Rome2Rio to easily discover how to to-and-from anywhere in the world.
- Identical or similar experiences that can get paired together. Knowing that you both envision relaxing by the ocean with a drink in hand may nudge you to look for beachy destinations. If you both feel an itch for some adventure activities like zip-lining and sky-diving, you can narrow down choices with those deciding factors.
From this step, piece together three to five loose honeymoon itineraries with your partner.
Thoroughly discuss honeymoon expectations.
By this point, you’ve probably traveled (even locally) together and have a solid sense of the other person’s travel style. Still, you must openly and honestly discuss what you both believe constitutes a honeymoon.
People often equate “honeymoon” with “luxury” — first class airfare, couples massages, fancy champagne, etc — but this really can be whatever kind of trip you want! If that means camping in the Great Smoky Mountains or an Airbnb on the outskirts of Tokyo, go for it.
And yes, if that means the stereotypical honeymoon trip with your sweetheart because you both desperately want it, there’s no shame there either.
But just like marriage, a honeymoon involves compromise. You’ll need to balance what you want to do with your partner’s desires, and that means having an open discussion of what this whole honeymoon thing looks like to you both. Doing this will get you on the same page for planning and budgeting, and you can more easily avoid any disappointment later.
Take some time to talk about what you’re envisioning, including:
- How long you intend to honeymoon. Consider how much time each of you can take off work and how long you’d realistically enjoy being on the road.
- The type of accommodation you hope to stay in. There are so many: hotels, Airbnb, VRBO, resorts, hostels, friends’ places, bed and breakfasts, farmstays, Couchsurfing. The possibilities are endless.
- How you would prefer to get around, both to and from and on a day-to-day basis. You have lots of options here as well: public transit, taxis, hiring a private driver, ferries or cruises, flights, tour group, car rental…
- A rough number on what you’d like to spend (see below for a little more on the budget). Is this higher, lower, or about the same as what you would spend if it were just an ordinary trip for the two of you? This reference point can help act as a gauge.
- How many places you’d like to visit. More time in one city that you get to know really well vs. less time in multiple spots.
- How often you’d like to eat out at nicer restaurants — as opposed to quicker (and cheaper) ones, street vendors, or cooking at your accommodation.
- Approximately how much you intend to pack. Will you be planning to go carry-on only for ease of getting around, or would you like to pack more clothing options?
Nothing is wrong here, and communication is key.
My partner and I have traveled within California, across the US, and internationally, and I’ve become a pro at what to look for in our housing options while we’re on the road. But would we be traveling the same as we always do, or would our honeymoon be different?
By talking openly about it, we not only reached a point of understanding and would stay within our determined budget, but it also made the planning process more streamlined — I could easily see which Airbnb and hotel options fit within our honeymoon plans and could ignore the ones that weren’t as well-suited for this particular trip.
By talking honestly about all of the above considerations, you’ll find out where expectations match up for the both of you as well as areas that may call for a bit of compromise.
And in the end, it will create a more logical way for you to eliminate a couple of those itineraries and hone in on the right one for your honeymoon.
Piece it together.
Looking at your three to five tentative trips from the first step and your honeymoon expectations from the previous step, start piecing some things together.
Set aside a chunk of time to dive into preliminary research on your possible destinations. You’re primarily looking to see which itinerary matches up the best with what you and your partner are envisioning, and this should hopefully help you see a couple standout options in the mix.
A few additional factors can also help the process along:
You absolutely can have that luxury vacation at a swanky resort in an expensive country — the caveat is that you may only be able to afford it for a couple of days rather than two whole weeks. In the same vein, you could live like royalty in other places that aren’t advertised as popular hotspots, allowing your money to go considerably further.
I always like to get an idea of the daily cost expected for food and accommodation that align with the vision for a trip (e.g., sit-down restaurants and a resort versus street food and a no-frills hotel), the prices for special activities and the transportation to and from a place. Then add in an extra 10-15% just for good measure. For guidance, use a trip budget calculator to figure out about how much things will cost in the destinations you’re thinking about, and this will put the trip you’re only imagining at the moment in a more realistic light.
PS — If crazy flight prices have you feeling down, you might get lucky on sites like The Flight Deal, Secret Flying, or Scott’s Cheap Flights — three of my top ways to get ridiculously inexpensive airfare.
The time of year.
For Americans especially, the honeymoon is not just some wonderful first trip you take as a married couple — it’s also one of the biggest trips (if not the biggest trip) you’ll take for a while.
Make sure it’s everything you want it to be by checking the weather and any special national holidays before booking your flight and accommodation. This could tell you to wait a few weeks until after the wedding before departing, or — if you’re like me — you might even use your dream honeymoon to help decide what time of year you have your wedding.
We both definitely wanted to experience warm days on the beaches of Sardinia, so that meant bumping up the wedding date a bit to catch the end of summer in Italy.
Remember that if you’re coming from the northern hemisphere, southern hemisphere locations have opposite weather.
So, for instance, if you’re hoping for snow and skiing in New Zealand, go during their winter (like July or August). If you’re excited about wandering the streets of cities in Vietnam, look up their monsoon season (October to December). If you can’t wait to sit back and relax on Ipanema beach in Rio, keep in mind that Carnival yearly attracts thousands of tourists in February and March. Do you mind being among them?
Your gut instinct(s).
After doing some of this thorough researching on each destination, check in with your partner again. Do one of these places stand out to them? Do one of these places stand out to you? I’m a firm believer in going where you truly feel a pull to visit, so if you’ve got a good feeling on one of your itineraries then let your partner know. They may be thinking exactly the same thing!
At this point, you may discover that you both agree on which itinerary to pursue (hooray!). You may, however, still feel a little unsure, and at that point it’s nice to turn to others for a bit of input.
Use Pinterest to discover bloggers who have expert advice on the places on your list, or turn to the Wanderful community for advice from people who have been there as well. This can flesh out the potential trip a bit more and make things clearer when it comes to the decision-making.
Remember: There is no perfect trip.
So much pressure gets put on the honeymoon. And if you go in expecting it to be the most amazing trip ever, you’re almost guaranteed disappointment.
A honeymoon even to the most picturesque place won’t make you immune to the not-so-savory travel experiences like lost luggage, couple’s arguments, bad tour guides, questionable food, rainstorms, and a slew of other issues. With any luck you won’t have a single one of these problems, but your honeymoon is still just like any other trip. It helps to embrace a bit of imperfection here.
What will make your honeymoon perfect is not necessarily where you go or what you do, but who you get to share it with. After all, this trip is just the beginning of a lifetime — and, hopefully, a life full of travel — together.