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The honeymoon is a much-needed respite after months of wedding planning. For many couples, it's also the trip of a lifetime — the first long, exotic trip taken together. Heaven, right?
Not always: It is possible to do it wrong, thanks to ill-timed bookings, too-small budgets, and more. We consulted a few travel experts who specialize in booking honeymoons to find out what you should and shouldn't do when planning your post-wedding getaway.
The ideal time to book your honeymoon is six to eight months prior, especially if you're planning to go to a specialized resort, as premium rooms book up early. In addition, says Linda Dancer, of Honeymoons Inc., mergers between major airlines means fewer flights, longer layovers, and higher prices.
2. Not sharing the planning
When it comes to wedding planning, divide and conquer is often the best approach. But not when it comes to the honeymoon, says Jim Augerinos of Perfect Honeymoons. Too often, if one person handles the planning, you end up with a trip that's more tailored to his or her desires. Unless your spouse-to-be is uncommonly perceptive about your travel wishes and peeves, honeymoon planning should be a joint effort.
3. Choosing someone else's honeymoon
Wedding planning can be so overwhelming that it's tempting to simply copy another couple's honeymoon itinerary. They had a blast, right? Your pals may have loved that no-stress all-inclusive resort, but you might find it tamps your adventurous spirit. Or maybe you've heard your parents reminisce about their honeymoon in Bermuda your whole life. Just because they'd like to revisit their 'moon vicariously doesn't mean it's right for you. It's okay to solicit advice from like-minded friends and family, but take it with the proverbial grain of salt. This is your big trip; tailor it to you.
4. Not being specific enough about what you want
When you think "exotic destination," does that mean a luxury resort on an island renowned for its natural beauty? Or do you define it as a faraway foreign country where you don't speak the language? The difference between your "relaxing" and "boring" isn't always immediately clear. Define it for your intended. And, according to Dancer, if you're using a travel agent, a good one will know the right questions to ask.
5. Relying too heavily on Internet research
While "real person" reviews can help you get a feel for a place, the information can be outdated, biased, or worse: fraudulent. Also, says Augerinos, "Google will only tell you about what you put into it," making it difficult to discover hidden gems. Plus, it's time consuming. Web research can provide good ideas, but a friend or professional agent with first-hand knowledge is the best resource. According to Augerinos, "We won't sell a destination unless one of us has been there personally. We like to think of ourselves as human Trip Advisors."
6. Not seeking professional help
It's true that travel agents make their livelihoods by booking trips for folks, but using one doesn't necessarily mean your honeymoon will be more expensive. In fact, travel agents have insider knowledge on deals and discounts and cultivate personal relationships with hoteliers, which can sometimes mean a room's suddenly available in a booked-solid hotel. They also save you endless research time and can offer first-hand destination knowledge. "I like to say our service is threefold," says Augerinos. "We help you choose the perfect destination with the right fit, we do all the planning and researching, and we provide clients service while they're on their honeymoons. My job is not finished until my clients return home."
7. Shortchanging the honeymoon budget
Weddings can get costly quickly, and it's tempting to take it out of the honeymoon budget. But think about it: The typical wedding ceremony lasts six hours, while honeymoons usually last 10 to 14 days. Which one do you think you'll remember more? "It always scares me when a couple wants a seven-night luxury stay with an ocean view and can only afford five nights in a two- to three-star hotel. You just know they're going to hate it," says Dancer.
8. Leaving too soon after the wedding
It happens in movies: The happy couple floats strait from their reception to the airport, en route to their honeymoon. But the pros advise giving yourself some time to catch your breath between the ceremony and the big trip. You may have had a little too much to drink the night before, and you'll definitely be exhausted, so give yourself a chance to rest. "Leave on a Monday or even Tuesday following a Saturday wedding," says Augerinos.
9. Not balancing your activities
For most couples, a mix of adventure and relaxation makes for the perfect honeymoon. You'll want to explore new lands and take part in exciting activities together, whether that means pony trekking through the rainforest or exploring Paris on foot. But you'll also need time to recharge before getting back to reality. Be sure not to wear yourselves out — or give yourselves an opportunity to get bored.
10. Winging it entirely
For the more adventurous types, it's tempting to choose a destination, book a hotel for the first night, and take it from there. In fact, that may be how you always travel together. But, remember, your honeymoon isn't like any other vacation. It's the pause between one of the biggest — and busiest — moments in your life and the business of navigating a new reality together. Give yourself a break by going with a basic structure — booking your hotel rooms for the whole stay — then make room for adventure by choosing activities on the fly.