You only get one honeymoon (hopefully), so you want it to be the stuff of dreams. Many couples have budgets that don't quite stretch as far as they would like. Much like a wedding, travel expenses can balloon quite quickly. But the reality of a tiny budget doesn't have to flatten the vision of your perfect trip. Follow my tips to craft an itinerary - heavy on romance and light on superfluous splurges. You can have a magical honeymoon without worrying about the credit card bills waiting for you at home. You can have a dream honeymoon on a shoestring budget.
The most crucial part of any trip planning is determining what you will see and do. I call this step curating your vision. I will help you streamline and perfect your honeymoon. But if you are looking for a dream trip on a tiny budget, you need to pick the right destination.
First, you need to hone in on your absolute must-haves. Have you always dreamed of wandering down the Left Bank in Paris? Perhaps you'd prefer to reconnect hiking and camping on the Scared Valley as you wind your way to Machu Picchu? Or maybe, after the hurricane wedding, you'd like to lay on a gorgeous Caribbean beach with free-flowing adult beverages?
Understanding the type of honeymoon you want is essential to crafting an itinerary and sticking to a realistic budget. Your budget will determine which destinations are open to you. If the max you can spend is $5,000, you will need to scratch the Maldives off your possible destination list.
Travel distance and duration of stay are two components that can quickly add up. The farther you travel, the greater the cost. If you are on the East Coast, traveling to Hawaii will incur more travel costs than jetting off to Jamaica.
Prioritize Your List
Once you select a destination, you will need to look at what you plan to see and do. I understand the desire to try and see and do everything in one trip! I fell into this trap when I went to France. I wanted to visit Paris, Alsace, the Champagne region, Loire Valley, the French Alps, and the French Riviera (basically, I wanted to go everywhere)! Not only would that be costly, but it is also impractical. Costs shoot up when you are continually changing cities and countries, so you need to focus. Write down all the towns that you want to see. Then prioritize that list to the top 3 choices. For me, I knew I wouldn't be happy unless I went to Alsace, Paris, and Provence. I vastly decreased the transportation budget by cutting down on moving. I even snuck in a day trip from Paris to the Champagne region. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a few things to get the ideal trip for you.
Continue the prioritization with sights that you want to see. Paris has hundreds of iconic landmarks that you are going to want to experience for yourself. Seeing everything that Paris has to offer will cost a fortune. Consider booking combination tours. For instance, when I was in Paris, I did an excursion that combined the Eiffel Tower, a leisurely cruise down the Seine, and a dinner show at the Moulin Rouge. I knocked off 3 of my must-sees in one afternoon, which saved me both time and money. My rule of thumb is: if you know you aren't going to be happy if you don't get to see something, then pre-book it. Otherwise, wait until you are on your trip; you might find that you don't have the time or desire to go.
Swap the Where or the When
Don't feel like you only have one option to get the honeymoon of your dreams. If it's a French flair, quiet cobblestone streets, art museums, and gourmet food that you seek, substitute New Orleans for France. You'll save bundles on airfare.
While Bora Bora consistently tops honeymoon wish lists, its white-sand beaches, and romantic overwater bungalows come with a high price tag. But St Lucia and Antigua offer a similar blend of picture-perfect shoreline and seclusion at a fraction of the price.
Notice the trend? Sometimes, the honeymoon feeling you're looking for is available in a place that better aligns with your budget. If your heart is on a particular destination, consider traveling during the shoulder-season. Off-season rates can offer significant savings. But why is it this off-peak travel time? Invariably, there is a reason that prices are down. Ask yourselves: Is it hurricane or monsoon season? Does everything close down during this time of year? Is it extremely hot or cold during the off-season? Are the beaches swimmable at this time? Traveling during shoulder season can offer a considerable tradeoff. Make sure you can live with the reasons before you put down money. For instance, I went to the Maldives during June, which is their monsoon season. It would rain every day for an hour or so. I traded a couple of hours being stuck indoors for saving almost $3,000 on my bill. I felt it was well worth the trouble.
Skip the Upgrades
Luxurious hotel suites of the drop-your-jaw-and-your-luggage class are excellent but overtly elegant, and over the top rooms should be your least concern. If you have planned everything else, and there is still room in the budget, get the overwater bungalow with a private infinity pool. Otherwise, forgo any unnecessary upgrades like water view rooms and swim-out suites. You'll spend most of the day away from the room.
Another splurge you might want to skip would be the honeymoon packages. All packages are not equal. Some include private beach dinners and couples massages; some include early check-in and free newspaper. ONLY upgrade your room to get a luxurious honeymoon package if you plan on using every bit! Typically you will find they have bundled many treatments that - when priced separately - are the same price. Instead of a fancy room, you will hardly use, opt to spend your improving the trip as a whole. Upgrade to private transfers; upgrade to a better resort, or splurge on that romantic spa day. These upgrades will improve the overall quality of your trip.
Use a Travel Advisor and a Honeymoon Registry
I have said it many times, so that I won't go into detail here. But if you want to save money on your honeymoon, leave the planning to the experts. A travel expert (like me) knows where and when to shop. To learn more, read my You Would Be Crazy Not to Use a Travel Advisor. I can also know the hidden gems that are as nice as the big resorts but come with a less jaw-dropping price tag. I have also pointed out the benefits of starting a honeymoon registry in many previous blogs. Are you wondering if a honeymoon registry is right for you? Click here to find out.
Your honeymoon should be unforgettable, but you shouldn't go into massive debt to get the fantasy trip. Prioritizing your nonnegotiables will lead you to the right destination for you. Bad news: you might not get everything you want out of one trip. But good news: you can go back later to experience more. You can use these tips to get your dream honeymoon on a shoestring budget.