For most brides planning their weddings, anything that makes things easier is better. Perhaps that is why planning the honeymoon has traditionally fallen to the groom; having to plan a vacation on top of a wedding might make a Bridezilla's head explode. But there are things you can do to make the honeymoon go smoothly. We asked travel professionals and local newlyweds for advice. Here are our favorite tips.
Consider your options • Cathy Robinson, group travel coordinator at Brentwood Travel, gives a list to prospective honeymooners before they begin planning a trip. On it, she suggests that when picking a destination, bride and groom discuss their travel style (Do they want adventure or relaxation, fine dining or cheap eats?), make a budget, then consider weather, tourist seasons and more. If your heart is set on a specific destination, you'll want to consider the best time to go there and possibly book your wedding around that. "Sometimes people think of the honeymoon last, but what if it's the rainy season or what if that cruise is only offered on certain weeks of the year?" asks Amy Parris of Altair Travel & Cruises in Brentwood.
Use a travel agent • Face it, letting someone else sweat the details is always easier. In addition, a travel agent can think of things you've forgotten because you are juggling a million different plans. "My husband and I are experienced travelers. We both lived abroad before we were married and once flew to San Francisco for the weekend on four hours' notice. That said, a honeymoon is absolutely the moment to let someone else deal with the details," says Megan Fennell of Chesterfield.
Consider an all-inclusive • Because budgets are so important to brides, it's nice to know how much you're going to spend on your honeymoon beforehand, says Marsha-Ann Brown, director of romance for Sandals Resorts. "This is why I love all-inclusive honeymoon packages. These types of honeymoons allow newlyweds to relax and begin their life together fully enjoying all the different aspects and activities the resort has to offer without constantly worrying about how much they are spending." Along those same lines are cruises, which include many activities and food (though not usually drinks or excursions).
Register for your honeymoon • Couples getting married later in life already have toasters and dishes; what they don't have is a horseback ride on the beach. With the Traveler's Joy website (travelersjoy.com), couples can register for all aspects of a honeymoon, from helping out with the airfare to a scuba diving lesson to items you might want to bring, such as a camera. "It makes it really fun for the gifter," says Brandon Warner, co-founder of Traveler's Joy.
Do your research • Use sites such as Tripadvisor.com to see what others have to say about the places you want to visit. Lee Nguyen of Benton Park, who got married Oct. 2, suggests you "make sure to look through the worst reviews, because there is usually some truth there. If I had done this I would have known that the food was so horrible that it was almost inedible. I might have chosen a different resort with better food."
Look for deals • Sarah Barker and Doug Frye of Creve Coeur are planning their April 14 wedding and honeymoon. They learned after much research that it was cheapest to book on the resort's website (they chose Couples Negril). "The website (and many others) also sends out weekly specials, and the resort will match the deal if it is lower than the original booking price. That guarantee was important to us and made us feel comfortable booking well in advance. Another tip that we learned is not to book any extras upfront (diving, day trips, horseback riding, transfers, etc), since they will always be cheaper when negotiating a fair price," Frye says.
If you can stand it, don't make too many plans • Megan Fennell says she and her husband took much of their two-week honeymoon day-by-day. "The lack of plans allowed us to wander around the south of France for two weeks, staying in hole-in-the-wall places. One of our best finds was actually a private home where the family rented out rooms."
Plan for at least one splurge • It's your honeymoon, something you will (hopefully) only do once in your lifetime. Do something big so that you'll always have a story to tell. Swim with the dolphins, get a couples massage on the beach, go parasailing. "It's an important time for you," says Parris of Altair Travel, so make it memorable.