I’m feeling the honeymoon love this week – I don’t know about you but my list of Top 10 Honeymoon Destinations in Asia has kept me daydreaming about sunny beaches (and camping with elephants) and inspired me to think a little more about honeymoon planning.
It’s funny isn’t it because if you were taking your honeymoon at any other time of the year you would spend months thinking about it, planning every little details and counting down the days. But let’s be honest, when it comes to honeymooning, the wedding kind of steals the show.
In fact, the honeymoon can even become a hassle *shudder*, another thing on the list to sort out, another conversation to have late at night after two days of sampling wedding food. Or is that just what I would do? I would definitely try and sample as much food as possible… my friend once told me when she got married that her and her fiancé went to their venue and ate everything on the menu to decide which bits they liked best. Can you imagine? I would definitely plan to eat my way round a few wedding venues.
Anyway, I digress, I wanted to help you with your honeymoon planning – not just talk about eating (again). So first up, a little confession; I am not married so have never had a honeymoon of my own but…. I have helped organise plenty of honeymoons (whereas most people only get to organise one, right!?) So I have a fairly good idea of how to plan the perfect honeymoon. So, hold onto your seats guys and let’s dive in.
1) Decide where turns you (both) on
Ok, this might sound obvious. But the world is such a big place, and it is easy to go, “Well, I suppose we should go to the Maldives”, or another popular honeymoon destination. And if you are searching for the most beautiful beaches in the world then I would thoroughly recommend the Maldives – but where have you both always wanted to go? Your honeymoon is the perfect time to go to that far-flung country you’ve both dreamt of visiting but never been able to justify. Why don’t you sit down over a bottle of wine and pick out a few countries that you’ve always wanted to visit… then we can move on to point two.
2) Getting the balance right
If you adore cities then you may want a few days in a city – but do you also want a few days on the beach? If you love food, does the chosen country have a great cuisine? (For me that’s really important – there’s a direct parallel between my favourite countries and great food – no surprises there!) Do you love the countryside and want to spend your days lost in mountains, staying with local families and exploring jungles? For many, the perfect honeymoon destination might be a country that offers two or three of the above scenarios (Vietnam is becoming increasingly popular for the variety it can offer honeymooners) but for those who just want the beach then you’d be better off in the Maldives or Thailand perhaps, where the beaches are truly spectacular. It’s also important your honeymoon is not too busy, which takes us nicely onto point number three…
3) Hire a specialist travel agent
I don’t mean one of the big boys who do everything, but find a specialist travel agency with personality who will get to know you both and make honest and helpful suggestions on your trip. A good travel agent will always speak to you before just sending you some ideas and quotes – they will listen to your interests, ideas and ask you about the type of accommodation you’re after – do you want luxury, character, boutique, western style? For example, at Fleewinter we specialise in Africa, Asia and Caribbean holidays – we don’t do everywhere but what we do, we do well. Each country is looked after by one travel consultant, who has either lived there, still lives there, or has spent months there and is wildly passionate about the place you’re going. This isn’t just a sales-pitch for my company, but if you want to take a trip across North America, for example, find a company that is passionate about North America and knows it inside out. You may feel sceptical about getting an agent to organise your honeymoon, and I get that but to be honest you have enough on your plate and a good agent will do a better job then you at putting everything together – that’s their job! And a good agent will quote you direct prices (they get commission from the hotels, not from you) so it doesn’t even cost anymore. The other important thing to consider, is that an agent will ensure you are not too rushed, for example – I always try to make sure people don’t have less than two nights anywhere and really try to judge how long they would want in each place according to their personalities. I am not afraid to tell people they are trying to do too much… and you might need someone to give you that nudge.
4) Set a Budget
Actually this comes before contacting the travel agent. Make sure you set your budget and be realistic. If you want to go half-way round the world on your honeymoon you may need £1,000 each for the flights alone. It’s important you set a budget and stick to it, otherwise your holiday price could just keep going up and up as you discover more and more jaw-dropping hotels – and you don’t want to still be paying off your honeymoon when your first born starts school. Be realistic, if you haven’t got the cash, then be creative. Fly to Turkey with Easyjet and stay in a treehouse for a week (I actually know of a great place called Butterfly Valley FYI). It doesn’t have to be 5* all the way… or check out point number six.
5) Research the Weather
Will the weather be nice when you are going away? And does it matter? If you are heading to the beach then obviously you don’t want to be picking anywhere that’s in the middle of the Monsoon, but other places there might be advantages to travelling in the low season. For example, one of my favourite times of year to visit the Angkor Temples in Siem Reap is the rainy season because it is so much quieter and peaceful – plus, you can get some great deals on accommodation in the low season. So it really depends on the type of holiday you’re after.
6) Set up a Honey-Fund
If money is an issue but you really want to kickstart your marriage with the trip of a lifetime then why not start a Honey Fund with your travel agency. The idea is that you can create a page of your own, like this one here that I’ve done, and then your friends and family can contribute to your honeymoon instead of buying you a gift. It’s a great idea for couples who have already lived with each other and have all they need but it’s more fun and has loads more personality than just asking for cash. You should be able to personalise your page, make it fun, tell your guests about your trip and add pictures of your own. And it might just mean you can have the trip of your dreams after all.
7) Plan your honeymoon in good time
I have my hands over my eyes as I type this – this is the thing all travel agents dread… getting that phone call from a couple who want to honeymoon next month. Please, please, please, get started early. It is never too early to plan your honeymoon. If you have at least six months notice you’re almost guaranteed to get what you want – and let’s be honest having a honeymoon is all about getting what you want! You don’t want to hear, “I’m sorry Mrs-Soon-To-Be-Smith, the Deluxe Honeymoon Suite is full but you can stay in the barn out the back,” now do you?
8) Remember you get what you pay for
Be sceptical about great offers that seem too good to be true – because they might just be that. If you see a great offer for an all-inclusive honeymoon in the Caribbean then make sure you read the small print, because guess what – two star hotels also do all-inclusive honeymoons in the Caribbean and that might not be quite what you had in mind. Of course, you may find a genuinely good deal but I specialise in tailor-made tours and trust me, you get exactly what you pay for – don’t expect the world if you can’t afford the world.
9) Get a good camera!
What’s the point in spending all this cash on a great honeymoon if you can’t even capture it? Now, I know that these days smart phones are almost as good as a camera, blah, blah, blah. but I am a bit of a camera snob and personally disagree with that. My iPhone 5S doesn’t even come close to what I can capture on my Canon Powershot, let alone my DSLR. Just plan ahead, if you are snorkelling with turtles in the Galapagos then it may be worth investing in an under-water camera (I wish I had), if you are trekking in tribal villages then you might want to take some great personal portrait shots that your iPhone just won’t take. If you disagree then of course feel free to ignore my snobbery… just take a camera you are happy with – and one that will give you photos you will still love 20 years later.
10) Plan the packing
“What do you mean, plan the packing, I am getting married in five days,” I hear you cry! Ok, well then you should have packed last week. Get ahead of the panic and plan what you are going to take with you – because I am a self-confessed list geek I find it helpful to actually plan and write down outfits, that way I can co-ordinate tops or skirts and reduce the amount of clothes I am taking. Also, think about where you are going and what you will need for that area – for instance, taking a rain jacket on your honeymoon may sound super geeky but maybe it will become the thing you wished you had. For more packing ideas, take a peek at my packing checklist for holidays in Asia.
11) Think about what name to book your honeymoon in
If you are changing your name when you get married, think about what name to book your honeymoon in. Realistically, if you are honeymooning the day after the wedding it may be hard to travel in your new name. It is not impossible – you can apply to change your passport up to three months before your wedding date, providing you have your wedding license and all the necessary paperwork is in place. You must already have your new passport sorted, which will become valid on your wedding day. However, you can’t change a name on a plane ticket once it’s booked, so be absolutely sure that the new passport will arrive in time. Most brides tend to travel in their maiden name and then change it all after the honeymoon – which definitely sounds a little less stressful to me!
But perhaps the most important thing, once you’ve checked the points above, is to relax and get ready to enjoy what will probably be the most memorable trip of your life – with the person who you’ll be enjoying the rest of your life with. And that sounds just lovely to me.