Ahh, your honeymoon. No doubt you should be planning some intensive part of your wedding and yet, here you are: tired of looking at flower arrangements, needing a reprieve from researching DJs and other vendors. Let’s start with the obvious: The wedding industry is so much like the illegal drug trade. Think about: it’s usually cash only. You get your product from a guy who knows a guy. And above all else, the product is meant to make you feel like you need more, more, more! But we digress.
If you’re like us, you’ll end up having your honeymoon fully planned and booked before your wedding! We’ve spent some time polling friends, drawing on our own experience, and utilizing some new research on honeymoon habits to bring you the best honeymoon destinations in the world, based on your personality and travel style.
We’re a savy generation, but you already knew that didn’t you? Brandon Warner, the Co-founder of Traveler’s Joy says millennials are spending more or less the same amount on honeymoons as generations before, but there’s one notable difference: They’re managing to travel longer on their honeymoon, spreading it out typically across three weeks. Warner notes that some of the top travel destinations he sees on his travel registry website are South Africa, Southeast Asia, and New Zealand.
So whether you’re one of the estimated 35% of honeymooners who, according to Brides, are choosing to stay in the USA, or you’re heading on a longer trip, you’re no doubt discussing: where should we go?
For the Beach goers
Hawaii is the natural draw in the United States. Of all those who stay in the USA for their honeymoon, almost half head to these islands. The Caribbean is next in line. So, if a beach destination is your goal, here is our advice:
Look on Groupon Getaways, Living Social Escapes, and Jetsetter. But do you really save any money on these websites? According to research and tests run by the website Price of Travel– yes! What’s more, if you go through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall or a similar airline shopping portal like AAdvantage eShopping, you’ll earn a bonus 3 points per dollar at Groupon and Living Social at the time of publication. One friend booked a trip for he and his wife to Australia through Groupon and earned close to 20,000 bonus miles because they were running a special promotion at the time.
But where should you go? If all inclusive is your thing, figure out what matters most to you. Are you looking to be in a new country? Are you interested in shorter flights so you spend more time at your destination? Does the language spoken in the country matter? We’ve had friends do all inclusive stays at Club Meds and Sandals and report great things about it. Others find smaller all inclusive resorts through places like Groupon, Hotels.com (you’ll earn hotel nights and again, can book through portals like Chase or AAdvantage eShopping) and report positive (and slightly cheaper experiences) as well.
If you want to go off the beaten path- our advice is simple:
1. Thailand: The beaches of Thailand are incredible, and the prices are hard to beat. We stayed at the Milky Bay Resort in Koh Phangan in 2012, and the price per night was shocking: $31 after taxes and fees. The other islands of Thailand are just as beautiful.
When to go? Well, like most things in life- it’s complicated. The Andaman Coast has monsoon weather from May to about mid October. The gulf side has a different pattern, and different monsoon according to our friend Connie who is traveling through the region. On the gulf coast, they heavy rain periods are usually October to January. We were on the gulf side in June and while it was hot and humid, we had very little rain.
2. Belize: It’s hard to beat Belize. It’s close to home, English and Spanish speaking (and a slew of other languages entertain your ears), and there are destinations for every travel style. Is backpacking more your style? You’ll find a home on Caye Caulker, off the shore of Belize City. Want a resort in a more off-beat location, where the food is simple but good, your patio has a hammock overlooking the beach, and the people are friendly? Pelican Beach Resort is your place, but grab a rental car, as it’s really removed from the city and other activities in the region. If you’re looking for a slightly more upscale and active experience check out San Pedro Island, close to Caye Caulker.
When to go? Peak tourism season coincides with the worst winter season in the USA. March to May are super ideal, and avoid hurricane season from July to October!
For the Urban Planning Nerds
If you like big cities, architecture, and museums, where do you go? Everyone knows Paris is an option, so we won’t even go into depth other than to say the obvious: it’s hard not to find romance in Paris. But where else?
1. Asia: Tokyo and Hong Kong are two of the most fascinating cities you’ll ever find. The food is great, the architecture diverse and stunning, and the museums varied and engaging. If you’re smart, you could plan a multi-city trip that covers both cities on one honeymoon, and maybe throw in some beach time in a place like Bali for good measure- since you’re so close and all.
When to go? It’s hard to time it right with both cities. For Tokyo, if you want to see the famous Cherry Blossoms bloom, check this website for the optimal predicted time but plan on the spring. Fall is great as well. Hong Kong has a more temperate climate, so we love it in the winter and were challenged by the heat and the humidity on our first visit in June.
2. Madrid and Barcelona: Not only are the tapas legit, the wine free flowing, and the architecture stunning, it also has some incredible museums. There are more than 40 museums in Madrid, and boy are they diverse. Case in point- we finished up looking at Picasso’s Guernica in Reina Sofia, hopped on the subway to head to the “museum” tour I was most excited about: The illustrious Santiago Bernabeau aka stadium of Real Madrid! We got a tourist card, and we didn’t regret it as it gave us free or reduced price access to most of the museums we wanted to see!
When to go? This one is simple: Fall and spring. Summer is very hot, and winter is very cold.
3. Alternatives to Paris: If you’re looking for European romance, but not looking to do Paris, we’ve got you covered. Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and the most romantic too. Strange sounding I know, given that it’s most famous features are pot brownies and a giant red light district. But the bike culture, the canals, it all sweeps you up! If Amsterdam isn’t your thing, we’ve heard time and again Budapest is a more affordable alternative to Paris. We can’t say for certain that’s true yet, but rest assured we booked a trip there this fall to investigate for you.
When to go? For Amsterdam, I really think anytime of year. The city would have a romantic feel even on the coldest of days. Summer reminds me of a nice day in San Francisco, and tulip season is usually from early April to mid May.
The Adventurous Traveler
You’re hikers. Runners. Adrenaline junkies. People who would go insane sitting on a beach sipping Mai Tais. Fear not, we’re the same way, sort of. While I can go back and forth between adventure and lounging, Laura is a bit more adventure driven. We tried a cruise once, and after about 6 hours of reading by the pool I noticed she hadn’t returned in a while. I walked the ship until I found her…when I saw her and a bunch of elderly women taking a class learning how to make towel animals, I knew we wouldn’t be the cruising type.
1. New Zealand: We love New Zealand. It’s where we did our honeymoon, so we’re a bit territorial on this one. If you go, the rules of engagement are simple:
- Thou shall not try and shove New Zealand and Australia together in one quick trip. It’s foolish. The two places are beautiful and deserve attention all to themselves. Pick one and go to it.
- Thou shall not spend more time on the North Island than the South Island. We started in Auckland and everyday we arrived at a new place would remark: “Now this is the most beautiful thing we have seen yet. When we got to the South, we shut up and just soaked in the most beautiful land we have EVER seen ANYWHERE! Start in the North, travel to the South, and spend at least 66% of your time in the South; you won’t regret it.
- Though shall rent a car. Don’t try and fly everywhere or do bus/train–you’ll really miss out on the beauty of the country, and the fun (for Americans at least) of driving on the “wrong” side of the road. We came home to Los Angeles after nearly four weeks there and kept turning on our windshield wipers when we tried to change lanes. Don’t understand? Soon you will, we hope.
When to go? Depends on what you want. We were there in their summer season, but of course they’ve got great skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Shoulder seasons might be a bit more rainy, but will offer cheaper prices!
2. Hiking the Swiss Alps: We reached out to friends on Facebook about awesome honeymoon experiences, and got some really great answers. We can’t vouch for the Swiss Alps personally, but a friend raved about it, and sent us this link and this one for any would be hikers that want to plan a honeymoon hiking the Haute Route.
When to go? The trail weather seems best in late July and August, but as any hiker knows, mountain conditions can vary greatly, so follow those packing lists closely!
The GLBT Honeymoon
I don’t need to tell you that while same-sex marriage is becoming more and more accepted throughout the United States, other countries aren’t so warm to the idea. We all saw the articles about how Russia was treating the GLBTQ community in the lead up to the Olympics. And while many a gay couple might want to go to Africa, they’d be better off avoiding Uganda, a country that had one of the most repressive anti-gay bills until it was overturned on a technicality: an absence of quorum when first passed. And finally, the Caribbean (with the exception of St. Barts where gay marriage is legal) isn’t exactly known to be the most gay friendly destination, with Jamaica standing out as one place you really might want to avoid.
So where are the BEST places for a honeymoon? The list is actually large, and growing. Our picks?
1. The Americas: Argentina is very gay friendly, being the first country in South America to legalize same-sex marriage. Buenos Aires has style. Mendoza has wonderful Malbec and other wines. If Iguazu Falls can’t make you an environmentalist bent on protecting mother nature, who knows what will. The country has it all, with pretty good prices to boot!
Puerto Vallarta is a close second, with what’s described as a very gay friendly scene and of course beautiful beaches for miles and miles.
2. Africa: South Africa not only has anti-gay discrimination laws in the books, they also recognize same-sex marriage. In the center of it all is Cape Town, a scenic and gay friendly town.
3. Europe: The options are many. The Netherlands are known for their tolerance and openness but our tip is simple: Go to the only nation to date where the people of the country voted to legalize same-se marriage: Switzerland. While other countries have legalized gay marriage, the Swiss voted for it. Shouldn’t surprise anyone there!
Cultural Immersion/Community Service
We can’t lie: Service trips are hard to pull off. As this niche market for travel has become more popular, many a tour operator with less than noble intentions have entered the space. Often times, the best of intentions lead to problems, as tourists either support corrupt organizations or take economic opportunities away from locals. As someone who runs international service and immersion trips for a living, let me clue you in on a little secret that’s sometimes hard for our Western egos: We’re actually not that good at the service we seek to do, and it could be done much better by people in the local community.
And yet, like I said, I run trips like these, so surely I must believe in them! And that’s true, as long as the partner is good, and the trip is done right. So what can you do?
1. South Africa: Check out Open Africa. Open Africa is all about taking tourists into authentic experiences in rural communities in South Africa that might not always get tourism dollars. You see another side of South Africa, and your money supports the local economy in an incredible way.
2. Go WWOOFing: Working on an organic farm through WWOOF is not for everyone, but it might be right for you: In exchange for work on the farm, you get food and housing.
3. Work on a project for The Sierra Club: The Sierra Club runs a number of trips each year that would be great for any nature enthusiast.
If saving money is important, there are some great options for you!
1. Central America: If you’re departing from the USA, it’s hard to beat Central America. Costa Rica was the most enthusiasticlly recommended spot when we reached out to our friends on Facebook. The tourism sector is well developed, the prices are good, and the country has incredible eco-diversity. And while Costa Rica is the go-to option, we love Nicaragua, a country that likes to boast they are the more affordable, less discovered version of Costa Rica.
2. Southeast Asia: If you can save up airline miles to get a free flight out to Southeast Asia, the prices are nearly impossible to beat! Thailand, Cambodia andVietnam have affordable hotel options, and cheap food.
3. Eastern Europe: If the romance of Europe sweeps you off your feet, and the prices of Western Europe knock you flat on your butt, consider other less traveled parts of Europe. Some friends of ours did their honeymoon across Croatia, Hungary, and Prague and rave about it to this day, both in terms of price and experience.
In the USA
While the desire is often to explore a new country, a honeymoon could be a great time to explore your own backyard a little more extensively. The United States offers a ton of great honeymoon options. Below are a few of our favorite ideas.
Talk about taking the scenic route.
1. Road trip on Highway 1: From Dana Point in Orange County, take off to explore the 735-mile California coast. Stop in Santa Monica, take a jog or a quick surf in Malibu, make enough time to sit and stare at the geographic wonder that is Big Sur, and enjoy Half Moon Bay, the Bay Area, and Mendocino County.
2. Brewery adventures: Laura and I love our beer, and there’s two cities that love us right back in our quest for the best: San Diego and Portland. Time in San Diego gives you the best of so many worlds: spend a day at the beach, a day in Mexico eating really good tacos, and a day or two exploring the quirky breweries of San Diego. Our favorite San Diego breweries are Balast Point, Lost Abbey, and Stone. White Labs must be seen to be understood and while we were fascinated by the science behind the place, we didn’t enjoy the beer as much as other breweries.
3. Islands, of a different variety: Everyone thinks Hawaii when they think the islands, but we suggest you go East, WAY East, to South Carolina. Charleston, South Carolina is a quaint little city and not far from it is Kiawah Island. And of course there’s Cape Cod and its nearby islands, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, just off the coast of Massachusetts–a place where life just moves slower…and that’s a good thing after a big event like a wedding!
4. Road trip the Four Corners: The serenity of Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The hiking of Utah. The skiing and mountain communities like Aspen, Colorado. Lounging in the heat in Scottsdale? What’s not to like about an adventure in one or all of the four corner states. Bonus points to whoever goes to the point where the four states meet so you can say you were in four states at one time!
What did we miss or what did we get wrong? Thanks to everyone who sent us suggestions and tips over Facebook!
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