Planning a honeymoon should be a fun, pain-free process and a welcome reprieve from stress-inducing wedding decisions, such as choosing flower assortments, seat assignments and registry items. But oftentimes, after juggling hundreds of tasks for the big day, brides- and grooms-to-be make common trip-planning blunders, such as procrastinating, miscalculating their budget and forgetting to account for extra travel costs. Here are eight common planning mistakes honeymooners make, and advice from top travel pros on how to ensure your post-nuptial getaway is as memorable, romantic and worry-free as it ought to be.
A top misstep among couples is procrastinating. According to Katie James, associate features editor at Brides, it's smart to start planning six to eight months in advance. For trips to Mexico and the Caribbean, it's best to book eight months in advance since repeat travelers book rooms early, making it exceedingly busy between December and April, says Tom Marchant, co-founder of luxury travel outfitter Black Tomato. And for Mediterranean getaways, it's a smart idea to book in February or March to avoid the peak-season rush, he says. As for trips to far-flung places with limited availability, like gorilla trekking in Rwanda, Marchant suggests making plans nine months to a year in advance.
Traveling Too Quickly After the Wedding
Many couples opt to get married in June and take their honeymoon immediately after in June or July. "This means they're traveling at a time that is peak season for many destinations, which means crowds and prices are at their worst," explains Wendy Perrin, founder and editor of travel-planning site WendyPerrin.com. "June is when school lets out, families go on vacation and kids invade resorts. Most honeymooners probably know to choose romantic hotels instead of kid-friendly ones, but that's a lot harder to do in June and July, when so many romantic hotels switch gears and cater to families," she adds.
James also recommends carving out some time to recoup immediately following the ceremony. Weddings have become complex, multiday affairs, she explains. "In reality, once the party ends, brides and grooms are still reeling from the stresses of planning and the excitement of the weekend," she says. To ease into relaxation, she recommends unwinding from a post-wedding high with a few days off before jet-setting on a big trip.
Planning an Ill-Timed Trip
No matter where you want to go, it's essential to consider seasonality. "If honeymooners know they want to go to the Caribbean or Hawaii, they'd be smart to take their honeymoons in early November or early December, when the weather is lovely, deals are abundant and room upgrades are more likely … because resorts aren’t full," Perrin says. Plus, you don't want to be "in the wrong place at the wrong time – say, on safari at a time of year when they won't see many animals, or on an Asian island during monsoon season," Perrin adds.
Miscalculating the Budget and Neglecting Extra Expenses
It's no secret that a wedding can be an expensive rite of passage. That's why it's key to factor in honeymoon costs from the outset, James says. Beyond flight and accommodation costs, it's critical to consider extras such as tour guides, meals and car rentals, she adds. While many couples are eager to splurge for a bucket-list trip, "most trips end up being more expensive than imagined, simply because there are extra costs and mandatory surcharges [such as] resort taxes and fees that the traveler didn't factor in," Perrin says. And don't forget to consider extras tacked on at all-inclusive properties, she cautions. "For example, a la carte dining, alcoholic drinks, room service, spa treatments and motorized water sports might not be included. Always ask what is and is not included in an 'all-inclusive' package," she says.
Forgetting to Factor in Best Value
If you're itching to plan a big trip on a shoestring budget, go where the dollar is strong, says Travelzoo deal expert and associate producer Allison Kobasky. "Southeast Asia is perfect for this. Meals cost about $2, activities like cooking classes and market tours [cost] between $20 to $30 per person and souvenirs are pretty much always negotiable," she says. Europe is another great place to land a bargain thanks to the euro's decline, Kobasky says. "Think Portugal and Spain, which offer a mix of vibrant cities and laid-back beaches, with cuisine catering to all budgets," she says.
Skipping Travel Insurance
Think of travel insurance as any other wedding investment, James says. She recommends turning to TravelInsurance.com, a reputable travel insurance search site, to weigh your options with different insurance providers. "If you're paying a large nonrefundable deposit far in advance – say, for a cruise or a safari or a vacation package – then you want to protect your investment in case you need to cancel at the last minute or unexpectedly cut the trip short," Perrin explains. Also, consider health-related concerns. "If you get sick or injured during the trip, you want insurance that covers medical emergencies and the cost of getting you to a doctor or hospital you trust," she adds.
Neglecting to Turn to an Adviser
If you want to get special treatment, choose a reputable travel agent who will serve as an advocate and offer lucrative benefits thanks to cultivated industry connections, Perrin explains. The more money you're planning to spend, the more a top-notch agent can enhance your vacation with generous perks such as suite upgrades or complimentary spa treatments, she says. "Additionally, hoteliers want to pull out the stops for honeymooners, so that they have an especially memorable experience of the hotel and tell all their friends for many years to come and spread great word of mouth about the property," she adds. "The right [travel agent] will know your hotel's general manager, will have negotiated preferred rates and VIP benefits for his clients and can ensure you'll be spoiled rotten."
Forgetting to Read the Fine Print
While booking a package deal may seem enticing, it's essential to make sure the promotion aligns with your travel goals and style, James says. "For instance, if you're a big massage guy, it makes sense to book the package that includes daily spa treatments; but if you get seasick easily, it's probably not worth paying for one that includes a sunset cruise and a fishing excursion," she explains. It's easy for honeymooners to exceed their budget "if the package includes activities they're never going to do or meals they’re not going to eat," Perrin says. That said, meals at top-rated, far-flung resorts can be exorbitant, so if you're planning to dine in an isolated luxury destination like the Maldives in Southern Asia, booking a package that includes some meals is an easy way to trim costs, she says.
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