A Reasonable Honeymoon

This is the fourth entry in a five part series this week on the stages of a relationship and how you can make financially sound choices throughout. Other entries include courtships;, engagements;, weddings, and marriages.

Many couples immediately follow their wedding with a honeymoon – and for good reason. A honeymoon is a great time for a newly married couple to bond and discover together what marriage means for them. At the same time, though, a honeymoon can be a huge expense that can weigh down the early years of your marriage.

My wife and I went on a very expensive honeymoon. We traveled to Great Britain, stayed a week in a hotel overlooking Hyde Park, and ate at expensive places the whole time. It was a magnificent trip, of course, but looking back on it, it was a mistake. Not only did it leave us with a giant debt to overcome, the memories we both hold from it are of each other, memories that could largely have happened anywhere.

That’s not to say a honeymoon is a mistake. Here are ten tactics for putting together a great honeymoon that won’t break you.

Ask yourself if you even want a honeymoon. For some couples, a honeymoon might not even be the right option. Perhaps both partners feel that it’s not an effective use of time, or perhaps there are other circumstances that make a honeymoon difficult (like an upcoming birth, etc.). Maybe you’re both content settling into a new home – or into a home together. Ask yourself (and your partner) whether you even want a honeymoon.

Do something that expresses what you both want – and what your relationship is about. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of a huge, over-the-top honeymoon. It sounds so romantic, doesn’t it? Yet, when I look back at the trips I’ve been on with my wife, I have more great memories from trips where we did something that we both found personal value in than I do from our honeymoon. My favorite trip of all wasn’t our honeymoon – it was a long camping trip to a national park. Why? It better reflected what we’re about than a big over-the-top trip.

Consider going local. You don’t need to go on a giant trip, either, to find a romantic getaway. There are many, many great places near where you live that are completely unexplored. Look at the states adjacent to your state – places you can easily drive to. You might just find the perfect place far closer to home (and thus far less expensive) than you would have previously thought, allowing you to enjoy a longer honeymoon and still spend far less than you planned.

Focus on time you can spend together – don’t load the trip down with social events and sightseeing. My best memories of my honeymoon revolve around simply spending unplanned time with my wife, lounging around and going on walks together. Don’t load up your honeymoon with a ton of planned activities – instead, let the time simply flow. Spend it together and enjoy each other above all else.

Focus on simple, romantic moments – a picnic in the woods, for example. My best memory from our honeymoon? My wife and I ate a picnic lunch on a hilltop. Seriously. We just looked around, enjoyed the weather, and talked to each other about anything and everything. If you want to create special moments on your honeymoon, don’t go for the ostentatious and elaborate. Go for the simple and beautiful.

Consider going camping. Camping? In a tent? On a honeymoon? Absolutely. I’m speaking from experience here. The most romantic trip I ever went on with my wife came the summer after our honeymoon. We went camping for four days, two in Olympia National Forest and two on Mount Rainier. Totally secluded, totally quiet, and wonderfully romantic. No pretensions, no plans, no pressure – and no big bill at the end.

Hit your social network for help and suggestions. You might be completely surprised as to what pops up. One of our friends wound up with a week at a cabin on a lake in the next state for free because they asked around for honeymoon ideas. Another couple I know wound up with free plane tickets, covered by a friend who gave them tons of unused frequent flyer miles for the trip. Just ask for ideas and see what bubbles up. If nothing else, you’ll get some interesting suggestions.

Plan far in advance – and keep up with it, too. Much as with wedding planning, you’re better off planning far in advance. Schedule your trip as early as you can, then regularly look around for better prices and opportunities. After all, you can always cancel reservations if you do it early enough. Doing this allows you to price compare at your leisure without the risk of losing a great opportunity.

Go native. If you’re planning on traveling to a place you’re unfamiliar with, don’t focus on the tourist-y places – or, if you do, do it only for a day or two. After that, go native. Ask locals where they enjoy eating and what they like about the area. You’ll often find yourself involved with experiences you’d never expect and great stories to tell, plus the prices are usually far cheaper once you get away from tourist-heavy areas.

When actually traveling, don’t hesitate to tell people that it’s your honeymoon. Time and time again, we got nice upgrades and other treats on our honeymoon just by mentioning it. We got a better hotel room. We got a ton of privacy on the plane (first class was full, but they moved us to seats with tons of leg room and no one nearby). We got a really nice free dessert at a restaurant. All of these things were free – they came from people who were happy to help us celebrate and make our honeymoon just a bit nicer.

Got any good, reasonable, frugal advice for people planning their honeymoons? Please leave them in the comments.

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