Honeymoon Planning

Planning Your Own Honeymoon

Planning you own wedding and honeymoon simultaneously isn’t for the faint of heart.

There’s a reason why cruises and all-inclusives are popular choices for newlyweds. Planning a wedding is hard. The to-do lists are long. The logistics are maddening. Budgets can be scary. Things can get stressful quickly. Add planning a honeymoon on top of that? It can get tricky.

We’re still in the middle of it all, but I’ve learned some things along the way that I thought might be helpful to other couples.

Start Early

I know I give this advice all the time. I probably sound like a broken record, but more time to research and plan gives you the best chance of finding what you want. Make a list of all the places you both dream of going to and start narrowing it down from there. Make a budget. Do your research to see what's actually feasible. 

Know Thyself

Please, please, please take a honeymoon that suits you as a couple. If that means hiking and camping, do it. If that means going to an all-inclusive, do it. If that means taking a mini-moon somewhere nearby, do it. The honeymoon you want is the right honeymoon..

image:  Ales Krivec

There’s a (somewhat) tongue-in-cheek term I’ve come across a lot during our engagement: the Wedding Industrial Complex (or WIC). It refers to the people and things that make couples feel like they have to have, spend, or do to have a “real” wedding. Some examples are: personalized favours, a tiered cake, or an overpriced tulle veil.

I’d say that honeymoons are also a big part of the WIC.  There is a lot of focus on them being extravagant, exotic, incredibly romantic and, by extension of all of that, expensive! There are agencies that specialize in honeymoons. Hotels and resorts often have exorbitant packages available. Multiple honeymoon registries allow couples to ask  wedding guests to help fund their trip. 

There’s nothing wrong with using those tools (although I'm not convinced the honeymoon registries aren't tacky) or going to an all-inclusive or doing a "typical" honeymoon, but don’t feel pressured to do that if it’s not how you like to travel. 

Keep It Simple

Don’t try to go too many places or see too many things. Don’t pack your honeymoon with lots of travel from place to place. Maximize your days together and your relaxation time as much as you can. The one piece of advice that keeps coming back to me from other couples is that you will likely be exhausted for the first few days after your wedding. The point of the honeymoon isn’t to rack up a list of things you’ve seen, it’s to enjoy your time together as newlyweds. 

Our Experience So Far

I started bringing up the honeymoon pretty soon after we got engaged. As excited as I was about the wedding, I was roughly 1500 times more excited about the honeymoon! We talked a lot about the different places we wanted to go. Tahiti! Hawaii! Normandy! Italy! Japan! Spain! As you can see, we were all over the place.

I made lists. I made mock budgets. I did a ton of research. I looked at what felt like countless rentals and hotels. 

The options felt endless and the stakes felt higher than other trips. You only get one honeymoon and I wanted it to be perfect. My excitement plummeted and I got frustrated. Should we just do an all-inclusive?

At some point, after banging my head on the desk a few times and maybe a couple of tears, I realized I was being silly. We started at the beginning. We decided on Europe and were able narrow our options to three different trips. Two of them were to places neither of us had been. One was the Amalfi Coast. The other was Barcelona and Collioure in France. Those both seemed like they would be wonderful trips, but the rentals and logistics never worked out for us. I was really reluctant to let go of Amalfi because it’s such an iconic honeymoon spot. Would we regret it? I mean, look at this place:

In the end, we decided to start off somewhere easy and comfortable. Villefranche-sur-Mer was a natural choice. S has been wanting to go there since we started dating and I’m already comfortable with the town. It has the relaxed feel that I think we’ll need right after our wedding. We can wander down to the beach everyday and lay there for hours on end. There are enough restaurants and shops to keep us fat and happy. We wouldn’t have to go anywhere, but we also have the option of hopping on the train and exploring the coast if the mood strikes us.

Villefranche-sur-Mer

Villefranche-sur-Mer

After that, we’ll head to the Gard department of Languedoc region. It will be new for the both of us, which will make it special to explore together. We’re also lucky because we’re close enough to Provence to do some day trips into the beautiful Luberon hill towns, but we’re not paying Provence prices. 

I don't have the perspective to look back and say if the extra work of doing it ourselves was worth it, yet. I don't think this way is any better than another way, but I do feel like it's very us. And that's what was most important all along. Now that everything is booked, we feel like we have the honeymoon we wanted waiting for us. It took some time to get there, but we couldn’t be more excited.

After that, we’ll head to the Gard department of Languedoc region. It will be new for the both of us, which will make it special to explore together. We’re also lucky because we’re close enough to Provence to do some day trips into the beautiful Luberon hill towns, but we’re not paying Provence prices. 

I don't have the perspective to look back and say if the extra work of doing it ourselves was worth it, yet. I don't think this way is any better than another way, but I do feel like it's very us. And that's what was most important all along. Now that everything is booked, we feel like we have the honeymoon we wanted waiting for us. It took some time to get there, but we couldn’t be more excited. 


Friday 5: North American Honeymoon Destinations for Nature-Lovers

It's time for another instalment of the Honeymoon Series! Today I've put together 5 North American destinations for the nature-lovers out there. Each trip offers uniquely beautiful landscapes, outdoor adventure, and some romantic luxury. Plus, they're not just for honeymoons!

Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada

A no-brainer for our short-list since we got engaged in Algonquin Park. It would be a great destination for any couple that really wants to get away from it all. For the truly adventurous, there are remote ranger cabins throughout the park that offer incredible opportunities for hiking and seeing wildlife. Some of the cabins are even waterfront, so it's like having your own private beach. But they don’t have running water or electricity and most of them need to be reached by foot and canoe.

If that sounds nuts, Bartlett Lodge is a beautiful lodge located on Cache Lake (video link for email subscribers). It offers upscale camping (I refuse to call it galloping), cottage rentals, and rooms in the lodge. Guests can be on the meal plan and have breakfast and five-course dinner at the lodge. They focus on local goods and fish from the lake. A short video about dining at Bartlett Lodge here.

Kauai, Hawaii

Ah, Hawaii! A perennial favorite for honeymooners. My parents honeymooned here and have talked about how beautiful it was for years and years. Naturally, it was on of the first destinations we talked about for our own honeymoon. We looked into Kauai because it seemed to offer a nice balance between beautiful beaches and dramatic landscapes from the cliffs of the Kalalau Trail on the Napali Coast to the lush Waimea Canyon. We never found a rental we loved, but if I could splurge we’d probably stay at Koa Kea Hotel and Resort on Poipu Beach or the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa

"Oxbow Bend outlook in the Grand Teton National Park" by I, Michael Gäbler. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via  Wikimedia Commons 

"Oxbow Bend outlook in the Grand Teton National Park" by I, Michael Gäbler. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Rustic luxury and some of them most breathtaking landscapes in America. This trip was at the top of my list for a little while. I thought it would be wonderful to stay at the Rustic Inn in Jackson so we could visit Grand Teton National Park.

"Yellowstone River in Hayden Valley" by Ed Austin/Herb Jones - http://www.nps.gov/archive/yell/slidefile/water/creeksstreamsrivers/yellrdbelowlake/Images/13240.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via  Wikimedia Commons  

"Yellowstone River in Hayden Valley" by Ed Austin/Herb Jones - http://www.nps.gov/archive/yell/slidefile/water/creeksstreamsrivers/yellrdbelowlake/Images/13240.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons 

Then, we would take a road trip to Yellowstone and stay at Old Faithful Inn or one of the other summer lodges. I still think this would be a fantastic honeymoon for the right couple! Actually, I just think this would be a fantastic trip, period. 

"Lake Louise 17092005" by Gorgo - Photo taken by author. Licensed under Public Domain via  Wikimedia Commons  

"Lake Louise 17092005" by Gorgo - Photo taken by author. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons 

Lake Louise and Banff, Alberta, Canada

I’ve seen iconic pictures of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise resort so many times that, frankly, I’m just dying to go there at this point. It’s located in Banff National Park on the stunningly pretty Lake Louise surrounded by the Canadian Rockies. Alongside a beautiful spa and restaurant, they offer Mountain Adventure Programs during which naturalists and historians take guests on half-day hikes, full-day hikes, and guided canoe trips. I’d be all over a guided hike one day and a canoe trip the next. Afterwards, a trip to the spa for massages might be in order.

"Banff Avenue - Cascade Mountain". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via  Wikimedia Commons  

"Banff Avenue - Cascade Mountain". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

There are plenty of other activities and sites outside of the resort from hiking to cycling to whitewater rafting. For a slower pace, there’s always Banff Upper Hot Springs, the Banff Gondola for amazing views of the mountain ranges, and the town of Banff for shopping and eating. If you’re really craving the city, Calgary is about a 2 hour drive, which also makes it easy to get to a major airport. 

Santa Fe, New Mexico

There’s a reason why New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment. There’s nowhere quite like it from food to landscape. It has beautiful weather—it’s a dry heat!—and since I’m from New Mexico, I’ve been wanting to take S there since we started dating. The Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado seemed like a perfect spot. It’s nestled at the foot of the Sangre de Christo mountains on 57 acres next to the Santa Fe National Forest, but it’s also only 10 minutes from Santa Fe. 

"Atop Tesuque Peak Looking Towards Santa Fe Lake (7271534354)" by Thomas Shahan - Atop Tesuque Peak Looking Towards Santa Fe LakeUploaded by Jacopo Werther. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via  Wikimedia Commons  

"Atop Tesuque Peak Looking Towards Santa Fe Lake (7271534354)" by Thomas Shahan - Atop Tesuque Peak Looking Towards Santa Fe LakeUploaded by Jacopo Werther. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

Want adventure? You could fill your days with hiking, exploring ruins, or whitewater rafting in the forest.

And culture? How about decadent meals, an evening at the Santa Fe Opera House, shopping at the Flea, or the Santa Fe Indian Market (in August), or Spanish Market (in July)? (Must-watch video link for email subscribers)


That's it for this week! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

For the rest of the Honeymoon Planning series click here.

Friday 5: Italian Honeymoon Destinations* (Round 1)

When we first started looking at honeymoon destinations, Italy was at the top of my list. It’s been awhile since I’ve been there and S has never been. When I landed in Rome for the first time while on a trip with some friends during my senior year in high school, it was the first time that I felt immediately comfortable in a place. I have a special place in my heart for Italy and I wanted to show him how incredible it is. 

Italy, in my opinion, has it all when it comes to honeymoons. Romance. Great food. Great wine. Lots to see and do. Beautiful beaches. History everywhere. Cosmopolitan luxury, if you want it. Rustic countryside, if you want it. I’m not sure about you, but I couldn’t ask for much more. 

Today’s Friday 5 is a look at some of our top contenders for Italian trips. 

1. Le Marche

If you’re looking for a quiet destination that gives you some of the rolling landscapes of Tuscany but also seaside options along the Adriatic, check out Le Marche. Urbino, a Renaissance hilltown, is a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site. Monti Sibilli, which serves as a border between Le Marche and Umbria, offers the Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini for hiking, walking trails, wildlife and pretty views. We looked into doing a few days in Florence and then heading to Le Marche to get away from the crowds.

Where we did consider staying: La Corte del Gusto near Arcevia (about 1:20 drive from Urbino), a collection of beautifully renovated farmhouse apartments with panoramic views of the Marche countryside.

2. Puglia

Located in the heel of Italy, Puglia (or Apulia) is a coastal region is known for dramatic seaside cliffs overlooking the turquoise waters of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Hot sun and white buildings set against blue sky and sea. Cliffs and caves. Unique architecture (check out the round truly), ancient ruins, and deeply rooted history. Old olive groves and rich rolling farmland make it famous for its food. (video link for email subscribers)

Where I would consider staying: Trullo Isabella near Martina Franca (That bbq! That private pool! That patio!) and I would make it my business to eat at Grotta Palazzese , a cave restaurant overlooking the sea that I've been dreaming about for years. 

3. Venice

There are few places with the allure of Venice. It’s somewhere we often hear so much about that we feel we know it before we ever visit. Uniquely romantic and sometimes mysterious with its rich architecture and meandering canals and passages. Venice is best when you get away from the crowds and allow yourself to get lost. Although it’s extremly touristy in areas, exploring the city beyond St. Marks and the Rialto would be a beautiful honeymoon (or part of a honeymoon). My one tip is to take the water taxi to and from the airport for an exhilerating ride into and out of the city.

Where I would consider staying: For an all-out Venetian luxury experience, I would probably go for the Ca'Sagredo, a 15th-century palace turned hotel on the Grand Canal for a few days. 

By Internt Consulting (originally posted to Flickr as - St. Kassian) [ CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

By Internt Consulting (originally posted to Flickr as - St. Kassian) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Dolomites

A stunning mountain region for a couple who loves alpine villages, rich and hearty food (Speck! Italian apple strudel! Polenta!) and craggy mountain landscapes mixed with lush valleys. Perfect for a week of hiking and exploring in the summer or skiing in the winter. 

Where I would consider staying: Hotel Rosa Alpina, located in San Cassiano in Badia. It has a Michelin-starred restaurant, Restaurant St. Hubertus, and a beautiful spa to treat any achy muscles after a day of hiking. Or the Villa Berghofer in Radein, between Bolzano and Trento. It has incredible mountain views from each of the rooms' balconies (really, go look!) and a cozy Tyrollean style.

5. Lake Como

Take your pick: Bellagio, Varenna, Menaggio, or go further afield to one of the other small towns. Stunning lakeside views of the green mountains plunging toward the water. Easy access to the surrounding towns for daytrips to sightsee, shop, and eat at myriad restaurants. Besides, if Bellagio and Lake Como is good enough for George Clooney, it’s probably good enough for most of us. 

Where I would consider staying: This pretty attic apartment in Menaggio with a beautiful terrace that looks over the lake.  


That's it for this week! While it started as a list of honeymoon spots, I fully believe that they are also "anytime" spots. I plan to keep updating these lists as I discover new places to go or stay in. I'm also going to branch out to different regions and countries over time.

Do you have any favourite places in Italy or have been to any of the ones I listed so far? Anything you think I missed? Let me know!   

Happy weekend! 

* not just for honeymoons, though!