Getting A Sweet Deal On your Honeymoon
The perfect honeymoon haven can be a five-star resort or a starlit campground. It’s wherever your dreams, and your budget lead you.
Virtually every major hotel and country inn in the world offers some sort of honeymoon package or will quickly come up with one if they have a request.
The frills can range from a bottle of champagne by a heart-shaped pool to a picnic on a private island. Tropical resorts are particularly adept at making the most of their romantic surroundings and can rattle off long lists of package options. Many now even offer wedding ceremonies as part of their all-inclusive deals. (Sandals resorts in the Caribbean and Bahamas call them “WeddingMoons.”) You get married there, then settle in for a week’s vacation while your guests fly away after the ceremony. Although many of these packages sound the same — and seem to be similarly priced, as well — you have to brush the stardust from your eyes and make hard comparisons.
A good travel agent can be invaluable. Look at lots of brochures — and videos, if possible — so you have a clear picture of each place you’re considering. Then ask lots of follow-up questions — and don’t be afraid to query the obvious.
- Does that expanse of ocean you see stretching out beyond the rose-covered cottages lap at a beach that’s just a few steps away, or is it at the bottom of a steep cliff, reachable only via an hourly bus?
- How accessible are all those wonderful facilities?
- Do the pools stay open late enough for that moonlight swim you’ve been fantasizing about?
- How frequent is the evening entertainment, and where is it located in respect to your room? (You probably don’t want the disco too close)
When you’re tallying the costs, be sure to ask whether all taxes and service charges are included in the price quotes. And get the facts and figures in writing — and the cancellation policy. Note that when you’re dealing with a resort (or any other business) in a foreign country, U.S. consumer-protection laws can’t prevent you from being ripped off. Put deposits and final payments on your credit card, which gives you the right to withold payment while any disputes that might arise are being investigated.
For the best price, try to schedule your trip off- season — which means winter in Europe, summer in tropical getaways like Mexico and the Caribbean. And just because it’s your honeymoon rather than a business trip, don’t overlook a corporate discount you might be eligible for through your job.
Free spirits on a tight budget can exchange vows in many national parks for nothing. Some parks also allow receptions for a modest charge. One couple and 55 friends and relatives recently created their idea of the perfect wedding party in a California park for slightly more than $1,000, including food. With the proper permit, you can hold a ceremony (but not a reception) for free at the Lincoln or Jefferson Memorials in Washington, D.C. Park rules and fees vary widely, however, and unfortunately there’s no central information source. But if you have a favorite park, ask the visitor center how to get permission to have a wedding there.
Consider the costs of getting to your wedding or honeymoon site — popular destinations generally offer more flights, and more competitive bargains. But search your souls for your vacation style. Want to play among the cutting-edge trendies? Head for Miami’s hip-and-happening South Beach — almost any of the art-deco hotels on or near Ocean Drive will do. Considering the celebrity quotient, they’re hardly outrageously priced. Rates start at about $100 a day.
Think the SoBe scene will be too intense for more than a few days? Split your Florida time between hard-partying Miami and the laid-back Florida Keys. Want a variety of activities in one place? Don’t overlook Orlando, not just for kiddies anymore. A European trip offers countless options. If you go between October and April, you can find a variety of week-long trips abroad for less than $2,000, including airfare for two. You might want to focus on a single country, or one or two major cities such as London or Paris. You also could add a short cruise. Ship captains don’t routinely perform weddings anymore, but a number of cruise lines offer wedding and honeymoon packages that include a shipboard ceremony before embarkation or at one of the ports of call. Fees range from $225 for a no-frills civil ceremony on Norwegian Cruise Line to $2,700 for Princess’ “Elegant Paradise” package, which includes a service on the island of St. Thomas with a helicopter trip to lunch on a private island. In both cases, the cost of the cruise itself is extra.
For a free Guide to Cruise Ship Weddings and Honeymoons, you can call the Cruise Line Inc. at 800-777-0707. If you’re prone to motion sickness, however, you might want to stick to an inland waterway — Canada’s St. Lawrence or Europe’s Rhine or Danube Rivers — and not tackle the South Pacific (or even the Caribbean) on your honeymoon. Or just vow to start off your marriage and honeymoon on dry land.