Planning for your honeymoon takes as much time to plan as any other vacation, if not more.
The first thing that you'll need to do is start brainstorming around six months in advance. Both bride and groom should sit down and seriously contemplate what type of a vacation would suit them both. Maybe it's a relaxing week on a secluded beach, complete with sarong and flip flops -- the perfect way to take the edge off from all the hectic wedding planning. Or, for those opting for a quiet and modest wedding, the honeymoon may be the perfect chance to go wild and take an adventurous hiking trip. (Don't forget to pack your backpack with binoculars, a field guide, and comfy hiking boots.) Others may be perfectly content hanging out poolside on a chaise lounge, in a bathing suit, while donning sunglasses and sunblock. If so, a cruise vacation might be the answer. The sight-seeing kind might dig the European tour complete with loads of walking through historic venues on self-guided tours -- do ''not ''forget your Nikon.
The clues for which honeymoon to choose lie in the following points:
* Beach, country, city, sea?
* Hot or cold weather?
* United States or abroad? (Remember to consider whether speaking English is high on your priority list.)
* Activities you want to try or participate in? (Think nightlife, cultural entertainment, live music, hiking, biking, kayaking, wine tours, etc.)
* What type of food do like eating best? Exotic cuisine native to the area, room service, fast-food, or gourmet restaurants?
* Do you want to be somewhere that you'll be close to amenities such as shopping?
* Will family be involved in this trip? (This is an important consideration if you are thinking about a destination wedding.)
* To book a travel agent or go it alone? (Make sure that you can agree on who will handle the details.)
* Full-service, all-inclusive, hassle-free luxury or do-it-yourself, adventure without pampering? (Think five-star hotel vs. camping out in hostels or staying with friends and family.)
* Bustling environment full of people or a secluded retreat where interaction with the outside world is kept to a minimum?
The next point to consider is how much time you can afford to take off from your regular life. If you can only afford a week or less, it's best to keep your destination closer to home. Puddle jumping requires that you have time to get over jet lag and a week is usually not enough to become acclimated to have a comfortable vacation. Don't forget that the honeymoon can take place whenever is best for you. If a month after the wedding is more realistic to take off two weeks, then go for it. There are no rules.
Lastly, you'll need to consider what you can realistically afford. Don't forget to include transportation to get to your destination, plus transportation while on location, lodging, food, activities, and souvenirs. Sure, planning a honeymoon is fun and exciting, just be careful not to get carried away when it comes to budgeting. Coming home knee-deep in credit card debt may be a serious buzzkill.
By five to six months prior to the honeymoon you should have a flight booked to wherever you want to go. By three months, hotels, rental cars, and other details should be arranged. Don't forget to get your travel documents in order (passports, licenses, etc.). If you want travel insurance, this is the time to get it. By two months prior to the honeymoon, start getting yourself prepared. Double check your luggage and consider whether there is anything you'll need to bring along with you on your trip. You can start rounding up things that you think you may need to bring along -- think along the lines of toiletries, beach towels, travel iron, converter, and camera. At T minus one week, you better start packing, making sure to have your carry on and checked luggage all in order.
Where to Go
Your style will have a lot to do with where you want to go on a honeymoon. And, believe it or not, choosing the perfect destination is not as easy as you might think, especially when you consider the 200 plus countries to choose from, not to mention all of your possible U.S. destinations. Here, some guidelines for choosing the perfect locale:
* '''Sun, Sun, Sun''': Those with a love for the sun will probably be most content lounging by the pool or at the beach. Do you prefer peace and quiet or do you prefer to be a social butterfly? These are questions to ask yourselves as it will help determine the perfect locale. If you're into mingling, an all-inclusive resort might be the right choice. Otherwise, a calm retreat with remote beaches is your best bet.
* '''Glamour''': The height of luxury in pristine environments far from onlookers is your idea of paradise. Going somewhere exotic and feeling like a movie star is high on your priority list. Enjoy the sun and luxury in St. Tropez, Fiji, or indulge in a pampering spa honeymoon.
* '''Adventure''': Being a cast member on Lost or Survivor is right up your alley. Take your honeymoon in a place that offers excitement and action. Take a hiking trip in Central or South America, an African safari, or visit the pyramids in Egypt. You might even enjoy somewhere that offers fun sports like scuba diving, mountain climbing, surfing, or skiing.
* '''Cool and Relaxed''': This is a vacation for relaxation, so why not go somewhere laid-back? Try Jamaica, a quiet bed and breakfast beach side or in the snowy mountains. For people who want a bit of culture thrown in, try a quiet European city where you can tour the sights, dine in quaint local bistros, and retreat to a cozy suite.
* '''Jet Setters''': You can't imagine being separated from the gym and your morning latte. Sticking to the city is a great idea if you love the fast track. The Big Apple, Tokyo, and Ibiza are all upbeat choices for city folk or for those looking to party.
* '''Pure Romance''': Die-hard romantics will love beautiful cities in Europe such as Paris, the city of lights and l'amour or Venice, with it's enchanting canals, tiny bridges, and sweet gondolas. State side, Savannah, San Francisco or Napa Valley, Santa Fe, San Juan, and Honolulu are top picks.
Why pay for your honeymoon? Instead of getting another useless kitchen appliance, have guests put their money towards an experience of a lifetime with a honeymoon gift registry. The following sites specialize in these one-of-a-kind services. For more details about the etiquette involved with registering for wedding gifts, please see the guide on Creating a Bridal Registry.
* DistinctiveHoneymoons.com -- Simple and easy for your guests, but there are some extra fees for setup ($150) and handling (9%).
* HoneyLuna.com -- Whether you want to handle the booking yourself or if you'd rather hire a pro ($100 fee), this site sets you up with a personalized registry catered to your interests.
* HoneymoonWishes.com -- Very easy to personalize but you have to do most of the work. Nonetheless, it's free and your guests don't have to pay the service fee if you choose that option. Instead, the 7% fee can be deducted from your final gift amount.
* StarwoodHoneymoons.com -- Beautiful Web site with luxury in mind, but it won't offer the same personalization as the other sites. Airfare is not included, only hotels, meals, and activities.
* TheBigDay.com -- No sign up fees and possibly free handling if you spend $3500 or more. The best part, though, is the personalization and free wedding Web site.