Planning Your Honeymoon

Martha Stewart Weddings, Volume 28 2004

When planning your wedding, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the details -- and the need to please many people at once. By comparison, planning the honeymoon is unencumbered joy; it is a vacation, after all, and it's just for the two of you.

Wherever you go, make major reservations -- air, hotel, and rental car -- at least six months in advance. Popular honeymoon sites can be booked as far as a year in advance, especially during peak seasons such as summer or holidays.

Budgeting and Brainstorming
Do not go into debt to finance the honeymoon. Figure out what you have -- or can save -- and use that as your guideline. Then you can start talking about where you want to go. It could be a South Seas getaway with nothing but a bungalow and miles of beach, or you may prefer to spend your first weeks together shooting the rapids in the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho. Try to anticipate your state of mind just after the wedding. All couples are ecstatic, but some feel emotionally and physically exhausted after going through such a life-changing event. Before embarking on a 12-day, 12-city European tour, you should remember that you'll want to set aside time in your travels to enjoy each other.

Research
Spend a Saturday at the bookstore, browsing through travel books and jotting down the names of intriguing places. Explore the Internet, which offers seemingly limitless information on places to stay and things to do. Many countries and states have official websites, where browsers can request brochures and maps to be sent to their homes. Or stop by a travel agency, and fish through brochures in person. You shouldn't expect to make any decisions overnight -- take a few weeks to have fun dreaming.

After you've narrowed your search, start pricing destinations and determining the availability of transportation and accommodations for each trip. You can continue to get information online, start making phone calls on your own, or use a good travel agent. Get the recommendations of friends or family, or call the American Society of Travel Agents (800-965-2782) to find one in the area. A travel agent will be able take care of all the details: booking flights, accommodations, and any necessary ground transportation.

Finalizing Your Plans
When you are ready to reserve plane tickets, hotel rooms, a car, and other necessities, consider making reservations for activities such as scuba diving, attending the theater, visiting a museum, or dining at a special restaurant. If any of these activities require advance planning, ask your travel agent for assistance; or if you are staying in a hotel or resort, call a couple of months before your arrival to ask if there is a concierge.

 Travel tips:

- If you decide on a honeymoon abroad, you need to remember that, as a rule, the more remote the locale, the more time and energy it will take to plan the trip. A travel agent who specializes in the region can be especially helpful. Aside from breaching frustrating language barriers when making reservations, a knowledgeable travel agent knows about necessary documents such as passports and visas and any required inoculations.

- A bride should either put her maiden name on tickets -- the tickets have to match her passport or other form of identification, and there won't be enough time to change it if you're traveling right after the wedding -- or be prepared to travel with the marriage certificate to avoid running afoul of airport security rules.

- Request seating assignments and order special meals at the time you book your flight. Make specific room requests, such as nonsmoking, ocean view, or high floor, when you reserve your hotel.

- If, upon arrival, you find that the room is not to your liking, ask for another until you're offered one that suits your needs.

- Inquire about hotel check-in time, particularly when traveling abroad; if it isn't until 3 p.m. and the flight arrives at 7 a.m., you may want to splurge for the evening before so you can go straight from the airport to your room.

- When arranging car rentals, specify the preferred type of car. If you prefer the type of vacation in which all the accommodations, transportation, meals, and activities are taken care of with one phone call to book the trip, consider an all-inclusive resort, package trip, or cruise. Each will provide the convenience of dealing with one travel supplier for almost all of your needs.

- Good deals may be found online or from a travel agent.

- A concierge attends to the guests' needs, which can mean anything from recommending the quickest way to get to the theater to reserving a helicopter for an aerial tour of the countryside. The concierge can be an invaluable asset during the planning stage and a wonderful ally when you arrive.

- This trip should be blissful, but travel always comes with surprises: Flights are delayed, and luggage is lost. Remember that patience prevails; being flexible goes a long way.

 Don't forget the small organizational details that will make the trip smoother:

- Have all required official documentation in hand at least one month before traveling.

- Order travelers' checks, and purchase a few hundred dollars' worth of foreign currency for any immediate needs in the country.

- Keep records of important trip documents, written confirmations, and any notes taken during the reservation process in a folder or file box. Also include such things as credit-card numbers and their corresponding emergency phone numbers, the numbers on travelers' checks, and the phone, fax, and names of your personal physicians.

- Just before your departure, photocopy all the information: Take two sets of copies with you -- one in your carry-on luggage and the other in your checked luggage -- and leave the originals with a relative or trusted friend at home.

- In the weeks before you leave, buy any necessities such as travel-size toiletries, film, batteries, and sunscreen, and refill prescriptions for medicine you need to take.

- Make arrangements for a house sitter, plant waterer, or kennel at least two weeks in advance. If no one is staying at your house while you're away, the post office can hold your mail; you should put a temporary stop on the newspaper, and make sure someone will be able to receive deliveries, such as wedding presents, that may arrive in your absence.

- Reconfirm your air arrangements -- a day ahead for a domestic trip, three days ahead for a foreign one. If you're leaving early the morning after your wedding, make sure your bags are completely packed before the ceremony. Give your announcements to a bridesmaid or family member to mail, and arrange to have someone take your wedding dress to the cleaner the day after the wedding. If you're staying in a hotel, request a wake-up call when you check in.

- Don't forget to arrange for transportation to and from the airport.

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