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How to Choose Your Honeymoon

Martha Stewart Weddings, Spring 2006

You want your honeymoon to be the most memorable trip imaginable. Here are tips for finding the perfect spot to celebrate your first days as husband and wife.

The world is wide, and choosing a place to go for that special trip can be a lot of fun. Do you want to go to a city? Are you enchanted by the idea of a cruise? Or is hiking in the wilderness what you're looking for? Consider the old honeymoon standbys Bermuda, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Hawaii -- but also spend time thinking together about places you've always wanted to visit: perhaps London, to see Buckingham Palace, or Japan, visiting the temples of Kyoto. There are no hard-and-fast honeymoon rules. Whether you spend yours in a tent on the Appalachian Trail, cruising the Caribbean on a mega-ship, or taking it easy in a quaint beach town, you can wind up having the time of your life.

If you are having trouble deciding where to go, each of you can write down five dream destinations. Should one name show up on both lists, you will have a good place to start planning.

 

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City Vacation
If you enjoy dining, the arts, and shopping, an urban trip might be your best choice. This works well in any season, but be sure to get theater tickets and reservations for special art exhibits and tables at popular restaurants in advance. (A good guidebook, such as Fodor's, will give general information; check the city's local paper online for current updates.)

Paris is a dream choice for a honeymoon, of course, but it is expensive. Cities closer to home offer many pleasures, and you'll spend less money both getting and staying there. Delight in shopping Chicago's Magnificent Mile and sampling one of its treasures: deep-dish pizza. Romantic Santa Fe has art galleries, fabulous food, and Native American color. A city destination calls for casual clothes but gives opportunities for dress-up dining, so pack some pretty dresses, too. Also consider visiting a city in the off season; it will save you money, and you'll feel like a native without all the tourists. Moscow, for example, is fun even in winter, when the ballet season is in full swing and the Kremlin's museums, packed with the czars' riches, can be seen in virtual solitude. (In a very big city, especially abroad, it's a good idea to hire a private guide through your hotel for at least a day. You'll see a lot in an efficient way.) Cape Town, South Africa, with its warm climate and fine wines, is pleasant all year round, and tourists flock to the glitz and excitement of Las Vegas regardless of the season.

 

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Nature Exploration
If vacation bliss for you means the outdoor life, the season is critical. Will it be warm enough for hiking or cold enough for skiing? If you are thinking of visiting a national park, remember that they are found throughout the country, not just out west (Arcadia in Maine and Hot Springs in Arkansas are but two examples).

In every case, the national-park lodges get fully booked months in advance, so reserve early. And to take the popular overnight mule ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, it is essential to reserve six to eight months ahead (www.grandcanyon.com).Skiers might want to take a dream trip to the Canadian Rockies, staying at quiet inns accessible only by helicopter. You have to be a good, but not great, skier to do this. No certification is required and some equipment is provided (www.canadianmountainholidays.com). Another possibility: If you are getting married in June but love to ski, why not spend a weekend at a romantic inn after the wedding and take your real honeymoon the following winter? An outdoorsy vacation does not necessarily have to be all adventure all the time. You can combine hiking and biking with spa treatments and candlelit dinners; just look for destinations near luxury hotels.

 

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Beachfront Trip
After the wedding, hitting the beach may be the perfect way to relax. Many of the Caribbean islands, such as Jamaica, are known for all-inclusive honeymoon resorts: Your meals, drinks, sports, and tips are included in the price, so you can be sure what the trip will cost. The disadvantage for some: It keeps you tied to that particular beach and resort. Also, if you don't drink or snorkel, for example, you will wind up paying for things you don't use. Traditional hotel resorts -- including the well-known hotels in Hawaii -- offer everything you would get in an all-inclusive, but you pay only for what you actually eat, drink, and do (which makes exploring local restaurants a fun option).Then there are beach communities, each with its own character. Key West, Florida, has small hotels and bed-and-breakfasts along with a lively nightlife. Victorian architecture dominates Cape May in New Jersey, and North Carolina's Outer Banks combine history, nature, and sea activities. Be sure to search online to check which things you must book before you arrive: a special open-air couples massage, for example. For a truly unforgettable honeymoon, try a beach on an exotic island: the Maldives in the Indian Ocean are serene, unspoiled, and deluxe.

 

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Cruise Option
Many couples take a cruise, but not all pick the same sort of ship. New mega-vessels offer everything you'd find in a land-based resort, from well-known spas to signature-chef restaurants. Cunard's Queen Mary 2 even boasts a full-size planetarium. At the other end of the scale are smaller expedition ships, such as Lindblad Expedition's 60-passenger Sea Voyager, which cruises the coast of Central America. In between are more traditional ships, such as Holland America's Westerdam, which sails Alaska's Inside Passage as well as the Caribbean. The Wind Surf, a superb 308-passenger Windstar Cruises ship that sometimes covers the Mediterranean, can slip into small ports the big ships can't.

Don't just pick a vessel by its size or itinerary; get an idea of its personality from your travel agent (it's best to use one to book a cruise). Will the partying go on late into the night? Is dress for dinner formal, or are jeans okay? Also check prices for shore excursions and tipping policies. Most lines don't include tips (these can add up to hundreds of dollars) and charge for off-ship excursions, which tend to be pricey. Consult your travel agent to see if you can do the same things on your own; if not, factor in the costs.