Sunday, August 22, 2010

The budget honeymoon

Whenever I pick up a bridal magazine, I read about hotels that are part of amazing spas and have wonderful restaurants and you have a personal charter boat at your beck and call at all times. And while normally I would say that the magazines are insane and no normal person would stay there (like how I think nobody would spend $300 on a white t-shirt that is in the Vogue fashion spread), when I read about normal people going on their honeymoons, it's usually on an amazing trip; for a longer time, something elaborate, something you wouldn't usually do.

I've started to think the honeymoon industry takes a lot of our wedding attitudes over to our honeymoon - it has to be a fantastic, out of this world, once-in-a-lifetime trip. It has to be the perfect romantic place. First of all, you must leave the country. You must stay in an all-inclusive resort or go on a cruise that is romantic and relaxing. You should go on tours that other people plan for you, so you don't have to do any work. You should go out to eat all the time - you are on vacation!

I have a problem with this attitude, because I think it makes people feel like their honeymoon should be a certain way. I think you should do whatever works for you and your partner for your honeymoon. Mark and I are not going on a "typical honeymoon", for a few reasons.

One reason is the simple fact that we travel a lot. We go on dive trips, family trips, spur-of-the-moment trips, camping vacations, etc. Since we have been engaged, we have gone to Chicago, England, the beach, Toronto, Bonaire, Long Island, and Hershey Park (it was my post-bar trip and it was awesome). We are unbelivably fortunate to be able to travel (both in that we are in good health, and that we can sort-of afford it.) We also travel pretty cheap - hostels, priceline hotels, cooking our own meals, budget dining, splitting meals, signing up for a discount card at a grocery store because it got us 2-for-1 admission to the aquarium.

The way I see it, because we're not going to stop traveling, we should spend not-a-lot on our honeymoon and then be able to spend more on other trips later. We could spend $5,000 on our honeymoon, or we could spread that out over 3-5 trips. And since for our honeymoon, we can't possibly hit Spain, Egypt, Hawaii, and Australia, saving some money to be able to spend that on additional trips makes sense.

I also like our style of traveling. There is no better way to get to know a culture/place than to head down to the local grocery store, buy food, and prepare it. It's usually still exotic and different, but it's cheaper and cooking togther in a strange place is a great bonding experience. I like taking public transit and staying in hostels where there are other people to hang out with. I like doing laundry on trips so we don't have to pay to check bags. I like walking everywhere. I like getting discount tickets to attractions. I like taking a picnic lunch with us instead of stopping at a restaurant to eat. I am lucky that Mark likes our style of traveling too, and we have found a way that works for us. (I am aware that a lot of people do not want to figure out what the Italian word for baking soda is.  There are also people who do not want to travel a lot, and that's totally up to them.)

In the high-dollar world of honeymoon traveling, our style seems foreign. There is a lot of pressure to not travel in a budget or culture friendly kind of way. Arguments are plentiful as to why an exception should be made - it's stressful to try to stick to a budget, to travel as cheaply as possible; for some people it is their first trip together so they don't know how they travel together; it's your honeymoon, you shouldn't have to worry about stuff; the wedding is so stressful you will just want to relax; and my personal favorite - you only get one honeymoon.

The only difference so far with our honeymoon is that we thought we could use it as a reason to take a longer than usual trip. That wound up not being the case, and we're taking a week.  We've set a low budget, we used a free Southwest coupon for half our airfare, and you can bet we'll be figuring out the cheapest way to get into all the museums and aquariums.

Another reason we're being a little more budget minded about our honeymoon is that we can be - although some people might get a little judgy, we don't really care. For our wedding, if we try to get cheaper food and it doesn't taste good, or our refusal to rent nicer chairs results in one of our guests breaking a folding chair, it will hurt our guests. If for one night of our honeymoon we wind up staying at a crummy hotel somewhere because we didn't want to spend a lot of money, the only people it really bothers is us.

When I hear my parents, or people of their generation, talk about their honeymoons, they all seem so much simpler. My parents went out to the Southwest and traveled around, camping and staying in $6 a night hotels next to train tracks. I know at least one of my aunts went to a cabin in West Virginia. I have some friends who have gone on simpler honeymoons as well - honeymoons within driving distance, etc. The only disadvantage I see of these is that you are not out of cell phone range. I think the answer is to leave the cell phone at home. Some people might call a short trip somewhere local a "minimoon", because if you can drive to it, it can't possibly be a honeymoon.  I don't like that term.

Are you treating your honeymoon like a regular trip or like a special, no-holds-barred exercise in luxury traveling?


  1. I like your style! I don't like the term "mini-moon" either.

    We did treat ourselves to a nice honeymoon! We went to Vegas, which is actually a lot cheaper than I thought it would be.

  2. >> Are you treating your honeymoon like a regular trip or like a special, no-holds-barred exercise in luxury traveling?

    Um, or somewhere in between. Although, I suppose most would place us in the latter, but they weren't privy to the finances of our trip.

  3. We definitely had a once-in-a-lifetime sort of trip. It was a surprise for me, so I don't know exactly what was in my partner's head as he planned it, but it was something along the lines of

    a) we never travel like that... we're usually the camping/budget type,
    b) we had the savings from his year at a really awful but well-paying job,
    c) we're looking at life in seminary for 3 years, and then life in the priesthood, and there's not a whole lot of opportunity or money for big trips in this life (for example, our priest had to cancel her involvement in a medical mission to Guatemala when a parishioner passed away the day before they were leaving--that's just a fact of life when you're in that role)

    So, we did it--we spent a couple days in Quito and then went on a cruise in the Galapagos Islands. And it was amazing. One of the most extravagant things I've ever done, but I'm not going to lie, swimming with the sea turtles and sea lions was totally worth it.

    Also, expensive hotels aren't all alike--we stayed in small, but pretty schmancy, places in Quito that were a million miles from the huge luxury hotels down the road. There's a whole different atmosphere when a hotel has 10 rooms (and at one point, there was only one other room taken) and their whole goal is hospitality. The staff at Casa Aliso connected us with a driver for a day of exploring outside of Quito--we started off by going to his house, where his wife made us burritos and we passed around his guitar for a little musical sharing. It definitely made me realize that you really can connect with the local culture no matter what your budget is.

    But as always, everyone's situation is different, and I think spending less on one trip so that you can take more is an awesome, smart idea. Anyway, I should stop before I right an entire blog post as a comment ;)

  4. Going for cheap, baby! We already live in San Diego, so we already live in a vacation. We're throwing our bikes in the back of the SUV and heading up the coast as far as we make it, with the only planned stop in Santa Barbara wine country for some wine/hiking/bike rides.

    We decided that the real reason for a honeymoon was to break your normal routine and just be together. You don't need to spend a ton of money for that!


  5. We had to travel back to our hometown for our wedding, so I was not in the mood for a TSA/multiple layover type of honeymoon. We ended up going someplace in the state we currently reside (Florida) and he flew us there (although the plane was free through his work and parking the plane at the airport was cheaper than parking our car at the hotel). We did stay in a nicer hotel than normal, but ended up coming up under the budget we had set for ourselves. We did share dinners, but more so because the restaurant portion size is typically way over what we normally can eat. It was extravagant for us (we never go out to eat), but in terms of the bridal industry standard honeymoon, we were probably pretty tame.

  6. We learned just one thing.
    Don't camp on your honeymoon.

  7. Our criteria for a honeymoon was decided by needing something cheap, needing something close to Alex's parents who were watching Lucy for us, and wanting to just relax together after a very busy year. We ended up staying on a lake in Wisconsin, in a cabin that his family owns. Not exaclty an exotic get away, but it was so perfect! We hung out by the lake all day, drinking wine, and basking in the sun. We read books, we wandered around the little lake town, we went bowling. Mostly we spent lots of time just being with each other. Wisconsin rocked as far as honeymoons go.

    Also who said you only get one honeymoon? We plan to go on many though out our lives!

  8. Add me to the Cabin Honeymoon team :)

    We traveled out of country to get to our wedding (we live in California and planned our wedding from here, but are originally from Toronto). After a whirlwind week of out-of-town visitors, last-minute wedding plans, and the wedding itself, we needed some quiet time! I'm so impressed by people who go on big trips right after the wedding, but honestly we wouldn't have had the energy :)

    Instead we had our honeymoon at my new husband's family cottage, and spent a week swimming, lounging, having campfires, and eating incredible gourmet meals that he cooked. Living in California is wonderful, but really not the same as a Canadian cottage summer, so having that time was really meaningful for us. My husband was also able to share so many things about his time growing up at the cottage, so that was very special.

    A few of our family members heard of our plans and conspired to get us a spa day at one of the local resorts nearby, so we did have some pampering included! All in all, this was probably the best wedding decision we made :)

  9. Three days in the Vermont backwoods. (Yes, it was a cabin.) It was too short, but other than that it was great. After the wedding, deciding what beer to order at the restaurant down the road that serves fresh local food was about as much planning and coordination as we could manage.

  10. We also went to Quito and then on to the Galapagos. It was an amazing trip and I am so glad we did it. I have traveled to many places, but my husband had only been out of the country once. I wanted a chance for him to experience a different culture. It was a once in a lifetime experience and it was expensive, but it was the right choice for us.

  11. I love luxury traveling. The honeymoon industry didn't need to sell me. If I could, I'd do crazy exotic trips all the time, and as it is, that is the main thing I save my money for. I've done the US to a large extent, and I've done Europe. Now I want to visit the world's best natural places, and that includes awesome Caribbean beaches. And if I can afford to do it in style, that's even better.

    I think everyone should do their honeymoon, and wedding for that matter, the way they want. I also often feel like I have to apologize for wanting such a stereotypical honeymoon, but that's just about my and Daniel's ideal vacation, so that's what we're doing.

  12. Like rebecca leigh and Angela, the plan was to hit up the Galapagos. However, there were other parts of South America that I really wanted to see, so we decided to wait until the weather was decent in both northern and southern parts of the country (you know, opposite hemispheres tend to mean opposite seasons and all that) to head down. Which meant that the big "honeymoon" trip was planned for winter, and our little mini-moon was planned for, well, now.

    We rented a beach house in the Outer Banks, NC, and are just happy to get away from everyone and everything wedding-related. Budget? Yes, fairly. But we're still happy to have an excuse for a larger trip. (Like you need one!!)

  13. I think we are going for somewhere in the middle. We don't travel a lot together. We've both done the same amount of traveling separtatly and we've traveled long distances to visit each other, but we've only really ever taken one vacation together. We camped and it rained the whole fricken time. Arrr. Ok calm down Ms. Bunny. It's in the past now.

    All that leads up to the fact that we don't really have a travel style yet. I like to rough it and I like luxury (although I've experienced very little of that). My ideal honeymoon would strike a balance between both.

    I think the over-the-top honeymoon sets a standard too high for most couples. I know many people who don't think their honeymoon was good enough because they didn't go somewhere a. far, b. exotic enough, c. for long enough. I think as long as you are getting away together, even if it's a few towns over, that is enough.