Wedding Week: The Honeymoon
Friday, June 9, 2006; 1:00 PM
With the wedding gauntlet finally run, it's time for relaxation and romance. But deciding what type of trip should be taken can be as tough as deciding whom to drop from your invite list. So when in doubt, reach out.
Nina Willdorf is the author of "Wedding Chic: The Savvy Bride's Guide to Getting More While Spending Less" and "City Chic: An Urban Girl's Guide To Livin' Large On Less." Her advice has appeared in Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Reader's Digest, New York Magazine, Women's Day, Seventeen and Redbook and she has been featured as an expert on several television outlets.
Willdorf was online Friday, June 9, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss all the possibilities.
A transcript follows.
Lorton, Va.: We'd appreciate any suggestions for a low-budget, 3-4 day fall honeymoon location requiring no car after arrival, preferably in the greater Charlottesville (Virginia) area, for a budget-strapped, grad-student couple. Thanks.
Nina Willdorf: With so little time - and a limited budget - your best bet will be to go out to the Northern Neck, along the Chesapeake Bay. But you'll want to rent a car. It'll probably end up being about the same price as a flight, so why not? It's about a 90-minute drive from Charlottesville to Fredericksburg, the gateway city at the northern tip of the Neck. Fall will be beautiful, and more affordable, as it's the shoulder season. Once there, it's all about softshell crab sandwiches, sleepy towns, and berry picking. Sounds like mellow honeymoon heaven to me.
Alternately, if you're looking for a more urban honeymoon (and yes, they can be fun), US Airways flies direct from Charlottesville to New York, a city where you truly don't even want a car. Contrary to popular belief, New York can be the most relaxing place to be-for not a lot of money. Stay in the West Village at the ultra-comfortable and chic Abingdon Guest House (abingdonguesthouse.com). Their rates start at under $200 a night, and some rooms have handy little kitchenettes so you can grab croissants in the morning and camp out in bed. Though you'll want to book now; they fill up well in advance! Walk to dinner at Gusto. And be sure to try one of their fabulous, inventive cocktails.
Silver Spring, Md.: I went to a wedding last year and instead of gifts, the bride and groom registered for a honeymoon. You could pick from the registry what you wanted to get them (I got them a candlelight dinner on the beach), with prices ranging from $15 snorkeling trips to $250 spa days. I thought this was a really great idea, and would like to do this. We're in our 30s and have lived together for four years, so our house is already outfitted. What's the word on registering for honeymoons rather than presents? Is it okay etiquette? How does one go about doing it?
Nina Willdorf: You're right. Honeymoon registries are a huge - and growing - trend. One popular company that coordinates these registries is Honey Luna (honeyluna.com). Here's how it works: You register with them; they break your honeymoon into separate components, which people can buy for you (i.e. a massage, a night's stay, a scuba trip.). There are small fees depending on how involved you want them to be in helping you arrange, plan, and coordinate your trip.
Some hotel chains, such as Starwood, now also have the capability to let guests create honeymoon registries at one of their properties. (And they have some really nice ones!)
Now, for the etiquette part. The truth is that while you may have liked being able to pick a honeymoon activity to purchase for your friends, the registries aren't popular with absolutely everyone. Some people see them as a bit gauche. The very nature of a classic registry is to help a couple set up their home together. In the modern day, however, your situation is an increasingly normal one; people's homes are already set up. They have the blender and the Cuisinart. And your guests are going to want to buy you gifts. In this kind of a scenario, it's really up to the couple to decide if it feels right. So if you do have a honeymoon registry, you may want to give your guests an option by having another, more classic, registry as well.
Washington, D.C.: Is Cabo San Lucas an ideal place for honeymooners? Do you know anything about Dreams or Las Ventanas -- both resorts in Cabo?
Nina Willdorf: Cabo San Lucas can be a really spectacular place to honeymoon. There are some truly luxurious properties there, and it's easy to get there from major gateways.
The actual town is built-up and fairly unappealing, so it's key to choose the right property, where you'll want to stay awhile.
Las Ventanas is stunning. One other, more affordable, option is a new spa property called Pueblo Bonito Pacifica. They don't allow kids, so the beautiful pools are quiet and mellow. And there is a full-service spa on property -- not to mention zen rock gardens.
Washington, D.C.: Thank you for taking our questions. Where in the Caribbean or Mexico would be a good place without much rain and plenty of sun in November?
Nina Willdorf: During the second half of November, the Caribbean is in its shoulder season, meaning its in between high season and low season. The prices will be better, and the weather is likely to be great (though you can never be sure!).
The end of November is also usually a lovely time on Mexico's Baja Peninsula. I stress, however, that it's the END of the month, as hurricane season can sometimes stretch into the beginning of November. So hopefully, that works with your plans!
Fairfax, Va.: Good afternoon. Thanks for taking my question. I'm a teacher who will be getting married next spring during the school year. As a result I only have 1 week (plus weekend) to go on a honeymoon. My fiance and I really would like to go to Hawaii, but we aren't sure it's feasible in that time period. What are your thoughts on the issue, or do you have other alternative places similar to Hawaii that can be better done in a weeks time?
Nina Willdorf: A week isn't ideal, but if you just choose one island, and book good, direct flights, it should be about enough time.
I'd recommend going to the island of Kauai. There are direct flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco, and it's small enough that you can drive from one end to another in under a couple hours. Spring is just lovely there, and it's a time of year when the northern, lusher part of the island isn't consistently drenched in rain, so it's actually well-timed.
One tip: I'd try to take more time. It may seem like you can't, but getting married is an awfully good excuse and you only have one chance to take your honeymoon! People usually understand.
Arlington Va.: The best advice I can give a newlywed is to NOT schedule your honeymoon immediately after the wedding. We were completely and absolutely exhausted after our wedding. I would have slept through the first two days of my honeymoon had we left immediately. We booked our trip/tour two weeks after the wedding out of necessity (the hiking tour across Crete was not available) but, in retrospect, it was a great move.
FYI -- we used REI's Adventure Travel -- not glamorous by any means but we always had clean accommodations and private bathrooms. We are by no means adventurous or even athletic but our tour guide was able to pace the hikes to all levels. Highly recommend them.
Nina Willdorf: That is a good tip. But one other way to handle it is to book a two-part honeymoon.
Yes, right after your wedding you're going to want/need to decompress and crash. That'll take a couple of days, and in my experience, it is best passed on a plush chair by an infinite edge pool. But after that period, you'll probably want to do something different, perhaps explore a little. So I think planning a honeymoon should have a couple of components.
Greenville, S.C.: How much do people usually spend on honeymoons? Is it a certain percentage of the wedding budget (a la the wedding cake, the bride's dress, etc.)? I realize it's up to the individual, but I just want some idea of the average.
Nina Willdorf: That's a good question. It does vary, obviously, but the national average is about $3,500. Now, it's possible to do it for much less -- and much, much more depending on what you're looking for.
Washington, D.C.: Hi, thanks for the chat. My wife and I will be going to the Maldives for our honeymoon, and our departure date also falls on my birthday. Do you have any tips on trying to get upgraded on the flight there -- we are flying Singapore Airlines.
Nina Willdorf: If only! The elusive "it's-my-honeymoon" upgrade is rarer and rarer these days, as flights are fuller and fuller. (And frequent flier programs become more popular.) That said, the people who hold the control are the gate agents, so your best shot is to give them your spiel, smile, and hope for the best. I've got to be honest; chances are slim (especially on international flights), but it's still worth a shot.
Washington, D.C.: I want to sit by a pool with a drink in hand for my honeymoon. My fiance wants adventure. Suggestions for places where we can do a little of both without breaking the bank?
Nina Willdorf: I'd look into the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. It's a surfer's heaven; it's very close to natural parks; and there are a couple very nice properties, that can meet your poolside fantasies.
For a splurge, check out Florblanca (florblanca.com).
Richmond, Va.: Hi Nina, what are some "diamond in the rough" tropical honeymoon destinations for those of us that don't have a lot of money?
Nina Willdorf: Good question! I'd look into Vieques, off the coast of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Both have properties with really good value -- and all the other expenses (food, activities, massages, etc) will be less than in pricier, more popular destinations.
Boston, Mass.: We're getting married 8/12/06, and plan to honeymoon the week after (8/19-8/27). We'd like to go to Europe, perhaps Italy or Greece, but hear it will be too hot. What do you think? And how should we go about finding lodging for our stay?
Thanks so much!!
Nina Willdorf: The Greek Islands will be gorgeous that time of year -- and definitely not too hot to be unbearable. At Budget Travel, we've published a couple articles about hotels in Greece, which you can find online at BudgetTravelOnline.com. Have fun!
Charlotte, N.C.: Oooh! A multi-component honeymoon sounds divine! Can you elaborate further with examples and/or suggestions?
Nina Willdorf: Sure thing. Here's one example. If you were to start your poolside decompression on a Greek Island, that's Step 1. After a couple days, the hot poolboy delivering cool cocktails will become just a little less thrilling. It's time to move on. Step 2 is to go to a place with more action. Say, Athens -- or even Rome. Nothing's all that far, and if you have two weeks, or more, you'll want to break the trip up into parts, anyway, to see as much as you can.
Washington, D.C.: My best friend is getting married and I want to give her and her fiance a gift that they won't forget. Do you have any suggestions for amazing restaurants in Maui or Kauai? I want them to get the royal treatment for a night out on the town. Thanks!!
Nina Willdorf: I'd recommend you check out links to these two articles we've published in Budget Travel magazine, about great places to eat and play in Kauai and Maui. Your friend will definitely find them useful -- and you can decide which restaurants sound like they'll be what you're looking for.
Washington, D.C.: What do you think of a safari in Africa as a honeymoon? Thanks.
Nina Willdorf: Love it! A honeymoon is a chance to take that trip you've always dreamed of. It's an opportunity to go far, splurge, and take all the time in the world. A safari in Africa is sure to be hugely memorable.
Washington, D.C.: My fiancee wants to go to Tahiti for our honeymoon (Sept 07), but I'm worried that it will be too expensive. We don't have much money now and will have to pay a large portion of our wedding. Any advice?
Nina Willdorf: Tahiti can be accessible to people on a budget, too!
The first place I'd look is Air Tahiti Nui, an airline that has been offering some pretty great fares, and packages. You're planning well enough in advance that you should be able to make it work on whatever your budget.
It's been a blast answering all of your questions today! Happy Honeymoons.
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