Budget weddings: You don’t have to skip the honeymoon

by Karen on October 8, 2008

With Tony in grad school and me working part-time, we could barely afford to pay our bills let alone go on an extravagant vacation right after the wedding. We decided to put the honeymoon off for a couple years until after he graduated. We’d save now, then we’d go on a big vacation later.

The more we thought about it, though, the more we realized that you can’t really recreate the honeymoon two years later. We wanted that special time to just be together and marvel at the fact that we were actually married. You don’t have to go to an expensive resort on a secluded beach to get that feeling, though. It doesn’t matter where you go.

Here are some tips we used to plan a romantic adventure for under $1,000.

Stay close to home.

You don’t have to travel across the world and spend thousands on plane tickets. Just choose someplace that neither you or your spouse has ever been. Experiencing it together for the first time will make it extra special. We chose Washington D.C. because we’d never been there, and our new home is only a 6-hour drive from the nation’s capital.

Drive, don’t fly.

Even if your destination is a bit of a drive from home, it’s often cheaper to drive than fly, especially if your car is fuel efficient. We had to travel to Indiana for the wedding and then to Washington for the honeymoon. Flying would have involved three expensive one-way tickets for each of us. Because our car gets 35 miles to the gallon on the highway, we only spent $200 on gas to drive about 1800 miles.

Don’t forget to factor hotels into the overall cost if your destination is too far to drive in one day. Remember, though, when you’re honeymooning, the drive is part of the adventure.

Choose your destination wisely.

What kind of traveler are you and your future spouse? Are you looking for a relaxing beach getaway with no stress, or do you like to sight-see and stay moving on vacation? Choose a destination that will suit both of your travel styles.

My husband and I are sight-seers, and a beach vacation sounded boring to us. Washington D.C. was perfect because we love museums and historic sites.

Other frugal destinations include:

North and South Carolina’s Beaches - If you live on the East Coast and you’re looking for a beach vacation close to home, the Carolinas offer resort beaches at lower prices. Check out Myrtle Beach, SC or the Outer Banks in North Carolina.

Mountain Getaways –
If you both love the outdoors, consider a secluded mountain cabin or camping trip to reconnect with nature and each other.

Cruise to Nowhere –
If you’re desperate to spend your honeymoon on a cruise,  “cruises to nowhere” (with no port stops) or cruises with just one stop are a very cheap option. You can spend a few nights at sea with all the luxuries of a cruise ship for a fraction of the cost.

Road Trip -
Tony and I considered this option, and ultimately decided we’d have more fun in D.C. But a honeymoon road trip is a good way to see a lot of sights without spending a lot. Stay in cheap bed and breakfasts in off-the-map locations to reduce hotel costs. We still want to plan this kind of trip through New England before we move away from the East Coast.

Stay away from tourist traps.

Keep expenses in mind when you’re looking at things to do in your prospective destinations. Vegas might not be the best option for a honeymoon on a budget because you really have to spend money to have fun there. Remember, spending inhibitions are particularly low on vacation, so do some research and try to choose a place with a lot of fun, frugal activities that will keep you busy without tempting you to spend money.

Washington D.C. was the perfect frugal destination. None of the museums, monuments, or historic sites that we visited charged an admission fee, so we spent next to nothing on attractions.

Bring groceries.

Eating out is one of the biggest money drains on any vacation. Tony and I found a wonderful hotel in Georgetown that offered suites with full kitchens so we could cook some meals in the hotel room. Scout out a grocery store in the area and stock up on food when you arrive. If you cut your food budget by cooking in the hotel, you won’t have to feel guilty about splurging on a couple really nice meals.

Don’t forget to mention you’re on your honeymoon.

You shouldn’t bank on this when planning, but make sure you let people know you’re honeymooning. Many times people will go out of their way to make your travel experience extra special if they know you’re newlyweds. We even received a free upgrade to a luxury suite at our hotel (worth an extra $75 a night) when they found out it was our honeymoon. Even if they don’t offer upgrades, you’ll still get some nice well wishes. :)

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