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How to pick a honeymoon destination

The InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa in November 2018Alison Goldman

Wedding days can be stressful and emotionally charged. Do you know what doesn’t have to be stressful and emotionally charged? Honeymoons — once you get on the same page about where you want to go, and how you’re paying for it.

We asked the experts for some advice.

Think about what type of honeymoon you’re seeking.

Start out by talking to one another about your preferred honeymoon experience, said Amy Hartle, one half of the duo behind couples travel blog Two Drifters.

“Discussing your expectations together before you go is very important, especially for some couples [for whom] it might be their first big trip together,” she said. “So just sitting down and talking about what you want from a trip, how you like to spend your time on vacation. Because if you think you’re going to do constant hikes and mountain trekking, and your husband wants to lay on the beach, you’ll have your first newlywed fight pretty quick.”

She and her blogging partner/husband, Nathan Hartle, “wanted a mix of adventure and romance” for their own honeymoon in 2016. They traveled to Canada, to the Echo Valley Ranch and Spa in British Columbia and then the castle-like Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta’s Banff National Park. (Both stays were comped because of the couple’s travel blogging.)


“There’s also a lot of value in an all-inclusive resort or something that’s planned for you,” Amy said, “because then you can focus really on your new spouse, and just total relaxation, especially if that’s what you’re after.”

US News and World Report travel editor Christine Smith and her colleagues put together a list each year of the top honeymoon destinations using travelers’ votes, as well as editors’ scores that take into account factors like romance and accessibility. The most recent list, published this past December, is overtaken by tropical locales like St. Lucia (No. 1), the Big Island of Hawaii (No. 2), Bora Bora (No. 3), and the Maldives (No. 4).


“So a lot of warm weather destinations with really pretty views do really well,” Smith said. “And then just really nice accommodations, whether that’s a cute, little, somewhat private inn, or a bed-and-breakfast, or a super high-end resort with some privacy. . . . So, for example, the Maldives and Bora Bora tend to do well because they offer these really gorgeous overwater bungalow resorts.”

Alternatively, dreamy cities and regions in Europe — like Bordeaux (No. 5) in France and Florence (No. 16) in Italy — attract couples with their historic streets and buildings, local food and wine, and activities like cooking classes and bike riding, Smith said.

Make sure you’re up-to-date.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, read up on your potential destinations — and not just about recreational activities. Is there a health risk there, or political unrest? Regarding the former, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a “Travelers’ Health” page where you can find out about current travel health notices, as well as select a country and the type of traveler you are (e.g., a pregnant one) to get more information about disease concerns.

Speaking of pregnancy, the CDC also has a page specifically devoted to travel information for Zika, a virus that, during pregnancy, can cause birth defects and that is spread primarily through bites from infected mosquitoes, though also through sex with an infected person. Once you figure out whether your potential honeymoon spot has or previously had Zika cases, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said you should discuss whether or not to go on that trip with a health care provider, because everyone’s situation is unique.


Be realistic about your budget.

OK, back to money. Let’s talk about setting your budget and your expectations, and not blowing the former in search of a perfect honeymoon.

According to WeddingWire’s 2019 Newlywed Report, the average cost of a honeymoon for people married last year was $4,500.

“Of course it’s going to be a wonderful, romantic time with lots of memories,” Amy said. “But I think it can be easy to fall into a trap of thinking, ‘This has to be the most romantic trip of our lives.’ ”

She and Nathan both stressed that, just like with any vacation, things can and will go wrong. You might lose your luggage, or miss a flight, or any other of a billion snafus.

“The primary reason behind a honeymoon is to enjoy being together,” Nathan said. “Spending more money than you can afford in search of a certain type of experience I think can actually lead to a lot of stress before and after.”

If your budget is tighter but you still want to leave the country, Amy and Nathan suggested Central or South America, where the US dollar gets you more. If you want to stay in the United States to avoid ramping up transportation costs, they recommended Asheville, N.C., or even Stowe — Amy was actually a Vermont resident on and off for more than a decade.


Determine when you want to go.

Obviously, the time of year is going to impact your destination options. If you’re getting married in January, you might not want to jet off to Santorini right away. If it’s hurricane season, you might want to avoid the British Virgin Islands or get travel insurance, Smith said.

However, another way to save some money — and potentially have a less tourist-filled honeymoon experience — is to travel during a place’s shoulder season, which is typically in spring and fall. The Hartles went on their Canadian honeymoon in April.

“I think it was less crowded, which was definitely a plus for us,” Nathan said. “Whatever you miss in terms of not seeing a place at its peak can be worth it in terms of the lack of stress of having to negotiate crowds.”

“And higher prices,” Amy added.

Essentially, Smith said, it’s about balance.

“You don’t want to go to some of these destinations in winter necessarily,” she said, “but you can usually time it a certain way, especially in the shoulder seasons, to where you’ll still get some warm weather, but you won’t get the crazy, absurd prices that some of these destinations unfortunately have in summer.”

Alison Goldman can be reached at