Planning a honeymoon can be exhausting for both the bride and groom, and these once-in-a-lifetime trips aren't getting any cheaper. To help newlyweds save money, reduce stress and plan better, honeymoon experts share their best tips to consider.
1. Topline your three favorite things, not destinations
Both bride and groom should start by writing down their three favorite things, such as art, food and beach or nature, history and spa, suggests Jenna Mahoney, travel editor for Bridal Guide magazine.
"From there, you can drill down your interests to help define where you want to go," she says.
For instance, Mahoney says everyone wants to go to Italy, but picking interests will narrow down the places to visit. If you want history and architecture, pick Rome, Tuscany for food and wine. If you both pick beach, spa and seclusion, try Tahiti or Maldives.
2. Start a honeyfund
Taylor Methfessel, a honeymoon specialist at SmartFlyer, says she is seeing more couples start a "honeyfund, " a version of crowdfunding where guests put money toward experiences that have been chosen in advance by the couple.
"Brainstorm some activities that you love and give your wedding guests the option to formulate an itinerary for you," Methfessel tells CNBC Make It. She adds that this makes it special for all parties involved and helps save time when choosing a destination if you can't quickly decide a place.
3. Go during the off season
Traveling during off season, or "shoulder season" as it's called in the travel industry, will always be cheaper, says Tom Marchant, CEO of luxury tour company Black Tomato. That's especially true for popular honeymoon destinations like the Caribbean (low season: April to December), Maldives (April to December) or Africa, where you can save hundreds of dollars depending on the hotel you book.
"If 24-hour sun isn't your top priority, then you could take advantage of some great offers," he says.
Marchant says safari destinations have a "green season" that takes place January to May, when it's known to rain more but a lot more lush.
Safari rates are typically cheaper, like Angama Mara in Kenya, where high-season rates run $1,650 per person per night. In "green season," all-inclusive rates are around $1,200 per person per night. Marchant says safari lodges also offer other incentives during this time, like 30 percent cheaper lodge transfers.
4. Take a "mini-moon" first, honeymoon later
"In the olden days, you married a guy, you had a wedding, it was six hours long then everyone leaves," says Mahoney. "Today, you have a wedding weekend. Even if it's not a destination wedding, 20 percent of guests are traveling from out of town and the wedding weekend is typically four days.
"The last thing I want to do as a newlywed is get on a 20-hour flight somewhere after entertaining tons of people, having an emotional weekend and dropping loads of cash," she says.
Instead, Mahoney recommends newlyweds start with a "mini-moon," an abbreviated version of a honeymoon that's not far from your wedding site. For instance, if you get married in Boston, go to Nantucket. If you have a destination wedding in Mayakoba, Mexico, mini-moon in Isla Holbox, a nearby island, for two nights.
"This really gives you time to decompress, be with each other and bask in the glow of early marriage," says Mahoney.
She adds that many honeymooners who do this say they feel more romantic without the stress of a big honeymoon right after the wedding and enjoy the chance to just sleep in. "Going on a trip right after the wedding is traditional, but assume that you'll be tired!" she says.
Then, Mahoney suggests taking your honeymoon six months to a year after the mini-moon.
"This way, the honeymoon becomes its own event," Mahoney says. "You can save for it and savor the experience. It becomes another opportunity to make another memory that's not crushed in together with the wedding."
Methfessel recently planned the honeymoon for Bluestone Lane coffee company owner Alex Knight and husband Nick Stone, who traveled a full year after their wedding. "It didn't make it any less special for them."
5. Consider staying brand loyal if you have a wedding at a luxury hotel; you could get unadvertised honeymoon offers
"If you're considering a hotel wedding, ask the wedding planner or point of contact to see if they have sister properties that offer honeymoon offers for the bride," says Mahoney. "Even if they don't have something advertised, they'll probably offer you something, like free honeymoon nights or upgrades."
For instance, if you want to get married at Mandarin Oriental San Francisco and want to honeymoon in Thailand, "the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok will likely offer you something special to honeymoon there. It happens all the time," says Mahoney.
She says luxury hotel chains like Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Belmond and Rosewood are known to do this, even if it's not advertised, so talk with the wedding planner.
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