Weddings are not cheap (usually). Travel is not cheap (usually, unless you’re a travel hacker extraordinaire, which I am not). When you’re planning a honeymoon, aka travel that typically happens right after a wedding, you’re likely looking at a very not-cheap few weeks.
I should know, because I just lived those not-cheap few weeks, and here’s what I know for sure: You can have an awesome wedding, a great honeymoon, and be totally debt-free when it’s all over.
How you handle that on the wedding side of things is a totally different post, that you know I will share soon, but today I want to break down the honeymoon side of things. I read and received some great advice about honeymoon planning, and it resulted in a picture-perfect five day vacation right after our wedding.
So if you’re staring at a wedding budget and thinking “There’s no way we can afford to do this and a 10-day trip to Italy,” I’ve got you.
And to be clear, this isn’t really about travel hacking, because as we just covered, that’s not my area of expertise.
Know your numbers
When you sit down to plan your wedding budget, and how you’re going to save up for that short-term goal, consider your honeymoon in that context. If in most years, you can save $5,000 for a big vacation, but you’re using some of that money for the wedding, you might have to adjust. (Maybe you can cover the wedding and a $10K honeymoon, no debt required! But that’s not going to be the case for everyone, and it wasn’t the case for us.)
We knew that a debt-free wedding was our big goal for the year, and that was our priority when it came to savings goals. Our honeymoon had to come out of our set vacation savings, so we had a good idea of how much we had to work with if we wanted to do something right after the wedding—and it wasn’t $10K.
Figure out what kind of vacation you want
When you first sit down to start brainstorming honeymoon ideas, think about two things:
What kind of vacation do you really enjoy? Are you two climb-all-the-mountains people? Are you two the types who can spend all day hitting every attraction and be totally energized by it? Or are you going to want some down time to really relax and enjoy the vacation?
How are you going to feel after hosting a major event? Some people thrive on time spent in groups, and on event planning! But it’s likely that the days around your wedding are going to be filled with group activities, logistics, and little downtime. Only you know how that will leave you and your partner feeling.
Originally, my big ideas for a honeymoon were Spain or Iceland. Adventure! Sights! Food! Exploring!
…and then I remembered that our favourite vacation ever was a trip to Maine where we didn’t feel like we had to be on the go the whole time. Plus, as much as we adored every second of the wedding, and all of the time we got with our families and friends, we were both going to want some time to decompress after five solid days of activities and a Big Party.
Personally speaking, there’s a time for Big Exploring Adventures, but this was not it for us—and that clarity was key when it came to narrowing down our options. As a bonus, that meant the pricier international travel options were magically off the table (or at least not a must-do trip right away).
It’s more about the time than the place
There is a school of thought out there that your honeymoon should be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, which was the mindset I was in when I first started (see above re: Iceland and Spain). Personally, I felt like doing anything less was kind of… well, doing it wrong.
If you’re rolling your eyes at past me right now, good! You should be! I am too!
Luckily, I read an article that made a very convincing case that your honeymoon is whatever you do right after your wedding. Maybe it’s a long weekend away, maybe it’s a camping trip, maybe it’s a staycation—those all count as honeymoons.
Again, duh. Of course they do. But it was a reminder that I really needed to hear while I was trying to narrow down plans, because it helped me see that yes, we could have a great honeymoon without ever getting on a plane, and that we didn’t need to try to fit ourselves into a big international trip if it wasn’t the right fit for us (or our budget).
Driving distance for you is someone else’s international adventure
This was another “duh” moment, but one that made me feel much better about shifting from “We should go to Iceland!” to our actual plans, a five-day trip to Prince Edward County.
Now that I was armed with the facts—namely, that international travel stresses us out, as does hosting a wedding, and the things we wanted most were good food, beer, and space to just chill out if we wanted to—it was clear that a road trip was in the cards. Not having to deal with airports or be anywhere at a specific time? Dreamy.
Plus, when you think about it, there’s almost always going to be some kind of trip or destination you can visit by car that counts as something someone else would totally travel to experience. Sure, Prince Edward County isn’t like, a wine tour in France, but it was covered in Conde Nast Traveller, and we’d never been.
This plan, beyond checking all of the boxes for the vacation experience we wanted, also fit our vacation budget—not to mention the fact that we really didn’t want to be cutting corners on the rest of the experience. Leaving a four-figure airfare budget out of the equation meant we could get a dreamy place to stay and not worry about skipping dessert at fancy dinners.
It just has to work for you
None of this is especially tactical advice, because honestly, the most useful advice I got in all aspects of wedding planning—including the honeymoon—was about how to handle the feelings of it all.
The feeling that it’s not really a honeymoon unless you do something international and epic was something I struggled with, even though I know myself and my husband well enough to know we would have been miserable and exhausted trying to jump into that right after a wedding!
If you work through this and realize that a big international trip is hands-down a must for you two, amazing—there are ways to make that work on a modest budget too, including travel hacking or postponing the trip to give yourself more time to save. But there’s a whole lot more written about that, at least as far as my research found, than there was about coming to terms with doing what’s right for you, not what the wedding industrial complex (WIC) and Instagram says you should be doing.
Because just like you don’t need to throw a 300-person event, or wear white, or have a wedding shower if that’s not your jam, you absolutely don’t need to go on a once-in-a-lifetime epic adventure to have a great honeymoon. Look at what you want to do, look at how much money you have to make it happen, and I guarantee you there’s some way to make those two things fit together—even if it means stepping outside of the WIC box a bit.