When couples are overwhelmed and in the midst of pre-wedding decisions and financial obligations, it’s easy to shove aside planning for the honeymoon while dealing with guest lists and menus. Yet, a honeymoon is an investment, not only in the start of a new life together, but often as the most expensive trip either has ever taken. Making time to understand each other’s expectations greatly increases the likelihood of creating a special memory. But where do you begin?

Your honeymoon destination choice revolves around four general categories: location, activity level, length of time, and budget. Turning to a knowledgeable travel professional is always wise, but the likelihood of designing a tailor-made trip is almost impossible unless you can let the agent know what you wish to accomplish, how much time you have for the trip, and the depth of your pockets. Simply booking a trip that a travel website or agent touts as “perfect for honeymooners” may be completely wrong for you.

LOCATION

Beaches, mountains, exotic destinations, all-inclusive resorts, island hopping, backpacking, or cruising the seas – the list is seemingly endless. Wherever you plan to visit, be aware of the seasonal weather at your destination to ensure your memories are filled with quality time spent together rather than hunkered down in the middle of a monsoon or alone with your straightening iron as humidity gets between you and your spouse. Many couples prefer to visit a destination where neither person has been before; this allows you both to experience the location for the first time together, which will create truly special and lasting memories.

ACTIVITY LEVEL

From beachside lounging to mountain climbing, the list of activities to participate in is as extensive as locations to choose from. All-inclusive resorts, such as Sandals in the Caribbean Islands or The Royal Playa del Carmen in Riviera Maya, offer a myriad of activities and dining possibilities, all while leaving your wallet safe in the room. Just be aware; you will be surrounded by many other newlyweds and couples.

LENGTH OF TIME

Don’t forget to factor in travel time. Although traveling to the Maldives or Tahiti may call to your exotic senses, these destinations might not be the best choice when the trip itself leaves little time to actually be there. And if all you want is to vegetate on a beach, the expense of an exotic locale may be wasted. It’s rare for engaged couples to have enough time to properly research a trip and fully appreciate a “bucket list” destination; instead, many couples are choosing to take two to three night “mini-moons” immediately after the wedding. After a few days of relaxation and regrouping, they then have the gift of time to plan that once-in-a-lifetime journey. For a mini-moon, certainly a quick visit to the Central Coast is an option, but if you rent a house or condo, you will likely be cooking and cleaning up after yourself at a time when post-wedding exhaustion makes room service and housekeeping much more inviting. And although Las Vegas is always an option, the cost of shows, food, nightclubs, and crowds make it an expensive and frenetic place in which to relax.

With relatively short flights, destinations in the US, Canada, and Mexico are easy to reach. Often more reasonably priced than “typical” honeymoon spots, couples can splurge on accommodations, upscale restaurants, and access activities that can’t be found in their backyard. The cities of Seattle and Portland both have direct flights from Fresno, and their young resident populations guarantee plenty of nightlife with breweries, cafés, and restaurant crawls. Slightly further away, southern cities of Charleston, Nashville, and New Orleans all have history, culture, and activities well worth the visit. Canada’s Vancouver and Montreal offer much to see and the American dollar stretches far. Montreal has the added ambience of French culture without the European flight. Mexico has an abundance of spots within easy reach: Cancun, resorts along the Riviera Maya, Cabo San Lucas, and Puerto Vallarta all on the Pacific Coast.

BUDGET
The average couple nationally spends $5,000 for a seven day, six-night honeymoon. Figure out how much you can spend ahead of time, and stick to it. For couples with no need for home goods, online honeymoon registries allow friends and family to donate toward the trip itself or activities such as massages, wine tasting, or cooking classes. Afterwards, thank you notes can be sent complete with downloaded pictures showcasing the destination everyone made possible. Two reputable companies are honeymoonwishes.com and thehoneymoon.com.

TOP HONEYMOON DESTINATIONS

To learn more about popular destinations chosen by Central Valley couples, as well as the leading top romantic spots around the world, I enlisted the aid of good friend Wes Roland. As a veteran travel agent and owner of The Cruise Experts in Visalia, his agency organizes a wide variety of honeymoon trips for locals and farther flung newlyweds.

For local couples, Hawaii remains a popular honeymoon destination. Easy to reach and with excellent weather, a trip to the islands can be tailored to most budgets in as little as five days. Seven day Mexico or Caribbean cruises are also favored by local couples, as well as all-inclusive floating hotels, which fit many budgets and offer the choice to relax onboard or experience the ports.

Below is a list of some of the top honeymoon destinations for couples:

  • Bora Bora, French Polynesia ($$$ 8-10 days). Bora, Bora touts luxury $1,000 per night over-the-water private bungalows, crystal-clear waters, picturesque mountains, and a coral reef swirling with vivid fish. No wonder it was recently voted one of the best islands in the world by US News and World Report.
  • Bali, Indonesia ($$$ 8-10 days). Featured in “Eat, Pray, Love” and chosen as a location for ABC’s “The Bachelor,” it offers beautiful beaches as well as elephants, towering volcanos and stone temples.
  • Santorini, Greece ($$ 8-10 days). This Island is one of Greece’s most postcard-perfect islands.
  • Paris, France ($$ – $$$ 6-8 days). Paris is the ultimate destination when it comes to romance and swoon-worthy sites.
  • Thailand ($$ 8-10 days). With the exotic, urban energy of Bangkok and myriad of beach resorts, Thailand is a relative bargain.
  • Maui, Hawaii ($$ – $$$ 5-8 days). Its clear waters, tropical sunsets, and lush greenery make Maui a popular romantic getaway with a full-range of accommodations.