You’ve just shelled out a small fortune for a wedding that yes, was ultimately all about saying ‘I do’ and promising to ‘love and cherish’ your beloved (and ‘ban Celine Dion’, if you were canny) forever more, but if we’re honest the event was almost certainly tailored as much to your guests’ needs as your own ideas for the day. When it comes to planning your honeymoon? Completely up to you. This gig really is all about how you and your new bride want to celebrate the first throngs of wedded bliss. Traditionally, organising the honeymoon falls firmly to the groom, and although couples tend to share the planning these days it doesn’t hurt to stockpile a few tips and gain some early marital brownie points along the way.
Honeymoon ideas – where to begin?
- Make it personal – just because your mate and his missus had a blast with a full-on gleaming hog and leather Route 66 fest for their post-nuptial travels, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. For a start your mankini will chafe (we’re guessing), and you’re not going to find many of those little umbrella drinks along the highway. Be original on this one. Think about your combined tastes, interests and aims for the honeymoon and you’re onto a winner.
- Strike a balance – we’re not saying you shouldn’t put the ‘do not disturb’ sign to good use – it’s your honeymoon after all. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend the entirety in your hotel. You’ve splashed the cash to fly halfway across the globe, so it’s worth at least having a gander at the great outdoors. By all means factor in some down time, you’ve just planned a wedding, which easily ranks among the most stressful activities in the history of mankind. Ever. So you deserve to spend a few days ‘chillaxing’. But bear in mind it doesn’t all have to be about lazing around by the pool/in bed/on the beach. If you’re both up for an adventure there are plenty of other ways you could spend your time: hiking, mountain climbing, jungle treks, wine tasting tours, surfing, dancing, even a good old dose of the ‘Big 5’ on an African safari. The world’s your fun lovin’ lobster.
In fact, if you want to move away from the traditional honeymoon route, there’s a whole bunch of alternatives available for a different spin on the usual post-nuptial vacation: buddymoons, mini-moons, staycations, activity days, even a spot of volunteering.
- But be realistic – don’t try to cram too much in. Otherwise the only thing anyone’s likely to be disturbing are a couple of sleeping beauties flat out from exhaustion. And not in a good way.
- Add that special touch – the lovely lady before you has just made the ultimate commitment. Never mind your freakishly narrow shoulders, the fact your lotions and potions outnumber hers twofold AND your disturbing allegiance to Spurs, she’s just promised to spend the rest of her life putting up with your quirky ways and questionable choice in teams. So it’s a nice idea to plan a special treat or surprise for your bride while you’re on your honeymoon, whether it’s a top flight balloon ride, a romantic meal on the beach, a well-chosen gift, or maybe a boat trip by sunset. A little thought goes a long way.
Getting it booked
As ever, the interweb makes for an invaluable tool, whether it’s nabbing deals on flights, taking a sneak peek to avoid a footy fixture/most romantic holiday of your life clash (please note: we really wouldn’t recommend doing this in full view of your usually mild-mannered lady), or booking the crocodile wrestling she’s always fancied trying her hand at. That being said, it’s widely recommended to call in the pros when it comes to honeymoon planning. If they’re a savvy bunch they’ll be able to negotiate some great package deals, secure discounts you wouldn’t have had access to otherwise, and provide an essential and swift back-up service should things go wrong. Either way, we’ve put together a few handy resources and ‘need to know’s’ to make sure you’re getting not only the best honeymoon experience, but that you’re getting it at the very best price, with the right support.
We can’t stress this one enough. Top of your honeymoon checklist when dealing with tour operators should be making sure they’re up to the job. Your honeymoon will almost certainly be one of the most expensive holidays you’ll ever splash out for, so it’s really not worth leaving things to chance. On this count, you’re looking specifically for ABTA or ATOL protection.
- ABTA bonding – a tour operator with ABTA approval has to deliver on quality, standards and financial protection. It’s that simple. If your best mate did a stellar job planning your stag do he’ll have made sure he struck gold with an ABTA approved organisation. If you don’t fancy searching through the small print for the full details on this one the boys at StagWeb have put together a cracking rundown on the essentials. Check out their guide to getting it right. But the short story on this one: don’t book without it.
- ATOL protection – this one’s essential if you opt for a flight-inclusive package, safeguarding your cash and holiday arrangements (flights, accommodation etc) should the travel company collapse at any point in proceedings. But be aware the level of protection can vary according to package. The CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) offers a handy tool to check a company’s ATOL status, so you know what you’re dealing with from the get-go.
Flights and hotels: handy resources
Although you can still try your luck, it’s not so common to manage to blag a free upgrade just because you’re on your honeymoon these days, particularly with the airlines. More often than not, if you want top dollar accommodation and flights, you’ll have to pay top dollar to get them. However, there are a few useful resources out there to help you get the best bang for your bucks:
- Flights – unless you’re a frequent flier,complimentary upgrades can prove mission impossible, so our top tip here: if you want to treat your lady to a first class flight, make sure you do your maths, get an early start on the game, and book it! Also be aware the majority of airlines release flights for sale a good eleven months in advance, with online check-in and seat reservation cropping up 24hrs before departure, so if you’re on the ball you can still get your hands on a good result. Check out skyscanner.com to compare and find the best deals on flight prices, and head to seatguru.com to nab the best spots on the plane.
- Hotels – it’s always worth calling or emailing your hotel in advance. Some resorts offer tailored honeymoon packages, with everything from romantic moonlit dinners to breakfast in bed and even complimentary spa treatments thrown in for the happy couple. If you’re lucky, you might manage to land a free upgrade. But as ever, check the small print in case a minimum stay, or specific room arrangements apply. More often than not, the staff will also be happy to help keep you in your new missus’ good books. Maybe with a chocolate and champagne greeting, or by having your small well thought out gift ready and waiting for her on arrival. So give them advance warning you’re new to this matrimonial lark and you might strike gold. Or at least not get kicked out of bed on the first night.
Your essential honeymoon checklist:
More specifically, the names on the paperwork matter. No short cuts on this one, everything must match: passports, visas, legal documents, reservations…. Unless you’ve got a good few months leeway between the wedding and honeymoon to get your wife’s name changed on absolutely every relevant scrap of paperwork, don’t book this gig under her new married name.
Get it! And get it in place as soon as possible. Check out the Foreign Office guide to travel insurance for a fully comprehensive rundown on what you should be looking for, and make sure you’re fully aware of exactly what is and isn’t covered by your policy. If you’re planning on hiring a vehicle, or trying a spot of bungee jumping or skydiving while you’re away, it’s also worth doing a bit of research to check the rules and regulations and find out if you need additional cover.
Find out more about wedding insurance…
Passports, visas and jabs
- Passports and visas – it goes without saying you need to make sure your passport’s up-to-date, but be aware some countries now also require it to be valid for at least a further 6 months after you’ve entered their turf, so it’s worth checking out the FCO guide to individual requirements on both passport and visa regulations as early as possible. If you book through a tour operator they should be able to advise and assist you on both counts.
- Jabs – yes we’re as guilty as the next guy, but time to man up and get your shots in order. Check out fitfortravel.nhs.uk for an idea on the jabs you might need, and get yourselves to the doctor a good couple of months before you’re due to fly.