10 steps to the perfect honeymoon
Planning your once-in-a-lifetime holiday can be daunting, says Pól Ó Conghaile. Here are 10 honeymoon travel tips to get you started.
1. Open the atlas (and a bottle of wine)
With money in the bank, a generous window for travel and (in most cases) no kids, a honeymoon is a golden opportunity - trust me, it could be decades before you get a trip like it again.
Start your planning by cracking open Google Maps, the Atlas and a bottle of wine. Do this at least 10 to 12 months ahead of your wedding, and keep it loose. Where have you always wanted to go? Safari? The Seychelles? A lost weekend in Paris? Write the ideas down, and have fun - it's a wishlist, not a worry-fest.
Pól's Picks: Check itaa.ie/offers for specials from Irish travel agents.
2. Set your budget…
Someone has to pay for this.
If that someone is you, bear in mind that the average honeymoon in Ireland costs between €4,000 and €8,000 per couple. That's not a must (you can get a better holiday for less, and a worse holiday for more), but it is realistic.
Several tour operators, including Abbey Travel, Sunway and Trailfinders, do honeymoon gift lists that wedding guests can pay into. It beats getting a third toaster, anyway.
Pól's Picks: Sunway (sunway.ie) had seven nights at the four-star RIU Cancun Hotel in Mexico from €1,289pp, all-inclusive. A similar package in the Dominican Republic was priced from €1,279pp.
3. Think twin or triple centre
Roughly two thirds of Irish honeymoons take in two or more destinations, typically combining a beach, cruise or safari with a city break.
Travel agents will have suggestions based on the best connections - Emirates flies direct from Dublin to Dubai, for example, where onwards connections are readily available to Indian Ocean honeypots like Sri Lanka, the Maldives or Mauritius (which is making a comeback, incidentally). Turkish Airlines offers great connections via Istanbul, and lots of Irish couples twin Las Vegas with Cancun, or Florida with a Caribbean cruise.
Pól's Picks: Trailfinders (trailfinders.ie/honeymoons) had a five-star, half-board package twinning three nights in Dubai and seven in the Maldives from €8,299pp.
4. Save in South Africa or Thailand
In terms of honeymoon travel tips, South Africa is a hugely popular destination, offering both a world-in-one-place appeal (try safari, whale-watching and Cape Town for starters) and a juicy euro/rand exchange.
Thailand also offers surprising value, both in packages and on the ground. Sri Lanka and Vietnam are similar - compared to the Maldives, when guests on island resorts pay handsomely (in US dollars) for their captivity.
Pól's Picks: GoHop.ie had a 17-day South African honeymoon taking in Cape Town, a safari and the Eastern Cape from €1,920pp. Car hire is included. Travel is best from May-October (dry season).
5. Pick the trip you both want
One person's idea of paradise (a fortnight on the beach) can be another's idea of hellish boredom. Similarly, one partner's idea of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure (climbing Kilimanjaro, say) is another's nightmare.
A honeymoon is for two, so choose one that suits you both. Another tip - when combining a beach and city break, put the beach first. It's nice to fly and flop after a hectic wedding, and you don't have to carry your shopping halfway around the world.
Pól's Picks: Classic Resorts (classicresorts.ie) had 10 nights in Phuket and Khao Lak, including a jungle safari, from €1,539pp based on four-star full-board.
6. Consider a cruise
Cruising has its stereotypes, many of them accurate, but it also offers a surprising diversity of ships and itineraries, all-inclusive pricing and the opportunity to visit several destinations without packing and unpacking for each. Think of it as a floating resort - from the Norwegian fjords to the Arabian Gulf and the sun-splashed Caribbean, there's a little something for everyone.
Pól's Picks: Tour America (touramerica.ie) had an 11-night fly/cruise combining four nights in Orlando with a seven-night Caribbean cruise from €1,069pp (Ref. 509108).
7. Get expert advice
You wouldn't do your own wedding make-up. Or shoot the photos. So why take it upon yourself to organise your honeymoon?
We've all spent hours online trying to save €5 on a Ryanair flight. It just isn't worth it - especially if you're trying to run a wedding at the same time. Call at least three tour operators for quotes, and ask straight up for upgrades and add-ons (you're worth it). A good travel agent will know the best weather windows, the visa and vaccination requirements, and the red flags (zika, for instance). They'll also bend over backwards for your business - you are spending thousands, after all.
Pól's Picks: Cuba Travel had a 10-night, five-star trip to Havana and Varadero from €2,085pp (cubatravel.ie). ClickAndGo.com had a seven-night, four-star Cuba trip from €1,326pp.
8. Book early
Book your honeymoon as far ahead as possible. Late bookings will make you worry, and any savings will be tempered by limited choice of rooms, next-best resorts or crummy layovers. That goes double for peak travel periods like July, August and Christmas.
To control your costs, consider an all-inclusive resort (Mexico and the Dominican Republic are popular here, as is Club Med), but do so with your eyes open - some all-inclusive packages only allow meals at the hotel's main restaurant.
Pól's Picks: Other tour operators doing honeymoons include Travelmood (travelmood.ie), American Holidays (americanholidays.com), Tropical Sky (tropicalsky.ie) and Stein Travel (steintravel.ie).
9. Don't scrimp
Given the choice of a 14-day holiday in a four-star hotel, or a 10-day holiday in a five-star hotel, go for the five-star every time. This is your honeymoon, after all. Likewise, consider business class for your outbound flight, or an ocean-view suite.
Instead of splashing on long-haul flights, why not scoot to Paris or Rome and spend three or four nights in an amazing hotel? Italy is a popular destination for wedding and honeymoon combos, and it knows a little about luxury, too.
Pól's Picks: Italy.ie has a 16-night honeymoon taking in Rome, Sorrento, Florence and the Tuscan Coast from €2,550pp. Topflight (topflight.ie) had a 14-night Sorrento and Sicily combo, with accommodation in Sicily at the five-star Grand Hotel Mazzaro Sea Palace, from €2,599pp.
10. Check your passport
It sounds obvious, but the name on your passport must match the name on your travel documents. If it doesn't, you can expect name change charges at best, and delays that have nasty knock-on consequences at worst.
If you're booking travel in advance, do it under your maiden name and wait until after your honeymoon to change your passport. You should also check that both passports are in date for your trip - bearing in mind that some destinations, like Dubai, Cuba, Turkey and Thailand, require six months validity.
Pól's Picks: Check dfa.ie for passport queries, including late renewal options.
What visas and vaccinations do you need for your destination? Check months in advance, and if you are pregnant or considering getting pregnant, think twice about travel to a zika-affected region.
NB: All prices subject to availability.