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17 Ideas to Save Money When Planning Your Honeymoon on a Budget

My wife and I did as much as we could to save money on our wedding. But we did have one considerable wedding-related expense I hadn’t accounted for: the honeymoon.

It’s true some newlyweds shy away from the traditional honeymoon. Many are too busy or cash-strapped to make it work. But most take some sort of trip after tying the knot. You probably will too, whether it’s the day after your reception or six months later when you really need a break again.

So it’s best to begin thinking about saving money on your honeymoon as soon as you can. These strategies can help, especially when incorporated into the early stages of honeymoon planning.

How to Make Your Honeymoon More Affordable (and Awesome)

Even if you’re not traveling to one of the world’s top honeymoon destinations, your post-wedding trip will still likely set you back.

According to CostHelper, the typical week-long destination honeymoon costs $3,400 to $5,100, depending on the factors including the location, accommodations, and activities.

All-inclusive stays at expensive, destination wedding-friendly resorts cost more, as do weeklong (or longer) all-inclusive cruises. No-frills camping trips or local excursions cost less.

After spending thousands on your wedding, the thought of spending thousands more on a romantic getaway probably doesn’t sound appealing, even when you put it off for a few months.

So try these strategies to reduce the cost of your honeymoon and ease its financial impact without sacrificing romance or relaxation.

1. Develop Your Honeymoon Budget

It’s easy to save money on a tight budget. And while setting a honeymoon budget can’t directly lower the cost of your adventure, it can help prevent overspending. If you develop it early enough, it can reduce the financial impact of your efforts to scrimp and save for the journey.

Budgeting for a major vacation, even a honeymoon, isn’t as tough as it sounds. The secret is starting early enough to maximize your chances of achieving your goals.

Break up the honeymoon budgeting process into three distinct steps:

The Big Picture

What do you want to get out of your honeymoon?

Do you want to visit an unforgettable destination halfway around the world, a pretty wilderness area, a big city near your home, or somewhere in between?

Do you want to pamper yourself at an all-inclusive resort or Caribbean cruise, splurge on experiences like spa treatments and sunset cruises, or eat at five-star restaurants?

Or are you looking for a lower-key experience, such as a quiet getaway to a charming bed-and-breakfast?

A truly no-frills adventure, like a road trip to the nearest national park?

In any case, how long are you planning to stay?

Reality Check

Is the big picture realistic? Time for a reality check.

Once you’ve settled your destination, length of stay, required experiences (spa treatments, anyone?), and level of luxury, make a complete list of every planned honeymoon expense. Include airfare, lodging, resort fees, local transportation, food, special experiences, incidentals, and anything else you can put a dollar value on.

Thoroughly research each item’s cost. Establish a price range for your trip assuming you get everything you want. Then, take a hard look at your financial picture: your income, cash flow, and personal savings.

Determine whether it’s financially prudent to spend even at the lower end of the range. If not, perhaps it’s time to rethink the big picture.

The Nitty Gritty

Map out your entire itinerary: where you’re staying, how you’re getting there, and what you’re doing each day. Determine how much you’d spend for each big-ticket item (airfare, hotel, excursions) if you booked today.

Add in costs for smaller essentials, such as individual meals. If possible, pick out a few local restaurants and look at menus online to determine how much food will cost each day.

Now look for opportunities to save wherever possible, such as cheaper rooms, package deals, or discounts for extended stays. Include a fudge factor (say, 20%) for last-minute price fluctuations and itinerary changes. Combine all this information to produce your honeymoon’s total expected cost.

2. Start a Honeymoon Savings Fund

Now comes the fun part: saving up for the big getaway.

Start as early as you can. You’ll have enough to worry about before the wedding. Socking away $200 per month over two years is a lot easier than scrambling to save $800 per month half a year before you book your trip.

Open a new Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.-insured savings with GO2Bank and earmark it exclusively for your honeymoon. Make this a joint account, even if you’re not planning to merge your finances as a married couple.

Contribute a fixed, manageable monthly amount to your honeymoon savings fund. Set up a recurring transfer to ensure your plan doesn’t fall by the wayside during the hectic pre-wedding period.

Supplement this effort with an automated savings app like Acorns, which analyzes your cash flow and automatically sets aside a few dollars a few times per month. It’s probably not enough to single-handedly fund your honeymoon, but it can definitely help.

3. Start Using a Travel Rewards Credit Card and Cash in Your Miles or Points

You don’t need to do any honeymoon planning or even decide for sure you’re going to take a honeymoon to jump-start your less-expensive honeymoon plans.

In fact, if you have good credit or better, you should sign up for a travel rewards credit card that earns points or miles for every dollar you spend as soon as you can. The earlier you start spending with your new card, the longer you have to passively amass rewards points you can cash in for the big vacation.

It could be your best opportunity to reduce the raw dollar cost of your honeymoon without making any sacrifices.

If you’re looking to splurge but don’t want to pay for the finer things out of pocket, cashing in your miles or points can help you upgrade your trip’s luxury without leaving your wallet any worse for wear.

But for this tip to make a substantial difference, you need a nice pile of frequent flyer miles, hotel points, or credit card loyalty currency saved up.

Frequent travelers can make the most of accumulated miles or points and ensure they continue to earn them at a solid clip by joining as many hotel and airline loyalty clubs as possible.

They’re free to join and don’t charge membership fees. Just remember to enter your member number every time you book a flight or room, even on third-party booking websites. Watch your point balances carefully and contact the company promptly about missing points.

In terms of travel rewards cards, there are many to choose from, including.

4. Ask Your Friends and Loved Ones for Cash

Is it tacky to ask your wedding guests for money you can spend on a fancy honeymoon? Perhaps. Many couples aren’t comfortable with flat-out telling their guests, “We’d really like you to write us a check.”

But they’ll understand. In fact, they’ll probably sympathize.

If you’re not comfortable with a direct ask, nudge your guests. Keep your wedding registry sparse and populate it primarily with low-cost, practical essentials like everyday glassware, kitchenware, bedclothes, and bathroom accessories. On your wedding website, go into detail about your honeymoon plans, and mention that you’re saving for a unique trip.

Or you can just ask directly. You’ll get cash from plenty of guests without asking, and you’ll pick up a few more contributions by making it official.

If you’re not comfortable with a blanket request on your wedding website, single out married guests to ask privately. They’ve been there before, so they’re likely to oblige. Or just make it official and set up a honeymoon registry.

A honeymoon registry is just what it sounds like: an itemized, semipublic, fully fundable wish list for your honeymoon dreams. You can stock it with anything you’d do or need on your honeymoon, including:

  • Activities like guided tours or couples massages
  • Splurge-level experiences, such as a private dinner for two or a chartered deep-water fishing excursion
  • Travel expenses, such as rental cars or hotel rooms
  • Incidentals like toiletries and paperback books

To make things manageable for budget-conscious friends and loved ones, split each expense into affordable portions.

Most honeymoon registries give you wide latitude to divide your expenses as needed, preventing any one benefactor from footing a disproportionate amount of the total bill unless they’re feeling especially generous.

Look for free or low-cost honeymoon registries that offer complimentary plans to registrants and avoid punitive benefactor charges (fees tacked on to contributions).

Traveler’s Joy is a popular, reputable option that only takes a cut when benefactors use credit cards to send money through the system. Cash and check gifts are always free. Honeyfund is a great alternative.

5. Travel in the Offseason

There are plenty of tricks to save money on vacation. One of the best is to travel during the offseason when tourism-dependent businesses are relatively stagnant. You can get better deals on hotels, lower airfare (and cheaper upgrades to first class), generous package deals, more affordable excursions, and fewer crowds.

The offseason isn’t monolithic. In temperate coastal areas, summer is the high season and the rest of the year is the low season. In mountainous regions with skiable terrain, the offseason is spring and fall. In tropical locales, it coincides with the rainy season, which happens at different times of year in different places.

Once you choose your destination, identify its offseason and plan accordingly, even if it means delaying your honeymoon by a few months. Alternatively, pin down your travel dates and avoid destinations that promise to be busy.

6. Consider a Honeymoon Package, Cautiously

Are you looking at all-inclusive resorts? Ask about honeymoon packages.

The typical honeymoon package includes a room upgrade, Champagne and snacks at welcome (and possibly every evening), credit at resort restaurants or bars, and romantic experiences like private dinners and couples massages. Bigger resorts offer packages at several price points.

Honeymoon packages almost always cost more than off-the-shelf stays in basic rooms. That’s the point. If cost-cutting is paramount, avoid the temptation. But if the package features extras you’d likely want anyway, do some back-of-the-envelope math. Ensure the package’s total cost is lower than the sum of its parts, and pull the trigger.

Honeymoon packages aren’t exclusive to all-inclusive resorts. My wife and I stayed at a nice non-all-inclusive resort in New England and sprang for the honeymoon package. The highlight: an amazing room upgrade. The downside: by our calculations, we just broke even. Again, do the math before you book.

7. Make It a Mini-Moon

A long weekend can be just as romantic as a 14-day odyssey, and it’s obviously cheaper. You can do it without depleting your vacation time and paid time off.

Since you’re spending fewer nights away, you have leeway to raise your per-night costs, whether that means upgrading from a 3- to 5-star property or splurging on a memorable experience you’d otherwise lack the budget for. And you can always sock away your savings for a second honeymoon.

8. Stay Close By

Why journey thousands of miles when you can get the royal treatment an hour or two from home without renewing your passport?

The closer to home you stay, the less you have to spend on airfare and incidental travel costs. Stay close enough, and you don’t have to fly at all. Driving takes longer, but it’s usually cheaper for short trips.

You can even go with a staycation and make it memorable.

9. Try a Midweek Getaway

If you’re already planning to keep your honeymoon short and close to home, travel midweek: Monday through Thursday or Tuesday through Friday. In smaller towns and wilderness areas, where most tourist traffic comes on the weekends, accommodations are affordable and plentiful during the workweek.

Expect to spend 10% to 20% less on your room. Look for midweek deals on equipment rentals, dining, and drinks too. Happy hours are invariably more generous during the week.

10. Bed Down Under the Stars

If you could care less about infinity pools, 600-thread-count sheets, turn-downs, hot tubs, and spa treatments, spend some quality alone time under the stars instead.

Camping out in an outdoor adventure destination can reduce the cost of your honeymoon without sacrificing romance. Indeed, if your idea of romance is simply getting away from other people, it’s a no-brainer.

For maximum seclusion, look for hike-in backcountry sites. If you’re feeling ambitious, plan a multiday long-distance hike that strings together several isolated campgrounds.

11. Get Cozy at a Hostel

Your idea of a romantic honeymoon getaway probably doesn’t involve a cut-rate hostel crowded with young, rowdy backpackers. No one’s asking you and your new spouse to bunk up in a barracks-like environment with a dozen strangers — unless you want to.

But hostels aren’t all alike.

Most hostels offer private or semiprivate rooms. More upscale hostels can be quite generous on the private room front. You wouldn’t know you weren’t in a name-brand hotel. You have to pay a premium for privacy, but only to a degree.

On a cursory search of central Rome hostels on midweek dates during midsummer, there are several private room options for less than $80 per night compared with $150 or more for basic hotel rooms.

One important downside: Many hostels have shared bathroom facilities. You’ll have to decide how important that form of privacy is to you and your partner.

12. Take a Road Trip

If you don’t want to jet off to a distant shore but have more than a long weekend to get away, take a multi-stop road trip. It helps you avoid expensive airfare and other incidental costs associated with international travel.

A road trip is an economical way to hit cities, towns, and points of interest you might otherwise never visit, including places well off the beaten path. It’s easy to find affordable accommodations in less popular destinations, and you’ll be doing your part to support local businesses.

Or rent an inexpensive recreational vehicle and wind your way through the country staying at free campgrounds.

A road trip is also ideal for couples with divergent interests. If you’re gung-ho about a rustic camping trip and your partner is dreaming of an all-inclusive beach getaway, plan a road trip that incorporates both. With less time allotted to the resort, you’ll still come out ahead financially.

13. Avoid Fancy Dining

Does your ideal honeymoon involve a romantic candlelit dinner for two? Maybe this tip isn’t for you. But if you’re not much of a foodie or your desire to cut costs outweighs your love of fine dining, look for ways to trim your dining budget on your honeymoon.

If you’re leaning toward a destination resort, consider properties that can exclude dining from your per-night costs. Full-service restaurants charge hefty premiums for their creations, so you can likely save a boatload by walking into town and eating at less pretentious local restaurants.

Larger resorts have more variety on-site. If you’re judicious, you can probably fill up on appetizers and snacks at lower-key establishments.

No matter where you stay, ensure your room has a basic kitchen or cold storage for prepared foods. When you arrive, head to the local grocery store and stock up on supplies. It’s more work, but an evening spent cooking can be surprisingly romantic.

14. Blind-Book Your Hotels

If you know where you want to take your honeymoon but aren’t attached to a particular hotel or resort, why commit? Use blind-booking tools to find super-cheap deals on anonymous accommodations.

Blind-booking sites allow you to choose from within a narrow quality range (for example, 3-star hotels) and manageable geographical areas (city center, beachfront, park side). And they present you with a final price, usually including taxes, upfront. But you don’t know the place’s identity until you book and pay.

You can also blind-book other travel expenses, like rental cars. Some of the best deals I’ve ever gotten on travel have come via blind booking, such as rental cars for $15 per day and 3-star city-center hotels for $70 per night.

But I’ve heard plenty of complaints from other travelers, so use caution. And don’t expect to find the fanciest resorts and hotels on blind-booking sites. You’re better off booking those directly or through a reputable travel agent.

15. Book Off-Hours Flights

Are you overwhelmed by flight options? Use this simple trick to narrow your choices and cut your airfare spending dramatically.

Airlines are smarter about pricing these days, but they can’t rewrite the laws of supply and demand altogether. Because most people don’t like to begin journeys early in the morning or late at night, flights tend to be cheaper at those times. I’ve personally saved 50% on comparable flights — same destination, same class, same seat — simply by flying out at 6am rather than 1pm.

When you search for bookings, set your departure time range to encompass the wee hours — say, 9pm to 7am — and choose the cheapest option from the results.

This strategy is especially effective for nonstop and one-stop journeys within North America.

On longer international routes, you may have less control over flight timing (and thus cost) due to capacity, time changes, and scheduling imperatives. For instance, most flights from the eastern United States to continental Europe leave in the late afternoon U.S. time and arrive in the morning European time.

16. Book Nonrefundable Flights With Travel Insurance

If your travel dates are set in stone, you can save 30% to 50% or more on airfare simply by booking nonrefundable flights.

That does limit your options in the event of an unforeseen medical emergency or weather event that forces you to cancel or change your plans. With most airlines, you must pay a change fee (typically $100 to $200 per flight) plus the fare difference (if any) between your canceled and rescheduled flight.

You can reduce rebooking expenses by purchasing comprehensive travel insurance when you book. Travel insurance policy premiums usually amount to 5% to 10% of the total trip cost, which is $250 to $500 on a $5,000 trip. That’s well worth it in the event of a substantial disruption that forces you to cut short or cancel your trip altogether.

17. Weigh Refundable vs. Nonrefundable Lodging Options

The refundable versus nonrefundable question isn’t as clear-cut on the lodging front. Some hotels and discount hotel booking sites, such as Hotwire and Hotels.com, offer deep discounts for nonrefundable bookings.

On the other hand, if you’re planning a road trip or island-hop for your honeymoon, refundable bookings let you truncate and extend your stays as you see fit.

For instance, if you fall in love with the first of three hotels you’ve lined up for your honeymoon, you can extend your stay there and cancel the corresponding nights at the second place without penalty.

Likewise, if you need to cut your trip short for any reason, refundable bookings let you do so without additional cost and may eliminate the need for travel insurance.


Final Word

Each of these tips can reduce the final cost of your honeymoon without compromising the experience. But they’re not the only items to add to your to-do list ahead of the big trip.

Some honeymoon planning to-dos aren’t guaranteed to reduce your net costs, at least not directly. They could make your trip safer, more comfortable, or more pleasant, though.

For example, though unlikely, a serious accident or illness could befall you or your new spouse on your honeymoon. Should you or your partner land in the hospital, ensure you have proof of health insurance on hand.

Likewise, ensure you’ve left nothing to chance at home. That might mean investing in a home security system, arranging pet care, and powering down appliances and electronics that waste electricity or raise fire risk.

You’ve waited for your honeymoon for a long time, maybe years. You deserve to enjoy it — without worrying about things back home or breaking the bank.

Brian Martucci
Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

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