My wife and I did as much as we could to reduce the cost of our wedding. And while I shared my best tips to save money on your wedding, we did have one big wedding-related expense that I hadn’t accounted for: the honeymoon.
It’s true that some newlyweds eschew 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.
Here are the crucial things you need to do to make your honeymoon more affordable.
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 excursion will still likely set you back.
According to Costhelper, the typical week-long destination honeymoon costs $3,400 to $5,100, depending on the locale, accommodations, activities, and other factors. All-inclusive stays at spendy resorts cost more. 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 put 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. Use a Travel Rewards Credit Card
You don’t need to do any honeymoon planning, or even decide for sure that you’re going to take a honeymoon, to see the wisdom in this tip.
If you have good credit or better, you’ll likely qualify for a travel rewards credit card that earns points or miles for every dollar you spend. More generous cards earn at accelerated rates. For example, the Capital One Venture Rewards Card earns 2 miles per $1 spent, with no mileage caps or restrictions. That works out to a 2% return on everyday spending. You can use your miles to offset travel purchases or book travel directly through Capital One’s travel portal.
Some travel rewards cards have additional perks that can come in handy when you’re ready to redeem for travel. For instance, Chase Sapphire Preferred (a consumer card) and Chase Ink Business Preferred (a small business credit card) both let you transfer points to about a dozen popular travel loyalty programs, including United MileagePlus and Southwest Rapid Rewards, at a 1-to-1 ratio. Since these loyalty programs’ points are often far more valuable than Chase’s, this benefit can multiply your spending power – especially on transcontinental flights, which offer generous redemption values.
Many travel rewards cards draw in new applicants with attractive sign-up bonus offers. To qualify for a sign-up bonus, you typically have to spend a certain amount in purchases (anywhere from $500 to $5,000, and sometimes more) within a certain period (usually three to four months) following your sign-up date. Sign-up bonuses vary widely by issuer and card, but higher-end credit cards’ sign-up bonuses’ values often approach – and, in some cases, exceed – $1,000. Depending on where you’re going and what you plan to do while you’re there, a generous sign-up bonus could go a long way toward covering the cost of your trip – or at least offset your airfare expenses.
We regularly update our list of the best personal credit cards for sign-up bonuses, but some inclusions never change: Chase Sapphire Preferred is a perennial fixture, as is The Platinum Card from American Express.
However, keep in mind that many of the best travel rewards cards carry annual fees, including those with great sign-up bonuses. Venture Rewards’s annual fee is $59 while Sapphire Preferred’s is $95. More exclusive cards are even pricier: American Express Delta Reserve Credit Card, whose benefits include complimentary airport lounge access, costs $450 per year. Amex Platinum (which also comes with complimentary airport lounge access) costs $550 per year. Then again, a relaxing stint in a quiet airport lounge might be the perfect way to kick off your honeymoon.
Pro Tip: Looking for a great travel credit card? Check out our roundup of the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards for ideas and comparisons.
2. Cash In Your Miles or Points
This is your best opportunity to reduce the raw dollar cost of your honeymoon without making any sacrifices. If you’re looking to splurge, but can’t afford (or simply don’t want) to pay for the finer things out of pocket, cashing in your miles or points is a great way to upgrade your trip’s luxury quotient without leaving your wallet any worse for the wear. Then again, for this tip to make a big difference, you have to have a nice pile of frequent flyer miles, hotel points, or credit card loyalty currency saved up.
If you travel frequently and use a travel rewards credit card, you’re probably already in a pretty good place. Join as many hotel and airline loyalty clubs as possible – they’re free to join and don’t charge membership fees. 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 don’t hesitate to raise a fuss about missing points.
Fair warning: Most brand-specific loyalty programs, such as Delta SkyMiles and Hilton HHonors, impose minimum redemption thresholds. Depending on the underlying value of the currency and the brands’ policies, you’ll likely need to spend a few hundred bucks to hit those minimums. Read the fine print and budget accordingly.
3. Set Up a Honeymoon Registry
You already have a wedding registry. Why not a honeymoon registry?
A honeymoon registry is just as it sounds: an itemized, semi-public, fully fundable wish list for your honeymoon dreams. You can stock it with anything you’d do or need on your honeymoon, including:
- Discrete activities, such as guided tours or couples massages
- Splurge-level experiences, such as a private dinner for two or a chartered deepwater fishing excursion
- Travel expenses, such as rental cars or hotel rooms
- Incidental things you’ll need on the trip, 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 cut up your expenses as you see fit, 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. 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. Honeymoon Wishes and Honeyfund are also great alternatives.
4. Develop Your Honeymoon Budget
It’s easy to save money on a tight budget. And while setting a honeymoon budget might not directly lower the cost of your adventure, it can help prevent overspending. If it’s put in place 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 lies in 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, splurge on spendy 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 experience, 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 really realistic? Time for a reality check. Once you’ve settled your destination, length of stay, required experiences (spa treatments, anyone?), and desired 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. Then, thoroughly research each item’s cost. Establish a range within which your trip’s cost is likely to fall, assuming you get everything you want. Finally, take a hard look at your financial picture: your income, cash flow, your personal savings. Determine whether it’s financially realistic (and prudent) to aspire even to the lower end of the range. If not, perhaps it’s time to rethink the big picture. If so, move on to step three.
- The Nitty Gritty: Here’s where you put some flesh on your honeymoon’s bones. 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 items, such as individual meals. (If possible, pick out a few local restaurants and look at menus online to determine how much you’ll spend each day.) Look for opportunities to save wherever possible: cheaper rooms, package deals, discounts for longer stays, and so on. 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.
Now comes the fun part: saving up for the big getaway. Take my advice and start as early as you can – you’ll have enough to worry about in the run-up to 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.
5. Start a Honeymoon Savings Fund
Once you have a firm budget, open a new FDIC-insured savings or money market account and earmark it exclusively for your honeymoon. If you’re planning to merge your finances as a married couple, consider making this a joint account – you can legally do so before you actually tie the knot.
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 Digit, which analyzes your cash flow and automatically sets aside a few dollars a few times per month – probably not enough to singlehandedly fund your honeymoon, but definitely a help.
Pro Tip: Every couple should have an emergency savings fund, a retirement savings fund, and a personal savings fund. Learn more in this article about the three types of savings you should have right now.
6. Ask Your Friends and Loved Ones For Cash
They’ll understand. In fact, they’ll probably sympathize. Younger folks – especially millennials (Gen Y) and Gen Z – prefer experiences over possessions.
Is it tacky to ask your wedding guests for money? Perhaps. Many couples aren’t comfortable with flat-out telling their guests, “We’d really like you to write us a check.”
If you’re not comfortable with a direct ask, nudge your guests. Keep your wedding registry sparse and populate it mainly with low-cost, practical items like everyday glassware, kitchenware, bedclothes, and bathroom accessories. On your wedding website, linger on your honeymoon plans (linking to your honeymoon registry, if you have one) and mention that you’re saving up for a truly unique trip.
Or you can just go for the ask. 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 more likely to oblige.
7. Travel in the Low Season
There are plenty of tricks to save money on vacation. One of the best is to travel during the low season when tourism-dependent businesses are at their hungriest. You’ll find better deals on hotels, lower airfare (and cheaper upgrades to first class), generous package deals, more affordable excursions, and fewer crowds.
The low season 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 low season is spring and fall. In tropical locales, the low season coincides with the rainy season, which happens at different times of year in different places.
Once you choose your destination, identify its low season 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.
8. Consider a Honeymoon Package, Cautiously
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 such as 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, you might want to avoid the temptation. If the package’s inclusions entice you and you’re pretty sure you’d pursue them anyway, do some back-of-the-envelope math, make sure 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. On our honeymoon, my wife and I stayed at a nice but not all-inclusive resort in New England. We sprang for the honeymoon package, because why not. The highlight: an amazing room upgrade. The downside: by our calculations, we may have just broken even. Again, do the math before you pull the trigger.
9. Cut It Short
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 PTO accounts. Since you’re spending fewer nights away, you have leeway to raise your per-night costs – whether that means upgrading from a three- to five-star property or splurging on a special experience for which you’d otherwise lack the budget. And you can always sock away your savings for a future vacation, if not a second honeymoon.
Besides, it’s never been easier to enjoy a cheap romantic weekend getaway.
10. 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’ll spend on airfare and incidental travel costs. Stay close enough and you won’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 special.
11. Try a Midweek Getaway
If you’re already planning to keep your honeymoon short and close to home, consider traveling during the middle of the week: 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 then. Look for midweek deals on equipment rentals, dining, and drinks too – happy hours are invariably more generous during the week.
12. Bed Down Under the Stars
There’s no such thing as forced pampering. If you could care less about infinity pools, 600-thread-count sheets, turn-downs, Jacuzzi tubs, and spa treatments, why not spend some quality alone time under the stars?
Camping out in an outdoor adventure destination is a great way to 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 multi-day long-distance hike that strings together several isolated campgrounds.
13. 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, of course.
Good thing not all hostels are alike.
Most hostels offer private or semi-private 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’ll pay a premium for privacy, but only to a degree. On a cursory search of hostels in central Rome, I found 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.
14. 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, consider splitting the distance and taking a multi-stop road trip. You’ll avoid expensive airfare and other incidental costs associated with international travel.
A road trip is a great way to hit cities, towns, and points of interest that 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.
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, why not plan a road trip that incorporates both? With less time allotted to the resort, you’ll still come out ahead financially.
15. 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 honeymoon dining budget.
If you’re leaning towards a destination resort, consider properties that “unbundle” dining from your per-night costs. Full-service restaurants charge hefty premiums for their creations, so you can likely save a boatload by hoofing it 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, make sure your room has a basic kitchen, or at least cold storage for prepared foods. When you arrive, head to the local grocery store and stock up on supplies. It might be more work, but an evening spent cooking in can be surprisingly romantic.
Pro Tip: For more frugal dining ideas, check out our post on ways to save money eating out at restaurants.
16. Blind-Book Your Hotels
If you know where you want to take your honeymoon, but aren’t wedded 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, three-star hotels) and manageable geographical areas (city center, beachfront, parkside). And they present you with a final price, usually including taxes, up front. 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 – rental cars for $15 per day, three-star city-center hotels for $70 per night.
I’ve heard plenty of complaints from other travelers though, 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.
17. Book Off-Hours Flights
Overwhelmed by flight options? Use this simple trick to dramatically narrow your choices and cut your airfare spending.
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, just 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 late afternoon, U.S. time, and arrive in the morning, European time.
18. Book Non-Refundable Flights With Travel Insurance
If your travel dates are set in stone, you can save 30% to 50% on airfare (and perhaps more) simply by booking non-refundable flights. This 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’ll have to 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 – $250 to $500 on a $5,000 trip. That’s well worth it in the event of a major disruption that forces you to cut short or cancel your trip altogether
19. Weigh Refundable vs. Non-Refundable Lodging Options
The refundable versus non-refundable 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 non-refundable 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 added cost – and may obviate travel insurance altogether.
My wife and I didn’t splurge on our honeymoon. Over the course of six nights, we spent just under $2,000, including airfare. Still, that was the most expensive trip we’d taken as a couple to date, and remained so until a longer trip to Miami and Key West.
That said, we’ve been talking about taking a longer, more expensive trip – sort of a second honeymoon – when our budget allows. We’ve built up quite a store of travel miles over the years, and we’re excited to exploit these tips.
Are you planning a honeymoon shortly? What steps are you taking to save money on the trip?