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The M-Network Vacation Guide — How Not to Honeymoon (and how to!)

Today, we of the M-Network are doing a series on vacationing. Frugal tips, ideas, experiences, personal accounts…everything. Check out the other M-Network blogs for more.

When Micah and I talk about our honeymoon, it always ends in bitter laughter. We had good plans, we thought. Here’s a short version of what we planned: We knew we both don’t like beaches and hot weather. So we headed to New England. We knew we wouldn’t want to travel far after the wedding. So we spent two nights only 2 hours away. Then we headed up through Scranton (2 nights) to New Hampshire (9 nights in 2 places). My parents gave us a week in their time-share, which was basically like a little 1-bedroom apartment. It was a relief from the hotel rooms.

We forgot to take into account some important things about ourselves. For starters: we don’t like to travel. At all. Neither of us. I’ve had 2 good vacations (excluding chilling with you Canadians in Toronto, but that was just chilling), Micah’s had 1. We only really like going places if we’re visiting friends or family.

That combined with some stuff I’m not going to go into here made for a rather miserable honeymoon. We managed to cope but it wasn’t fun.

You know what made us happy? Getting home. I was still job hunting, but we were comfortable in our own place. We made a few day trips to DC. We took walks and cooked together and went for coffee and rented movies. That was us.

I’m not saying what was right for our honeymoon will be right for you. But here are some tips I’ve drawn from our experience:

1. You don’t have to take the honeymoon right after the wedding. I think taking a week off to spend together is a good idea. But it doesn’t have to be something elaborate.

There’s a lot of pressure around the wedding. Lots of stress and expectation. Honeymoons bring more expectation—of having a good time, great sex, all that. You’re supposed to be off your head with joy the entire time and that’s a lot of pressure to be dealing with. Going on a honeymoon at a different time lowers those expectations. That would have meant a lot to us!

This also frees you up to have a less conventional wedding date which is a great way to save money and bridal sanity. If you’re a beach person, you can still get married in March or September and plan the honeymoon for later. Everything wedding is easier to book when it’s not the summer and things may actually be cheaper.

And if you don’t have the money for what you really want…take the time to save up for it! Waiting won’t kill you, it may even mean you’ll enjoy yourself more.

2. You don’t have to go at a conventional time of year. Another thing about us…we hate summer. Some people like it, we don’t. We might have been much happier in the fall or spring if we’d traveled at all. We got married two days after our 5-year anniversary of dating, which is why we picked July at all. The summer didn’t affect the happiness of the wedding, but it was a big part of the honeymoon suckiness.

Even if you’re a beach person and getting married in June, you might want to think of putting off the honeymoon. There are enough beaches around the world that you can always find somewhere warm and sunny. If it’s off-season you may get a much better deal as well.

3. Do something instead of a honeymoon. Honeymoons cost a lot. I’m not saying cut out the honeymoon to save money, but if you’re just going on the honeymoon because everyone goes on the honeymoon, why not use the money for something you’d like?

When I look back and consider alternatives (which I don’t do much but have been this week), I know something that would have made me very happy. Going to NYC for just one night to see a Broadway play/musical. Or heck, for the price of the honeymoon make it two nights and two plays! Then coming back to DC and chilling at our apartment, taking walks, seeing monuments, going for coffee, borrowing movies from the library, all that fun stuff. Basically what we did after the honeymoon without the pressure of job-hunting.

That would have made me so happy. We couldn’t afford 2 weeks in New York, but 2 nights & plays wouldn’t have broken the budget…and we’d already paid the rent down here. Getting around in DC is quite cheap (metro!!) and many attractions are free.

Hopefully we’ll still get that trip in a few years. Remember that even if your wedding or honeymoon ends up sucking it doesn’t mean your marriage will, or that you can’t plan fun things in the future.

4. Know yourself. This is critical in all parts of life, but especially when planning weddings. Know what it is you really want. When you get married, everything is expected to fall into special patterns that fit our current culture.

If you don’t think those current patterns fit the two of you, then screw it! Getting married, going on the honeymoon is a time for YOU to celebrate the beginning of your life together. You don’t have to wear white or have attendants or favors or a reception. You don’t have to go someplace right after the wedding. You don’t have to spend $20,000.

Be courteous and hospitable to your guests, but do what makes the two of you happy. Your guests should be able to cope with a non-cookie cutter wedding as long as they’re fed and have places to sit. They might even prefer it. Your friends should respect your choice to go back to work right after the wedding or to hang around your apartment.

The one place where we knew ourselves (besides the wedding/reception, which was fun!) was right afterwards. We went back to my parents’ house to change and then went out to Border’s for coffee and books. Spent a couple hours there before heading out. That was the happiest part of my honeymoon. Just doing what we’ve found fun for the last few years and still find fun.

Any tips on how not to honeymoon? Some things that made your honeymoon better?

Some of us will go on to post more on Wednesday (or Thursday!) because we have a couple good ideas, so check back then. They’ll be turned into an e-book pretty soon too.


{ 5 trackbacks }

The M-Network Vacation Guide | M-Network Blogs
June 3, 2008 at 9:26 pm
The Financial Blogger | Financial Ramblings - Revisited
June 7, 2008 at 6:01 am
Weekend Roundup - Amazon Gift Card Winner Edition | beingfrugal.net
June 7, 2008 at 7:02 am
Weekend Reading during Site Updates : Money Smart Life
June 7, 2008 at 12:58 pm
Moolanomy’s Family Vacation Wrap Up | Moolanomy
July 11, 2008 at 8:02 am

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

David June 3, 2008 at 11:48 am

I am with you on #1 – we didn’t do anything for almost a year!

That One Caveman June 3, 2008 at 12:40 pm

I totally agree! We took a vacation after the wedding to give us some time together and called it the honeymoon. We were broke and knew we wouldn’t be seeing much anyway (wink wink), so there was no point in any extravagant spending right then.

A few years later, we had the opportunity to travel to Mexico. That’s when we had what you might call a true honeymoon. We walked on the beaches, took a few trips into the jungle, and had a great time. I’m glad we waited and saved so we could have a vacation we could enjoy together.

deepali June 3, 2008 at 12:46 pm

my brother and sister in law waited 4 months before going on their honeymoon. i think it was a good stress reliever to have that break. they weren’t living together before they got married, so it gave them time to settle in (that’s *really* important!).

Andrea June 3, 2008 at 12:57 pm

In early April I went to a destination wedding in the Dominican Republic. Not only did the resort take care of most of the wedding details (making it stress-free for the couple), but the whole week was also their honeymoon.

Jessica June 3, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Nearly six years later and we haven’t taken a “true” honeymoon. We did stay in a hotel for a couple of nights before heading back to our teeny little student apartment (oh yes, we got married a couple weeks before our senior year of college.)

Our not really a honeymoon worked for us, but we still want to take a big-honeymoon like trip before we have kids. Basically any trip that doesn’t revolve around seeing family or friends, that would be nice. We’re not very good at taking breaks/vacations, we just work hard (at jobs and on projects at home) and then we end up burned out…something to work on.

Mrs Micah's Mom June 3, 2008 at 4:51 pm

Like you, I felt great relief and happiness to get back from my honeymoon and start my real married life. People said, “How do you like Married life now that the honeymoon is over?” I said, “Does it have to be over?” because I felt much more honeymoonish in our new home.

However, I’m glad we went on a honeymoon right away. It gave us time to adjust to living with another person–I had lived alone 11 of the preceding 15 years and 7 years in a row before the wedding–, we saw interesting things, and we were able to make mistakes without having them interwoven into our daily life.

My Daily Dollars June 3, 2008 at 6:11 pm

Interesting post! I agree that having down time at home after the wedding would be a great idea. We’re traveling a week after the wedding, but making it very low-key. We rented a cottage in Sonoma, CA and just plan to chill out. In some ways, I’m really looking forward to the honeymoon since it will be just the two of us. . . very different from the wedding weekend!

Laura June 3, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Great Post! Stressing over having the ‘perfect’ honeymoon defeats the purpose. We got married in December. The wedding was cheap and the honeymoon was a lot cheaper since we were off season.

plonkee June 3, 2008 at 6:46 pm

You know, you and Micah should take another honeymoon. One in DC where you stay in bed too much, go to free museums, eat Ethiopian food, and hang out in bookshops.

I think that if you get enough practice in, you’ll be able to honeymoon reasonably well. You’ll probably want to honeymoon a lot though.

Mrs. Nathan June 3, 2008 at 6:47 pm

I’m glad you are advocating the unconventional honeymoon. I’ve seen a lot of people go to those Sandals resorts in the Caribbean, and, while I’m sure they are a great place for some people if that’s their type of thing, I think those types of fantasy honeymoons can create undue pressure for those of us who are are less idealistic about romance and sex. That said, I do think taking time to be alone together after the wedding is crucial – we rented a cabin in Ithaca NY for a week after the wedding and had a blast just cooking, reading, hiking and boating. We were kind of lonely the first few days, but we had some simple, nonstressful activities planned (wine tasting, visiting Cornell, etc.) that helped us to concentrate on the things we value together and to develop a good modus operandi for our married life. But a week away from friends and family was just the right time – by the end of the trip we were eager to get back to start our life.

Lynnae June 3, 2008 at 8:10 pm

We took a very basic honeymoon, since we didn’t have a lot of time (I was headed back to grad school). We rented a little cabin from one of Jim’s relatives (so we got a discount) about 3 hours from home. We spent a week there, just hanging out, and it was perfect.

You’re absolutely right that you can’t underestimate the emotions and expectations that go with a wedding. On the second day of our honeymoon, I just started bawling for no reason, other than just the stress-letdown of the wedding being over. What a great introduction to marriage for Jim! :)

David Carter June 3, 2008 at 8:33 pm

Very good post, but you guys in the money network should spread out when you post about the same thing. Maybe 1 per day instead of everyone at once. Cause I feel like just skipping over the article if I feel I have already read something similar on another blog.

Writer's Coin June 3, 2008 at 8:42 pm

Interesting. We will be taking a “traditional” honeymoon next year but I do recommend doing something right after the wedding. It makes it feel special to get away just the two of you together. We went to Saugatuck during Memorial Day weekend and it was empty and the weather was fantastic.

Love that place.

Sara June 3, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Thanks; you’re pretty much the only person who I think wouldn’t drop your jaw if you heard I hadn’t taken a honeymoon. Everyone is shocked that we haven’t really done anything yet, but we’re just starting out in life. How are we supposed to afford a serious vacation? Besides, most of our time off goes to be spent with family. That dream trip will happen, but I think we’ll both feel better if we wait to celebrate a 5th or 10th anniversary and just enjoy being married for now.

Funny about Money June 3, 2008 at 9:44 pm

We didn’t go anywhere for several months after we married. No…for a year or so, because when we finally did take off we’d moved out of our tacky apartment into our first house. We did go to Tahiti, Australia, and New Zealand…which was something my (now ex-)husband thought of as his Dream Trip. It was interesting.

But…why do people think they have to GO somewhere just because they got married? Seems to me the honeys could have just as much fun getting to know each other (or getting to know each other BETTER) right at home.

I’m with you & Micah about traveling: I find it stressful…and much more so these days, what with the extreme invasion of privacy and the increasingly uncomfortable and hostile conditions on airplanes. THIS is fun?

If I were a young thang now–especially with the gaudy weddings that are back in fashion (heaven help you!)–I’d rather spend the money that might be used on travel to enjoy the high points of where I live. Be a tourist in your own town–go to the nicest restaurants and the best shows and take advantage of what your home has to offer.

The Financial Blogger June 4, 2008 at 5:37 am

We left for our honeymoon only a few hours after our wedding. In fact, we came back home at 4AM and we left the house for the airport at 6AM. I think we made a good decision since we were really in the mood of going on vacation after all the work required for setting up our wedding.

However, our mistake was to go down south in an all-inclusive. Sure the first 3 days it was nice to sleep by the pool and walk on the beach. But after a few days, it became boring. As you said, we would have been better off doing something (a backpack trip to Europe would have been a lot more fun!).

Susan June 4, 2008 at 8:33 am

Excellent tips!
My husband and I took our honeymoon a year after our wedding, and looking back, I’m glad it happened that way. We had something really fun to look forward to. We had time to plan and save for a really nice vacation. And we were more relaxed and had more fun since we had time to just get to know each other as a married couple.
And that’s what a honeymoon is supposed to be, a time for just the married couple to spend time together and have fun, no matter where they choose to go. :)

Kristen June 4, 2008 at 9:50 am

I’m getting married in just under 8 weeks. We are doing the traditional honeymoon to the Caribbean at an all-inclusive resort. Yes, it will be an expense, but we both really wanted to go. We’re beach people. We’ve been saving to pay for the whole thing (no charging!). Plus, we picked an island with activities that we both enjoy, so that if we get bored just sitting by the ocean, we have things to do.

My fiance and I are both a little older and we felt like we should have the wedding/honeymoon we always wanted. We decided if we could pay for everything in cash we should go for it.

SavingDiva June 4, 2008 at 10:09 am

I would love to go on a “traditional honeymoon”….but by myself! :) I love the sun, the beach, and warm weather! I guess you’re lucky that we didn’t get married!

Wooly Woman June 4, 2008 at 10:36 am

We waited almost 2 years for our honeymoon in Hawaii… and we got the lovely relaxing, debt free time we wanted because we waited. We had some time to be together and relax right after the wedding though, and like you Mrs Micah, those memories really are the best!

donna jean June 4, 2008 at 11:16 am

We’re approaching our second anniversary and still haven’t taken a honeymoon. Since we’re also expecting a little one soon, I can’t imagine any trips happening anytime soon. We were trying to buy a house when we got married, we decided an affordable wedding ($2,000) was enough extra spending and we’d save the rest to get a house. I’d love to take a trip as I love traveling, but the price tag on any vacation (especially a family one, since I wouldn’t want to leave any children home), makes traveling a maybe-someday dream for now.

kitty June 4, 2008 at 1:21 pm

It depends on what people like. For those who really like to travel there is another money-saving option: honeymoon instead of a wedding.

This is what a girl I knew when I was young did. We were recent refugees from Russia and money were tight. This girl’s parents had some money saved, but not that much; she just started working so she also didn’t have much saved yet. So she said – I don’t care about having a formal wedding, but I’d like to go on a trip I’d remember. She got married by a justice of the peace, had a small party in her home for a few relatives and very close friends (mom-made food instead of catering, no photographer, no band – she played some piano and they put some records on, etc.). They then spent $5000 on a trip to Europe. This was around 1980 so $5000 bought a very nice trip, but it was still cheaper than the wedding.

S.B. June 4, 2008 at 3:52 pm

Interesting post. We had a lot of friends that were going to islands and doing a beach type honeymoon. The hubby and I went to a national park – it was romantic, peaceful and relaxing. We are glad we did something a little different!

S.B.

Livingalmostlarge June 4, 2008 at 4:42 pm

We went on our honeymoon 4 months after our wedding. It was fun and enjoyable.

I still enjoy travelling with DH, because I know the day is coming when it won’t just be us.

frugal zeitgeist June 4, 2008 at 10:55 pm

Uh, my ex and I both went to work on Monday. We were planning to take our honeymoon for our second anniversary, but we didn’t make it that far.

tiffanie July 14, 2008 at 12:11 am

We couldn’t afford our dream honeymoon of going to Hawaii right after our wedding, so we did 2 nights at a local (45 minute drive) hotel with waterpark inside, and then drove across the state and stayed in a Victorian bed and breakfast for 2 nights. It was a nice honeymoon, and it gave us a year to save up for our dream of going to Hawaii, which we did for our one year anniversary (and paid practically for the entire thing in cash! – 5 nights in Waikiki, 4 in Maui). That worked best for us and we enjoyed both “honeymoons”!

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