The wedding bells have finished chiming, the once-chinking glasses are all back in the special cupboard and it’s time for a little one-on-one, just you two. But how do you think about honeymooning on a budget when everything seems geared to cost so much?
On one of the most memorable trips of your life, the biggest planning hurdle is usually money. Different wants, mixed with varying expectations for each couple means that meeting-in-the-middle money management can suck the joy out of planning.
How much do we take? Is it possible to save on anything? What’s an average daily spend – particularly in different countries? What should we splurge on?
It is possible to honeymoon on a budget if you follow a few simple rules. Most importantly, remember that the honeymoon is your experience. There’s no right or wrong way to do it and no amount to spend that justifies it as a ‘honeymoon’.
We included our honeymoon in our wedding budget from the get-go, and clearly segmented how much we wanted to spend on each. This really helped us not to go over on either category, knowing it might eat into the other.
And although we didn’t ask for gifts for our wedding and made it clear it wasn’t expected, many people thoughtfully left us cash which helped pay for our trip. If you’re still in the wedding stage, I would highly recommend this over a registry. Experiences over things.
No rush, wait it out
If you’re married in peak season, you’re probably travelling in peak season (if you go straight after the nuptials). So, don’t go right away – wait until low season and travel then, it’s much cheaper. Our wedding was in October but we didn’t head off on our honeymoon for another 7 months afterwards, and this also gave us extra time to save.
Keep a cash reserve to take advantage of deals
Jump on deals as soon as they pop up, which might mean having a cash reserve ready. Virgin Australia announced a round-the-world ticket for $999 early in the year, and it was for two days only. Every other ticket I’d looked at beforehand was triple the price, so I jumped on it. Likewise, we booked a Eurail ticket at 33% off on a flash sale.
On a side note: we railwayed our way around Europe and this alternate mode of transport saved us a bunch – had we flown between every destination, we would have spent thousands extra. A simple flight from Vienna to Germany was over 400 Euros. Certainly not conducive to honeymooning on a budget. No thanks.
Plan what’s important to you
I can’t stress this enough… agree on what honeymoon you want. This does the heavy-lifting of your budget for you.
- Adventures and tours: Will you be out and about a lot? Consider that most attractions (even state-run or national trust) will have entry fees.
- Hotels: Do you look at the details of hotels – the amenities, the towel thread count – with an eagle eye? If so, a more luxe hotel might be where you want to divert your funds.
- Food and alcohol: Mega foodies need to make sure they have a significantly higher daily food budget.
- Shops: Buying big-ticket items can be great to do overseas if the local currency is weak and the tax is refundable when you go home.
We got super clear on the honeymoon we wanted to have in three words: adventurous, exciting and busy. One of the few must-haves on our shared “joy list” (the things we’re happy to spend on) is travel experiences, so our budget had to account for that.
We were happy to stay in quirky hotels, not luxe ones. Food wasn’t a priority because I’m pregnant and vomiting food up really is a fun game of Will-I-Won’t-I? (Best-Get-A-Bucket-Just-In-Case). Shopping included a couple of items we had been looking at and researching for over a year (we saved hundreds buying overseas).
Limit eating out
On the vein of food, eating out is actually really boring after a while. Traipsing around to find somewhere that suits both dietary requirements and looks like somewhere you’d actually want to eat three times a day sucks. We had at least one meal a day from supermarkets or deli counters which saved us an absolute bomb.
Look at travel sites as a guide only
I never look at trip forums when asking the question “how much do I spend?” Why? Because it’s like asking a stranger how long a piece of string is. What constitutes a shoestring, average or luxury budget is completely dependent on the person and the variability is way too high. That, in money terms, is risky.
Instead, I research individual things. I look at the cost of restaurant menus of places we’d eat at, I look at attraction or entry prices for things that would generally interest us and the cost of transport for varying trips. When you’re honeymooning on a budget, this builds a picture of what it would really cost to be tourists, holidaying in the way that you want.
Ditch the plastic
Unless you have an amazing travel credit card setup, I’d ditch the plastic completely.
Otherwise, expect foreign transaction fees, standard merchant fees, cash withdrawal fees and high markup currency exchange rates (this is a mid-market rate, aka “buy and sell midpoint rate” with a margin). Instead, use cash as much as possible and leave cash deposits at hotels instead of a card authorisation. Even if the charge is held, your bank may well still charge an international fee for hypothetically processing the amount into sterling (as all non-sterling currencies need to be).
Pay online in advance as much as possible
Even if you only know what you’re going to do the night before. Look online and see if there’s a cheaper ticket for pre-booking – then pay by PayPal or reserve your spot to pay in cash at the deal price when you arrive. We did this for a number of experiences and saved anywhere from 25-60% on any given thing. All of our hotels were booked ahead of time through deal sites like Trivago and Booking.com, scoring us some great hotel rooms for $100 a night.
Share with everyone for the freebies
Share the news, far and wide when honeymooning on a budget. Honeymooners can boast things like room and experience upgrades, champagne, dessert and sometimes even gifts. But only announce it when you arrive – upsold honeymoon packages are a major rip-off in my opinion and I wouldn’t bother with them.
- Look into the travel or hire car insurance that comes with your credit card (providing you pay for those things on the card). Some people don’t like credit card travel insurance, but we used our Suncorp Platinum insurance on a hasty return from a recent trip to India and they paid us back everything without any hassle. It depends on the underwriter.
- Don’t feel guilty for not going out. We had entire days (sometimes in succession) where we’d stay in bed all day, reading, watching Netflix and napping. Enjoy each others’ company – I know my husband so much better now because we spent so many hours just talking, and that was my favourite part of the trip. You don’t have to be out all day, everyday just because you’re on your honeymoon.
- Stay close to transport routes as non-conventional transfers to remote places can be expensive. The days you travel can also make a difference, so be open to taking unusual flight paths if they work out significantly cheaper – especially if you have extra time. And travel overnight if possible (night flights and sleeper trains – they save you on hotel costs).
- Create two budgets. Live-Like-A-Local and Make-It-Rain. Use the first 70% of the time and the latter 30% of the time (…even while honeymooning on a budget, splurging occasionally is okay). Travelling should be equal parts plan and spontaneity, because what’s worse than spending guilt on holiday?
- Keep a tally on your phone of how much you have left each day. It’s purely an admin function to help you keep it in check (you’d be surprised how fast you’d go over budget otherwise).
While it’s important not to debt yourself for a honeymoon, investing isn’t all about what you can grow tangibly. Emotional development, increased self-awareness and personal adeptness are also significant measures of growth you can bank in different ways.
I believe travel makes us better citizens, and directly increases our earning potential. We become more capable under pressure, stronger in experience and empathy (how we work with others) and better educated – all crucial soft skills for making moolah.
Travel is in my top-five fave investment vehicles, and by honeymooning on a budget you’re off to a great start.