Honeymoon Paradise for Less (You MUST See the Perks!)
Say yes! These destinations have all the romantic bells and whistles newlyweds (or second honeymooners!) could want—without crazy overcharges.
Real talk from a bride-to-be: Never did I fully comprehend the huge buildup and subsequent letdown of sketching out a honeymoon plan until I got engaged. Years ago, before even I met my fiancé, I naturally assumed that the grown-up me would go on a romantic, Ulysses-esque epic honeymoon journey. Maybe we'd see the Acropolis in Athens, swing through the Piedmont region of Italy to sample Barolos, stop in French Polynesia to admire exotic birds from an overwater bungalow, take the train to the South of France for aromatherapy in fields of lavender, taste street food in Thailand, and then spend a night or two in L.A. in a hotel with a full view of the Hollywood sign en route home to New York... I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea. I was gonna go big.
Now close your eyes and imagine the sound of a record needle screeching and young dreams shattering, because that's what happened when I entered the preliminary figures for my wedding budget into an Excel spreadsheet. That initial lump sum of money that would have been perfect for embarking on a mini 'round-the-world excursion quickly got chopped in half, and then in half again, and then in half again due to the cost of having to actually get married and hold a reception. Whatever amount is left over is fair game, but waving buh-bye to all of that cash is, ironically, heartbreaking. To all the brave couples who eloped; created a honeymoon registry on a site like Honeyfund, Zola, or Blueprint Registry; or threw a modest wedding in order to spend on a massive trip later, you have my utmost respect...and envy.
Like many of you who are mapping out a post-wedding escape, I'm going to have to cut honeymoon costs where I can once we nail down a destination. But if there's one thing I believe, it's that Budget Travelers shouldn't have to sacrifice the perks they fantasize about in order to vacation within their means. In that spirit, we found six affordable honeymoon resorts and hot spots that not only welcome newly married couples, but offer a slew of free extras—we're talking complimentary bubbly, on-the-house farm-to-table meals, and free activities like nighttime concerts. Because when you're looking to take a breather from wedding madness and get to know your partner better, those little add-ons are priceless...or so I've heard.
Negril, Jamaica: Sunset at the Palms
Prepare for Romance with a capital "R" at the all-inclusive, adults-only Sunset at the Palms resort, which consistently gets high marks from travelers for its romance quotient and intimate, tropical atmosphere (think 10 acres of lush gardens and rustic, elevated treehouse-style bungalows with Asian-inspired decor).
Cost: From $226 per couple, per night, all-inclusive
Perks for lovers: Stay five nights or more and get a free bottle of champagne and 15 percent off spa services. (Mention the Free Honeymoon Package.) An upgrade to the Romance at Sunset package that includes a massage and four-course dinner is available at an extra cost, but if you're trying to work within your budget (and who isn't), the Sunset chain offers a honeymoon registry through Honeymoon Wishes so your guests can gift you everything from safaris to indulgent spa services like milk-and-honey body wraps. There is, however, a service and handling fee of up to 9.65 percent that you and the gift purchaser are responsible for, so if that bugs you, you might be better off asking for cash-stuffed envelopes instead.
Walla Walla, Washington: Marcus Whitman Hotel
How does a no-cost glass of wine or two sound after all that anticipated wedding hooplah? If your answer is "oustanding," consider Washington's wine country, says Dr. Pepper Schwartz, author of Places for Passion. The Marcus Whitman Hotel downtown can serve as home base. "There are numerous wine tasting places within a few blocks, many of which will not charge for the chance to sample their wines," she says.