Psst! Wanna Elope?
When you're engaged to be married, but buried under catering menus, to-do lists, and secret Pinterest boards featuring enough decorative twigs to build the world's largest bird's nest, forgoing a huge wedding for a combination elopement/honeymoon can look rather appealing.
Picture it: spur-of-the-moment vows in an exotic locale, the only evidence of your nuptials a lone photo of your blissful faces snapped by a local. Then? Instant honeymoon.
But it's not quite that easy. As romantic as ditching the checklists and heading for all-in-one paradise sounds, doing a little bit of planning before boarding that plane will help you avoid wedding-day disasters that can occur even when you and your true love are the only attendees. Plus, we found the latest information on six trendy budget getaways that you might want to consider for your own last-minute ceremony.
Investigate the process for a marriage license.
Before you even commit to the location for your elopement/honeymoon, talk to the convention and visitors bureau to research the hoops you have to jump through to obtain a marriage license there. Some locales, though popular, have restrictions like waiting periods or witness minimums that could hamper your ideal ceremony. For example: "In St. Lucia, they have very strict rules," says Shawn Rabideau, founder of Shawn Rabideau Events & Design in New York City. "You've got to send all the paperwork in, and the resort sort of helps you with that—they bring it down to the local city office—but you really need to follow the rules. Otherwise you could find out—and this has happened—people have found out they weren't even legally married."
Some documents that might be required are birth certificates, passports, divorce decrees (if applicable), a certified copy of the death certificate for a widow or widower, and so on. Applications for a marriage license also might need to be filed before you get there—if only to avoid extra fees. An additional precaution to take when marrying abroad is to check travel.state.gov, which lists information such as whether same-sex marriage is illegal. Depending on the restrictions, it might make sense to do a private ceremony in the states and a symbolic one abroad, says Rabideau.
Will your elopement include just you and your partner? Or are you bringing a few friends? Posing simple questions like those can uncover potential organization problems: "How easy is the location to get to?" Rabideau says. "For example, some of the resorts or the islands in the Caribbean only have flights certain times a day and certain days of the week. Is Grandma going to be traveling for 12 hours? That might not be the best thing for Grandma. Are you going to be like, 'Oh, we can just Skype with her, that's great?' Technology doesn't always work."
If, upon further research, your dream location might be a travel nightmare or not as quick-and-dirty as you had envisioned, stay stateside to cut down on surprises.
While you're planning, go over the emotional fallout too: "Before you make the decision to elope, consider for just a moment and make sure that it's not going to be something you regret," says Jamie Chang, of Mango Muse Events in San Francisco, who specializes in destination weddings. "Not the getting-married part, but the not-having-anyone-there part. Will you be sad if your Mom isn't there? You don't want to look back and wish you'd done it differently."
Lean on the hotel or resort for assistance, but ask questions.
Most hotels and resorts have experience organizing weddings for out-of-towners, so it's smart to listen to their advice, even if you want a unique DIY wedding with hand-picked caterer, officiant, music, and décor. "They're going to have a list of vendors that they use and rely on," Rabideau says. "That usually is the best way to go. If they're recommending them, they don't want them to fail. It's their reputation."
That said, ensure you get the experience you want at the price you want, even when choosing a pre-existing package. "See what the resorts have to offer," Rabideau says. "Do they have an onsite planner that can help you? Very often the onsite planners are more like assistants, so they're juggling 10 or 20 other clients... Are there any hidden fees? Do they do more than one wedding on the day? If they do, is it next to you? Is it like a factory? If you want to feel special, it starts to take that specialness out of it."
Brace yourself for a different pace.
The sense of urgency we have in the U.S. doesn't apply to some foreign vendors, hotels, and officiants who operate at a throttled-back clip. "Understand if you're doing it in a different country, there's a different way of living," Rabideau says. "Spain [for example] is very different—they're more relaxed there; it's a different culture. They may not necessarily work at the same speed you work at. Not only pack your clothes, but pack your patience."
Include a few traditional touches.
Even if your wedding is intended to be tiny, spur of the moment, hipster-quirky, or out-of-the-box crazy, you can still hire either a local wedding planner to ensure your ceremony hits all of the marks, or one or two local vendors, depending on your priorities. "While eloping does mean having a wedding with just the couple, I think it's important for every couple to consider hiring a photographer," Chang says. "Even if you only hire them for an hour, it's nice to have a memento of the occasion and of the emotion and the love you felt."
Also, this might go without saying, but don't ship your suit or dress or check it in your luggage. "Carry it on the plane with you," she says. "The flight attendants are usually really helpful with wedding dresses and finding a safe place for them."
If you're feeling generous, bring the experience back for your friends.
Once you're home safe, you can keep the party going by including friends and family who weren't there for the ceremony.
"The most successful elopements I have seen also include some type of sharing with the family back home, whether that's posting photos on your favorite social network or hosting a 'toast the newlyweds' reception when you get back home," says wedding planner Karen Bussen, of Simple Stunning Weddings, who has recently partnered with Palladium Hotels and Resorts in Montego Bay, Jamaica; Riviera Maya, Mexico; and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. "That's a great place to show your wedding video and let all the folks who love you share in your happiness."
Hot destinations for eloping:
The authenticity of Costa Rica, with its off-the-beaten-path feel, appeals to millennials, who have been flocking to the country to get married. "Central America is not their parents' tropics," says Susan Breslow Sardone, of About.com's Guide to Honeymoons/Romantic Getaways. "Green" weddings in particular are in style, says Christina Baez, a spokesperson for Costa Rica's tourism board. Especially in vogue: couples offsetting their carbon footprint with donations to reforestation projects, planting an honorary tree during the ceremony, and doing a post-wedding "trash the dress" photo shoot by jumping into one of the country's waterfalls, like those in the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano area.
Enduring, idyllic, and accessible, Savannah is a popular go-to wedding destination for couples who want their choice of restaurants and B&Bs but don't have the budget for long-haul air tickets, Rabideau says. Downtown's Forsyth Park, one of the biggest in the area, is a hotspot for small weddings.
The island of One Love offers laid-back weddings to couples who want to take the plunge, literally and figuratively. At Rick's Café in Negril, couples can say their vows and immediately leap from a 35-foot-tall platform into Caribbean waters. Afterward, relax with a rum-and-fruit-juice Planter's Punch while gazing at the area's famous purple sunsets.
Getting hitched by a singing Elvis impersonator at Graceland Wedding Chapel in Vegas is always an option (they even can stream it over the internet for family and friends!), but so is exchanging rings at beautiful indoor or outdoor hotel chapels at the Wynn Encore, the Bellagio, or Caesar's Palace. Or go mobile with services like the Las Vegas Wedding Wagon, which brings the wedding to you. Another bonus: With only a photo ID, you can obtain a marriage license and get hitched in 24 hours; the Las Vegas Marriage Bureau is open every day from 8 a.m. to midnight.
Escaping south to a warm resort in the States is a popular trend for elopers on a budget, Rabideau says. Red-rock views and indulgent spas are two quintessential Sedona musts. The Hilton Sedona Resort & Spa offers a 90-minute "three-part recharging massage" designed for hikers and bikers who want to get back on the trail the next day; the Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa's concierge can arrange a hot-air balloon ride with a champagne toast high above the mesas.
Stay in a traditional Moroccan "riad," a house with an interior garden, in the historic Medina district, recommends Ingrid Asoni, founder of Asoni Haus event planning in Marrakech. "You still have the tranquility of a romantic getaway, but you also have some incredible views over the whole of Marrakech and the Medina," she says. Riad Noga, La Sultana, and Riad Enja are a few good picks. And don't skip the traditional pre-wedding couples' "hammam," a treatment involving a scrub, a clay or soap wrap, and another scrub—so you're radiant for your lover and ready as you'll ever be for pledging your eternal love.
BT Reader Tip: Best Packing Advice Ever
To ensure that I don't forget certain essentials (deodorant, cotton swabs, bandages, and over-the-counter medications), I leave the necessities in my suitcase when I unpack so they're ready to go on the next trip. Sure, I've had to buy extras of some items, but it costs less than forgetting them and paying airport or hotel prices. —Jeannine Kranzow, Tampa, Fla. SHARE YOUR BEST TRAVEL TIPS! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your tip may appear in This Just In or in a future issue of Budget Travel. Want more great tips, news, and travel inspiration? Subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter!
BT Reader Tip: Stress Less When You Travel With Kids!
"Nothing quiets children faster than a new plaything! So before taking a trip with the kids, I spend $20 for 20 toys at the dollar store. I take out one at a time, and when the thrill is gone I take out another. The plane ride is over before they know it! The toys also come in handy for other children on the plane. A dollar is worth it to stop a crying child three rows up!" —Budget Travel reader Cheryl Dela, Buffalo, NY SHARE YOUR BEST TRAVEL TIPS! Email us at email@example.com. Your tip may appear in This Just In or in a future issue of Budget Travel. Want more great tips, news, and travel inspiration? Subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter!
12 Shameless Ways to Save for Travel in your Twenties
This article was written by Stephanie Be, TravelBreak.net Blogger and Travel Journalist. "I don't need an article telling me that I should travel, I need the funds to travel." Listen darling, before you start complaining about not having the money to travel, but have a new car, flat screen, or are going on the same six weekenders you went to in college, re-evaluate your lifestyle. They say "travel is the only thing you buy that actually makes you richer," so here are some tips on how to re-direct your investment. After all, traveling is just that—an investment in bettering yourself. Set a financial goal and timeline. Write it down, add it to your calendar, and check progress weekly or monthly. Discuss it with family and friends for support. Treat it like a weight loss/gain goal or an academic/career goal. Take 15% (or x - amount) from your paycheck that goes straight into a new travel savings account. Mint.com lets you combine your bank accounts and manage your budget by category on one platform. Pick something that you purchase daily and could live without... and live without it. Spending $4 for Starbucks 365 days per year comes out to $1,460. That's a round-trip flight to Europe! Over-achiever? Pick two things. Take a break from purchasing brands. Do you really need another Tory Burch purse? Another pair of Raybans? Another cologne? Every time you are tempted to buy something, take the exact cost and put it into your travel savings account. For several months: no big weekends. A weekend trip to San Francisco plus a weekend trip to Las Vegas plus a weekend at Coachella plus 12 weekends of bar hopping in Santa Monica can also equal two months in Southeast Asia. Seriously, when you get invited to go out, guess how much you would have spent on drinks and add it to you travel savings account. Wine and Netflix doesn't sound that bad anyways. Ask for gift cards related to travel for your birthday, graduation, and Christmas. Heck, the Easter Bunny might throw in a few bucks towards your trip or Grandma may have some air mileage she's not going to use. Do a "job on the side" which strictly funds your travel goal. Something like baby-sitting, photography, freelance work, tutoring, or yard-work, for instance. Save your pennies. Put commissions, tips, and bonuses straight into your travel savings account. Make real sacrifices. Move in with your parents or get a roommate to cut your rent in half. It's just for a few months and will be totally worth it. Move walking distance from where you work. Do you know how much money you could save on gas if you just rode your bike? Try a crowdfunding website. Once you've saved up a little and showed some effort, try crowdfunding your travels with a website like Trevolta so family and friends can pitch in to help you finance the rest of your voyage. In a perfect world, we would have everything in our 20's. (But then again, look at what happened to Miley, Lohan, and Bynes). If we have to choose one luxury over another, the benefits of traveling definitely outweigh the costs. To dream of seeing the world and to be able to finance it yourself in your 20s is an absolutely phenomenal feeling. With a little discipline and organization, you too can make your "dreams" into "goals." Psss... you might also like my posts 14 Ways to Finance your Travels While Abroad and 12 Travel Tips to Ballin' on a Budget. Visit TravelBreak.net for more info and ideas.
14 Confessions of a Hotel Maid
The following article was originally written as a collaboration between trivago and News.com.au. A hotel maid has decided to spill the dirtiest secrets behind housekeeping. This exclusive interview was shared with trivago.com by an employee of a five-star hotel in Orlando, Florida, who wishes to remain anonymous. 1. HOW DO YOU USUALLY BEGIN A TYPICAL DAY? My day begins with a staff meeting at 7 a.m. where we discuss the day's plans, find out how many guests are there that day, how many new guests are coming, how many rooms are free, and how many are empty. The actual cleaning begins at 3 p.m. with a half hour lunch break. 2. HOW MANY ROOMS IN TOTAL DO YOU CLEAN IN A DAY? It can range between 10-15 checked-out rooms and about another 10 basic cleans when a guest is still staying in the room. For a room where a guest has checked out, it usually takes 45 minutes for a standard room—a suite or VIP room always takes longer. For guests that are still staying in the room, it takes about 10-15 minutes. 3. IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU DON'T CLEAN IN THE ROOMS? When I have time I will clean everything, but sometimes it's so busy and management still expects everything to be cleaned just as fast as on a day that isn't as busy. If this is the case, I usually won't vacuum and will just do a fast clean, like rinse the bath instead of scrubbing, or dusting over surfaces quickly. The remote control is something I would say doesn't get a proper clean; I just go over it with the same cloth I use for the bedside table. 4. ARE THE GLASSES, CUPS, AND CUTLERY ALWAYS CLEANED AFTER EVERY GUEST? AND CLEANED WELL? Upon check-out, all glasses, cups, and cutlery are cleaned and replaced with new ones. I wouldn't say they are cleaned well, though; they are put through a big industrial dishwasher that sometimes doesn't do a great job. During a guest's stay, we will only change the glasses if they request it. 5. HOW OFTEN ARE PILLOWS REPLACED? WHAT ABOUT THE BEDDINGS? Where I work now, bedding and pillows are replaced at every check-out. However, before when I used to work at a budget hotel, we rarely changed them, even when there were sweat stains or marks on the pillow, we would just cover it with a new case—some differences between staying in a budget hotel and a luxury hotel. 6. WHAT ARE YOUR COLLEAGUES LIKE? The more senior staff can sometimes make it stressful. They fight for the more expensive rooms or suites because better items are left behind for the taking if nobody claims them. They also fight to take the better trolleys, leaving myself and others with old ones that don't have the right products or supplies, meaning a lot more running around. 7. WHAT IS THE PAY LIKE? DO YOU STRUGGLE TO GET BY ON YOUR INCOME? Especially in the U.S., it is a huge struggle and more so if you have a family. It is almost impossible, similar to what you would earn at a fast-food restaurant. That's why tipping is important for us. 8. WHAT DO YOU REALLY THINK ABOUT HOW GUESTS BEHAVE? I find a huge variety of guests—from extremely clean where you sometimes question if the room is actually being used, to others, where you don't even feel comfortable going in the room because it is just such a mess. There are some that leave pizza boxes and garbage around, underwear on the floor, and it's impossible to clean the room. Some guests really expect you to clean up after them like you are their mother. 9. DO YOU FIND GUESTS TO BE ANNOYING AT ALL? WHAT IS IT THAT YOU FOUND ANNOYING? I find it annoying when a guest has made too much mess to fix in the given time. To be honest though, management is more annoying. Sometimes they have high expectations, but they don't give you enough time. Some of management can also be demeaning... Once a manager ripped apart all of the beds I had made that morning and told me to redo them all because they weren't made to their standards. 10. DO YOU EVER BARGE IN ON GUESTS OR GET ANNOYED IF THEY DON'T ANSWER THE DOOR QUICKLY/AT ALL? Yes, I do get annoyed when it happens, but I can never show it because if guests complain about it, you could lose your VIP roster or even some working hours. Besides, the nicer you are despite how annoying, the higher the chance of receiving a tip, especially if they are in the room and they get the chance to meet you. 11. DO YOU EVER HAVE A NAP IN ONE OF THE ROOMS? Yes, we do actually—if we are really tired and have the time. For example, if we are doing a large suite and are given longer to clean it, we will have a nap in the beds. Something else we do sometimes is that we use the toilets in the guest's bathroom, but only if we are super busy and don't have enough time to go to the staff toilets. It is something we are not supposed to do, but many do it anyway. 12. DO YOU EVER TOUCH GUESTS' BELONGINGS? We are told that we are not allowed to touch anything that belongs to a guest, but we are also told that we must make the bed and that we must change the towels. So if a guest has belongings on the bed or on top of the dirty towels, sometimes you have to move it. 13. WHAT IS THE STRANGEST THING YOU EVER FOUND IN A HOTEL ROOM? Once I found T-Bone steaks left in the fridge that I took home for dinner, but the strangest thing I found was what originally I thought to be an abandoned baby lying on the bed. I carried it and took it to management. It turned out to be a robot or fake baby that would make noises just like a real one. It was left by guests attending a medical or science convention or something. It scared me so much though because it seemed so real. 14. IF SOMEONE'S RUDE TO YOU, DO YOU SEEK REVENGE AND HOW? I personally have never done anything, but I've heard of someone who was so angry about a rude comment made to them that they cleaned the bathroom floor with a towel and left it for the guest as their new towel. Hotel search site trivago compares the prices of over 700,000 hotels on more than 150 booking sites (including Expedia, Priceline.com, Travelocity, and Hotels.com), saving millions of users an average of 35% per booking—and lots of time. From beaches to business, Trivago has your next trip covered.
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