The Svanstroms survived six major natural disasters on their honeymoon. No matter how carefully they may have planned their trip, they couldn’t have predicted or avoided what Mother Nature had in store.
But what about the elements of a honeymoon that can be controlled, to ensure your trip is everything you and your future husband dream of? Mike Schellhase of Travel Haus says, “You get one and only one honeymoon. You should make sure you get what you want and it should be as stress-free as possible.” Mike offers advice for couples to achieve an unforgettable (and in a good way!) honeymoon:
1. BE WARY ON THE WEB
Mike recalls a couple who booked their honeymoon hotel on-line, based solely from the pictures on its website. “When they arrived, it wasn’t the pool in the picture, or the same beach pictured,” Mike says. “And it was a timeshare, so the couple was constantly harassed by salespeople about buying into it.”
The Internet can is a great place to begin your research, but don’t let it be your only source of information–especially not just one website. Read reviews and blogs about destinations you’re interested in, from a variety of sites.
2. TAKE FRIENDLY ADVICE WITH A GRAIN OF SALT
Friends and family mean well and may offer lots of opinions on places they’ve been, and think you should go there, too. “But they could have been there 10 or 20 years ago, and things may have changed,” says Mike. “Or, it may be a more family-oriented place and not have the atmosphere and amenities honeymooners are looking for.”
3. THE CHEAPEST MAY COST YOU
Too often couples see an extremely low price and let that be the determining factor. But they often fail to investigate what exactly is included in that price and what extra you’ll need to pay for anyway. “With these really low prices, often transfers from the airport to the hotel are not included,” Mike warns. “And be careful about booking the cheapest airfares. Sometimes the connections are terrible, with long layovers or even an overnight layover.” And after a whirlwind wedding, do you really want to spend precious hours in an airport?
4. CONSIDER TRAVEL INSURANCE
Mike considers travel insurance a must. You can’t control a natural disaster, but you can manage how you deal with one. Hurricane season is June 1 thorough November 30, but especially during the months of September and October, which are also popular matrimonial months. With travel insurance you can cancel or re-book for any reason at any time.
Mike had some memorable clients who were thankful for the travel insurance they purchased. “At the reception, the groom cut off his bride’s garter with a pocketknife, then went to put the knife back in his pocket. When he did so, he cut himself in the leg, pretty seriously slicing a major artery, and they had to postpone their honeymoon.” But since they purchased travel insurance, they did so without any extra penalties or cost.
5. TRAVEL AGENTS HAVE CLOUT
Many couples choose to honeymoon outside of the United States, with Mexico and the Caribbean being the most popular among spots. But what do you do when you arrive, if something goes wrong or is not as promised? This is when having booked your trip with a travel agent is especially helpful. Agents have relationships and personal contacts with the resort staff and can help amend the situation in a timely manner.
Even in highly reputable hotels, overbooking is common. It happened to a couple that booked with Travel Haus, and by contacting their travel agent, the situation was quickly resolved. “The couple called me and I talked to the resort staff,” Mike says. “We found them an upgraded room at a nearby resort, and the staff provided the couple with a free dinner, spa treatment and snorkeling trip.”
On the other hand, couples that don’t use a travel agent sometimes don’t fare as well when something goes awry. One couple honeymooned at a supposedly five-star resort in Fiji and it was a nightmare. The all-inclusive resort had advertised an endless array of fresh seafood available. The bride recalls: “But we were hardly offered any seafood at all. The food was terrible, there was nothing fresh and the staff used terrible hygiene when handling the food. We saw them wiping their noses and coughing into the food—it was disgusting! Both my husband and I ended up getting sick.” When they complained and referred to what they were promised when the booked the trip, “They basically laughed at us. They had our money and didn’t care at that point,” says the bride.
Another couple arrived at their beachside resort in St. Thomas and was told it was overbooked due to a conference being held there. The staff was unsympathetic and the manager never appeared to talk to them. The only alternative offered was a room at a Holiday Inn, downtown and 30 minutes away from the beach.
Unfortunately, these stories are not uncommon, says Mike. “If a couple is unhappy, they’re just two customers. The resort staff might think you’ll be gone soon, so why should they knock themselves out trying to accommodate you?” Mike says. “But if the couple works with a travel agent, and the resort doesn’t make it right, the agency may not send any more guests their way in the future. That gives the resort a lot more incentive to do whatever needs to be done to correct any problems.” It’s also a lot nicer to make a phone call to the travel agent you know back home, rather than spend your time pleading your case to the staff.
6. DOES IT CATER TO COUPLES?
This is a factor that may be overlooked when deciding on a destination or resort, but it can make or break your experience. The Honeymooner’s Review Guide reported that disappointment on a honeymoon is often due to not choosing the right resort, even if the resort has an otherwise strong reputation and is rated “excellent” by other travelers. “A highly-rated resort, which is great for families, young children and teenagers, may not be a good choice for most couples seeking a romantic honeymoon environment,” says Ron Haller of Honeymooner’s Review Guide.
Travel Haus specializes in destination weddings and honeymoons, and Mike couldn’t agree more. “I was touring a resort, a very nice resort, and saw a young couple sitting by the pool,” Mike says. “They didn’t look happy. I went to talk to them, and sure enough, they were honeymooners at a resort full of families, surrounded by young and noisy kids. They didn’t choose a resort that catered to couples and they really regretted it.”
Resorts that specialize in honeymoons and adult guests are generally quieter and often have higher quality food and drink, says Mike. The restaurants usually have a more romantic ambiance and the staff is trained to respect the couple’s privacy.
After making countless choices in the months of planning your wedding, the toughest decision during your honeymoon should be which cocktail to order or whether to go snorkeling or hang out at the beach. And with careful research and by enlisting the experts, you’re well on your way.