Saturday, August 27, 2011

Honeymoon Pt.2: Managing Your Honeymoon Budget

Although wedding budgets are a frequent topic of conversation in planning, causing much stress and sacrifice, the budget for a honeymoon has less attention paid to it. This vacation for the new husband and wife is a time for relaxation and luxury. However, between travel fare, hotel charges, and general spending, costs for a honeymoon can quickly add up. This blog entry is dedicated to providing helpful tips for how to save money on a honeymoon, or for travel and vacations in general.

Honeymoons, like all else, have been stereotyped in to what a traditional post-wedding vacation for the bride and groom typically is. However, like weddings, honeymoons can be designed to fit the styles and personalities of the couple. For newlyweds who do not have a large budget to spend on a honeymoon, there are many options for budgeting on a honeymoon that still promise a fun, luxurious, and romantic time away. One of the most costly aspects of a honeymoon is the traveling; as plane fare for both international and domestic flights continues to rise, more and more couples are opting for closer-to-home honeymoons accessible by car. Within only a few hours from many people’s homes are big cities, ski resorts, historic landmarks, beaches, and other areas waiting to be explored. Canada and parts of Mexico are also accessible via ground transportation, if you’re determined to honeymoon outside of the country.

To save money on flying, try booking a flight using frequent flier miles. If you don’t have enough on your own, then you can request some from family and friends. Many airline companies allow members with frequent flier miles to transfer miles to another person for a small fee. Many travel websites, such as Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz, offer package deals combining flights and hotel stays. However, the best deals are often not featured on travel sites; instead, look at the prices through the individual companies directly, since the lowest prices may not be advertised elsewhere. Discounts may also be applicable based on your profession, your insurance and credit card, or the holiday you’re celebrating – your honeymoon!
Individuals that work in the travel industry, such as at a hotel, for an airline, etc. may be eligible for certain discounts with companies in their field. The same goes for government employees, who may be able to receive up to 40% off at hotels and airlines. Talk to your employer while you’re still in the planning stages of your honeymoon and find out if individuals in your field get special offers on travel. Also inquire if your particular company has any deals or special rates worked out with specific travel companies (if you work for a large business, then your company may have negotiated special rates with a hotel or airline with whom they frequently do business).
If that doesn’t work, members of organizations such as AAA or individuals with a particular credit card may get special rates when traveling. You can search for special deals online, or you can speak to a representative of the hotel or airline directly and inquire as to if you are eligible for any special rates being offered at the moment. These types of rates will not be advertised on travel websites, but doing the research yourself could end up saving you a great deal of money.
         Above all else, call your hotel or airline in advance and tell them that you’re going on your honeymoon! Many companies will upgrade your seat on a plane or your hotel room based on availability if they are aware that you’re on your honeymoon. Even without the availability of an upgrade, advertising that you’re on your honeymoon may garner you extra attention, faster service, or free goodies while on vacation.

Of course you need a means of travel and a place to sleep, but you also need to eat! In areas with high tourism, restaurants near hotels frequently jack up prices on food in order to make money off of tourists unfamiliar with the area. Therefore, one’s budget for food while away may quickly disappear. The easy way to solve this problem is to stay at an all-inclusive resort. However, if one opts not to do this, then there are many ways of eating great, inexpensive food while on vacation. Before leaving, or if you have internet in your hotel, check out sites like Urbanspoon or Tripadvisor, both of which have international reviews available for restaurants. Instead of dining at a hotel restaurant, eat like a local! Visit restaurants that are highly rated online, but not advertised in tourist-heavy areas. These restaurants are very likely to be less expensive and more authentic. A quick tip from my own experience: if the restaurant is full of what are clearly locals, then it’s probably delicious and super authentic. Eating at local restaurants also means that menu items are made from local ingredients and inspired by recipes from that culture. Restaurants based in the USA but featured throughout the world, like the Hard Rock CafĂ©, charge much more for food and drinks than local eateries.
When looking for a place to eat, beware of asking a concierge or front desk person at the hotel for help finding a restaurant. Hotel staff frequently receive kick-backs, or rewards, from restaurants and tourism companies for referring guests to these businesses. Online sources, like the ones listed before, are unbiased and updated by real visitors without an agenda or anything to gain from reviewing.

Food spending can often get out-of-hand when there are unnecessary purchases and fees incurred. Fees can include delivery/tray charges for room service, corkage fees for bringing your own wine out to dinner, or tipping on top of a bill that already has the tip included. For room service, which is often the same food served in the hotel restaurant but twice the price, see if you can make your way aaaaaall the way downstairs and get the food as take-away. This will save you delivery fees and the extra cost of room service food versus food in the restaurant.
If you plan on having wine at dinner in a restaurant, consider if you are going to be able to finish an entire bottle. If you plan on it, then look at wine lists for the restaurant online, since buying your own wine and incurring a corkage fee in the restaurant might cost more than ordering a bottle there.
Fees regarding tipping differ from country to country, as tipping standards change depending on the culture. In the United States, it is customary to tip 20% of the bill (pre-tax) in a restaurant since servers are paid much less than minimum wage. In Australia, however, the minimum wage is $15.51/hour, which makes tipping not only unnecessary but also unexpected. In France, there is a service charge of 15% automatically added to your bill, so any tip you leave in addition is extra. 

The budget you normally have for food when at home does not translate well when on vacation, unless at home you eat out at a restaurant for every meal. Instead of cooking yourself and saving $30 a meal, you’re going to restaurants to eat. A quick way to save some cash is if you prefer smaller breakfasts, such as cereal, fresh fruit, or a muffin, is to purchase breakfast food from a local grocery mart instead of from the hotel. Normally, a light breakfast may only be available if the entire breakfast buffet is purchased, or fruit delivered to the room will be much more expensive than if prepared by the guest rather than staff. You can ask to have your mini fridge emptied if you don’t plan on having anything from the fridge (again, it’s so expensive you might as well buy that soda or candy bar from a local store), and then fill the fridge with milk, bread, jam, fruit, or anything else you like to have for breakfast.

When shopping for souvenirs, be sure that you’re shopping wisely. Many souvenir shops in tourist-heavy areas will carry the same products, and based on location, foot traffic, and other factors, prices will vary from store to store. If you have the opportunity, shop around before making purchases for yourself or friends and family back home. Even though the items between shops may only differ by a couple of dollars, these differences can add up quickly when buying multiple gifts. The same advice goes for activities or tourist attractions; many times the companies that advertise the most, or the companies with information featured in the hotel lobby, will charge more for an activity than others. Check out Tripadvisor to find out which companies exist, charge the least amount, and have the best records of safety and enjoyment.

Spending smart carries over to how you handle your money. Although couples that honeymoon domestically won’t have this problem, using your money internationally will incur many extra fees if not used appropriately. Using a credit card to make purchases or to pay for hotel charges may make you vulnerable to additional charges made by the location of purchase, and will also result in an international transaction fee from your bank. If you withdraw cash from an ATM that is not affiliated with your bank back home, then you’ll receive both a fee from the ATM that you’re using and your bank. To avoid these problems, simply find out what international affiliates or sister banks that your bank has abroad and use their ATMs. For example, Bank of America customers can use WesPac ATMs worldwide, and are able to check their balance for free and withdraw international currency without receiving any extra charges.

Two great ways of saving money can be accomplished before you even leave for your honeymoon. If you’re waffling on where to go, look at conversion rates. The GBP and Euro are much stronger than the USD, and so couples will be paying more for hotels and food in countries that use either of these currencies than in Mexico or Fiji, where the exchange rate heavily favors the USD. Another awesome way of saving money on a honeymoon is registering for activities for your vacation. Many sites offer honeymoon registries, in which you can register, like you would at Target or Pottery Barn, for hotels, activities, shopping, transport, and food. Guests can then purchase items off of your registry, so that you can enjoy your honeymoon without spending a penny.

Bottom Line: No matter how budgeted your honeymoon, the important thing is that you’re having some well-deserved time to relax with your new spouse. Unless you have money to burn, literally, then it couldn’t hurt to save some money during your vacation. Shop around for prices, do your research ahead of time, and spend wisely and you should end up returning from your trip with a good amount of extra money to begin your married life.

Special thanks to my husband, Brandon Morris, for his help on putting together this blog and getting us around our honeymoon on a budget. 

1 comment: