The Check-In: honeymoon planning tips, tourists gone wild, and more

Welcome to The Check-In, our weekend feature focusing on all things travel.

Travel advisor shares insights into planning an unforgettable honeymoon

The wedding date is set, the venue is reserved, the dress has been bought, and now it’s time for the really fun part: planning the honeymoon.

When couples approach Tracy Effron, a Miami-based travel advisor at An Avenue Apart, for help setting up their honeymoon itinerary, she always starts with a question: “What is that you’re looking to get out of this trip?” This is a couple’s first vacation as newlyweds, and it’s important for her to learn right off the bat what their likes and interests are so she can come up with a few destination options.

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Effron often asks couples to consider going to a place neither person has been to before. “That way, they can experience something new together and have a bonding moment,” she told The Week. Effron also reminds clients that just because a vacation spot looked great in their friend’s Instagram story, it might not be the right fit for them. “Stick to your vision and what you want to do,” she said.

Budget and timing also need to be taken into account from the start. If clients tell Effron they want to go to the Amalfi Coast and Greek Islands but only have two weeks, she suggests limiting the scope of their travel. “You don’t want to make the whole trip trains, planes and automobiles,” she said. By rushing around too much, and not taking into account that it takes one day to fly to your first stop and another to return home, it might feel like “they don’t see anything,” she added.

Being “realistic about the budget” is key, Effron said, as is talking about what aspects of the trip are flexible, like flying in economy plus rather than business class, and those that are not. “You need to factor in what’s most important for you in terms of how to properly allocate the budget,” Effron said. “Is it accommodations or experiences? Sometimes, it’s a combination of both.” Check for any points or miles to help with airfare, and consider waiting for shoulder season, when hotel prices drop. “This will save you a lot of money and also you’ll avoid a lot of crowds,” Effron said.

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While it “truly depends on what you’re looking to do,” it is best to start planning for a honeymoon as early as possible, Effron said. Covid changed everything; pre-pandemic, a trip to Japan could be put together relatively quickly, but now “we need a bare minimum of three to six months.” With dynamic pricing, it’s better to purchase airfare well in advance, Effron said, and since things can change in a minute, never book anything that is nonrefundable.

Most hotels will definitely show honeymooning couples “some extra love,” Effron said, and that’s especially true when a travel advisor is working with them and can secure upgrades. For her clients, Effron likes to surprise them with little touches arranged in advance, like playing their wedding song in the car that picks them up from the airport. “When you get that text saying, ‘This is amazing,’ it’s all worth it,” Effron said.

Hotel of the week: Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve

Spread across 50 acres, Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve resort in Puerto Rico, feels like it’s a world away from reality. The property was built in the 1950s, and designed with nature in mind — there is unobstructed access to the beach and stately palms that sway with the breeze. Guests can stay in villas, suites or rooms, including some that have their own plunge pool. A highlight is the spa, which uses scrubs made from property-grown indigenous ingredients in its treatments. Guests can also listen to the tranquil sound of a waterfall while sitting in the relaxation area. Dining options include the Omakase Bar and the Coa grill, which offers more than 670 different wine labels. 

In case you missed it …

French prosecutors say two American tourists were filled with a little too much joie de vivre last week, and ended up falling asleep and spending the night in the Eiffel Tower.

Not too far away in Rome, another tourist was too parched to pay two euros for a water bottle and instead decided to grab a drink from the Trevi Fountain.

Yellowstone has been bumping this summer — nearly 1 million people visited in July alone. Looking for a less crowded alternative? Consider the national parks that had only a few thousand visitors in 2022, including Alaska’s Lake Clark National Park & Preserve, Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park and Florida’s Dry Tortugas National Park.

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