What Couples Need to Know
âTwo thousand twenty-one is a great time to remind ourselves that a honeymoon is about sharing a one-of-a-kind experience with your new spouseâeven if thatâs a road trip through your own state,â says Harmony Walton, The Bridal Bar founder. They say itâs who youâre with not where that matters, and the pandemic thatâs halted global travel has reminded us all of that. Itâs true that in recent yearsâif youâre on Instagram, at leastâhoneymoons seem to have become about jetting to the farthest-flung destinations in the world. But that wasnât always the case and, as Walton says, âthe length of the flight doesn't equal the amount of fun you will have, so be okay with creating special memories closer to home if need be.â
The length of the flight doesn't equal the amount of fun you will have.
It may not be what you want to hear when a white sand beach in Tahiti or the Maldives is occupying your every daydream, but the most important thing about this special vacation is to do something or go somewhere thatâs new to you and your spouse. Because COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in so many newlywedsâ plans, we asked a few travel and honeymoon experts to share their best advice for navigating these uncharted waters.
Respect Travel Restrictions, Near and Far
âAs Americans, weâre at the mercy of how this COVID situation rolls out with the vaccine and each individual country deciding what works best for them to reopen," says Tiffany L. Layne, owner of LaVon Travel & Lifestyle, who has several clients anxious to know if their planned summer European honeymoons will be possible. âEach person has to mitigate risk according to their personal travel comforts,â she adds. Islands such as the Maldives, Seychelles, Hawaii and many in the Caribbean have very strict protocols in place for travelers, so they are an option at this time. But couples should think about the impact of what getting sick faraway could mean, not only for themselves but for the community and hospitals where they are going. Ultimately, says Alejandra Poupel, destination wedding planner and owner of Alexandra Poupel Events, âa special honeymoon is mostly about the details that are meaningful to the couple.â
This is the time to go with the flow. âLess is more,â says Michael Albanese, founder of Element Lifestyle. "Approaching a honeymoon with a loose grip will help manage healthy expectations and leave space for the unexpected magic that can happen unintentionally.â So much is uncertain these days, which throws a wrench in the entire concept of planning. So attitude is everything. Consider waiting until a bit closer to your desired dates to book or make reservations, so you are not getting hopes up for something that may not end up being possible. Instead, spend more time researching unique, closer-to-home destinations that you might have never realized existedâit minimizes the potential for complications.
Go Back to Basics
âWhen planning a wedding and the honeymoon, there can be so much stress and expectation that it can sometimes rob us of joy and playfulness,â says Albanese. He and his team encourage newlyweds to ask themselves, ââWhat do we really enjoy, the two of us? What were we doing when that first romantic electricity sparked? What are hobbies we both enjoy separately and can enjoy together during our honeymoon?ââ Take a moment to contemplate your interests. A honeymoon shouldnât be about bragging rights, itâs a time to connect, relax and savor being in love. That could mean a cooking class at a wonderful local restaurant or hiking to a picturesque spot with a bottle of your favorite wine. âIf we get back to the basics of what we enjoy and what we benefit from doing as a couple, it doesnât have to cost a lot and can still be memorable,â says Albanese.
Domestic Honeymoons Can Be Equally or More Special
âI would recommend an open mind,â says Tom Marchant, co-founder of luxury travel company Black Tomato. There are endless topographies in the U.S. so, says Albanese, âwith a mindset that love can be local, there are incredible destinations in our proverbial backyard, from Montana to Vermont, from Colorado to Tennessee. America has so much rugged luxury and unspoiled backdrops that naturally lend themselves toward a romantic adventure.â
Look at 2021 as an opportunity to explore the amazing treasures in America, especially considering flexible and generous cancelation policies and offers. Says Marchant, âIf youâre unable to travel on safari to Africa, why not explore the mesmerizing southwestern United States for something epic, intrepid, and luxurious akin to what you might experience in Africa?â Black Tomato offers a new weeklong Southwest safari including a stop in Moab, whitewater rafting on the Colorado River, and Amangiriâs Camp Sarika and you might just feel as if youâre in Namibia or Kenya.
A classic East Coast road trip can make for a magical summer honeymoon, âstaying at places like Mayflower Inn & Spa or Troutbeck, with a stay in Newport, Rhode Island, and maybe even the Pitcher Inn in Vermont,â he suggests. Additionally, a host of amazing domestic destination spas are safely operating, âso you could focus acutely on wellness and relaxation,â says Marchant. A few more ideas include Napa, where Layne says, âa lot of romance can be created,â and Jackson Hole, where the cozy and intimate Caldera House is perfect for skiers seeking spa experiences, too. On the East Coast, there's charming Savannah and paradisiacal Key West. Logistically, you can also look to regional magazines and local chambers of commerce to find restaurants, activities, tour guides, and more in the destination you choose.
Work With a Professional
According to Layne, âBecause of relationships I have with properties, I do everything I can to make a clientâs experience personal, exquisite and memorableâI go above and beyond to make sure itâs not just checking into a hotel room with a bottle of Champagne, but that there are little perks and touches that [speak to] a coupleâs special interests.â Along with these surprises, another bonus is a travel planner can better negotiate extras such as gratis breakfasts served in your room.
Their connections extend to guides and tour companies you might not find on your own. âIf you want a private guide to take you through Zion National Park, for instance, I have a guide whoâs not on the map but has been doing this, passionately, for 15-plus years,â says Layne. âThey do a better job than a [corporate] tour company.â Pros also mean a weight off your shoulders when it comes to dealing with the nitty-gritty of ever-changing closures and re-openings, new restrictions and the like, since theyâll track it all and keep you apprised of exactly what to expect.
Support Small Businesses, No Matter Where You Go
âThere are many incredible boutique hotels and small, family-owned hospitality businesses that are suffering because of the pandemic, and they have put in place all the safety protocols to welcome you for your honeymoon,â says Poupel, adding that many are going to great pains to give a royal welcome to honeymooners. âBy organizing your honeymoon domestically, we are showing solidarity and uplifting the hospitality community.â
Itâs really important to funnel money into the economy of a community, not just feed big box businesses.
Another way to go about this is by leaving the confines of your hotel to patronize local watering holes, restaurants and other businesses. âEspecially if you travel to a small town, visit the shops, eat in the restaurantsâtheyâre usually independently owned,â says Layne. âHelp keep the industry alive. Itâs really important to funnel money into the economy of a community, not just feed big box businesses.â
Doing so, according to Marchant, âexpands your ability to support a wider array of people. And shop localâconsider some really special talismans from your honeymoon that you can look back on fondly for years to come.â He also advises working local experts into your itinerary, whether itâs fly-fishing instructors in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, or professional hiking guides on the Appalachian Trail. âFor more bespoke offerings, work with a travel company that will connect you with local interior design guides to tour historic Newport mansions or even an antiques dealer who can take you to all the best haunts.â
Consider These Other Details
âNow more than ever, take a proper amount of time off for your honeymoon,â says Marchant. "Your honeymoon should be special but, most importantly, be an antidote to the burnout and fatigue so many of us are feeling, [especially] with a completely dissolved barrier between work and home life.â He adds a warning: truly shut off the outside world, and donât answer work emails.
Welcome the return of the two-week vacation. âI would encourage honeymooners to embrace a slow travel paceâtake fewer internal flights and become more âgroundedâ by, literally, âlowâ travel, by car, train, foot or bicycle,â suggests Marchant. This allows couples to âdwell in the landscape and soak up the atmosphere more intentionally.â
Ultimately, says Walton, since many honeymooners have also felt disappointment over wedding plan changes or cancelations, âit might be better to plan for what you know you can do and will love than be disappointed that the trip doesnât happen at all.â And just think, what better way to celebrate your firstâor even fifth!âanniversary than a long flight to a fabulous, faraway place. In the meantime, enjoy the silver lining of staying local: zero jet lag.