By Morgan Wilks, Staff Writer
Just because you are living on a college student’s budget does not mean you should have to skimp on your honeymoon. This is a vacation you will remember the rest of your life, so make it a trip worth remembering without breaking the bank.
With the current economy, some people might be discouraged when considering spending money on their honeymoon. But even on a college student or recent graduate’s budget, newlyweds still can have a great honeymoon.
“I think the biggest trend right now is honeymoons on a budget,” said Jennifer Ellison, manager of university events and certified wedding planner. “Everyone wants to know who has the best deals and where they can find the best packages.”
Shannon Clark, senior nursing major from Abilene, is engaged to Alan DeZonia, senior accounting and finance major from Ames, Iowa, and already has her honeymoon planned.
“We are going to Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii,” Clark said. “My fiancé’s grandmother has a time-share there and is letting us stay for free all week.”
Susan Crower, owner of Travel Leaders, formerly Carlson Wagonlit Travel, said good values are available, especially in places like San Antonio, Fredericksburg and Dallas that often are overlooked because they are in the area, but these places provide numerous attractions and accommodations for those seeking a romantic and charming environment.
“Fredericksburg is so quaint; the river walk in San Antonio and the Gaylord Texan Resort Hotel in Dallas all provide a neat atmosphere,” Crower said.
If you want to travel out of Texas, Mexico is still one of the top destinations that gives you more bang for your buck. Offering several options of adult or couples-only resorts, Mexico and the Caribbean islands are two of the most popular destinations right now.
Another trend in traveling that is popular are adventure-type destinations. The mountains in the summer are fun and affordable, and activities like hiking and white-water rafting all prove to be a great time for daring personalities, Crower said. When you are planning where to go, think outside of the typical honeymoon.
“Places like San Diego, Las Vegas and California are all offering great deals right now, and they have endless things to do and see,” Ellison said.
Cruises are another popular honeymoon pick. With their all-inclusive nature, they provide a great value that is pre-paid before couples go without the balloon payment at the end.
“The benefit with cruises is honeymooners don’t have to worry about how much their hotel bill is going to cost, how much they will spend on meals each day or have added expenses of paying to get into the piano bars, Vegas-style shows or other evening entertainment,” said Steve Rice, personal vacation planner and cruise specialist in Boerne.
One advantage with cruises is the fact the ship moves each day, so passengers always have something new to see, making it different than staying in one place the whole time, Rice said. Every day offers something new, whether it be laying out or swimming on the ship, horseback riding on the beach or exploring the towns.
Of the many cruise lines, Carnival and Royal Caribbean come out on top, Rice said.
“These cruise lines generally cater to the younger, middle-age and senior crowd. Some of the other lines just cater to the middle-age group and up,” he said.
Kelly Mann, senior interior design major from Houston, recently was married and went on a cruise to the Bahamas for her honeymoon.
“It was pretty cheap, and the cruise was nice, but the food wasn’t as good as everyone says it is,” Mann said. “If we could do it over, we would have spent a little more money to go somewhere all-inclusive and a little more private. There were a lot of college students on spring break, and you’re just in such close proximity to everyone else on the ship.”
If you are on a strict budget, you can try ways to personalize your cruise to fit your price range. The first way is to pick the number of days your cruise lasts, with five-day or seven-day options. You also can consider a lower-priced cabin; the cost difference between an ocean-view cabin and an interior is about $100 per person.
The biggest way to save money is to plan the wedding when it is not peak season.
“Most people get married in the summer time,” Rice said. “This is peak season, so you will end up paying 25 to 50 percent more for a cruise or any vacation you take. My suggestion is get married in low season, then you’ll save money and can take cheaper anniversary trips each and every year.”
Another thing to take into account when you begin to plan is where you are going at what time of year. If you want to go to a colder-climate state in the winter, do not expect as great of a deal as if you would have gone in the summer.
“Fall is the least expensive time to travel in the South, and places aren’t as crowded,” Crower said.
Ellison said she recommends visiting Web sites like www.TheKnot.com and www.WeddingChannel.com for ideas of destinations and advice on places to go. She also suggests signing up for major companies’ newsletters, such as American Airlines, Carnival and Hilton, because sometimes they offer deals to subscribers or on their Web sites. Sometimes, when you book rooms, you will be offered incentives.
“Some hotels will say if you book four nights, you get the fifth free, or if you book a week, you get free breakfast everyday. Sometimes those incentives can be a great deal,” Ellison said.
Travel agents are a resource to get quality information and deals. They might be able to inform you about something that fits in your price range you might not have known about.
“The honeymoon should be planned around six to nine months before the wedding,” Crower said. “We work and try to find what’s in your budget. If you want to go somewhere like Tahiti but your budget will not fit, we will suggest something that is more in your price range, like Mexico.”