Ah, the honeymoon, a magical time to cozy up in an exotic locale and relax in newlywed bliss.
You know what isn’t relaxing? Stressing about your bank account while on vacation.
The good news is that with a plan in place, you can have an amazing honeymoon on a budget. Keep reading to find out how.
Average Honeymoon Costs
According to a 2019 WeddingWire Newlywed Report, the average honeymoon cost was $4,500 in 2018.
Now, does an exciting honeymoon have to cost that much? Definitely not. But if you’re flying across the globe, staying at a four-star resort, or dreaming of fine dining on a Parisian getaway, you might easily hit or exceed that amount.
Architectural designer Mikaela Leo didn’t have a “hard budget” for their two-week tour of Italy but estimates she and her partner spent about $250 a day on food and lodging, which comes to $3,500. And that’s before any plane tickets and other travel costs.
New York couple Molly and Sean Fox flew out west, rented a car, and hit iconic national parks. Molly estimates their total trip cost at $1,900. They also didn’t have a “set amount” for the budget, since Molly says they are “usually pretty practical about spending.”
As you can see, honeymoon budgets vary dramatically depending on where you go and what you like to do. Here’s how to balance what you want with what you’re willing to spend.
Planning Your Honeymoon on a Budget
If you want to enjoy a memorable and affordable honeymoon without budgeting the fun out of everything, here’s our practical advice.
Identify your must-haves
Just like your wedding, planning and budgeting for your honeymoon should start with an open discussion of priorities. You don’t want to plan a week laying on the beach in Hawaii only to find out your partner dreams of an outdoor adventure zip-lining or hiking the whole coastline. To get on the same page, identify your top three priorities and compare notes with your partner. This will help you both discover what’s not essential and where you’re willing to compromise.
Do your research
The actual cost of your honeymoon will depend on a variety of factors, but it’s good to define a practical budget early on. Once you’ve honed in on a location, do some research to determine average costs for flights, meals, accommodations, and sightseeing in that area.
- A quick search on Google Flights or Kayak will give you an idea of your airfare costs.
- For food, accommodations, transportation, and other costs, once again, research is your friend. You could use an online directory like Yelp to look into price ranges for local restaurants and accommodations.
- Once you’ve added up the costs, we recommend adding 5-10% as a “just in case” fund.
Now, you have a baseline for your budget.
Start saving to pay for the honeymoon
Ready to start stashing cash to pay for your honeymoon? “Once you have your max budget, figure out how much you’ll need to save monthly,” says Jayne Hathaway, owner of My Honeymoon Planner travel agency. “Deposit that amount into savings each month, just after payday, so you don’t feel the pain,” she says. So, if your budget for a two-week trip to Bali is $4,500 and the honeymoon is 15 months away, you’ll want to add $300 to your savings account each month.
How to Afford the Honeymoon of Your Dreams
Now that you have a sense of how much your honeymoon will cost, it’s time to start saving. Here are some strategies for getting started.
Ask for help
Wedding registries are no longer limited to toaster ovens and bed linens. These days, you can give guests the option to fund your honeymoon. Options like Honeyfund, Zola, and The Knot Newlywed Fund allow friends and family to give specific dollar amounts or gift you honeymoon activities that you’ve chosen.
Time the honeymoon right
When you book your travel matters. Airfare can vary pretty drastically depending on the month, day, and even the amount of time in between when you book and when you take off. According to Skyscanner, which analyzed 2018 booking data to predict the best time to book flights from the United States in 2019, you may want to book domestic flights at least 30 days in advance. Flying internationally? Try to book four months in advance. Saturday and Sunday are the best days of the week to book, and August and September are the best months.
Postpone the honeymoon and take a mini-moon
If you can’t afford to go on an all-out honeymoon right after you wed, consider taking a mini-moon and postponing the honeymoon until later. While it may seem exciting to be whisked away to paradise shortly after your nuptials, delaying the honeymoon gives you additional time to save. It also gives you another event to look forward to and helps if you’re struggling with whether or not to take a large chunk of time off from work all at once.
Choosing a short trip allows you to compress your budget and go all out on a fancy hotel or fly first class somewhere close by, especially if you aren’t able to take time off for a longer trip.
Hire an expert
Travel agents offer years of experience and insider knowledge to plan your perfect trip. Rather than relying on random internet reviews, more often than not, agents have actually visited locales to give you the details on the best hotels and attractions. Not to mention, they could save you money by building packages and finding deals only available to agents.
Hit the road
Who says you have to fly somewhere for your honeymoon? A classic road trip is a great way to save money with plenty of car time to bond.
Frequent flier miles and credit card points are a smart way to subsidize part of your honeymoon, especially if you plan far enough ahead. Many cards offer welcome bonuses of tens of thousands of points when you meet a minimum spending amount in the first few months.
Once you’ve racked up those points, put them to use! Many cards offer rewards points for a specific airline or hotel chain, and others have more flexible points that you can use to book travel, exchange for restaurant vouchers, receive cashback, and more.
Real Couples, Real Budget Honeymoon Tips
Megan and Sean
Wedding planner Megan Clark and her husband chose to hold off on their own honeymoon to Croatia and Italy for a few months. That way, they were able to recover financially, and could actually take the time to research and get excited. Once the wedding day is over, there can be a bit of a crash after all that planning and anticipation. “We wanted to delay our honeymoon, so we frankly had something else to look forward to separate from our wedding,” she says.
Clark’s second tip is to take advantage of credit card rewards points. “I have had several clients get their flights for free (or very close to it) because they earned enough points by paying for their wedding via their credit card,” says Clark. “But only do this if you have the money to pay your credit card off every month. I cannot stress this enough: Do not put your wedding or honeymoon on a credit card if you don’t have that money in the bank. You don’t want to be paying off either event for the years to come.”
Mikaela and Mike
Although they spent two gorgeous weeks in Italy in 2017, the couple did not want to “go into debt just for a trip.” They managed this by renting “reasonable Airbnb’s, but nothing extravagant.” In fact, one of Mikaela’s favorite memories ended up being “making dinner in our Airbnb in Florence with fresh market groceries on a super rainy night, watching weird Italian TV with a good bottle of wine.”
Lauren and Andrew
After their June 2017 wedding in Centreville, Maryland, self-described beer nerds Lauren and Andrew Thiesse made a quick escape to the Dogfish Head Inn in Delaware to toast over some craft brews. The following month, they took a bigger trip to Bali. “Our big trip a month later still felt like a romantic honeymoon, but I was able to dedicate time to thinking about it and planning after all the wedding things were over,” Lauren says.
The Thiesses used their existing miles and welcome bonus points to book an Airbnb in Canggu, Bali, a resort stay in Kuta, and most of their flights. The total point value? $4,872. “Our only expenses were on food and activities,” says Lauren.
Lisa Dawn and Steve
Directly after their wedding on Washington’s Whidbey Island in 2017, newlyweds Lisa Dawn Drogin and Steve N. stayed in a cozy local inn for a two-night mini-moon and waited a full nine months to take their longer trip to Greece. “It allowed us to enjoy our first few days as a married couple without rushing back to our jobs and everyday life,” she says.
They also chose the long delay, “so we would have more time to save additional travel funds.” With Steve recently having started a new job, Lisa says they needed to split the time up, since “he couldn’t take all three [weeks] off in a row.”
Molly and Sean
New York couple Molly and Sean Fox took to the road after their April 2018 wedding. “Going to Europe or anywhere overseas felt like a big investment after spending so much on our wedding, but we wanted to go somewhere right away,” says Molly. Both of them travel internationally for work, and Molly had been to more countries than states, so a U.S. road trip checked all the boxes for something new, affordable, and nearby.
They visited national parks – Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Bryce, and Zion – and ended with two nights in Las Vegas, spending about $1,900 in total. Meals were a mix of stopping at In-N-Out, eating sandwiches they packed for hikes, sampling breweries, and a few nicer restaurants. “Since we weren’t in traditional honeymoon destinations, prices didn’t feel inflated for honeymooners,” she says. “So many people go to Europe or Hawaii for their honeymoons, but I love that we did something a little out of the ordinary that was also really affordable.”
And instead of spending on any new clothes or bathing suits for the trip, Molly could rock “hats and sneakers” for most of the trip, keeping the cost even lower.
The Bottom Line on Honeymooning on a Budget
Creating a honeymoon budget and sticking to it will help you avoid overspending and lower the overall stress of travel. But whatever path you take, and however much you spend, remember that the memories you make as a couple are what’s truly priceless.