Insider Tips – How to Plan and Save Money on the Perfect Honeymoon or Destination Wedding
These insider insights from a savvy travel advisor Ed Cicinato will ensure you celebrate your nuptials with a trip you’ll remember. Owner of Edward Cicinato Dream Vacations, a full-service travel agency, Ed helps engaged couples plan and get the most out of your honeymoon or a destination wedding trip.
Ed’s Insider Tips for Getting the Best Vacation Deals
- Plan Early for the Best Deals and Availability.
- Only Use a Certified Travel Advisor who Likes to Travel.
- Choose a Destination You’re Both into.
- Follow Commonsense Travel Recommendations.
- Forget Tired Cruise Myths.
- Consider Destination Weddings & Cruises.
Ed is a passionate traveler himself and has planned honeymoons, cruise weddings and destination weddings for decades. He provided the following advice and “inside info” for soon-to-be-wed couples.
Tell us about the planning process, Ed. And when should a couple start thinking about their honeymoon?
Start a year out, the same as the wedding. You don’t need too much information to begin, except for the date. I’ll ask my couples–often the bride takes the lead–some questions in our first meeting so I can recommend some options. If the couple doesn’t have a destination in mind, I query them about the climate. Is their preference warm weather or cold? What’s the best vacation they’ve ever taken? What do they like to do…swim, sit on the beach, ski, have adventures, check out culture like museums? Their responses guide me toward locations, resorts, or cruises.
If they lean toward a cruise, I ask them where they would go if money were no object. And then we work backwards from there. With a budget, I can come up with realistic resort or ship. I ask if they love food, deck sports, drinking and dancing? Or do they lean toward wine tasting, adventure, and learning? Maybe a trip to the Galapagos Islands then. Their responses lead me towards specific cruise lines or destinations.
Usually in about 30-45 minutes, I have what I need to pull together options that will excite them.
What about cost and payments? With everything going on with the wedding, a big trip might be a lot.
There are strategies for handling the costs based on timing of decisions and payments. First, you don’t have to pay for the whole trip up front. Cruise payments can be made across 4-7 months. Then 60 days before departure, you have only a small payment left for the balance.
Second, the key to getting the best price on cruises is to shop early before the cruises are booked. This way you get the state rooms and prices based on the availability. The closer you book to departure, the higher the price. This pricing strategy also applies to resorts.
Third, I recommend you book any air at the same time as the resort or cruise. If you wait, your air travel may not be available later or the cost will be higher.
How should you choose a cruise or destination travel advisor/agent?
No matter what type of trip you’re planning, you should be sure your advisor is a traveler and has been on similar trips. Booking a cruise? You want your agent to be a cruiser. Heading for Patagonia for a hike? Be sure your agent is an outdoorsman with experience on the trails. Not only will your advisor be able to answer your questions about the trip you’re considering, he/she will know the kinds of questions to ask the outfitter and the service to expect. When you’re booking a cruise or destination wedding/cruise, this is no time to work with an armchair agent!
Most important, because of COVID, a travel advisor’s services are essential. Too much can be missed in communications with the government, CDC and FDA. You need an expert who receives travel safety updates daily and can keep you informed before you leave and while you’re traveling. A good travel advisor will give you peace of mind.
Here’s what else you should look for in your travel agent.
- Talk to the agent. Do you feel a “chemistry?” You should like your agent. Do they sound like they are interested in what you’re wanting?
- Does the agent respond to your calls and emails in a timely manner?
- Have they been there? Are they a traveler? If you are dealing with a call center, there’s a good chance the person you’re talking to is good at sales, taking orders and reading off literature. They are not members of trade associations and don’t read trade publications or travel. They won’t be available if you need them on your trip.
- Are they certified as an Accredited Cruise Consultant (ACC) or Certified Cruise Consultant (CCC)?
- Have they taken courses with Carnival, Disney Planner, Norwegian Princess and MSC?
- What’s their approach to client care while you’re traveling? Ed sends a text to his couples at the airport and during the trip to check on them and remind them he is their contact should they need assistance or have a problem.
- Does your agent take the extra step? You should receive calls, texts, and thank you gifts before and after your trip.
Not sure what are safe practices at your destination? Check with your travel agent.
Traveling state-side or outside the U.S.? Follow travel recommendations and use common sense. If you’re not sure, check with your travel agent.
Ed shared two stories that illustrate how important it is to choose a good travel advisor.
Do you have a passport? Does everyone in your party have a passport?
If the answer is no, no one is leaving the country and you’re looking at travel in the U.S. unless there is time to apply for passports.
If yes, Ed asks for each passport, makes a copy and then books the travel. He looks at each to be sure it’s valid for when the travel is scheduled. His copy means there is back-up in case the traveler loses his/her original. Ed can email it to the embassy or consulate if needed.
So here’s the back story…
One of Ed’s clients assured him everyone in the family had a passport. And they did. But his daughter’s expired 2 days before they were to depart, and he didn’t realize it. When he made the discovery, he couldn’t get an appointment for a new one. So, the man and his daughter stayed home, and the rest of the family went on the trip without them. Because it was the woman (mom) and two other children, Ed made sure to text her at the airport and when they landed. He acted as a “surrogate” travel companion in the husband’s absence.
Later, Ed received a call that the husband accidentally cancelled everyone’s return trip when he realized he couldn’t travel. Fortunately, Ed had the time to jump in and fix it. This is why having a travel advisor on board is a must-have!
You must buy travel insurance. It’s no longer an optional purchase.
With COVID and disruptions to travelers’ health and country travel guidelines, travel insurance is a must. The general cost is $150-350 per person, depending on the trip locations.
Without insurance, don’t expect your agent to be able to do anything but move your trip to another date within a certain timeframe. There is absolutely no refund without it.
Debunking Cruise Myths
- Cruises are expensive.
Not so. Everything is included. Only your alcohol and excursions may be additional. Your per day cruise cost is the least expensive vacation you can have!
- You’re on board the whole time.
A cruise takes you to multiple ports and destinations and you only unpack once. That’s the beauty of it!
- The food is limited.
In the main dining room, you are limited by only what you care to eat. You can have 2 entrees, 3 appetizers, 4 desserts. They do not care.
- Cruises aren’t for kids.
Are your kids active? Do they like water sports? Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Disney all cater to kids.
- Cruises are all about the Caribbean.
Sail the Mekong on Viking. Europe hosts many river cruises as does Portland. River cruises let you explore cities on foot and on bike, see and visit changing terrain, and often offer a more intimate shipping experience than some ocean cruises.
What’s hot in terms of destinations?
Mexico continues to lure visitors to always-trendy Cancun, Los Cabos, and Porto Vallarta. These areas offer sun, surf, restaurants, shopping, and sightseeing year-round. Beach sports like windsurfing, kayaking, and sailing in the resorts of Punta Cana’s Costa Del Cocoa deliver all-day water fun along the Caribbean and Atlantic.
La Romana offers scuba, fishing, caving, and e-biking. Riding dune buggies, golfing, and even sampling hand-rolled cigars will keep you busy in this gorgeous city of the Dominican Republic.
A private retreat, Cap Cana is a 14-minute drive from Punta Cana and formed by 30,000 acres of stunning beaches and oceanfront roads. All-adult resorts and destination weddings both can be found here.
Honeymooners love Southern Caribbean and Barbados though testing regulations for COVID keep changing. A good travel agent can advise you of these changes or steer you to another destination. Cruises to either of these areas still remain sound choices.
Europe provides travelers with pursuits in culture, history, food and recreation. Those interested in the Northern Lights can see them by cruise via Baltic Cruise and Holland America. And Hawaii, especially Maui, is a classic favorite of honeymooners for its beaches, resorts, romance, and hospitality.
Cruises suit couples who want to leave the “driving” to someone else. Five-day to two-week cruises can take you anywhere you want. You can choose to relax and be pampered. (Think facials and couple massages.) Or sign-up for snorkeling and swimming in aqua waters.
What’s the deal on destination weddings or cruises?
Destination weddings can be fun, intimate, and a wonderful time for your friends and family to gather where they have few responsibilities but to enjoy your nuptials. And you, too! These tend to combine the ceremony and reception with a festive vibe, often on or near the beach or outside setting. If you choose Cancun or another destination in Mexico or the Caribbean, you will rely on the destination coordinator and your travel advisor for the hotel and site arrangements. Meetings will take place online and over the phone as you won’t be visiting the site. Generally, you want to start planning a full year out. Some couples pay for everyone. Others ask guests to pay for their room, air fare and incidentals.
A more intimate option is to rent an entire property for your wedding, such as an 8-10 bedroom villa, complete with concierge and butler on site. Sometimes these are part of a larger resort. Marketed under Villas of Distinction®, these are located around the world including California, Nevada, Colorado, Asheville, Charleston, Florida, the Caribbean, Greece, and Spain.
A cruise ship wedding includes the wedding party and your guests on the ship. Legally, the couple must marry in a civil ceremony in the U.S. before the ship parts. The Captain then “marries” you again in international waters. Most ships have cocktail party spaces to accommodate your reception. Guests usually pay for their own state rooms. Ed generally books this as a group to get the most advantageous discount on the rooms. On board you can expect credits and dining packets. You may also be able to get other specials depending on the line and time of year. Your travel agent can advise you on the best way to approach an onboard wedding.
For more honeymoon and destination planning and travel services, contact Ed.
Edward Cicinato Dream Vacations