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TRAVEL
Travel Adviser

Don't keep your honeymoon a secret

Starting with your intended right up to your wedding guests

By Marnie Hunter
CNN


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Boutique hotels often offer more affordable rates than luxury chain hotels. At Jake's in Jamaica, some rooms go for less than $200 a night.

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PLANNING TIPS

  • Consider a place that is new to both of you.

  • Look to shoulder-season rates for savings.

  • Let vendors know you're honeymooners; beware of perks that add dollars but little value.

  • Investigate packages that bundle air fare, hotel and car rental.

  • Look at boutique hotels in the area.

  • Consider purchasing trip insurance.
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    (CNN) -- Making honeymoon decisions doesn't have to be as stressful as choosing the perfect wedding dress or the best seating arrangement for your eccentric relatives.

    Sharing expectations with your honey is the first step. Once you have an idea of the type of trip you'll both enjoy, it's a matter of looking at your budget and making some strategic decisions for the best value.

    "A couple should definitely sit down and talk to one another about their dream trip and kind of figure out where their priorities lie," said Kathleen Murray, weddings editor at TheKnot.com.

    "Do they want a beach vacation where relaxation is the only thing on the menu, do they want to explore new lands, do they want to do something adventurous?"

    Hawaii and Costa Rica are great for beaches and adventure, and Africa, which has become very popular for safaris, also has beautiful beaches and attractions like South Africa's wine country, Murray said.

    Choosing a place neither of you have visited before is a good idea, said Yolanda Crous, a travel editor at Brides magazine.

    "[The couple] is discovering a destination for themselves that's brand new to both of them and they're creating their own story there," she said.

    Time and money

    According to a 2003 study from the Fairchild Bridal Group, which publishes Brides, Elegant Bride and Modern Bride magazines, the average honeymoon is eight days long and costs $3,471.

    The amount of time and money you have to spend will certainly factor into your choice of destination, but there are ways to save on some of the ever-popular island honeymoon spots.

    Going during the shoulder season, just before or just after the destination's high season, yields significant savings on hotels and you're likely to receive more attention and more upgrades when the crowds are thinner, Crous said.

    In the Caribbean, hotels may charge up to 40 percent less outside of the mid-December to mid-April high season.

    Crous and Murray both recommend advertising your newlywed status for possible upgrades.

    "You must always make sure to tell your travel agent, the hotel, ... the guy at the airport reservation desk that you're honeymooners," Crous said. "Because you never know when you're going to run into somebody who wants to make it extra-special for you."

    While letting travel providers know is advised, exercising some caution with honeymoon hotel packages is a good idea, Crous said.

    Sometimes the honeymoon extras -- a bottle of champagne or a dinner on the beach -- are not necessarily worth the price of the honeymoon suite.

    Susan Moynihan, a travel editor at Modern Bride, suggests being selective about when you let people know that you're honeymooners.

    "You might want to hold back when you're researching because some people will assume, 'You're honeymooners? Oh, you have to have the honeymoon suite.' You don't."

    Range of options

    Travel packages that include air fare, lodging and car rentals are often more economical than purchasing the components separately. Packages can be particularly attractive for expensive destinations like Hawaii and Tahiti, Crous said.

    Cruises also are a good value since all your meals are included, and the lines offer frequent discounts. Plus, Crous noted, the growing number of domestic ports may eliminate the need for air travel to the departure point.

    Boutique hotels can be an affordable alternative to luxury resorts, Moynihan said, and they provide an intimate, unique atmosphere.

    Many of the rooms at Jake's, an Island Outpost property in Jamaica, are less than $200 a night.

    An island locale is certainly not a honeymoon prerequisite. Checking into a charming bed and breakfast closer to home is a great way to get away at a reasonable price.

    Some couples do a mini-honeymoon and plan on another vacation later, Murray said.

    "They'll take that wedding weekend and go away for one or two days, really live it up in a beautiful bed and breakfast or a luxury hotel, and then they'll save some money and take a big trip when the time is right for them," she said.

    More and more couples are picking up on the trend of registering online for portions of their honeymoon. Wedding guests can log on and make a contribution to the couple's trip.

    "It adds a little bit more significance and personality to the monetary gift, which is really nice, Murray said.

    No matter where your dream vacation takes you, Crous recommends trip insurance.

    "Even if you're only going a few hundred miles away, this is one trip you definitely don't want compromised."

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