Making the Most Out of Layovers: Part 1

I really hate layovers.  To me, they’re almost always a waste of time and just another chance of a delayed/missed/canceled flight while the airline loses my luggage.  That’s why earlier this year, my husband and I made the conscious decision to always pay extra to fly direct whenever we possibly can.

However, flying direct to many popular honeymoon destinations is just not feasible, even for those who live near big hubs like Los Angeles or New York.  So if you need to have a layover or two, why not try to make the most of it à la Anthony Bourdain?

Los Angeles

You may find yourself stuck at LAX en route to Hawaii, Australia/New Zealand, Asia, or Tahiti/Fiji.  Depending on how much time you have, you will probably want to rent a car since the city is so spread out.

I totally agree with Tony that your very first stop should be In-N-Out Burger – there’s one right by the airport.  (The burgers aren’t huge – you’ll still look awesome in your bikini, I promise.)  After that, the world is your oyster.  If it’s your first time in LA, you may want to drive over to do some shopping in Beverly Hills or The Grove.  If you’re looking to just take it easy, maybe drive over to Malibu or Santa Monica.

Beware of LA traffic though, and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get back to the airport before your next flight.

Miami

Miami is the gateway to the Caribbean and South America.  The infamous beaches are just 30 minutes away, and you can easily get there via the super shuttle or a taxi.

South Beach is a pretty amazing place to people watch and get some excellent seafood.  But if you don’t want to venture out of the airport, there’s a pretty decent Cuban restaurant that you should check out in Terminal D.

London

London is a great city for a layover because there’s so much to see and do, and Heathrow will connect you to many airports throughout Europe and Africa.  Unless you’ve got tons of money to spare, take the Tube into town because taxis are incredibly expensive.  In fact, everything you do is going to be pricey, so just be aware of that.  If you’re going to be in London for < 24 hours, just buy a one-day travel card.  But if you’re going to be in town for longer than that, buy yourself an Oyster card.

Crunched on time?  Just go to a pub.  Which pub, you ask?   Any pub will do.  Really.  Beers will be at least $8 each, but they will be delicious and worth it.  Order some fish and chips as well.

Have plenty of time?  There are so many great (and free!) museums in London, my favorite being The British Museum.  You’ll also want to take obligatory photos near Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace.

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Real Honeymoon: The Greek Islands

The Greek Islands are one of my favorite places in the world. One of the best things about them is that there’s so much variety. Whether you’re looking to hike, learn about the history, or just lay out on the beaches, you can find the perfect island(s).  Read all about Mia and Evan’s awesome honeymoon below:

When and where did you honeymoon? 

Greek Islands (Mykonos, Santorini and Rhodes) [September, 2011]

How long was your trip?

12 days

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)? 

We were looking for something easy, where we wouldn’t be overwhelmed by activities and choices and “overdo it” like we ALWAYS do.  This option seemed obvious since the islands have great weather in September, they are small with not a ton of stuff to do (but just enough to not get bored), and we could travel to two or three of them without having to worry about flights and pre-planning.

The best part about our honeymoon was…

A day on a catameran in Santorini.  Our friends got us as a wedding gift an excursion on a catameran including lunch, bottomless booze and multiple stops around the island to jump in the water, see the hot springs, and “snorkel” (in quotes because of lack of living things to see in the Mediterranean).  We booked through Spiridakos and don’t regret a second of it.

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Quick Tip #3: Give Your Credit Card Company a Heads Up That You’re Going Out of Town

It takes five minutes or less to call up your credit card company/companies to let them know that you are going on a trip, and it can save you from tons of stress and financial worry.  The last thing you’ll want while you’re honeymooning is for the fraud department of Capital One to shut down access to your card once it notices a bunch of purchases made in a foreign country.

Even if you’re just traveling in the U.S., you should still give them a heads up.
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Real Honeymoon: South Africa & Mauritius

Some honeymooners really live by the motto, “Go big or go home,” and Barbara and Jeff truly went all out for their African honeymoon.  Read all about it and check out their incredible photos below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

South Africa and Mauritius, Sept 2009

How long was your trip?

2 weeks (wish it were 3)

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

We wanted to go somewhere far away, somewhere where we would not normally go on a regular vacation. We also wanted to go somewhere neither of us had ever been before. These two destinations were great because a portion of our time was spent being active while the other was spent relaxing. We got to experience a major city, vineyard, safari, and beach all in one trip.

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Going on a luxury, yet authentic Safari.

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

How long we stayed in Mauritius. Would have done 1 less day there and 1 more day in S.Africa and seen the falls.

How much planning did you do in advance?

Probably 6 months of thinking about it, but actually planning it was a lot easier than I expected.

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Quick Tip #2: Use Skype On Your Smartphone

Did you know that you can use Skype from your smartphone?  It’s true!  Skype is a really great way to make cheap international calls from your phone wherever you have a wifi connection.  Since most hotels and cafes have free wifi these days, calls back to the U.S. will only cost you around 2.3 cents per minute.

In addition to making international calls, you can also use Skype to video chat, send instant messages and text messages, and share files.

And despite the fact that I’ve been using Skype for several years now, whenever I call my mom while I’m abroad she still flips out and asks, “How much is this costing me?!?!”

Real Honeymoon: Kauai

West Coasters are so lucky that Hawaii is only a five and a half hour plane ride away. Read all about Sam and Amy’s fun honeymoon on Kauai below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

We went to Kauai (stayed on the South Shore in Poipu) and left the day after our wedding (my birthday) on May 20, 2012.

How long was your trip?

11 days

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

We didn’t want to have to deal with passports and/or visas or foreign languages – which can be kind of limiting! We just wanted good weather and beaches. My brother in law went to Kauai for his honeymoon as did some close friends of ours and we heard there was plenty to do.

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Eating whatever I wanted to because I didn’t have a dress to fit into. No, seriously, my favorite part was driving around the island listening to one of three radio stations (all reggae) after spending the day on the beach. Also, coming from living in the fog of San Francisco, it was amazing not wearing a sweater for 11 days.


If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

I’d absolutely, never go on the 17 1/2 mile Napali coast kayaking trip. I’d also wear more sunscreen and spend more time on the North Coast.

How much planning did you do in advance?

We booked our flights and booked our accommodations. That was it!

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Feeling Crappy On Your Honeymoon Feels Like… Crap

I’m sorry to break this to you, but there’s a really good chance that you’re going to get sick at some point during your honeymoon. Between eating strange new foods, sitting next to sickly airplane passengers, and mostly just getting over the stress of planning your wedding, your immune system will indeed be working overtime.

So, what can you do to reduce the risk of falling ill? Aside from bringing a two-week supply of food from home and wearing a face-mask at all times (gasp – just think of the tanlines!), there’s not a lot you can do.  However, it’s smart to plan ahead and bring some medical supplies just in case your health takes a turn for the worse.  No, you don’t need to bring an entire pharmacy in your suitcase, but in addition to any medication that you currently take, consider packing the basics: acetamenophin, ibuprofen, antacid tablets, aloe vera, and bandaids.

Though if you really want to cover your bases, you should also think about where you’re going on your honeymoon, and pack additional items accordingly.  Will you be in a remote resort miles away from a major town? Will you need to deal with language barriers if you need to go to a pharmacy?  Are you a hypochondriac?  If so, it sounds like you should maybe bring some extra supplies.

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Quick Tip #1: Tell Everyone You’re Honeymooners

My favorite honeymoon quick tip of all time is this: TELL EVERYONE YOU’RE ON YOUR HONEYMOON!

Friends have told me that they’ve received free flight upgrades, complimentary desserts, and free booze just by mentioning that they’re honeymooners.  Even if you only get a smile out of the deal, it’s better than nothing, right?

(For the record, we got a lot of free smiles, but no one felt like bumping us up to first class, I guess.)

Real Honeymoon: Italy

A lot of people would agree that Italy is one of the most romantic countries out there, so it’s no surprise that it’s popular with honeymooners. Read all about Alex and Nick’s fun Italian honeymoon below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

September 11 – September 24 / Italy: Rome, Santa Margherita Ligure/Cinque Terre, Florence

How long was your trip?

13 days

The Coliseum – Rome, Italy

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

Given my and my husband’s love of food and wine, Italy became a clear front runner from even before we were engaged! So when we got engaged and started talking about our honeymoon more seriously, we really didn’t even consider other locations – Italy was it.

The best part about our honeymoon was…

The food/wine/coffee! I mean – seeing Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, the Coliseum, the Forum, the Vatican, the David – I mean it was all amazing, but the food, wine, gelato and coffee in Italy was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Suffice it to say, we ate/drank our way through Italy.  And it wasn’t just the food itself – it was the whole dining culture: once the restaurant fills its tables – it’s full for the night.  They don’t turn tables, they don’t rush your meal, and you usually have to hunt the waiter down just to order or get your check.  Dinner is the evening’s activity and it was so much fun!

Caffe Greco – Rome, Italy

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Beware the Six Months Passport Validity Rule

Two weeks before my then-fiancé and I went to Europe last year, he casually mentioned, “Looks like I’ll need to renew my passport before our honeymoon.”  Keep in mind, this happened in September, and our honeymoon was going to be the following May.  “Wait, so when does it expire?” I asked.  “Relax,” he replied.  “It’s good until December.”

This was seriously how the biggest fight in our 5+ year relationship began.  I freaked out and shrieked, “BUT… THE SIX MONTHS RULE!!!”  Aaron had no clue what I was talking about.  Then I freaked out some more that he didn’t know what I was freaking out about.  Let me just tell you, it wasn’t my best moment.

After polling our friends about whether the six months passport validity rule was common knowledge, I will now publicly admit that it isn’t since about 50% of our friends had no clue what I was talking about.  (I’m sorry, Aaron.)

Alright, the basic gist is that some countries won’t let you enter unless your passport is valid for at least six months.  Other countries have the same rule with just three months.  One such country was Denmark, and Aaron and I were heading there in just 14 days and his passport was going to expire in less than two months.

The moral of the story?  If your passport is going to expire within a year, make sure that you aren’t heading to a foreign country that requires six or three months passport validity.  And if you need to get a new passport (or just a renewal) in a hurry, it’s really not the end of the world.  All you’ll need is a little extra money and an appointment at a Regional Passport Agency.