Real Honeymoon: French Polynesia

I am a total sucker for all things Tahitian, and Parisa and Andrew’s French Polynesian honeymoon certainly did not disappoint!  Like many honeymooners, they split their time between two of the islands to keep things interesting.  Check out their gorgeous pictures and read all about their relaxing honeymoon in paradise below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

We went to French Polynesia at the end of July 2013.  We stayed on Moorea and Bora Bora.

Tahiti honeymoon

How long was your trip?

Our trip was ten days and we split our time evenly between Moorea and Bora Bora.

Tahiti honeymoon

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

We knew we wanted to go to more of an island/tropical destination since most of our prior big trips together were to Europe.  Plus, like most honeymooners, we knew we wouldn’t be as up for sight-seeing after all the wedding festivities.  We had a hard time committing to a destination for months and really waffled between French Polynesia, Thailand, and Bali.  In the end, French Polynesia seemed like the best choice because of the season and because it is just a short eight-hour flight from Los Angeles.  Also, all of our friends who had been before would not stop raving about it.

Tahiti honeymoon

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Being in such an overwhelmingly beautiful environment.  Both islands were visually stunning, but when we got to Bora Bora, we just felt like we were on another planet.  My husband was a little apprehensive about going on a trip where you primarily lay out on a beach all day, but even he had a very hard time tearing himself away when we had to come home.

Also, we were warned ahead of time that we might not find the best food on the islands and that everything would be very overpriced.  Generally, this is a pretty accurate statement.  But, we were able to find some gems on both islands.  On Moorea, we became obsessed with a lunch spot called Snack Mahana–they served some of the best seafood we had on the entire trip.  On Bora Bora, we had some great food (and the friendliest, most hilarious server) at Restaurant Fare Manuia.

Tahitian food

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

I struggled with finding an answer to this one, so I asked my husband.  His response was: “Nothing at all.”

Tahiti honeymoon

Continue reading

Advertisements

Real Honeymoon: Brazil

I was totally happy to get another Real Honeymoon submission from South America, and the very first honeymoon in Brazil!  The post made me even more excited about the possibility of going back to Brazil for the FIFA World Cup 2014.  (Shhh… don’t tell my mom quite yet ; ) – I think we’ll find out whether we get tickets at the end of next month or early November.)  Anyway, read all about Lacey and Travis’ awesome honeymoon in Rio below:

When and where did you honeymoon?


We honeymooned in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June of 2013.

Rio honeymoon

How long was your trip?

We stayed 5 nights and 6 days.

Copacabana

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

We wanted to go somewhere with beautiful beaches and interesting culture to explore. Rio de Janeiro was on both of our travel wish lists so it was a perfect place to pick for our honeymoon.

Trem do Corcovado

The best part about our honeymoon was…


Either the day we saw the Christ the Redeemer statue and took the gondolas (yes two) to the top of Sugar Loaf mountain, or the day we spent relaxing at the pool and the beach since we never have time to relax! We also had a great time exploring the over 200 year old Jardim Botanico where we saw wild monkeys.

Corcovado

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


We would probably stay one or two less days in Rio de Janeiro and see another city in Brazil. You can do all of the must see sights in about three days so the remaining time is spent enjoying the beach and nightlife.Rio honeymoon

Continue reading

Happy Anniversary, Peonies to Palm Trees!

I’ve been publishing a “Real Honeymoon” post every Monday for the past 52 weeks now, but today is an exception because it’s my ONE YEAR BLOGGING ANNIVERSARY!  Woohoo!  That’s right, the best honeymoon blog in the world is now one year old.

I first want to once again sincerely thank everyone who has contributed to the blog in any way, shape, or form throughout the past year.  Whether you’ve sent me a Real Honeymoon, shared a post with your friends on social media, or just told me that you liked the blog, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.  You guys are the best!

Since I started the blog last September, I’ve (somehow) published 114 blog posts including 50 real honeymoons from couples who visited a combined total of 40 different countries during their honeymoons.   Italy took the cake when it came to the most popular honeymoon destination, but Hawaii was a strong second with Kauai being the most popular Hawaiian island.  France and Greece tied for the third most popular honeymoon destinations.

As for the length of the honeymoons featured on the blog this year, the shortest honeymoons (not including the two mini-moons) were six nights, and the four longest honeymoons were a whopping 21 nights!  (Lucky ducks!)  The average honeymoon length, however, was 13 nights.

To gather some more information on this past year’s real honeymoons, I sent out a quick survey last week to everyone who contributed real honeymoon posts.  42 people sent in their responses, and the data that I gathered was pretty darn interesting.  Check it out:

When did most couples leave for their honeymoons?

When to leave on your honeymoonI knew that one couple went on their honeymoon before their wedding, but I didn’t know that there was a second one!

Did most couples consult with or hire a travel agent?

honeymoon travel agent statsPeople ask me about hiring travel agents all the time.  I’ve written on the topic before, but I was definitely curious to see how many other people consulted with an agent.  Looks like most couples didn’t!

Okay, so most people didn’t use a travel agent.  In that case, who did the planning?

who plans honeymoonsAw, I love that so many of these couples planned their trips together!

When planning these honeymoons, what characteristics were most important to the couples?

honeymoon prioritiesThese results surprised me a little, especially that one of the biggest priorities for couples was “going somewhere with lots of things to do and see.”  I was expecting a lot more emphasis on relaxation and luxury, but hey, what do I know? ; )

Alright, let’s ask the question that everyone’s curious about but doesn’t want to bring up.  How much did these honeymoons cost?

honeymoon expensesDisclaimer: I asked for ballpark figures here, and I am not sure whether the responses take into account money saved by using miles or hotel points.  Next time I’ll be more specific!

Continue reading

Real Honeymoon: Italy & Greece (Part 2)

Yesterday’s blog post was the first half of Jenny and Tyler’s amazing honeymoon in Italy and Greece, and when we left off Jenny was talking about three of her favorite parts of the trip.  Number three is below:

_____________________

#3 Staying at Ikies and watching the sunset

We arrived in Santorini in the late afternoon and took a 20 minute shuttle to our hotel in Oia, which is where the amazing sunset takes place. We thought it would be fun to explore Oia for 3 nights and then head down to Kumari Beach for the remaining 3 nights before flying to Athens. Our hotel, Ikies, is nothing short of spectacular and couldn’t imagine a more breathtaking view and private terrace. This room and view has been our inspiration to get us through work and school!

santorini sunset 1

Another gorgeous Santorini sunset

santorini couple

santorini breakfast

That Greek breakfast looks delicious!

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

We probably didn’t need to stay as long in Santorini and could have gotten away with either an extra day or two in Rome or Athens. We absolutely loved the week there; however, by the end of the week, we had really seen everything there was to see on the island.

basilica

The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City

acropolis

Tyler posing on the way up to the Acropolis in Athens

How much planning did you do in advance?

We booked all of our flights and hotels prior and had done a decent amount of research on all of the activities there were in each city. We did book the cooking school months before as it’s extremely popular and we wanted to make sure we got a spot.

Beautiful Positano

Beautiful Positano

Continue reading

Real Honeymoon: Italy & Greece (Part 1)

Jenny and Tyler’s Mediterranean honeymoon was so great that I didn’t want to confine their stories and photos to one blog post.  Read the first part about their honeymoon in Italy and Greece today, and then make sure to check back to the blog tomorrow to read Part 2!  Oh, and prepare to drool over their Italian cooking class photos ; )

When and where did you honeymoon?

We went to Positano and Rome in Italy, and then Santorini (Oia and Kamari Beach) and Athens in Greece.

Positano honeymoon

How long was your trip?

We opted for an extended honeymoon of 2.5 weeks, which was the perfect amount as we were able to truly unplug, relax, and not feel like we needed to rush around.

Amalfi Coast

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

We didn’t go on our honeymoon until our one year anniversary as my husband started business school at Columbia the week after we got married. We moved to NYC three days after we got married, which was quite the whirlwind. We were initially going to take our honeymoon to Thailand in January during his Christmas break; however, he found out that first year students complete their recruiting during the break :( So, we were back to the drawing board and decided to take two weeks in August just before school started up. We both had wanted to go to Italy and Greece and thought it would be perfect timing, which it was!

The best part about our honeymoon was…

#1 Mamma Agata Cooking School

There was so much anticipation with this day as we had booked this activity in January! We got the recommendation to try this cooking school from my good friend’s older sister who had attended a cooking class with her husband. The reviews on Trip Advisor were nothing short of amazing and we were really excited to go.

mamma

Tyler and Jenny with Mamma Agata

Upon arriving, her daughter Chiara greeted us with a huge hug and welcomed us into her family’s home. We took 10 steps down to the terrace and were overwhelmed by the most beautiful views of the Amalfi Coast. We were introduced to the other guests participating in the cooking class and enjoyed a cup of coffee and Mamma Agata’s famous lemon cake. It was the perfect way to kick off a cooking class….by eating!

lemon cake

The infamous lemon cake

Promptly at 11am, we were guided into the kitchen by Chiara where we met Mamma Agata and began the cooking class. We learned so many tips and tricks and got to sample everything! It isn’t your typical hands-on class, but rather is all about understanding the techniques and art of selecting the right food and preparing it perfectly. We cooked until about 1:30pm (and took several wine and food breaks in between) before taking a longer break to explore the family’s garden. The coolest part of the cooking school is that Mamma Agata and her family grow all their own vegetables and raise their own animals on the hillside. The garden was so impressive and really made us want to garden one day! After our break, Chiara, her husband Gennaro, and their son Mario (11 years old and precious), served us the lunch we had cooked: the most amazing Eggplant Parmigiana, Sausage and Red Pepper Pasta, Farmer’s Spaghetti, Lemon Chicken, and Coccolis (fritters). It was seriously the best Italian meal we have ever had!!!!

pasta spaghetti eggplant

After a long meal, we ended the day with one last slice of lemon cake, said our goodbyes, and walked down the 1,000 feet (stairs) to Amalfi. We walked around Amalfi for about one hour before taking the ferry (8 Euro per person each way) back to Positano. It was the perfect way to end the most AMAZING day.

Continue reading

Where You Should Honeymoon in September

Once Labor Day Weekend is over, September can be one of the best months for travel, namely because many families stop traveling after their kids go back to school which makes the prices go down a bit.  So what are the best September honeymoon destinations?  Although you’ll probably want to avoid the Caribbean due to hurricane season, there are lots of other great places to visit in Europe, the Americas, and Oceania.

Here’s a run-down of Lonely Planet’s four destination recommendations for September with, of course, plenty of additional commentary from yours truly.

Barcelona

Barcelona is one of those cities that truly has it all: tons of culture, great nightlife, amazing food, and, oh yeah, a beach!  Barcelona is still plenty warm in September, so you can spend your honeymoon sightseeing in the mornings, taking a daily siesta on the playa in the afternoons, and then eating paella and drinking sangria all night long.  I also recommend signing up for a bike tour to get a good feel for the city.  However, as wonderful as Barcelona is, the city does have a reputation for petty crime, so just remember to be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded touristy areas like Las Ramblas.

Barcelona Playa

The beach in Barcelona

parc guell

Park Güell in Barcelona

To make your September honeymoon even better, consider combining Barcelona with another cool city in Spain, such as the beach town of San Sebastian (5.5 hour train ride from Barcelona) or the gorgeous Balearic Islands (one hour flight from Barcelona).

Croatia

Once the busy summer tourist season dies down, Croatia is a wonderful honeymoon destination for early fall.  While the water may cool off a bit, you can still enjoy warm weather in the seaside towns of Dubrovnik and Rovinj, and finding accommodations on the islands of Hvar and Dugi otok will be much easier.

If you do decide to honeymoon in Croatia, don’t forget to spend a day visiting one of my favorite places in the entire world: Plitvice Lakes National Park.  The beautiful scenery will just blow you away.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Croatia

Hvar, Croatia

California

Of course I am biased towards my home state, but even Lonely Planet thinks it’s a great September destination!  Because we tend to get a late Indian Summer each year, September/October are definitely the best months for visiting San Francisco, and it’s also a great time for relaxing in Wine Country or driving down the coast to Big Sur, San Luis Obispo, or Santa Barbara.  The beach towns in Southern California (e.g. Malibu, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, etc.) are fantastic honeymoon destinations, too.  If you want any specific recommendations of where to go/what to do in California, feel free to message me directly.

McWay Falls in Big Sur

McWay Falls in Big Sur

The views of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco never get old

The views of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco never get old

Continue reading

Real Honeymoon: Curacao & Aruba

A lot of the “Real Honeymoon” contributors on the blog so far live on the west coast, so that’s my guess as to why there have been so few posts about Caribbean honeymoons.  (Based on proximity alone, it seems like west coasters are more apt to book honeymoons in Hawaii while east coasters prefer the Caribbean.)  But fear not, because Shirine and Dave shared the following about their fun yet relaxing honeymoon in Curacao and Aruba:

When and where did you honeymoon?

July 2011: Hyatt Regency, Curacao* & Westin, Aruba.

Drinks by the pool


How long was your trip?

2 weeks (1 week in Curacao, 1 week in Aruba).

Willemstad, Curacao


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

We were looking for somewhere tropical that we both haven’t been before. We didn’t know anyone who had been to Curacao and Aruba, so we thought it would be a fun adventure and something new to experience.


The best part about our honeymoon was…

Getting pampered and relaxing on the beautiful beaches!

Hyatt Beach, Curacao

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

We would have stayed longer in Curacao (The Hyatt was amazing – great service, beautiful hotel and privacy), and we would have either skipped Aruba altogether or stayed at the Hyatt in Aruba (not the Westin, if we go back we will stay at the Hyatt).

Shor at the Hyatt, Curacao


How much planning did you do in advance?

We didn’t do too much planning in advance, although we booked the flights/hotels a good 6-8 months before our trip to get better rates. We didn’t want the honeymoon to be planned in advance so we pretty much waited until we arrived in both locations and went with the flow which worked out perfectly for us.

Aruba Water

Continue reading

How To Make Money During Your Honeymoon: List Your Place On Airbnb!

Depending on the type of trip that you go on, your honeymoon will probably fall within the range of “expensive” to “verrrry expensive.”  The bill can be tough to swallow for many couples, especially when it comes directly after months of paying off various other wedding expenses.  Honeymoon registries aside, wouldn’t it be great to somehow make money while you’re away to subsidize, or even cover the entire cost of, your trip?

airbnb

Several of my friends have recently started renting out their apartments on Airbnb with great success.*  And depending on your place and where you live, you can really make some serious cash when you go away on vacation!  Creating a listing on Airbnb is free, you get to state your own price and house rules, and you always have control over who books your place.  You get 24 hours to decide whether you want to approve a reservation, but don’t worry, Airbnb also makes it really easy for you to communicate with potential bookers so you can feel much more comfortable about letting strangers stay in your home.

But renting out your place when you go on your honeymoon isn’t for everyone, and there are several additional things that I think you should consider before listing your place:

1) Will you be okay with adding extra stress to the days leading up to your wedding/honeymoon?  In my opinion, this is definitely the most important factor.  Allowing Airbnb guests to stay in your home requires significant preparation: cleaning, arranging check-in/check-out times and key exchanges, stowing away valuables, etc.  If you’re already scrambling to finish last minute wedding details, it may not be wise to add more to your plate.

2) Will wedding gifts arrive at your place while you’re on your honeymoon?  It’s always smart to set up hold mail service when you go out of town, but it’s also a good idea to make sure that your wedding presents don’t get delivered to your place when you have strangers staying there.

3) Are you willing to make yourself available to your guests (via email or phone) during your honeymoon?  Better yet, think of it from your guests’ point of view.  Would you be willing to rent a place if there’s no way to reach the owners if anything goes wrong?  I wouldn’t!  Responsible hosts should be reachable when guests stay in their home, even if it’s during their honeymoon.

Continue reading

Real Honeymoon: Greece & France

I haven’t met my sister’s friends Erin and Austin before, but after reading about their honeymoon in Greece and Paris, I feel like we have a lot in common.  Prioritizing their honeymoon around beaches and good food?  It’s like we have ESP or something.  Check out their amazing honeymoon in the Greek Isles and Paris below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

Santorini, Mykonos, and Paris [June 2013].

Santorini honeymoon

How long was your trip?

Santorini for 3 nights, Mykonos for 3 nights, and Paris for 7 nights.

Santorini honeymoon

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

One of Austin’s best friends was getting married in Mykonos, so we planned our wedding dates to coordinate. We also really wanted to go to France because going to fabulous restaurants is one of our favorite things to do!

Mykonos honeymoon

The best part about our honeymoon was…

I don’t think I can narrow down one best part because there were so many awesome things we did. Food was definitely one of the highlights. We heavily researched our restaurant selection for Paris and it really paid off; we had unforgettable food and dining experiences. We also had a great time celebrating Austin’s friend’s wedding, it was a beautiful setting at the lovely Mykonos Grand Hotel. Another highlight was the boat ride we took in Santorini. Only one other couple was on the boat, and they were also on their honeymoon! It was beautiful, the crew cooked us an amazing lunch, and our boat even got a visit from a playful dolphin! In Paris we also did a lot of walking through neighborhoods and sitting on park benches – it was fabulous.

Paris honeymoon

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

I would have packed warmer clothes and closed toed shoes for Paris! We were there the second week in June, but it was fairly chilly and it even rained for one whole day.

Paris honeymoon

How much planning did you do in advance?

I planned a lot in advance, but most of the planning was food related. I made dinner reservations for most nights of the trip about a month ahead of time. One of our friend’s travels the world just to eat delicious food, so we had awesome restaurant suggestions to work with. I also looked at all the menus and read tons of Yelp reviews. We were only disappointed with one restaurant (L’Atelier de Joel Robouchon) mostly due to their terrible and overpriced wine suggestion. I also booked the catamaran trip ahead of time in Santorini.

Paris cheese shop

Continue reading