You’re getting married. It’s a dastardly-dipped recession, but you LOVE your betrothed and still want oodles of romance on your ’moon, even if you can’t afford the Ritz. Here’s how to add amour to your adventures without breaking the bank
Unleash the ‘H’ word
Whereas prefixing anything with ‘wedding’ guarantees a price hike, ‘honeymoon’ has the opposite effect. People love giving couples freebies – perhaps keen they’ll return for anniversaries. Tell hoteliers and you could get anything from free champers to a room upgrade. Tell your tour operator and it can notify its ground handlers – your airport transfer driver might be holding a cute sign; you might get the best table at the local restaurant.
Self-glamp your camp
Camping is the cheapest way to ’moon – in some regions (notably Scotland and Scandinavia) wild camping is perfectly legal, meaning you pay nowt for accommodation. It’s also inherently romantic: what could be dreamier than unzipping the tent to your own private loch view? Make your camping super-chic with some simple touches: pack tealights and jam jars to turn your pitch into a fairy-dell; take plastic wine glasses and decant your favourite vintage into a wine bag (try the Platypus Platy Preserve - www.platypreserve.com); check astronomy charts to time your trip with a meteor shower or full moon.
Get your guests to pay
Increasingly, couples are ditching towels-and-toasters wedding lists, and asking guests to contribute to their honeymoon instead. Set up a list with your tour operator (many have giftlist services) or, if travelling independently, use a site such as buy-our-honeymoon.com or justthething.co.uk. Some of these charge a set-up fee, others take commission. Either way, you can list experiences – perhaps that Harley ride round Uluru or cocktails at Hong Kong’s Ritz Carlton – and your guests can buy them for you.
Book the right flight
You won’t get a free upgrade to business class just for being honeymooners – though it’s worth a cheeky ask. However, research your planes to feel like you’re flying higher: look for aircraft with a 2-3-2/2-5-2 seat configuration and book yourselves into a ‘2’ section for a bit of privacy.
Sleep cheap so you can splurge
Don’t blow your budget on fancy accommodation. It’s better to book the best room at a three-star hotel than the cheapest one at a five-star: you’ll feel more special and get more for your money. What you save on the room, use to buy cocktails in a bar with a beautiful view or those unforgettable front-row concert seats.
Be amorous ‘off-season’
Rates vary dramatically depending on when you travel. There’s no point heading to the Caribbean in peak hurricane season if you only want to sunbathe, but it’s worth considering certain destinations outside the most popular months. For instance, safari in Botswana in ‘green season’ and, while you might get short daily downpours, the landscape will be lush, the animals healthy-looking and lodge rates slashed. Shoulder months – the period just before/after peak time – can offer bargains, and decent weather.
Self-cater in style
Slash eating-out costs by self-catering. It makes having breakfast in bed easy. You can stock the fridge with cheap fizz. And you can make market-shopping for local goodies part of the fun. Ratchet up the romance by packing a tablecloth and candles. If you’re going to eat in a lot, book a place with a view, terrace, garden or balcony.
Take it in turns to plan treats
Little extras, such as spa treatments or ordering breakfast in bed, can quickly add up. So take it in turns to do them yourselves – one morning, one of you might nip to the patisserie to bring back brioche; the next, the other could offer a back massage. One day, one of you takes charge of booking dinner; the next, the other leads a mystery walking tour. It keeps the trip full of (cheap) surprises.
Think beyond the norm
Don’t just consider hotels – a house-swap could net you an hip apartment or beach hut for nowt but the airfare. Register (for a fee) on a website such as lovehomeswap.com to find options worldwide. Note, swaps don’t have to be simultaneous, giving you flexibility. Not ready to rent out your own home? You can still stay in other people’s: check out rental sites such as airbnb.com (www.airbnb.com/) and housetrip.com (www.housetrip.com/); rates often work out 20-30% cheaper than hotels, and properties may come with more personal touches such as access to a great DVD collection or the owner’s bikes.
Pack a ‘honeymoon kit’
Before the trip, put together a package of ‘instant romance’ items for your partner. This might include: a slushy music compilation (and cheap travel speakers); a star chart for your destination; a thin check cloth (so picnics are always an option); matches and tealights; plastic folders (for memorable tickets and oddments); a full hip flask (for when you need to toast the wilderness).