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How to Plan Your Honeymoon on a Budget

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A honeymoon is your opportunity to finally relax and spend time with your partner after the frenzy of a wedding—but it can also be wildly expensive. If you're not careful, a honeymoon can be a source of long-lasting debt that puts a financial burden on your relationship. Thankfully, you can enjoy a worry-free romantic trip for two when you use these strategies to better manage the costs.

Set Your Honeymoon Budget

As you start to plan your honeymoon, it's important that you first create a personal budget. Doing this will help you better understand your income, expenses and ability to save. The earlier you get your budget established, the better, since it will prevent overspending down the line.

A budget is simply a plan: You still decide where you want your money to go, but a budget provides guardrails to keep you on a steady course. You can create one with a pencil and paper or use a spreadsheet. Whichever method you use, the process is the same.

Every budget includes a rundown of the following:

  • Net monthly income: This is what gets deposited into your bank account over the course of a month. If your income is steady, find this by totaling up all the money you received from paychecks and other income last month. If your income is more unpredictable, total your average income for the past three to six months.
  • Expenses: Note all your regular monthly bills—from rent and utilities to gas and food—as well as those that arise occasionally, such as estimated medical and holiday expenses. If you have debt, include those payments. Also add in the amount you put toward savings, such as deposits made to your emergency fund and retirement account and contributions toward other financial goals, such as a down payment on a house. Finally, include your discretionary expenses, such as how much you spend on clothes and entertainment in a month. Cutting back on discretionary spending before your wedding will help add to your honeymoon budget.
  • Available funds: This might be cash you've already saved with a honeymoon in mind or that you expect to receive as wedding gifts.

To find out how much you may be able to save for your honeymoon, subtract the total of your monthly expenses from your income, then multiply that figure by the number of months before your honeymoon. Add in the available funds, and there's your honeymoon budget.

Example: $3,000 monthly income - $2,500 expenses = $500. You have one year to save: $500 x 12 = $6,000. With $1,000 in extra available funds, you'd have $7,000 ($1,000 + $6,000) to spend on your honeymoon.

Your budget will help you figure out the type of honeymoon you can take without breaking the bank. If the amount you'd be able to save is $1,000, a weekend getaway at a local bed and breakfast may be among your options, while $10,000 will provide you with a longer and more luxurious trip.

After that, start to plan your honeymoon. Imagine you decide to spend $8,000. Break the figure down with estimates of where that money will go:

  • Airfare and travel insurance: $1,800
  • Ground transportation, tips and extras: $1,000
  • Hotel: $1,500
  • Food and drink: $1,500
  • Entertainment: $1,000
  • Shopping: $1,200

Total cost: $8,000.

This is a great starting point, but still leaves room for flexibility. Want a more elaborate honeymoon? Consider shortening the trip, but upgrading your accommodations. It works the other way too: If you prefer an extended getaway, opt for less-expensive per-night arrangements. If you're not happy with what your budget can get you, pare down spending or add to your income so you can save more for your trip. Once you arrive at a plan you're satisfied with, you can start making travel commitments and setting your itinerary.

Plan Your Trip Early

Planning your trip well in advance will help you obtain the best travel deals. Last minute discounts may exist, but you don't want to rely on them or risk not being able to find anything. Airfare and hotel costs can skyrocket as your travel date approaches, which can throw your plans off track.

Start by exploring travel websites to see what prices are available, comparing airlines and hotel rates in various locations with different companies. You can do your research, book your stay and pay all from the comfort of your laptop. Discounts are often available if you use online travel consolidators for vacation packages, which bundles airfare, hotels and tours. These packages may be more restrictive, but the money you save could allow you to do things you wouldn't have been able to do otherwise.

If you need help, consult with a travel agent who can help you plan a trip that works for your budget. Explain what you're looking for, and an agent can curate your travel choices and provide advice about lowering costs. While you'll pay for the convenience, it could be worth the cost to get exactly what you're looking for.

Look for Offseason Deals

June may be synonymous with weddings, but the most popular wedding dates for the past two years actually fell in October, according to a study by wedding registry website Zola. So if you want a honeymoon soon after walking down the aisle, you may be leaving in the fall. The best deals for couples during that time, according to TripSavvy, include St. Martin, Costa Rica and Breckenridge, Colorado.

You may not want to limit yourself to a trip immediately after the wedding if you'll get a lot more for your travel dollar by waiting until the offseason. When that may be depends on the destination. In Napa Valley, California, the low season is November through February; in the Bahamas, it's late April through mid-December. Although the weather may not be ideal, you'll have fewer crowds to deal with and you'll be able to stretch your dollar further.

Just don't sacrifice enjoyment. Decide if the savings is worth discomfort or inconvenience. Offseason can also mean closed museums, attractions and even many restaurants.

Take Advantage of Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Credit cards designed with the traveler in mind are fantastic honeymoon tools. You can use them to earn points and miles, then trade in the rewards for free airfare and hotel rooms. Other benefits of travel cards include:

  • Flight and lodging upgrades
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Reimbursements for TSA Precheck, Global Entry or CLEAR
  • Early boarding
  • Free checked bags
  • Travel agents and special customer service
  • Deals on car rentals
  • Travel insurance
  • Complimentary hotel breakfasts and dining credits

There are two basic types of travel cards: general-use and co-branded cards. General travel cards are the most flexible, as the rewards they accrue can be used with almost any airline or hotel chain. Co-branded cards are affiliated with specific airlines or hotels which offer greater discounts with those companies.

To qualify for most of these cards, your scores should be in the good to excellent range: 670 to 850. Research your travel credit card options and consider applying for the card that best matches your lifestyle and credit scores. Use Experian CreditMatch™ to see which cards are right for you.

Some travel cards have what's called an intro bonus, which is a certain amount of points or miles you can earn by opening the account and spending a certain sum within a few months. In general, credit cards with higher bonus points require a larger minimum spend, such as Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which offers 80,000 points (worth $1000 when used for travel through Chase's Ultimate Rewards portal) after you charge $4,000 in the first 3 months after opening the account. Alternatively, the intro bonus for Chase Freedom Unlimited® can earn you $200 if you spend $500 in the first 3 months you have the card.

Travel credit cards can come with high annual fees. Make sure the value of the benefits you will use outweigh that cost. The American Express® Gold Card, for example, has a $250 annual fee, but the card's ability to earn up to $220 in combined dining and airline fee credits can help take a lot of the bite out of that annual fee. Terms apply.

Whichever travel card you obtain, it will come with the ability to accumulate rewards as you charge. The months preceding your honeymoon are perfect for building them, both from the bonus as well as by spending.

You may also be able to maximize points by spending in specific categories. Pay attention to high-value point accumulation opportunities. Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, for instance, allows you to earn 1 mile per dollar on most purchases, but 2 miles per dollar on purchases made with American Airlines and at gas stations and restaurants. The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card earns 12 Hilton Honors points for every dollar you spend on eligible purchases charged to your card directly from a hotel in the Hilton portfolio; 6 points per dollar on eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations; and 3 points per dollar spent on all other purchases. Terms apply.

You can redeem rewards for many things, but it helps to understand where you can get the most value for your points or miles. With The Platinum Card® from American Express, for example, the redemption value is 1 cent per point for travel, but usually less when redeemed with partner sites. Terms apply.

Credit card management tip: Using credit cards to build rewards can help you save, but keep debt to zero by paying your bill in full every month. Credit card rewards will never be worth more than the interest on revolved balances. Never spend unnecessarily in pursuit of rewards, and only use your rewards cards to make purchases you were already planning to make.

Keep Exchange Rates in Mind

If you're planning an international vacation, be aware of currency exchange rates. Your dollars will go furthest in countries that offer the best exchange rates. Before you book your stay, use an online currency converter to get a grasp on how far your dollars will go in another country when converted to a foreign currency.

For example, if you plan to spend about $1,000 while in England on your honeymoon, currency conversion reduces that sum to about £750. Find out how much meals and incidentals cost locally to see how far the converted amount will take you. Exchange rates rise and fall, which can impact your budget. Keep an eye on those rates before you leave so you know what to expect and can modify your spending plan.

You should also make sure you're using the right credit card while you're traveling internationally. Foreign transaction fees typically add 3% to your credit card purchases, but some cards don't charge these fees. Make sure your travel card is one of them before you start making purchases overseas. If it does, apply for a card designed for international travel.

Consider a Honeymoon Registry

Yet another strategy to reduce the cost of your trip is to set up a honeymoon registry along with your wedding registry. This way you can politely ask friends and family members to contribute money that will go toward your trip.

You can request the funds be sent directly to you with an electronic transfer or a check, or you may opt to use a honeymoon registry site such as Honeyfund, Hitchd or HoneymoonWishes. With them, you can register for everything that goes into your honeymoon, from flights to activities, and your guests can either give enough for the item you selected or donate what they can afford.

Online honeymoon registry sites may charge fees. In many cases there is a cost to start one up, and there will probably be transaction and payment processing fees as well. Your guests won't be responsible for paying those surcharges—they come out of the value of what you are given instead. Before enrolling in a honeymoon registry site, read the terms of the agreement. All associated costs will be spelled out, so you can make an educated choice on which to use.

Keep an Eye on Your Credit Through the Process

Each of these techniques will keep costs to a minimum. But as you implement the ones that work for you, it's important to pay attention to your credit history. You can access your Experian credit report and FICO® Score for free. Monitoring your credit with Experian helps you catch changes to your credit report early, and can let you know if, for instance, your wedding or honeymoon spending is taking a toll on your credit score. Approach your honeymoon plans in a thoughtful way and you'll be on your way to a credit and money-savvy marriage.

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