Co-Written by Liz Erban and Julia Lane
I’m a firm believer in utilizing all the free resources you can on websites like The Knot, Wedding Wire, and Green Wedding Shoes. Trust me, they’ve got some good blog posts on all of those sites. But, one thing that I’ve noticed we don’t have enough of in the wedding world is this: uncommon wedding tips. So, today I bring to you Uncommon Wedding Tips: Honeymoon Edition, full of all the budget friendly honeymoon tips you need.
Sure, I can give you advice on how to budget, build a timeline, etc. But, what about the stuff that is more specific and less…shall we say…widely known? Those things are just as important too, right? Right. So, I’ve decided to build up a whole blog series on my favorite Uncommon Wedding Tips. And, what better to start with than honeymoon tips?
One of my dear friends, Julia, married her partner just over a year ago in the beautiful, quirky city of Portland. After the wedding, Julia and her husband took a 2.5 week honeymoon to Puerto Rico. Outside of the occasional fancy cocktail, they only spent $800 out of pocket for their entire trip. I know you probably think it was a typo. But, I can assure you it wasn’t. So, here’s how they did it (and how you can do it, too)!
01. You Deserve to Have Nice Things
The first thing that Julia wants you to know is this: You do not have to be rich to have a luxurious honeymoon. You deserve to have nice things. A lot of times the hospitality industry and capitalism in general can make you feel small by having separate classes, statuses, tiers, etc. But, what most people don’t know is that most people sitting in those extra wide, single digit seats sipping mimosas with their noise-cancelling headphones aren’t paying a dime. They’re flying for work, have millions of miles from their frequent business trips, they’ve been upgraded, or they work for the airline — the list goes on and on. Rather than be mad about this, you can rig the system and have that luxury, too. You and your partner deserve it!
02. Budgets and Savings
Whenever I [Liz] chat with couples who have just gotten engaged, here are the first three things I tell them to do:
1. Choose the year, season, and approximate month(s) that you would like to get married
2. Decide on a budget, for the wedding and honeymoon.
3. Begin creating a guest list. Then, try to reduce it by 25% (if you can).
Why is budget #2 on the list? Because it’s important. If you don’t establish a budget beforehand, things will add up…fast. After you’ve established a budget, it’s important to create a savings account that is entirely allocated for wedding expenses. If parents or others are helping to pitch in for wedding costs, it can be helpful to have them transfer or Venmo money to you — that way you can keep all your wedding money in one savings account (it’s good to see it all in one place!).
You don’t want to go into crazy amounts of debt for your wedding. So, try to save up as close to 100% of your budget as you can!
03. Get a Good Mileage Card
Once you’ve created a budget, set up a savings account, and saved as close to 100% of your budget as you can, it’s time for one of Julia’s best tips: apply for a really good mileage credit card. Julia’s go-to recommendation is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Sorry Dave Ramsey, but neither Julia or I believe that credit cards have to be bad. Pay them off on time, don’t spend what you don’t have, and take advantage of all the points/miles/benefits you can!
From Julia: The annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve is terrifying at first glance, but they do that on purpose to make sure that people only get that card if they’re going to spend a lot of money on it (which you probably will because you’re paying for a wedding). You can read all about the benefits on their website but my favorite features about this card are: 3 points per dollar on travel and restaurants, the Priority Pass, and the travel insurance.
When you’re putting down 3 or 4 deposits in a row ranging $1,000+, you’ll hit the minimum spend instantly and hit the points bonus so easily. You can do this on more than one credit card and cash in all those deposits for points and walk away debt free, with enough miles to get you and your beloved to and from your honeymoon in first or business class.
Priority Pass is included with Chase Sapphire Reserve, and it is a huge perk. It gets you into private airline lounges all over the world — so you and your partner can feel boujee AF while you’re off being your cool, jet-setting, honeymoon-ing selves. Another benefit of Priority Pass is that there’s usually a restaurant in every major airport where they’ll give you and a guest $28 per person to spend on food and drinks. Just look up your airport on the app to find out which one. Julia’s favorite? The P.F. Chang’s in the LAX international terminal. It’s a great way to get to the airport early, relax, have a cocktail, and get ready for your adventure in style — and literally for free. Just don’t forget to bring cash for tip, and remember to always tip on the original cost of the bill (not just what’s left after you applied your credit).
My [Julia] honeymoon was in Puerto Rico in September. And, if you do any research at all (unlike me), you’ll know September is hurricane season. As long as you book everything on your Chase Sapphire Reserve card, your travel insurance covers it. We booked our hotels, our flights (in miles), and excursions on this card. When Puerto Rico issued a state of emergency, we were offered the ability to cancel our honeymoon and get back every single penny. We held out, and luckily Hurricane Dorian didn’t hit Puerto Rico (who had just started recovering from Maria) and we were able to go. We also had every resort to ourselves because everyone else cancelled their trips.
3 Points/$1 on Travel & Restaurant
We [Julia] got really lucky, our venue was considered part of a bar so our $6,000 venue became 18,000 points. That’s more than enough to get you a roundtrip flight from LAX – JFK. These points add up so quickly, and there’s no better time to make the credit card rewards system work for you than when you have a wedding to pay for. And, if you get back from your honeymoon and decide that you don’t travel enough to justify such a high cost/high yield card, you can always call and downgrade it to the Chase Sapphire Preferred which only has a $95 annual fee. Your points won’t be worth as much, and you’ll lose a lot of your benefits, but it’s still something.
Is the $550 Annual Fee Still Freaking You Out?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. But, hear Julia out. You get $750 worth of points when you hit the bonus (which you will after 3 – 4 wedding vendor retainers). You get $300 of travel credit every year. And, you earn points like crazy. If your caterer is registered as a restaurant, your $1,500 catering bill just became 4,500 points (3 points per dollar on travel and restaurants, remember?).
04. Choosing a Budget Friendly Destination
When choosing a honeymoon destination, Julia and I cannot stress enough how important it is for the destination to have a clear, easy flight path. And, if it’s a super common (read: every day, possibly multiple times a day) flight for an airline, even better. One of Julia’s favorites is the American Airlines round trip flight from Los Angeles to London Heathrow, which are occasionally as low as $350 in economy. Direct flight paths and common flights will make upgrading to business or first far more accessible. And, your points will go much further!
05. Hotel Discounts
Finally, my [Julia] favorite budget friendly honeymoon tip — work at a hotel. If you’re a server, bartender, customer service worker, anything at all that could be applied to a hotel — do it. Part time, full time, one day a week, anything. I worked at a hotel in the Hilton family as a server/bartender, and while the money wasn’t anything to write home about, the benefits were everything. Hilton team members get to stay at any of their hotels (pending availability) for anywhere between $35 to $75 a night. You could pay $75 a night to stay at the Waldorf Astoria, which runs anywhere from $500-$5,000 per night. If you hold any sort of status at all, you get free upgrades when nicer rooms are available, free breakfast at in-house restaurants, the works. This isn’t just if you work there. If you have a friend or family that works for a hotel company, they usually get friends and family rates too! Find a nice way to ask them if you can use their benefits in lieu of a wedding gift, and they can help you get resort stays for 50% off.
Combining all of these tricks, my husband and I [Julia] — on a grad-student and a bartender salary — went on the luxury honeymoon of our dreams in Puerto Rico for 2.5 weeks for about $800 out of pocket. What we spent on cocktails and fancy dinners added a bit extra to our final bill, but hey, at least we got 3 points per dollar on that too, right?
From Julia: I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging. I’m writing this because I’m tired of people, influencers, and industries gatekeeping travel from us. If you play your credit cards right you may very well never pay for another flight in your life. You don’t have to use these specific cards or hotel companies to make this work. Try to tap into the resources available to you and save where you can. If you want to book business class and see if you get upgraded to first, that’s always an option. If you want to try your luck, book economy, dress for the beach, and drop honeymoon hints at the check in desk, have at it. I personally didn’t want to leave it to chance, but didn’t necessarily want to pay for it either. I hope this helps and I hope you have the cheapest, most expensive-feeling, wonderful, budget friendly honeymoon ever!