This past October, my husband and I went on an amazing 2 week honeymoon to Portugal. To be honest, I might have been more excited about my honeymoon than my wedding. I guess that’s the sign of a true travel junkie.
We spent a long time researching and deciding on this destination because we, like many people, wanted our honeymoon to be perfect for us! Our decision to travel to Portugal was very collaborative, and it felt like the culmination of our wedding celebrations. In the process, we definitely learned a lot about the honeymoon planning process through our experience in Portugal and some helpful lessons on travel planning for our future as a married couple.
These are our tips for choosing the perfect honeymoon for you, regardless of your travel style!
Set Your Budget Early
This is a really important step of the planning process and something that you need to do right away. Seriously, this is first. After a wedding, you’re bound to be financially strapped and setting a budget is key to alleviating stress related your finances. Honeymoons don’t need to be exorbitant or expensive if you don’t want them to be, but they certainly can be. Honeymoon expenses are going to come up as an issue between you and your spouse if you don’t talk about them early, a natural outcome after a wedding that is such an expensive undertaking. It’s important to set a rough budget at the beginning of the planning process and then hone in on the final budget after you’ve started doing research. Depending on how tight your budget is, it may even be a determining factor of what destination you decide on.
Discuss Your Goals — Together!
Many people have preconceived notions about what a honeymoon should or should not be. I think this is largely due to extensive coverage of stereotypical honeymoons in the media—more sex than you’ve ever had, beaches, luxury, champagne, rose petals, etc—and in reality, that might not be the honeymoon you or your future spouse envision for yourselves. Talking about what you want out of your honeymoon and what you want to experience together as a couple is an important learning process for newly engaged/married couples. Being communicative throughout the process ensures that neither one of you will hijack the planning process or find themselves on a vacation they didn’t want.
For Sam and I, we didn’t want a luxury beach honeymoon. Neither of us are really beach people and we didn’t want to spend our money or time on that type of experience. It’s just not our style. We discussed what we were each individually hoping to get out of our honeymoon experience which guided our goal-setting process. One definite goal we agreed on was that our honeymoon needed to be in a country that neither of us had ever been to before. We wanted to create new memories in a new country together. Furthermore, we realized that we were both looking for smaller country that we could reasonably see in 2 weeks.
Make a List of Potential Destinations
After talking about our goals together, Sam + I went off to do a little honeymoon research of our own. We each created a list of our top destinations after looking into places that we were individually interested in. My initial thought for our honeymoon was Asia, and my mind immediately went to Thailand or Bali, both of which I knew had established tourism industries. Plus they were beautiful! Sam was primarily interested in Europe or South America, because he really wanted to have either foodie or scenery experiences on our honeymoon. By both choosing destinations, we were equally invested in the planning process and discovering our own destinations, but we would ultimately make a decision together.
Be Open-Minded to Unconventional Locations
Because so many people envision their honeymoons a certain way, they may be reluctant to consider more “uncommon” destinations. But, unconventional honeymoon destinations can sometimes be the best fit for a variety of reasons—budget, exclusivity, time of year, etc—so it’s beneficial to be open-minded. It’s also important that you don’t shoot down an unusual idea, because it may be somewhere that your spouse really wants to visit. When I was a teenager dreaming of a honeymoon, would I have envisioned Portugal? Certainly not, I would have thought that was so weird. But as you grow and adapt to life with a partner, you might find that your vision and priorities have shifted. Now, I know that Portugal was absolutely the best destination for our honeymoon and even though it may have been a little unconventional, I couldn’t imagine it any other way!
Narrow Your Destinations Down to Two
Now that you have both brainstormed a few ideas of places you might want to visit, it’s time to narrow down your search. Sam + I shared our potential destination lists with each other. I had Bali, Thailand and Nicaragua on my list, while Sam had Portugal & Colombia on his list. We chatted about our favorites and what we thought of one another’s choices. Neither of us were aggressive about our defending choices, and we had a casual discussion about our feedback regarding the other person’s list. We managed to narrow our list down to Portugal and Bali (one destination from each of us) which we decided to explore more in-depth.
When you’ve got some great choices, it can be hard to narrow down your choices. Here’s how our thought process went:
- We ruled out Thailand mainly because a lot of people go there for their honeymoon (I know, kind of snobby), and we wanted to spend longer than 2 weeks in Thailand since it’s such a big and diverse country
- Nicaragua didn’t have enough of an established tourism industry, so a honeymoon there would have involved a lot of planning + research. We also would have sacrificed a foodie experience.
- Colombia got knocked off of our list because a few friends are moving there and we hope to visit them once they are settled in.
Research Activities, Restaurants & Accommodation in Both Destinations
Once your list is a little smaller, it’s easier to research more deeply into a destination. I opted to dig into Bali while Sam did a deep dive into Portugal research. We spent a weekend creating potential itineraries in both locations, which included finding cute AirBnbs, tasty restaurants and fun activities. It’s fun to daydream about what you’re going to explore and researching is sometimes the most exciting part of the travel process. I remember spending that whole weekend in front my computer finding all kinds of awesome resources about Bali! I was so excited, and so was Sam.
Compare the Potential Itineraries
We shared our potential itineraries for Portugal and Bali over dinner one night in May before our wedding. It was great hearing about the adventures Sam had come up with and I was excited to tell him all about my ideas. I could tell how excited and proud Sam was to share his research, especially since I am usually the one in control of planning our trips. It was a great role reversal activity for us!
Choose your favorite!
Honestly, I think we would have been happy with either of our choices since the itineraries for both were awesome. Ultimately, we made our decision based on the food. Foodies, right? Of course our decision came down to that… We decided together that the number one most important part of our honeymoon was eating well and Portugal simply beat out Bali in this regard. Although there are good restaurants + cafes on the island, Bali just didn’t compare to the foodie adventures we could have in Portugal. Portugal has several Michelin restaurants, along with a renowned wine valley and uniquely diverse culinary history in Europe. That’s what won out for us and boy, did that prove to be the highlight of our time in Portugal!
This post was originally published in February 2017, and updated in January 2020.