IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Plan a honeymoon that won't whack your wallet

Don't let the price eat away at the excitement. "Today" financial editor Jean Chatzky offers tips for soon-to-be newlyweds to keep costs under control.
/ Source: TODAY

Sip champagne in the South of France. Swim in the tropical Caribbean waters. The possibilities for your honeymoon may seem endless. Until of course, reality hits: You have a budget.

As average wedding prices continue to climb, you, or your son or daughter may wonder how will there be anything left for a honeymoon. Yet, according to the Travel Industry Association of America, honeymooners outspend the average traveler by more than 3-to-1. Today, they shell out an average $3,700 for this dream vacation. And nearly half of engaged couples say the most exciting part of planning their wedding is planning the honeymoon, according to an American Express survey.

So how can you make sure that the cost doesn't eat away at this excitement?

Today's brides and grooms can ask for much more than china and pots and pans. Web sites and tour companies such as and allow couples to register for their post-matrimonial vacation. Guests can contribute to the actual cost, such as hotel or airfare, or extras including massages, helicopter tours and romantic dinners. The registries may cost nothing if you book your honeymoon through the site, but expect to pay a fee — $89 at — to register if you do not use the company to book.

Pay attention to seasons
Consider what the travel industry calls the shoulder seasons, which are the periods right before and after high season, recommends Alan Fields, co-author of "Bridal Bargains: Secrets to Throwing a Fantastic Wedding on a Realistic Budget" (Windsor Peak Press, 2000). In many areas, high season is not based solely on weather but on vacation schedules of nearby jet-setters. For example, Hawaii's high season tends to fall in line with the California school schedule, which often does not break for summer until mid June. So you can find deals on hotels and airfares the first two weeks of June. Traffic also drops the first few weeks in September after schools resume. You can determine these periods in different parts of the world by looking at start and finish dates for hotel and airfare specials. (If your wedding is already planned for smack-dab in the middle of the high season, consider splitting the honeymoon into two trips: A pricey weekend away now, a frugal week away later.)

Use rewards
Can you think of a better use for rewards points? I can't. The key to using frequent flyer and other rewards is to book as early as possible. Don't wait until you're deep in the throes of wedding planning. "Most airlines open their calendars 330 days in advance," says Fields. American Express and The Knot, a wedding resource Web site, even launched a credit card last year that offers wedding related rewards and discounts such as early entrance to bridal sample sales and deals on home furnishings and honeymoon packages. (One financial note: I only recommend rewards cards if you can pay your full balance each month or plan to have a $0 balance by the end of any teaser rates you've been offered. These cards usually charge higher interest rates than those you can find on plain vanilla cards.)

Check out all-inclusive deals
Particularly if you plan to eat or drink in large quantities, these package deals can cut costs by 15 percent to 20 percent, says Fields. They generally include hotel, food, alcohol and some water activities. But each package varies so check specific details before you book the trip. Also, all-inclusives tend to work best for vacationers who are content staying in one place. If you worry about eating the same food for 10 days straight — or if you have very sophisticated eating habits — look for options that include breakfast and maybe lunch but leave you on your own for dinner.

Think local
Only about one-third of honeymooners choose domestic locations. Although Bermuda, Jamaica and Europe may have an exotic appeal, many locations closer to home will have a smaller price tag. Think of offbeat or quirky destinations such as the coast in South Carolina, or an island off Georgia. Sip wine in Napa Valley instead of France. After all, what makes a honeymoon romantic is not where you go but who you are with.

Jean Chatzky is an editor-at-large at Money magazine and serves as AOL's official Money Coach. She is the personal finance editor for NBC's "Today Show" and is also a columnist for Life magazine. She is the author of four books, including "Pay It Down! From Debt to Wealth on $10 a Day" (Portfolio, 2004). To find out more, visit her Web site, .