While everyone tends to believe that a honeymoon is a time for luxury, relaxation, and a little lavish spending, not all brides and grooms are able to afford to go all out after hosting a huge bash for their family and friends. Not only are wedding costs rough, but couples are marrying later in life and have added financial burdens. But that doesn’t mean the honeymoon should be skimped on.
“There are amazing honeymoons to be had in every price range. Don’t overspend and start your marriage off in debt,” Christina Pedroni, senior vice president at Liberty Travel, told Travel + Leisure. “This will be the first of many vacations together, so keep something in the piggy bank for that first anniversary trip.”
Here are some tips for planning a honeymoon to remember that won’t break the bank.
1. Plan first
Couples should sit down together and discuss certain key factors in what they want for their honeymoon. From lounging and drinking a cocktail out of a coconut on the beach to exploring a bustling new city, couples need to figure out what is the most important for them.
Make a list of must-see and must-do activities so you can factor them into your budget. At the planning stage, couples should also create a budget.
“Know your priorities,” Pedroni said. “Selecting what is most important to you and your fiancé will help shape the next steps.”
2. Use a travel agent
While many people use websites that sell packages or are accustomed to booking their own travel, using a travel agent for your honeymoon is an option you should seriously consider.
“Travel consultants will have access to special honeymoon packages at many resorts. These packages will give you added value, such as a free room upgrade, a couple’s massage for honeymoon guests, or breakfast included while traveling in Europe,” Pedroni said. “Travel agents have relationships with many hotels and resorts that translate into additional complimentary perks for honeymooners.”
Steve MacKnight of Perfect Honeymoons agreed using a travel agent is worth it. “It saves money, for sure, but there are extra benefits,” he said. “For example, if you miss your flight or have a problem, you can call us and we will solve it for you.”
3. Have options
MacKnight says once couples decide what kind of honeymoon to have, they should put together a list of several options that are close to what they want, but vary in cost. MacKnight said that when Perfect Honeymoons works with clients, they have an in-depth conversation about the type of honeymoon they’re looking for, their must-haves, and their budget.
MacKnight then puts together three packages at different price points. These packages show what is included and what couples are responsible for. “Sometimes our clients end up going with something a bit higher in cost because they realize more is included for them,” he said.
4. Be realistic
While both experts urge couples to pay attention and be considerate of their budgets, they say they must also be realistic about out of pocket costs. “We have a very frank conversation with our clients about out of pocket money,” MacKnight said. “Sometimes people forget that they need to factor in spending money for food or transportation, and it affects their total budget.”
He also advises travelers to factor in some spending money for a splurge or two, just in case.
5. Watch flight costs
Whether you opt to use a travel agent or not, keeping an eye on flight costs can help you save money to put towards other honeymoon experiences, Pedroni says. “[We] may suggest departing on the Tuesday following your big day, as airfares tend to be lower than they would be on a Sunday or Monday departure,” she said.
6. Check the exchange rates
By checking the exchange rates at their short list of honeymoon destinations, couples can figure out if it is worth picking a new place that still meets their requirements, but where their dollar will go further. “You can use the current exchange rates to your advantage. It has never been more affordable to travel to Europe because of the strong USD against the euro,” Pedroni said.
She also suggests prepaying for accommodations and activities in USD, since it will save any stressing over the volatile exchange rates. Another tip: “When traveling internationally, you can avoid paying exchange fees throughout the trip by signing up for a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees,” she said.
7. Look for hidden fees
While Pedroni said travel consultants are usually made aware of fees, such as a resort fee or baggage fees, honeymooners must do their due diligence when researching and booking their own travel. Call or e-mail hotels, airlines, and car services in advance to ensure there are no hidden fees or deposits required when using their services.
Surprise fees or credit card holds can put added stress on a vacationing couple and may require you to cut a meal or activity on your must-see list to accommodate an unexpected fee.
8. It’s all about free stuff (and discounts!)
Once you’ve decided on a destination, the time comes to put in some extra research, Pedroni said. Ask about free activities or discounts and make sure to double check that the activities you want to try do not include any of those aforementioned hidden fees.
“If you are planning a honeymoon at an all-inclusive resort, the included activities will vary from resort to resort. Some resorts will include motorized watersports and/or resort credits to be used towards off-property sightseeing,” she explained, “while others focus on activities at the hotel, like mixology classes, language lessons, dance lessons.”
Related article: Your no-stress guide to planning an all-inclusive honeymoon
9. Tap into the local culture
MacKnight says venturing out of your hotel or resort area for food can result in huge savings, which can then be put towards other experiences.
“A lot of times, the restaurants at hotels and resorts can be very expensive,” he said. “Ask the locals for some restaurant recommendations based on what you want to eat. Sometimes they may tell you about a hole in the wall place that has some of the best food you will ever eat and it can cost less than half of what you would spend at a resort.”
10. Ask previous travelers
Many people use their honeymoons to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience, no matter what the budget. So make sure you have the trip you dream of by not only doing your research, but by asking someone who has been there before.
“Find someone you trust that has been where you want to go and ask them questions about their experience, budget, spending money and things they may have stumbled on that ended up being great experiences,” MacKnight said.
11. Brag a bit
It’s your honeymoon, and you should tell that to everyone who will listen. From the front desk at the hotel to your waiter at a local restaurant, many businesses will gladly indulge the happy couple with anything from complimentary champagne to discounts on activities.
“When visiting Hawaii, a car rental is a must; be sure to ask about a free convertible upgrade reserved just for honeymooners,” Pedroni added.
12. Above all, enjoy yourself
Couples who are conscious of their budgets and have all the necessary plans in place must remember to kick back and enjoy themselves,” Pedroni said. However, if there is an activity that wasn’t planned or a special purchase to be made on a whim, just do it.
“It’s your honeymoon, try not to make it all about the money,” she said. “If you want to splurge a bit, do it.”
This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.