Posts in the 'honeymoons' Category
This is the first post in a series written by our amazing partners over at Bliss Honeymoons, who specialize in planning seriously amazeballs honeymoons and destination weddings for people with even teensy-tinsy budgets.
If you’ve spent any time at all trying to plan a trip online, you probably know how confusing travel pricing can be. There are hundreds of websites all claiming to have some special offer or lower price than you can get anywhere else. And there are literally as many myths about travel pricing as there are people selling travel. So today what I would like to do is dispel some of the myths, and give you the scoop on how travel pricing really works.
Myth#1-Using a travel agent means I am going to pay more than I would if I booked it myself:
Fact- While it may be true that some travel agents do charge fees or mark up the prices; for the most part the price you get from your travel agent should be the same as the pricing that you find online on the hotel’s or airline’s site. Agencies also have relationships with preferred suppliers which may give them access to specials and promotions that you may not be able to find on online sites. Just last week we saved a client over $800.00 just by being able to give him a free upgrade certificate we received from a hotel’s sales rep.
Good to know-most hotels guarantee they won’t offer a lower price on their site than an agency is able to secure.
Myth #2: I can get discounts online that I can’t get from an agent:
Fact: Many hotels and cruise lines have a very strict no discounting policy because they want all agencies, both online and offline, to compete on service rather than price. One online giant was recently issued a stop sell by Sandals because they were illegally discounting Sandals’ pricing. So if an agency offers you a price that sounds too good to be true, it may very well be. And the hotel may not honor that deeply discounted price upon arrival, as one couple learned upon check-in for their wedding in St Thomas. They had to cough up over $1200 to cover what they thought was a travel deal they had purchased online. Again special pricing is offered to agencies and suppliers based on relationships, and in some cases, sales volume.
Myth #3-If I shop around, I can get a bunch of agents to compete for my business.
Fact: Your trip has four parts to it-airfare, hotel, transfers and insurance. Your travel agent doesn’t own any of those four companies, or set their pricing. However, your agent should know how to put your package together in a way that offers the most value and the best price.
Good to know-I actually had a guy yell at me once because he called the hotel and got the same price I had given him. The hotel shouldn’t cost more from a travel agent that it does from the hotel. But again, be concerned if it’s significantly less.
Myth #4-You can find everything you need to plan your trip from Trip Advisor and an online site.
Fact: While there is a lot of good info online, there’s also a lot of misinformation online. Online review sites in theory are a great idea. But unfortunately they’ve fall prey to all kinds of abuse; such as favorable reviews written by staff members, to unscrupulous shoppers who didn’t get a discount they thought they deserved. Here’s the thing to remember-no online reviewer is basing their professional reputation on the outcome of your trip. Your local travel consultant is. Who are you going to trust?
Ok, so now that we’ve cleared up the pricing misconceptions, why wouldn’t you use an agent?!
Fact #1: The average couple spends 30 hours doing research for their trip.
That’s like having a part time job! Do you have that kind of time? Probably not! Using an experienced travel consultant can save you a lot of time and stress!
Fact #2: Agents can see red flags that most consumers miss.
Here’s a great example. Last week Bernie had a couple call her about a “great deal” they found online.
This “fantastic” deal would have had the clients staying at 3 different mediocre hotels in a 7-day period! The other thing the “incredible” deal didn’t reveal was that the clients would have to overnight in Rome on the way back from Naples. So that would add another hotel stay, bringing the total hotel number up to 4. Due to the flight schedule they would not arrive home until the day they were supposed to have returned to work. Another “perk” of the package was the rental car that was included. Navigating the cliffside hairpin turns on the Amalfi Coast is not for the faint of heart, especially when one isn’t used to driving a manual transmission car or driving in a foreign country. After realizing there was more to the “fabulous” online deal than she’d anticipated, the client had us take the reins to plan their dream trip. Now they are scheduled on a relaxing trip where they have private transfers, a single 4-star hotel with amazing sea views for the entire time, and sightseeing excursions in which they will not have to do any driving.
So while a “cheap” trip may look like a good idea initially, there are almost always other factors to consider. We’re confident that Gretchen and Bill will return home with many fond memories of the time they got to experience “la dolce vita” for themselves rather than all the time they had to spend checking in and out of hotels for that “great deal” they found online!
Fact 3: A travel consultant’s role is to advise and create a great experience.
There are two different business models in the travel industry-those who sell travel as a commodity based on price, where you do all the research and hope for the best; and those who regard your trip as an investment, and treat it as such. Here at Bliss, our belief has always been that being cheap is easy-anyone can come up with a lower price if they’re willing to spend countless hours doing it. Consistently creating honeymoons and anniversary trips that people are still raving about six months after they get home is much more challenging. We’d rather be known for the latter.
Editor’s note: Carrie hasn’t actually made it to the altar yet, so her declaration that “the honeymoon is the best thing about the wedding” is not founded on actual facts or experience. We felt the need to tack on a legally irrelevant disclaimer alerting you, the reader, (henceforth referred to herein as “the reader”) of that fact.
As you must have realized by now, Zach and I have a pretty hardcore love affair with travel going on. I started traveling internationally at age 16, when I went to Australia and New Zealand through a student exchange program. That experience was all it took to get me hooked on exploring and wandering the globe. After that, I went on volunteer trips to the Bahamas and Kenya. If you remember all the way back to our “falling-in-love” story, you’ll remember that I left Zach in Ohio when I went to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania. After I got back and things got more serious between us, Zach caught my wanderlust disease hardcore. For the last few years, we’ve basically worked to travel, working overtime and saving all we could and then taking off on epic road trips and adventures. We’ve done multiple road trips through North America, and our seven-month Latin American Odyssey was the biggest adventure yet.
Needless to say, one of the wedding traditions we’re most excited about is the HONEYMOON!!! There are just a few small obstacles to overcome first…
- We have no money.
- Zach has a real job now.
- We can’t decide where to go!
Yep, the sad fact of the matter is that just paying for our broke-ass wedding is going to clean out most of our excess funds. Will it be totally worth it? I’m sure! Do I sometimes think we should just go to the courthouse and then book it to Thailand for a month? Hell yes!
There’s also this whole “growing up and getting a real job” issue. It’s something we’ve somehow managed to avoid…until now! Actually, I still don’t have a “real job” but rather a seasonal internship AND four shifts a week at a bar/restaurant. Zach however, stumbled his way into an awesome job as a line cook in a 4-star restaurant, complete with salary and benefits and everything! It’s a great new phase for him in a lot of ways, but unfortunately ample vacation days are not part of the deal. In the past, we always just up and left our jobs to travel and found new ones wherever we ended up when we got back. Not something we want to do anymore!
Suffice it to say, we will not be able to go on a big honeymoon anytime soon after the wedding, probably not anytime this year.
While it is kind of sad, we’re going to make up for it in a couple ways.
#1. Vegas Friendy-moon!
A lot of our Ohio and east coast friends have never been out west at all. Because they’re a fun-loving bunch, a lot of them are planning to tack on some Las Vegas adventures to their trip when they come out and see us get married. Although Zach and I aren’t really “Vegas types”, we decided to join, realizing we’d never, ever again get a chance to party on “The Strip” with so many of our best friends. Plus, I’m hoping the hotel will throw some perks our way if I tell them it’s our “honeymoon.”
#2. Real honeymoon in the future.
Despite our more settled, awesome life in San Diego, we can’t go very long without traveling abroad. We’re hoping to go somewhere, anywhere, for at least a few weeks as soon as we can swing it financially and job-wise. The problem is, we have no idea where to go! Top contenders…
Spain & Morocco
Thailand or Indonesia
Do you think planning two crazy nights in Vegas on the tail end of our wedding is a terrible idea? And where should we go for the big trip?
When we started talking about our Honeymoon, Mr. Officer told me we should go to an all-inclusive resort…….because that’s what people do on their Honeymoon. I went to an all-inclusive in Mexico with a few girlfriends a while back though, and I wasn’t sold. I’ll just say that the trip involved a tropical storm, a moldy room, some lost luggage and a terrible staff production of Cats. Also, now seems like a good time to mention that Mr. Officer and I tend to burn to a crisp each time we step into the sun. Needless to say, we quickly realized that a Caribbean vacation was not in the cards for us.
So that left us with a few options.
Option 1. Cruise
We’ve done this vacation in the past and it’s always tons of fun. The cruise lines are constantly running specials that make it a VERY affordable option and Norwegian Cruise Line leaves straight from NYC, saving us money on airfare. We also love the multiple dining options on Norwegian, because it makes us feel less like we’re “stuck” onboard. It costs extra to eat in the onboard restaurants (i.e. $10 – $25 per person), but the cost of the room is affordable enough to make the extras seem reasonable.
Mr. Officer enjoying a beer on the Norwegian Jewel
Katie getting ready to dig into the chocolate fondue at the French Restaurant…oooh la la!
Option 2. Cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains
My sister rented a cabin with her family and some friends a few years ago, and I’ve wanted to do this vacation ever since she told me about it. I love the idea of sipping wine in a jacuzzi while overlooking the mountains, and I’m also pretty taken with the cheesiness of DollyWood. Seriously, how many people can say that they went to the Dixie Stampede, Cooter’s Place in the Smokies AND a moonshine distillery on their honeymoon?! Mr. Officer voted this down as a honeymoon option, but I maintain that this vacation still needs to happen at some point.
Check out that view! Photo via Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce
Option 3. Rent a beach house
I grew up going to the Jersey Shore (cabs are here!), and I absolutely love Ocean City, NJ. The beach is great, the boardwalk is loads of fun, and our travel time from New York would be super short. The only problem is that Ocean City is definitely more of a family vacation and I think Mr. Officer and I might get a little bit bored by ourselves. We both golf, so I’ve been wanting to branch out and try Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach or Duck; although again, that seems like more of a trip to do with friends and/or family.
Katie riding the carousel on the Ocean City Boardwalk….oh yeah & I got the brass ring, baby!
Option 4. Disney World
My sister lives in Florida, so Mr. Officer and I go down there almost every year to visit family and get our Disney fill. As cheesy as it is, we absolutly love Disney. I know what you’re thinking and to answer your question, you don’t need to take kids because adult Disney is AWESOME! I’ll let these pictures do the talking:
That is a relaxed man, enjoying a beer at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort
And enjoying some French champagne on a rainy day in Epcot
The only problem is that there’s a bit of a stigma of lameness that goes with a Disneymoon. I mean let’s face it just saying “We’re going to Disney World for our honeymoon” automatically conjures up visions of a couple with a creepster room at home devoted to Tinker Bell paraphernalia. We decided to throw caution to the wind though and take the Disneymoon plunge.
That brings us to the next obstacle….price. Disney trips can be extremely pricey (Grand Floridian, I’m looking at you), but there are a number of surprisingly good budget options and we’ve even considered renting a cost saving house in Orlando. This isn’t my first Disney rodeo though, so I knew that Disney periodically runs amazing specials. Luckily, I was rewarded for my patience and we were able to save over $1,000 on our trip by booking during a promotion in February. Score!
So now we’re looking forward to spending the first week in June like this:
Katie being a nerd at Hollywood Studios
Our over excited Spaceship Earth cartoon selves!
Katie & Mr. Officer looking cute in front of Space Mountain
We are beyond excited for our trip, and I might even be convinced to really nerd it up with these. Stay tuned next week when I’ll talk about how we’ve been saving for our trip!
In the meantime, did anyone else do a Disneymoon? How did you answer people that thought your honeymoon wasn’t hip enough, because you didn’t spend your time backpacking through Thailand? Does anyone have any good Disneymoon tips?