9/3 Real Bride Elissa: Tips for a Cost-Effective, Stress-Free Honeymoon

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Since my last post was about things I’m glad I did before the wedding, today’s will be about what I did after that I’m pretty happy about: Going on my awesome honeymoon immediately following the wedding. Honeymooners are divided into two firm camps, it seems. Many couples I know decided to take a few more weeks or months to rebuild their savings before heading off on a grand adventure (or simply couldn’t get enough time off work). Other couples vehemently told us GO RIGHT AWAY, enjoy the newly-wedded bliss and relax after such a huge event!

Nick and I are both of German descent, so we initially thought we’d join the former group and plan an early fall trip to Germany. Since the idea of going straight back to work 36 hours after one of the most momentous occasions of my life sounded like the worst thing ever, I thought maybe we’d also take two or three days that first week and rent a cabin in Big Sur, only a few hours north of Los Angeles. But by the time I finished crunching numbers and doing some scouting, I realized that if we don’t have time and money for Germany now, we likely won’t have it only a couple of months later. Plus Big Sur in June in pretty darn expensive, on its own. Life also tends to get in the way, so I realized that I really wanted to do something special before anything could throw a wrench in our plans. As if to tell me to follow my gut, I was bombarded left and right with stories from friends and even strangers about how they wished they hadn’t waited so long after the wedding to go away together. At what point would it cease to be a honeymoon, and become just a trip together? So we changed our focus and decided on the Pacific Northwest, specifically Seattle and British Columbia, immediately after the wedding (we’re mountain people, as opposed to beach people). Besides choosing an unusual honeymoon destination (so no crazy markups), here are a few things we did that saved us time, money, and stress, that are hopefully applicable to everyone’s idea of a good time!

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At the base of a glacier in Whistler, B.C., right before we saw a bear!

1) First of all, don’t forget to take care of the marriage license before you leave! I thought we had 90 days to get it mailed in, but it turns out we had 10. I only found this out on the 11th day, and scrambled to get it to the county clerk. Before you go, make sure your minister or parents or bridesmaid or someone can get it sent in while you’re away.

2) We waited until Monday morning to leave. Since our wedding was on Saturday, that gave us Sunday to say good-bye to family and friends, do laundry and pack. The week before the wedding was waaaay too crazy to have time to do any of those things, plus flights were a little cheaper on a weekday.

3) Made reservations far ahead of time (for the first leg). This turned out to be pretty crucial. I made a car rental reservation back in February, just in case, thinking I could cancel it and get a better deal once we got to our destination. Thank goodness I did, though, because it turned out to be an insanely busy weekend in Seattle (Seattle Pride!) and the only cars available without a reservation were the super-luxury rentals. We were also able to get an amazing deal on our splurge hotel because we booked so far in advance — the day after I booked it (also in February), the same room had already gone up $75 a night and kept climbing for the next few months. It was nice to know that we for sure had a place to go after a long day of traveling.

4) Did NOT make reservations for the rest. We weren’t sure how long we’d want to spend in each city we planned on visiting, so we decided to leave the middle few days up to chance. We scoured last-minute deal sites and ended up staying in one-bedroom suites with full kitchens in each location, for far less than the cost of a regular room had we booked in advance. We did end up having to stay a little further out of town in Seattle, but it worked out well because we were able to get out of the craziness of the city and get a solid night’s sleep in a local suburb.

5) Told anyone and everyone that we were on our honeymoon. Obviously don’t do this expecting to get freebies and upgrades, but it was fun getting the good wishes from those we told. And it didn’t hurt that our splurge hotel upgraded us from the most basic queen room to the $800 a night, harbor view suite, along with a special delivery of chocolate-covered strawberries.

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Hello, free upgrade! The view from our suite at the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, B.C.

6) Called credit card companies ahead of time to find out about foreign transaction fees, and to let them know we’d be spending money in unusual places. I can’t think of anything worse than having my account frozen on my honeymoon while they verified it wasn’t fraud. We also got tips from one company on how to avoid the foreign transaction fees in Canada.

7) Opened up a joint back account before the wedding, so that we could cash checks that were written to us both immediately after. Thanks to the generosity of our family and friends, we were able to pay for a lot of things in cash and not have to worry about those fees in the first place!

8) Called our cellphone company to find out about foreign calls and data. While most smart phones are world phones, it turns out you have to buy an extra data and messaging package to use them if you leave the States. I think Verizon was $10 for 10 gigs of data, so we bought one for each of our phones so we could at least Facebook message each other in case of an emergency. We used the free WiFi in our hotels and in coffee shops to plan our activities, but it was also nice to have an excuse to turn our phones off the rest of the time and focus on each other.

9) Signed up for local Groupon alerts for the cities on our itinerary. For example, we found an awesome deal on kayaks for two that was valid the weekend we’d be in Seattle. That saved us a huge amount of money and was one of the most memorable things we did. And though we didn’t buy them, there were tons of great massage deals, too! We missed a deal for the Vancouver Aquarium by a day, so sign up as far in advance as you can, and don’t forget their local deals section while you’re actually in town.

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Post-kayak, pre-oyster binge in Seattle, WA.

10) Researched package deals. I got a screaming deal on ferry passes and a one-night hotel stay in Vancouver Island, and if we’d had more time, the Seattle City Pass would have allowed us to see five of the bigger tourist attractions for the price of four. Our splurge hotel, the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, B.C., had a tea and gardens package that gave us one night’s stay plus their world-famous afternoon tea and two tickets to the historic Butchart Gardens for about $100 less than if we’d booked them separately. Poke into every single corner of the web for deals, and especially read traveler’s forums! Many attractions also give discounts for purchasing tickets online in advance.

11) Took advantage of happy hours for many of our meals. So much amazing Canadian beer! So many $1 oysters at Pike Place Market! And this allowed us to not feel too guilty splurging on the large-size smoked duck poutine, for example, and allowed us to really go all out at our last meal. We also ate a lot of snacks from the local supermarkets, which allowed us to try some unusual things without breaking the bank at restaurants during meal time.

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Duck poutine at the Heron Rock Bistro in Victoria, B.C.

Basically, a tl;dr summary: No matter where you go or for how long, do your research so you’re prepared, but leave some room for spontaneity, and save on the little things so you can splurge on a few big ones! Happy honeymooning!

Elissa Stooker
Elissa is currently trying to figure out what possessed her to go back to grad school, all while working full-time as a college advisor and planning her totally awesome garden wedding. Blogging for The Broke-Ass Bride is her much-needed break from writing papers about communication theory! A Southern transplant to the West Coast, her favorite things in life include Mexican food, useless trivia, and her snaggle-toothed rescue dog, Pickles. If you like pictures of flowers and puppies, follow her on Instagram at @socalliss, and on Pinterest at socalliss for all things wedding.