You've exchanged rings and said your "I dos." You've cut the wedding cake and danced your first dance. Now all that's left of the getting-married hoopla is the honeymoon. But where should you go and where should you stay? The answer for nearly a third of all honeymooners is an all-inclusive resort, says Geri Bain, the author of "Modern Bride Honeymoons and Weddings Away."
The term "all-inclusive" typically refers to a resort or hotel at which a single fee covers not only your accommodations, but also extras like all of your meals and drinks, on-site activities like kayaking and windsurfing, shows and entertainment, and even taxes and tips.
Once primarily associated with bland rooms and even blander buffets, congested pools and beaches, and lackluster service, all-inclusive resorts have made great strides in the last decade or so. Some are downright luxurious, offering niceties like high-end suites, concierge and butler service and sumptuous spa treatments.
In addition to varying levels of quality and service, all-inclusives are also categorized as either family-friendly or couples-only. Not surprisingly, many honeymooners opt for the latter, wanting that extra peace and quiet and added air of romance (including the chance to sunbathe nude if it's allowed). Some couples, however, especially the growing number of them honeymooning with their own kids in tow, don't mind the multigenerational vibe.
What to Expect on Your All-inclusive Honeymoon
So, why are all-inclusive resorts so popular among honeymooners? One big reason is the savings. All-inclusives can cut as much as 25 percent off the price of a do-it-yourself honeymoon -- which is nothing to sneeze at when you consider that the average weeklong honeymoon costs a gulp-worthy $3,400, according to the Condé Nast Bridal Group.
Another incentive for choosing an all-inclusive is the relief of knowing exactly how much your honeymoon is going to cost up front. If you're feeling a little burned by all the unexpected expenses associated with a wedding, it's a relief knowing your honeymoon will stay well within a predetermined budget.
You do, however, have to watch out for hidden extras and "upsells," such as premium liquors or more expensive menu items, such as lobster. And while sports like golf may be covered, you may have to shell out cash for club rentals or a golf cart. Spa services may be extra as well, or it may be only the first treatment that's free. The secret is to find out ahead of time exactly what's covered and what's not.
Honeymooners also like the fact that some all-inclusives have honeymoon registries. That's right, your wedding guests can donate toward the cost of your honeymoon as their gift to you. All-inclusive resorts are also popular choices among airline-sponsored packages that let you pay for both your airfare and accommodations with frequent flier miles -- which wedding guests can also contribute toward your cause. For instance, Delta Vacations offers all-inclusive options like the Hotel Riu Palace in sunny, palm-riddled Aruba and the Paradisus Playa Conchal situated just minutes from Costa Rica's famed Playa Grande Marine Turtle National Park.
All-inclusives: Where to Go
By far, the most popular locations for all-inclusive resorts are the beach towns throughout Mexico and the Caribbean. But you'll find these resorts in other areas as well, including coastal hotspots in the United States and South and Central America.
Away from the shoreline, your options include places like the Point, a classic Adirondacks-style retreat in scenic Saranac Lake, N.Y., boasting 11 lake-view rooms and cuisine prepared by a Michelin-trained chef, and Sahoro, a ski-in/ski-out Club Med property in Hokkaido, Japan, where the winter package includes lift tickets as well as skiing and snowboarding lessons.
A good many dude ranches can be classified as all-inclusives as well, such as the Wit's End Guest Ranch, Resort & Spa in Colorado's Vallecito Lake Valley. Flying under the flag "luxury at the edge of the untamed wilderness," it includes everything from old-fashioned campfire cookouts to a European dry sauna.
Cruises are, by nature, another form of all-inclusive, and a popular pick among honeymooners. Not only are your accommodations, meals, activities and entertainment included, but you get to visit multiple exotic ports of call. Take note, however, that unless you book your trip with a luxury cruise line, drinks (alcoholic and otherwise), tips and shore excursions aren't included in the price. River cruises, on the other hand, typically include all the bells and whistles, and also provide a more intimate look at destinations like Burgundy, France and St. Petersburg, Russia.
Oddly enough, one of the most sought-after honeymoon spots, Hawaii, doesn't have any full-fledged all-inclusive resorts (although it does have an "inclusive" resort, the Kona Village Resort on the big island). And with the exception of a Club Med on Bora Bora, neither does Tahiti.
Convinced yet that an all-inclusive is where you want to honeymoon? Before you say yes, learn more about the pros and cons of going with an all-inclusive.
Is An All-Inclusive Right For You?
Now that you know the ins and outs of all-inclusives, are they the right choice for your honeymoon?
We've mentioned already that an all-inclusive can save you money and aid in budgeting, but it can also save you time and trouble. After the endless hours and stress involved in wedding planning, you may find it a tremendous relief not to have to organize a honeymoon as well. Sure, some research is involved in choosing where you want to go, but a lot of that can be alleviated with the help of a seasoned travel agent.
On the downside, some newlyweds may find a stay at an-inclusive too limiting. Perhaps you like to get out amongst the natives and sample the local color and cuisine instead of having to stay on property. Or, if you don't eat and drink that much and all you're interested in doing is relaxing by the pool, then you might feel like you're not getting your money's worth. On the plus side, plenty of couples come back from an all-inclusive honeymoon convinced that they did more and tried more than they would have otherwise because it was included in the price of the package.
Then there are those of you who might cringe at the thought of having to eat at the same four or five restaurants the entire trip or having access only to your particular resort's activities and facilities. One solution is to bring along a little extra spending money for outside meals and excursions, or staying at all-inclusive that allows privileges at its nearby sister resorts, which often have completely different eateries and amenities.
Ultimately, your choice of honeymoon destination depends on you and your bethrothed's wants and needs. So take a mental snapshot of your ideal honeymoon and decide if an all-inclusive resort fits into the picture.
More Great Links
- AAA. "Diamond Ratings." (Feb. 5, 2012) http://newsroom.aaa.com/diamond-ratings/
- Blue Water Holidays. "Cruise Russia."(Feb. 5, 2012) http://www.cruisingholidays.co.uk/river/russia/index.htm
- ClubMed. "Japan - Sahoro." (Feb. 5, 2012) http://www.clubmed.us/cm/resorts-asia-japan-sahoro_p-115-l-US-v-SAOC-pe-11H-ac-vh.html
- Delta Vacations. "Romance." (Feb. 5, 2012) http://www.deltavacations.com/planning/theme/romance/index.do
- Five Star Alliance. "The Best Luxury All-inclusive Resorts." (Feb. 5, 2012) http://www.fivestaralliance.com/best/hotels/958/the-best-luxury-all-inclusive-resorts
- Graddon-Hodgson, Beth. "Quincy Hotel: Urban All Inclusive Hotel Gets Singapore Talking." InventorSpot.com. (Feb. 5, 2012) http://inventorspot.com/articles/quincy_hotel_urban_all_inclusive_hotel_gets_singapore_talking_34417
- Grant, Kim. "The Point." Away.com. (Feb. 5, 2012) http://vacation.away.com/hotels/travel-ld-cid8635-lake-placid-hotelid11325-the-point-hotel.html
- Kona Village Resort. (Feb. 5, 2012) http://www.konavillage.com
- The New York Times. "Gerard Blitz, 78, Dies; Founder of Club Med." March 5, 1990. (Feb. 5, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/1990/03/05/obituaries/gerard-blitz-78-dies-founder-of-club-med.html
- NYSE Euronext. "Club Méditerranée and Fosun announce a global strategic partnership in China." June 13, 2010. (Feb. 5, 2012) http://www.euronext.com/news/companypressrelease/details_popup/cprDetails-1721-NL.html?docid=871003
- The Point. (Feb. 5, 2012) http://thepointresort.com
- Sandals. "Sandals Honeymoons." (Feb. 5, 2012) http://www.sandals.com/weddingmoons/honeymoons/
- Special Places Travel. "Barges in France." (Feb. 5, 2012) http://www.bargesinfrance.com/
- Stiverson, Miles. "Budget Honeymoons: 15 Budget Honeymoon Ideas." Theknot.com. (Feb. 5, 2012) http://wedding.theknot.com/honeymoons/honeymoon-planning/articles/15-honeymoon-budget-tips.aspx
- Valhouli, Christina. "What Your Honeymoon Will Cost." Forbes.com. (Feb. 5, 2012) http://www.forbes.com/2004/04/22/cx_cv_0422feat.html
- Wit's End Guest Ranch. (Feb. 5, 2012) http://www.witsendranch.com/