The dos and don'ts of planning the perfect honeymoon (even during a pandemic)

Honeymoon advice from the woman that's been on nearly 500 of them

bride and groom on a bus
Contrary to popular belief – it's actually better to not jet off immediately after the wedding Credit: Getty Images

Honeymoons come in many shapes and sizes; as a former editor at Brides magazine I should know, as I've been on and planned nearly 500 of them. Here are some top tips on picking the perfect one for you. 

Just because it’s a classic honeymoon destination, doesn’t mean that it’s the right one for you 

Yes, I’m talking about places such as the Maldives. Statistically, this collection of sandy discs in the Indian Ocean is by far the most popular destination for honeymooners. I know why it’s so desired, I’ve seen it and lived and loved it too. But I loved it for what it is: a perfectly polished nothing-but-the-resort destination. It’s not for everyone. 

In fact, it doesn’t have to involve a beach at all… 

I’ve sent people to see the Northern Lights in Sweden, or hiking in the Himalayas, or on great railway journeys across South America – stories that make your hair stand on end they are so exceptional and romantic – and not a beach in sight. It’s also worth remembering that you don’t have to go to the “obvious” countries in order to tick something off a bucket-list. A safari is a good example of this – one of the best I’ve ever experienced was actually in India, in Rajasthan at Sujan Jawai. It meant my options pre and post-safari were far more varied too. Keep thinking outside the (beach) box. 

Think outside of the box: India, for example, is excellent for safaris, as at SUJÁN JAWAI Credit: SUJÁN JAWAI

Don’t go for tradition and fly off the day after  the wedding 

It might seem like the “proper” thing to do, but realistically, other than the simple fact that you will be exhausted, you won’t have the mental capacity to take it all in either. Your head will still be buzzing with the excitement and emotions of your big day for at least a week afterwards and your mind deserves the time to process all of these huge feelings. While it’s doing that, it can’t possibly take in the thrill of seeing a lion in the wild for the first time or flying into a country that you’ve longed to see for decades. And once the post-wedding excitement fades, you’ll want something else to focus on and get giddy about. 

It really is best to book  with a tour operator 

It’s so tempting to book your own flights and accommodation, because all too often we convince ourselves that we (and only we) can seek out and find the best deals. But a good tour operator does exactly that. These companies have already secured the very best prices; they have been nurturing their relationships with the airlines and hoteliers since they were in their infancy; you or I (or price comparison websites) can’t compete with the direct relationships that they have built up over decades. And the linchpin of their businesses? They want you to come back to them for your next holiday – they need you to have the best trip possible. Plus, the idea that they have got your back every step of the way, particularly in this unstable environment, is a priceless feeling (see more below). 

You can fully relax knowing you have the backing of a tour operator Credit: Thomas Barwick/Getty

Don’t upgrade your flight

Unless going first class is a non-negotiable part of your bucket list, then this money is better spent. Essentially, the price versus the memorability factor doesn’t stack up in your favour. Of course, it’s a great experience, but it adds thousands to the expenditure. That significant amount could easily be spent on extra nights and activities that only your chosen destination can offer. There are other ways of making your journey more comfortable, too: Emirates has just unveiled its new premium economy class, Air New Zealand’s “Skycouch” is a stroke of genius, and companies such as Plaza Premium Lounge offer great prices on lounge access. 

Save the money you'd spend on first class tickets for a few extra nights or a special activity Credit: Flashpop

It’s more than OK to take the kids (or bring your tribe) 

A friend or family-moon is perfectly acceptable. In fact, the question I am asked most is: “Where can I go on honeymoon with a baby?”. The answer is simple: almost anywhere, depending on how adventurous you are. But you might be surprised to learn that it’s actually some of the big honeymoon players that are also super-geared towards families. The Maldives, for example, is excellent, as are Mauritius and the Seychelles; South Africa is perfect, owing to its minimal time difference. And when it comes to a friend-moon? Just make sure the villa is large enough so that you have the space to slink off just the two of you. 

Don’t put too much  pressure on it 

There’s a tendency to expect too much while on honeymoon. Which is why, when that inevitable argument happens, it really can seem like the end of the world. How to combat this pressure? Lower the expectations on ­yourselves to have the “perfect” time. Think of it as the beginning of a series of special trips that you’ll take throughout your marriage, because, even though you are going to spend a lot of money on it, the most memorable travel moments are often a money-can’t-buy feeling. Marriage isn’t about achieving perfection and neither is your honeymoon. 

Some top tips from the people who want to make your honeymoon happen 

James Bell, Founder of Turquoise Holidays

“I really believe that after all of this, people will value people like never before. We’re a family-run company and we know where everyone is at any one time and you will always be able to speak to somebody on the phone – in fact, our 24-hour emergency line goes straight through to our directors which is pretty unusual, so you’re likely to either speak to myself or my wife if anything goes wrong.”

turquoiseholidays.co.uk

Tom Marchant, Founder of Black Tomato 

“The biggest challenge to people’s future honeymoon plans is uncertainty. Our new ‘State of Flex’ scheme is focused on bringing comfort and giving couples a way to plan travel without the fear of losing money or being caught up in the mess of refund policies. We did it because we care about getting people travelling and getting the world turning again.”

blacktomato.com/state-of-flex

Think of the honeymoon as the beginning of a series of special trips that you’ll take throughout your marriage 

Derek Jones, CEO of Kuoni

“We’ve increased flexibility, which means many of our holidays can be changed up to 10 days before you go – for any reason at all.  That’s something we hope couples will find reassuring as the world opens up.”

kuoni.co.uk/kuoni-flexibility

Kerry Golds, MD of Abercrombie & Kent

“Unlike other travel companies who rely on third parties to manage operations overseas, we have a network of our own people on the ground. When [the pandemic] began gathering pace during March last year our well-connected offices, who often knew about borders closing before any announcements from the FCDO, were able to repatriate our guests swiftly, safely and at no additional cost to them.”

abercrombiekent.co.uk

Alexander Mavros, co-founder of Mavros Safaris

‘We welcome our honeymooners to Africa like we are welcoming our own family (my wife and I even put together a box of gifts for them) and each couple has our personal cell numbers to ensure they have our 24 hour support along with our precious black book of the best private guides. We are always super flexible and can move around anything at any time.’

mavrossafaris.com