Honeymoons Trending Toward Fun in the SunJan 31, 2018 02:10PM ● By Jennifer Monahan
After the rings have been exchanged and the champagne has been toasted, couples have one more wedding tradition to which they can look forward: the honeymoon. While wedding websites like TheKnot.com extol the virtues of exotic honeymoons—volunteerism vacations, ecotourism adventures and romantic road trips—local travel agents say the biggest honeymoon trend in the Pittsburgh area right now is actually “weddingmoons.”
In the past few years, many couples have opted to combine a destination wedding with their honeymoon, explained Pam Deller of Allison Park Travel. Deller said a typical experience often includes a trip to an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, where the couple exchanges vows surrounded by family and friends and then remains at the resort for their honeymoon after the guests return home.
Joe Weigler, owner of Shadyside Travel, concurred. He said that many couples seek adults-only, all-inclusive resorts. Younger couples often gravitate toward spa-oriented resorts that—while pricy—provide pampering such as facials or couples’ massages for the bride and groom. Weigler said the all-inclusive resorts offer an array of vacation experiences, including smaller, quieter resorts where couples can relax after the excitement of a wedding as well as resorts that provide lots of distractions and have an active night life for honeymooners hoping for a weeklong party.
One reason the “weddingmoon” option is so popular, explained Marita Williams, manager of travel promotions and product development for AAA East Central, is that several resorts offer free upgrades such as nicer accommodations for the bride and groom. Giving every sixth room free (up to three rooms) for the traveling party is another common perk among select resorts. Couples also appreciate the convenience of having everything in one location—rehearsal dinner, wedding, reception and honeymoon.
Some of the most favored beach destinations include the Caribbean (Jamaica, Punta Cana and Turks and Caicos), Hawaii and Mexico, Williams said. Deller estimated that about 90 percent of the honeymoon trips she arranges are for the Caribbean; the remaining 10 percent are primarily in Europe, Tahiti or Hawaii.
European honeymoons, both when combined with a destination wedding and as stand-alone trips, are also in vogue. Weigler said that while Europe in general is a popular destination, about 80 percent of the European trips he arranges are to Italy, France or Great Britain. Increasingly, Weigler has seen couples incorporate Mediterranean cruises as part of the honeymoon so that they can visit a number of different countries.
Williams said that cruises are gaining prominence as another way to combine weddings and honeymoons. Cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean offer the option of having the couple exchange vows at sea and will oversee the paperwork, the reception and all wedding-related details, allowing the couple to relax and enjoy the ride.
With the abundance of information on the Internet, some honeymooners opt to plan their own honeymoons. Working with a travel agency, however, provides significant advantages.
One benefit of working with a travel agent, Weigler explained, is that travelers can customize their experiences. Agents can often arrange private tours and help honeymooners avoid long waits at in-demand destinations. Honeymooners tend to want to avoid traveling by tour bus with 40 other passengers, Weigler said, and agents can connect the couple with a private car and driver.
Because travel agencies are constantly monitoring airfare and hotel prices, Deller explained, they have a good sense of when costs are likely to be high or low and can advise couples accordingly. Deller said that she regularly works with couples to find trips that fit a range of budgets. Destinations like Punta Cana, Jamaica and Cancun can provide budget-minded couples with a great experience at lower prices than some of the more exotic locations, especially if they are able to plan their trips outside of the most popular travel season.
Another plus is that travel agencies work frequently with charter companies. Companies like Vacation Express and Apple Vacations offer charter (nonstop) flights as part of their vacation packages; the bride, groom and wedding party may not be the only travelers on the flight, but the convenience of traveling as a group and flying directly from Pittsburgh to their “weddingmoon” destination holds tremendous appeal for many couples.
Weigler explained that clients do not pay a fee to work with a travel agent. Instead, the agency is paid by the tour operators.
“It pays to work with a travel agent,” Deller said. “We know when to watch for promotions, and we know a lot about the properties and the various activities.”
Whether sipping fruity drinks at a Sandals Resort in the Caribbean or touring the Amalfi Coast of Italy is more your style, honeymooners have a range of inviting options to consider when planning the trip of a lifetime. For more information, check out www.eastcentral.aaa.com www.allisonparktravel.com or www.shadysidetvl.com.