May 2017

Summer marks the beginning of wedding season, which means that honeymoon season has made its arrival, too. Last year at this time, I was caught in the whirlwind of both. And while wedding planning was my own unique version of hell, mapping out that honeymoon was one of my favorite hobbies on Earth.

So, my husband and I made an executive decision to take one honeymoon per year. That’s right, one luxury trip where, depending on how much we stick to the theme, we’ll tell everyone it’s our honeymoon and reap in the rewards. Can I get a rewind? So if you’re literally or figuratively honeymooning, or just plain in the mood for an over-the-top, luxury vacation, these tips are for you.


Choose a destination where the dollar is strong

Southeast Asia is perfect for this, meals cost about $2, activities like cooking classes and market tours are between $20-$30 per person, and souvenirs are pretty much always negotiable. A few other destinations also make a lot of sense right now, like Europe while the Euro is at an all-time low. Think Portugal and Spain, which offer a mix of vibrant cities and laid-back beaches, with cuisine catering to all budgets. South America is also on the table, especially for steak-loving foodies who can appreciate a delicious (and cheap!) bottle of wine.

Airline miles are everything

We became religious followers of The Points Guy, a blogger who lays out exactly what you need to do to fly anywhere in the world for free. The site highly recommended opening the Chase Sapphire card, which allows 1:1 point transfers to a variety of frequent flyer programs including United, Singapore Air, Virgin Atlantic, Marriott and more. You receive a 45,000 mile sign-up bonus, and I planned to rack up a healthy amount of points with all of my wedding purchases. With about 80,000 points in tow and 80,000 miles already in my Mileage Plus account, we had enough to fly from Miami to Bali in business. We then each opened a Citi AAdvantage card for 100,000 combined miles and booked Cathay Pacific flights home from Thailand to Miami, all in business and first class. Free flights: CHECK!

Choose locally owned hotels over international chains

In addition to staying in a place that captures the vibe and culture of the city you’re in, prices are often much more affordable. U.S. and European hotel brands tend to have prices that you’d expect in those countries, while locally owned hotels offer prices that are more in line with the local currency.

Nearby hotels are great

We found that luxe hotels in the Phi Phi Islands were way out of our price range. Rather than staying on the island itself, we lodged nearby and opted for a full-day island-hopping tour. This way, we got to experience the magic of the Phi Phi islands without going over budget. Similarly, we decided to stay in Kowloon at the stunning Hotel Madera instead of a hotel in Central Hong Kong. By staying in Kowloon, we got the most bang for our buck, a gorgeous, apartment-style hotel room with its own private sun deck. The hotel was also home to a rooftop bar with sweeping skyline views that we would never have seen from Central Hong Kong. It was still super easy to get around, with subway stations sprinkled throughout the city.

Be flexible

Try not to get attached to any one hotel or brand, pick out a few spots that look awesome to you, and then let the price dictate which one to go with. Shameless plug, but we have international Travelzoo sites, too, that sometimes offer different deals than we have in the U.S. Travelzoo Asia site has some pretty incredible offers throughout a variety of Southeast countries, think villas with your own private pool for under $200 per night. To see all the different Travelzoo sites, go to the top right corner of your browser where it says U.S. and all of the dropdown options will appear. These websites also hold the keys to international local deals, which will give you spa days, authentic tours and restaurant experiences at a fraction of the normal price.

Splurge a little

After you count the thousands of dollars you’ve saved, see what’s left in the budget. Then, take that extra money and treat yourselves. We became obsessed with Rayavadee on Railay Beach, one of Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best hotels, but the price was double what we wanted to pay. After finding a little wiggle room in our wallets, we searched for the best rate and then splurged on two nights. The hotel was beyond our wildest expectations, built amid cascading limestone cliffs surrounded by emerald-green and blue waters, Thai long boats and lush foliage. Use your splurge hotel as the cherry on top of all your hard money-saving work.

So dream big, no honeymoon dream is off the table. In seven cities and 21 days we learned to cook Thai food, swam with Nemo fish, nurtured rescue elephants, fed bananas to monkeys, hiked through rice fields, toured temples, ate countless plates of fried rice, kayaked through emerald lagoons, tasted the most expensive coffee in the world, got many $5 massages, lived in the lap of luxury in a two-story beach house and most importantly, stayed on budget.

Enter Honeyfund and Travelzoo’s search for love contest for a chance to win a romantic 6-night Bali vacation.

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FijiThere’s just something about an island vacation ” the beaches? The laid-back island mentality? The knowledge that a body of water is between you and your responsibilities? Whatever it is, there’s no feeling quite like getting out of Dodge and onto an island.

But there is one thing we know: An island vacation is the quickest way to guarantee ultimate R&R, mellow vibes, and a much-needed break from things like lunch breaks and having to set an alarm. And it can also be the cheapest ” at least if you stick with us.

Keep reading for the most affordable times of year to visit the world’s best islands.

Fiji: October-November

An IRL paradise known for its coral reefs, secluded beaches, and tropical temperatures, the more than 300 islands that make up this South Pacific country are likely the closest it gets to heaven on earth. Considering the notoriously high fuel costs for a flight from the U.S., tourists looking for that seasonal sweet spot should aim for October and November, after peak season (May to September) and before rainy season (December to mid-April). During these months, visitors can often find more affordable accommodations as well ” the extra push you might need to splurge on that dreamy overwater bungalow.

St. Barts: May-June

Caribbean island Saint Barthélemy, adorably nicknamed St. Barts, is a hot spot for celebrities drawn to its beaches, warm weather, and high-end shopping. We love it for the same reasons ” especially in May-June, when those of us who don’t have a Kardashian bank account can snag deals on hotels, flights, and tours. Just after peak season, which ends in April, and before the hurricane season brings substantial rainfall and closed attractions, May-June is the sweet spot for deals on tropical temperatures.

Hawaii: April-May, August-September

Sure, Hawaii may be a year-round destination ” but for those who want to avoid both crowds and inflated prices, planning strategically can make all the difference between a rained-out mess and a postcard-worthy tropical vacation. The best times to visit are in between the winter break and Valentine’s Day, and then again after summer vacation,during these months, guests can snag deals without compromising on weather. There may be a bit more rain than in June and July, but tropical showers usually don’t drop the temperatures too far and often pass after an hour or two.

Bali: April-May, September-October

Indonesia’s dreamiest island is a portrait of a landscape’s unspoiled natural beauty, popular for its adventure experiences, surf breaks and outdoor landmarks. Those looking for the Bali triple threat (low number of rain days, high temperatures, good waves) should visit in April, May, September and October; these months are considered shoulder season and have fewer visitors and lower prices than July and August.

Bora Bora: November and April

Let’s be real: If you’re going to Bora Bora, you’re going to want to spend some time at the beach. And nothing kills a good vacation vibe quite like getting rained out. Just as in the rest of French Polynesia (including Tahiti), Bora Bora experiences heavy rainfall from December-March; alternatively, high season occurs between May and October. By traveling in November and April instead of the summer, tourists can usually find less expensive flights and less crowded scuba- diving sites, without a major risk of storms.

Santorini: September

This picture-perfect Cyclades Island in the Aegean Sea is one of the most Instagram-worthy examples of Greece’s iconic blue-and-white buildings, rugged coasts, and cobbled streets. The cliffside locale is most popular over summer, but heavy crowds and high prices go out with August; September offers lower room rates without the hassle of off-season closures. This month is particularly ideal for travelers hoping to spend time both sunbathing and sightseeing ” average high temperatures range from the mid-70s to near 80, dropping a bit lower toward the end of the month.

Koh Phi Phi: April-May

A collection of islands off the western coast of southern Thailand, Koh Phi Phi ” pronounced Pee Pee ” can be accessed only by ferry from Phuket (most common), Krabi or Koh Lanta and is often toured as an add-on to the mainland. Local tourism centers on two islands: Phi Phi Don, the largest island, developed with resorts and restaurants, and Phi Phi Le, the setting for Leonardo Di Caprio’s film The Beach. Since much of the experience revolves around the water, tourists should aim to visit from April to early May; November-February is the high (and dry) season, and the rainy season starts in late May. During these in-between months, the islands are at their best: dry, warm and serene.

Capri: April-June, September-October

This striking island off the coast of Naples, Italy, is an even more scenic alternative (or addition) to an Amalfi Coast vacation; most tourists are drawn to Capri’s Blue Grotto, cliffside beaches and Roman ruins. High season for this beach destination begins over the Easter holidays and stretches to early November, but July and August are Capri’s most jam-packed ” and celebrity-filled ” months. Instead, those looking to save some money and still hit the beach should visit in June and September, when temperatures are still high; these months have an average of just two to three rainy days. Travelers less concerned about tanning time ” and more concerned about price tag ” should book for April, May and October.

Iceland: April-May, September

Iceland’s rise to popularity was swift and dramatic, quickly transforming the island from a niche adventure destination into an uptrending hot spot gone mainstream. Those hoping to catch the northern lights should shoot for early to mid-April, when you’ll be able to see the incredible natural phenomenon without enduring too-hard temperatures. Alternatively, those visiting for other outdoor experiences will find that May and September offer the best balance of moderately high temperatures and moderately low levels of rainfall. Depending on where you’re flying from (Iceland is least expensive from the East Coast), it may even be worth going during high season, when there are nearly 24 hours of sunlight ” WOW air offers affordable flights from the U.S. and Canada, and packages can often compound savings.

Enter Honeyfund and Travelzoo’s search for love contest for a chance to win a romantic 6-night Bali vacation!

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