How to Choose the Perfect Honeymoon Destination

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This past October, my husband and I went on an amazing 2 week honeymoon trip together to Portugal. We spent a long time researching and deciding on this destination. We wanted it to be the perfect honeymoon location for us! and I’m here to share a few tips for you to make your honeymoon planning easier.

To be honest, I might have been more excited about my honeymoon than my wedding. I guess that’s the sign of a true travel junkie… But after spending months daydreaming about our trip to Portugal, I couldn’t help but feel excited. Our decision to travel there was very collaborative, and it felt like the culmination of our wedding celebrations!

We definitely learned a lot about the honeymoon planning process through our experience in Portugal, and I wanted to share our tips for choosing the perfect honeymoon for you — regardless of your travel style!

Set Your Budget Early

This is a really important step of the planning process and something that you need to start doing right away. After a wedding, you’re bound to be financially strapped. Expenses are definitely going to come up as an issue between you and your spouse — it’s only natural when a wedding is such an expensive undertaking. Honeymoons don’t need to be exorbitant or expensive if you don’t want them to be, but they certainly can be. It’s important to set a rough budget at the beginning of the planning process and then hone in on the final budget after you’ve started doing some initial research.For us, we started discussing the budget for our honeymoon right after we got engaged! Depending on how tight your budget is, it may even be a determining factor of what destination you decide on.

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Discuss Your Goals — Together!

Many people have preconceived notions about what a honeymoon should or should not be. I think this is largely due to extensive coverage of stereotypical honeymoons in the media — more sex than you’ve ever had, beaches, luxury, champagne, rose petals, etc — and in reality, that might not be the honeymoon you or your future spouse envision for yourselves. Talking about what you want out of your honeymoon and what you want to experience together as a couple is an important learning process for newly engaged/married couples. Being communicative throughout the process ensures that neither one of you will highjack the planning process or find themselves on a vacation they didn’t want.

For Sam & I, we didn’t want a the traditional luxury beach honeymoon. Neither of us are really beach people and we didn’t care to spend our money or time at some big corporate resort. It’s just not our style. We discussed what we were each individually hoping to get out of our honeymoon experience which guided our goal-setting process. One definite goal we agreed on was that our honeymoon needed to be in a country that neither of us had ever been to before. We wanted to create new memories in a new country together. Furthermore, we realized that we were both looking for country that we could reasonably see in 2 weeks.

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Make a List of Potential Destinations

After talking about our goals together, Sam & I went off  to do a little research of our own. We each created a list of our top choices after looking into places that we were individually interested in. My initial thought for our trip was Asia, and my mind immediately went to Thailand or Bali, both of which I knew had established tourism industries. Plus they were beautiful! I also toyed with the idea of somewhere in South America. Sam was primarily interested in Europe or South America, so Colombia and Portugal were on his list. By both choosing destinations, we were equally invested in the planning process and discovering our own destinations, but we would ultimately make a decision together.

Be Open-Minded to Unconventional Locations

Because so many people envision their honeymoons a certain way, they may be reluctant to consider more “uncommon” destinations. But, those types of destinations can sometimes be the best fit for a variety of reasons — budget, exclusivity, time of year, etc — so it’s good to be open-minded.  It’s also important that you don’t shoot down an unusual idea,  because it may be somewhere that your spouse really wants to visit. Back when I was a little girl, I certainly didn’t expect to go to Portugal for my honeymoon and would have thought that was weird. I used to picture beach destination, but as I’ve grown up, my vision and priorities have shifted. Now, I know that Portugal was absolutely the best destination for our honeymoon and even though it may have been a little unconventional, I couldn’t imagine it any other way!

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Narrow Your Destinations Down to Two

Now that you have both brainstormed a few ideas of places you might want to visit, it’s time to narrow down your search. Sam & I shared our potential destination lists with each other. I had Bali, Thailand and Nicaragua on my list, while Sam had Portugal & Colombia on his list. We chatted about our favorites and what we thought of one another’s choices. Neither of us were aggressive about our defending choices, and we had a casual discussion about our feedback regarding the other person’s list. We managed to narrow our list down to Portugal & Bali (one destination from each of us) which we decided to explore more in-depth.

When you’ve got some great choices, it can be hard to narrow down your choices. Here’s how our thought process went:

  • We ruled out Thailand mainly because a lot of people go there for their honeymoon (I know, kind of snobby), and we wanted to spend longer than 2 weeks there since it’s such a big and diverse country
  • Nicaragua didn’t have enough of an established tourism industry, so it would have involved a lot of planning & research. We also would have sacrificed a foodie experience.
  • Colombia got knocked off of our list because a few friends are moving there in March who we will probably visit on our own.

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Research Activities, Restaurants & Accommodation in Both Destinations

Once your list is a little smaller, it’s easier to research more deeply into a destination. I opted to dig into Bali while Sam did a deep dive into Portugal research. We spent a weekend creating potential itineraries in both locations, which included finding cute AirBnbs, tasty restaurants and fun activities. It’s fun to daydream about what to explore in a new place, and researching is sometimes the funnest part of the process! I remember spending that whole weekend in front my computer finding all kinds of awesome resources about Bali! I was so excited, and so was Sam!

Compare the Potential Itineraries

We shared our potential itineraries for Portugal and Bali over dinner one night the spring before our wedding. It was great hearing about the adventures Sam had come up with and I was excited to tell him all about my ideas. I could tell how excited & proud Sam was to share his research, especially since I am usually the one in control of planning our trips. It was a great role reversal activity for us!

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Choose your favorite!

Honestly, I think we would have been happy with either of our choices since the itineraries for both were awesome. Ultimately, we made our decision based on the food. Foodies, right? Of course our decision came down to that… We decided together that the number one most important part of our honeymoon was eating well. And Portugal simply beat out Bali in this regard. Although there were a few good restaurants on the island and a cooking school, Bali just didn’t compare to the foodie adventures we could have in Portugal. Portugal has several Michelin restaurants, along with a renowned wine valley and uniquely diverse culinary history in Europe. That’s what won it out for us and boy, did that prove to be the highlight of our time in Portugal!

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Got your own honeymoon planning tips? Share them below!

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Author: Megan Arz

I am a travel and food obsessed Midwesterner living in Chicago and dreaming of the world. I work as a full-time program manager for Greenheart Travel, but I am also committed to integrating the travel lifestyle into my every day routines. I am passionate about ethical travel, meeting new people, creating unique memories and eating local cuisine!

3 thoughts

  1. It’s so hard to choose a honeymoon destination because there are so many wonderful places in the world to see! I think Portugal would be a lovely honeymoon. I’m too late for that, but perhaps I’ll save it for an anniversary trip. :)
    Great honeymoon planning tips!

    1. It was really hard for us to choose too! I couldn’t be happier with what we decided, but I have moments where my mind wanders thinking “Where else could we have gone??”. But yes, you should definitely add Portugal to the list for an anniversary trip! It’s a wonderful destination!

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