2014′s Best Summer Honeymoon Destinations for Your Wallet

by John S Kiernan

WH-2014-Best-Worst-Honeymoon-DestinationsThe average honeymoon costs upwards of $4,000. That’s a lot of money no matter who you are, especially as we emerge from one of the most significant economic downturns in history. After all, the average household has around $6,000 in the bank and owes $7,000 to their credit card company. And that’s not even to mention the $1.11 trillion we owe student loan companies or the 26% of people who are behind on medical bills.

Perhaps it will help that people are waiting longer to get married in the face of financial turmoil. The median age at first marriage in 2006 – before the downturn – was 27.5 for men and 25.5 for women, according to Census data. By 2013, it had risen to 29 for men and 26.6 for women. Regardless, some cost cutting is certainly in order because you definitely don’t want to start marriage behind a mountain of debt. Not only is money one of the most popular subjects of arguments among couples, studies have shown, but financial arguments early in a relationship are also the top predictor of divorce.

With that in mind and considering that honeymoon planning typically picks up pace in the summer months, WalletHub decided to lend a hand by comparing 100 of the best domestic honeymoon destinations based on 13 key metrics which collectively speak to the affordability, weather conditions, romanticism and activities that each city and town bring to the table.

Main Findings

Overall Rank

Destination

Budget Rank

Activities & Romanticism Rank

Weather Conditions Rank

1 Chicago, IL 17 10 9
2 Las Vegas, NV 2 5 34
3 Los Angeles, CA 14 17 4
4 Philadelphia, PA 15 13 12
5 New York, NY 47 1 9
6 Honolulu, HI 12 11 17
7 Boston, MA 35 6 14
8 Washington, DC 5 3 68
9 San Diego, CA 23 12 19
10 Seattle, WA 51 2 19
11 Santa Fe, NM 52 23 7
12 Maui, HI 47 7 38
13 Sedona, AZ 54 31 3
14 Baltimore, MD 7 30 41
15 New Orleans, LA 11 4 93
16 Miami, FL 3 32 60
17 Houston, TX 9 27 57
18 Detroit, MI 24 46 6
19 San Francisco, CA 26 9 72
20 Phoenix, AZ 8 38 43
21 Austin, TX 26 19 55
22 Asheville, NC 34 28 33
23 Columbus, OH 21 59 18
24 Charlotte, NC 16 50 27
25 Kauai, HI 57 20 22
26 San Antonio, TX 32 24 54
27 Savannah, GA 50 21 38
28 Indianapolis, IN 42 50 11
29 Poconos, PA 40 37 25
30 Charleston, SC 58 8 58
31 Fort Myers, FL 4 44 65
32 Denver, CO 41 26 45
33 Marco Island, FL 18 53 31
34 Orlando, FL 1 18 100
35 Delray Beach, FL 21 63 1
36 Dallas, TX 38 36 49
37 Santa Barbara, CA 53 33 27
38 Santa Monica, CA 31 55 27
39 Palm Springs, CA 36 48 42
40 Naples, FL 9 16 99
41 Key West, FL 60 15 69
42 Laguna Beach, CA 46 71 5
43 St. Petersburg, FL 29 40 77
44 Napa Valley, CA 68 24 48
45 Nashville, TN 26 29 85
46 Memphis, TN 56 52 25
47 Palm Beach, FL 6 76 51
48 Cape Cod, MA 83 14 51
49 St. Augustine, FL 18 22 97
50 Jacksonville, FL 18 33 94
51 Islamorada, FL 37 54 60
52 Catalina Island, CA 95 64 2
53 Fort Worth, TX 55 56 47
54 San Jose, CA 33 74 45
55 El Paso, TX 63 79 13
56 Ocean City, MD 70 47 27
57 Sanibel Island, FL 24 68 65
58 Del Mar, CA 30 87 16
59 Lake Tahoe, CA 79 35 50
60 Martha's Vineyard, MA 87 39 56
61 Taos, NM 66 70 22
62 St. Pete Beach, FL 43 62 77
63 Kennebunkport, ME 58 76 21
64 Monterey, CA 62 41 81
65 Amelia Island, FL 74 43 63
66 Telluride, CO 67 67 44
67 Key Largo, FL 63 58 67
68 Niagara Falls, NY 61 75 36
69 Lanai, HI 73 80 15
70 Carmel, CA 72 44 81
71 Breckenridge, CO 44 57 92
72 Duck Key, FL 44 84 60
73 Green Mountains, VT 13 89 73
74 Dolores, CO 91 93 8
75 San Luis Obispo, CA 83 65 76
76 Bluffton, SC 69 86 58
77 Gatlinburg, TN 77 61 86
78 Nantucket, MA 94 65 64
79 Bar Harbor, ME 81 49 89
80 Jackson Hole, WY 80 42 95
81 Santa Rosa Beach, FL 82 91 32
82 Cape May, NJ 88 69 80
83 Boca Grande, FL 38 81 98
84 Yosemite National Park, CA 99 88 40
T-85 Aspen, CO 83 60 90
T-85 Mackinac Island, MI 91 78 73
87 St. Michaels, MD 89 92 37
88 Wrightsville Beach, NC 49 84 90
89 Little Torch Key, FL 75 90 69
90 Greenough, MT 71 99 34
91 Adirondacks, NY 97 72 75
92 Big Sur, CA 93 73 81
93 Chetek, WI 78 97 51
94 Ojo Caliente, NM 96 96 22
95 Sundance, UT 65 98 84
96 Grand Canyon, AZ 98 83 88
97 Steinhatchee, FL 86 82 96
98 Black Butte Ranch, OR 75 100 79
99 Darby, MT 90 95 71
100 Walland, TN 100 94 86

Best_Honeymoon_Destinations

Ask The Experts: Tips for Saving on Your Honeymoon

We turned to travel industry, wedding and personal finance experts for money-saving insights that honeymooners can use in order to minimize the cost of their trips and start marriage on the right financial foot without sacrificing fun or value. You can check out their tips below.

  • What are some of the best money-saving tips for honeymooners?
  • What are the biggest honeymoon money-wasters?
  • What destinations offer the best value proposition?
  • How much should couples spend on their honeymoon?
  • < >
    • Amy Levin-Epstein Senior Features Editor, TheKnot.com
    • Teresa Belcher Founder of HoneymoonIslands.com
    • Nancy Barkley Founder of Honeymoonsandgetaways.com
    • Frederick J. DeMicco Professor and ARAMARK Chair, Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management, University of Delaware
    • Lynda A. Dias Assistant Professor of Hospitality Management , NYC College of Technology, CUNY
    • Juline E. Mills Professor & Chair, Department of Hospitality & Tourism, University of New Haven
    • Angela Turen President & Owner, Churchill and Turen Ltd.
    • Mark Murphy Author, Travel Forward
    • Peter Ricci Director, Hospitality Management Program, Florida Atlantic University
    • Lynn Minnaert Clinical Assistant Professor of Hospitality, Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management, New York University

    Amy Levin-Epstein

    Senior Features Editor, TheKnot.com
    Amy Levin-Epstein
    What are some of the best money-saving tips for honeymooners?

    Being flexible is the best way to save money planning a honeymoon. If you’re planning your wedding during the high season, high season prices will likely apply to the honeymoon as well. Consider spending a few nights 'mini-mooning' in a local hotel and delay the honeymoon for a more affordable time of year.

    The few weeks before or after a destination’s high season, called 'shoulder season,' are normally more affordable but with similar weather. All-inclusive resorts, especially in their off-seasons, can also be great money-savers!

    Staying domestic will tend to be cheaper than traveling abroad, and great options like North Carolina’s Outer Banks or California’s Catalina Island mean you don’t have to compromise on the quality of your honeymoon. Staying within driving distance can also dramatically cut costs.

    If you still need some extra help, more and more couples are registering for their honeymoon and asking friends and family to help them afford the trip of their dreams. Just make sure to check on the airlines transfer policy if someone is offering to give you frequent-flyer miles.

    What are the biggest honeymoon money-wasters?

    The biggest money-waster for a honeymoon is getting your heart set not only on a date, but also on a particular locale. Instead, choose a honeymoon location by the features you are looking for and you can save a lot! For example, take a beach vacation to the Caribbean over the South Pacific, or if you crave a big city, New York instead of London or Paris.

    Read honeymoon package offers carefully. A package offering 6 days for the price of 5 is definitely worth it, but if they are offering rose petal turndown service and a bottle of champagne for an additional $200, book the regular trip and pick up a bottle of bubbly separately.

    If you plan to spend your entire honeymoon on the beach, reserving a room overlooking the ocean might be a waste of your money. Rooms with the best views are often more expensive than their tucked away counterparts.

    What destinations offer the best value proposition?

    It entirely depends on the couple! No matter what your income, it’s best to include a discussion about the honeymoon during the larger conversation about wedding budget. Not only are there lots of affordable honeymoon options, but you can cut back on other parts of the wedding if the honeymoon is a big priority.

    Teresa Belcher

    Founder of HoneymoonIslands.com
    Teresa Belcher
    What are some of the best money-saving tips for honeymooners?

    Travel in the off season of your destination. Many hotels run special deals during their off-season. In addition to the prices being 40% lower than high season, many hotels offer value-added such as free breakfast or a complimentary one category upgrade.

    Use a registry. By establishing a honeymoon gift registry, you can get friends and family to contribute towards your dream honeymoon. Whether you receive a few hundred dollars or several thousand, it will likely make a huge difference.

    Consider an all-inclusive alternative. If you're content with staying on the grounds of your resort for most of your trip, you can save a lot of money by sticking to your all-inclusive plan. In fact, at many properties, food, drink (including alcohol), and activity costs are all included in your rate plan.

    What are the biggest honeymoon money-wasters?

    Flying first class on a flight less than 7 hours. A better investment is to upgrade room category at the hotel that you will be honeymooning in for 7-10 nights.

    What destinations offer the best value proposition?

    Go where the dollar is strong – places like Croatia, Bali, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hungary, Mexico, Jamaica, Greece, Thailand, Belize, Costa Rica, Brazil. Things cost less once you get there.

    How much should couples spend on their honeymoon?

    Set the Budget: It is best to plan a budget based on your financial means, just like you did with your wedding and reception. Your destination should be realistic in relation to your financial capabilities. You may be able to use some of your honeymoon gift registry money to fund the honeymoon, but you should not depend heavily thereon as you can't be sure of the amount you will receive.

    Many couples make the mistake of pulling from the “honeymoon budget” to offset the cost of the wedding cost that has gotten out of hand. Don’t make that mistake. Find ways to trim the cost of your wedding instead of cheating yourself out of a honeymoon.

    Nancy Barkley

    Founder of Honeymoonsandgetaways.com
    Nancy Barkley
    What are some of the best money-saving tips for honeymooners?

    1) Book your honeymoon with a reputable travel agency that specializes in honeymoons.

    2) Airfares will play a big role in your total budget, plan ahead and try to use mileage or credit card points as payment for your airfare.

    3) Register your honeymoon with an online honeymoon registry for your bridal shower in lieu of the unwanted toaster.

    4) Do not travel over major holidays when prices are at their premium.

    5) Go all-inclusive; by paying for everything up front, you will avoid overspending.

    What are the biggest honeymoon money-wasters?

    1) Credit card transaction fees when traveling internationally. Use a travel card that waives these fees.

    2) Over packing, the airlines really surcharge for extra baggage weight.

    What destinations offer the best value proposition?

    It depends on geography. The airlines will have a lot to do with this, depending on where you are located and the available airlift servicing a destination that offers all inclusive resorts.

    How much should couples spend on their honeymoon?

    I don’t think there is one answer for this. It really depends on their income, how much you save and what they can afford without going into debt. Planning ahead, booking early and with a travel agency that offers payment plans is an ideal solution.

    Frederick J. DeMicco

    Professor and ARAMARK Chair, Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management, University of Delaware
    Frederick J. DeMicco
    What are some of the best money-saving tips for honeymooners?

    1) For the most value, three words; ‘‘Cruise, cruise, cruise’ (offers the most affordable price and ‘value’ per day and all the amenities and superb destinations)

    2) Take a honeymoon ‘off-season’ to a branded destination.

    What destinations offer the best value proposition?

    Book an agri-tourismo for lodging and food and wine in Tuscany, or stay at a Swiss hotel school off season in the Alps.

    Lynda A. Dias

    Assistant Professor of Hospitality Management , NYC College of Technology, CUNY
    Lynda A. Dias
    What are some of the best money-saving tips for honeymooners?

    Briefly, honeymooners should consider using travel agents, who typically are excellent at getting upgrades and really can negotiate honeymoon packages! They are the experts!!!

    For those booking on their own, consider several destinations for their budget and price the entire package out first. Use Orbitz or Kayak (similar online booking engines will offer promo codes or points).

    Often hotels will partner with the airlines and will include transfers. Honeymoons become expensive when the budget does not include food, activities, taxes, etc. Be flexible in their travel dates and check out the events and ‘seasons’ in their destination, which will affect the price considerably.

    Most important, let hotels know you are celebrating your honeymoon; we love to celebrate momentous occasions with our guests. Hotels will often upgrade and send additional amenities.

    Juline E. Mills

    Professor & Chair, Department of Hospitality & Tourism, University of New Haven
    Juline E. Mills
    What are some of the best money-saving tips for honeymooners?

    Consider the honeymoon at the start and at the same time as wedding planning. Many couples begin to plan for the honeymoon halfway through or close to the end of the wedding planning process.

    To save money, honeymooners should have a strategic plan and a corresponding list of things that need to be completed for the honeymoon and follow through with it. Consider honeymooning not on major holidays and plan for weekday flights and red-eye flights which can be less expensive. Plan all activities for the honeymoon ahead of time (reduces impulse spending on sightseeing tours); ask hotels for honeymoon specials they may carry which can help with room rate reductions. Make lists ahead of time of clothing, toiletries and personal items – use these lists when packing, reducing the possibility of having to buy these items at a vacation destination for twice the price. Consider an all-inclusive plan for meals and accommodations.

    What are the biggest honeymoon money-wasters?

    Honeymoon packages from hotels and tour companies need to be examined closely as they may be priced significantly higher than at the regular rate.

    What destinations offer the best value proposition?

    Destinations such as St. Lucia, Jamaica, and Hawaii offer the best value proposition, as they provide extremely focused services for honeymooners, have established reputations as honeymoon destinations and are noted for higher levels of satisfaction with services. Couples on a budget should consider especially St. Lucia for the breath of offerings from resort all-inclusive to intimate bed and breakfast.

    Angela Turen

    President & Owner, Churchill and Turen Ltd.
    Angela Turen
    What are some of the best money-saving tips for honeymooners?

    1) Consider shoulder or off-season.weddings are popular but for many destinations, June is considered prime season along with Christmas and New Year’s. June is also a month when families travel because school has just let out.

    2) Use a travel professional who has connections with the resort, hotel or cruise lines. Most top specialists work their magic with upgrades, resort credits, and other perks. When you book a cruise or honeymoon package online, be aware that you are always paying the travel consultant commission because it is built into every single brochure program. Since you are paying for a honeymoon consultant anyway, use their services.

    What are the biggest honeymoon money-wasters?

    1) Paying for suites when well-connected consortium members can usually get you a complimentary upgrade.

    2) Traveling in prime season when a change of days or weeks could save you as much as 50%.

    What destinations offer the best value proposition?

    Your honeymoon is the most important vacation you will likely ever take. Do not choose on price, choose on value. Never even consider budget accommodations as the lack of sophistication of your fellow guests may ruin your honeymoon memories.

    How much should couples spend on their honeymoon?

    1) It is far better to delay your 'real honeymoon' until you are able to do something memorable than to travel on the kind of budget that will place you at a mass market property with institutional food.

    2) If possible, spend less on your wedding, which is largely for the benefit of your guests, and more on the honeymoon which is yours and yours alone.

    3) A good travel consultant should also be your travel financial consultant. Choose someone who is willing to get to know you and your realistic budget concerns.

    Mark Murphy

    Author, Travel Forward
    Mark Murphy
    What are some of the best money-saving tips for honeymooners?

    The biggest travel expenditure to date for most couples will be their honeymoon. Don't blow it with a do-it-yourself mentality. Use a professional travel agent with experience in planning honeymoons and a list of satisfied clients and testimonials.

    What are the biggest honeymoon money-wasters?

    Skip the fancy flower arrangements and other material displays and put your money into experiences. That's what you'll remember.

    What destinations offer the best value proposition?

    Mexico is a great value for honeymoon couples and offers a wide range of choices at different budgets. They also have numerous all-inclusive options that can help a couple save big.

    Peter Ricci

    Director, Hospitality Management Program, Florida Atlantic University
    Peter Ricci
    What are some of the best money-saving tips for honeymooners?

    Best money savings tips are the same as for other consumers. Make sure you shop around and, for hotels, I really prefer Trivago - they do a great job of comparing hundreds of sites almost instantaneously so that the consumer/end user can get the best deal. Normally, there is rate parity (or consistency) across multiple sites, but not always; so, the person might find a better deal on one of the hundreds of sites posting information about that specific hotel.

    For once-in-a-lifetime trip, I'd be hesitant to use a an extremely discount packaging agency, as the honeymooners probably wouldn't want any headaches. I'd also purchase travel insurance if I were planning such a unique/special trip.

    What are the biggest honeymoon money-wasters?

    There are several: upgrades, buying packages at the hotel for "honeymooners" which include assortments of food, activities, amenities, etc. These can probably be purchased on an ad hoc basis more cheaply. Of course, if the person or couple wants "convenience", that's another story.

    What destinations offer the best value proposition?

    The destinations change value by season and by popularity. Once what was inexpensive on South Beach is now expensive. New York and San Franisco are always expensive as are some of the traditional islands or European destinations. For example, going in late September to Europe might save several hundred over heart of the summer. Going to Miami in May instead of January-April will also offset costs.

    Plus, if their main goal, for example, is to go to "New England" they don't have to go to the most famous honeymoon spots. Shop around for an independent or new hotel with lower rates trying to get on the map.

    All the airlines seem to have reduced capacity, so airfares have faced a steady climb. That's probably one of the areas "least negotiable", but ground transportation, hotels, restaurants, have tremendous variety.

    What should the relationship be between a couple's income and their honeymoon budget?

    I don't really see any sense to have a specific relationship. If they want to repeat it annually, they could go more conservative. As the old saying goes that a gentleman should spend 3 months’ salary for the ring, I don't believe in that either.

    Lynn Minnaert

    Clinical Assistant Professor of Hospitality, Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management, New York University
    Lynn Minnaert
    What are some of the best money-saving tips for honeymooners?

    If you can honeymoon in the off-season or shoulder season, that is an easy way to save money. If you want to honeymoon in a specific resort, call up the property and try to negotiate some extras you are particularly interested in. Make sure the hotel knows you are on honeymoon - there may be a few surprises of free services waiting for you when you arrive. When checking in with your airline, also let them know - there may be a free upgrade in it.

    Also, consider destinations that offer better value. Check currency trends - honeymooning in a destination with a weak currency compared to the dollar will add lots of extra value to your trip. For some, the option of renting a luxury villa or apartment may be appealing - you forego the services of a hotel but the price can be considerably lower.

    What are the biggest honeymoon money-wasters?

    My advice would be to beware of honeymoon packages. If the package offers services and extras you are keen on at the right price, then great - if not, again call up the hotel and check if you can negotiate. Maybe you can swap that massage you are not so fond of, with a free meal or a free bottle of Champagne?

    What destinations offer the best value proposition?

    Two destinations that stand out for me right now are Greece and Sri Lanka. Greece is rebuilding its image and status as a world-class destination after its financial meltdown. Sri Lanka is a destination on the rise, with substantial investment in infrastructure.

    If you are willing to go further off the beaten track, then the Balkans are stunning and great value. Croatia is fast becoming a powerhouse for tourism, but destinations like Slovenia, Montenegro and Bosnia are still relatively undiscovered. Sarajevo is a most charming city, and has one 5 star hotel that is ideally situated and very affordable. Other good options are Prague and Istanbul - both offer affordable accommodation options and have all the history and culture you could ask for.

    Methodology

    In order to identify the Best Honeymoon Destinations for Your Wallet, we first had to identify the most attractive honeymoon destinations in the United States (this study did not take international destinations into account). We did so by first analyzing the published research on the subject and compiling a list of 100 domestic destinations that have been pointed to by popular media in recent years as being particularly nice honeymoon spots. We also included the 26 largest cities in the U.S. because while they may have been deemed “too obvious” to appear on other best and worst lists, they are nevertheless dominant vacation destinations.

    We then compared our list of popular vacation destinations based on the 13 key metrics listed below, using the corresponding weights to construct our overall rankings. The three overall categories in which the metrics were grouped below were used for organizational purposes only and did not have any bearing on the overall rankings.

    Note: When comparing hotel and car rental prices we used Aug. 23 – Aug. 31 as the travel dates. In assessing the weather, we looked at historical averages for Aug. 23.

    Budget

    • Lowest Price of 4-Star Hotel: 1
    • Lowest Price Available for Standard Rental Car: 1
    • Sales Tax: 0.5
    • Prevalence of Affordable 4.5+ Star Restaurants: 1

    Weather Conditions

    • Difference Between the Historical Average Temperature for Aug. 23 & Ideal Temperature (75°): 1
    • Historical Average Precipitation for Aug. 23: 1
    • Historical Average Humidity for Aug. 23: 1

    Activities & Romanticism

    • Beach Quality (Oceans & Lakes): 1
    • Number of Bed & Breakfasts per Capita: 0.5
    • % of Romantic Hotels: 0.5
    • Number of Attractions: 1
    • Number of Activities: 1
    • Number of Nightlife Options: 1

    Source: Data used to create these rankings is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, the Kayak.com, the Tax Foundation, the Weather Underground, Tripadvisor and Yelp.

    Author
    User
    John Kiernan is Senior Writer & Editor at Evolution Finance. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA in Journalism, a minor in Sport Commerce & Culture,…
    1241 Wallet Points
    This list seems wildly inconsistent. The "Weather Conditions" rank seems entirely random. Orlando is ranked 100 (which seems largely responsible for it's overall 32 ranking, considering it got #1 for budget and #18 for attractions) but Delray Beach, FL (literally less than 3 hours away) scored #1 for weather?!? Are you high?

    I think this is an amateur list, I wouldn't take it seriously at all.
    May 28, 2014  •  Reply  •  Flag