smart spending

8 ways to cut honeymoon costs

It doesn't make much sense to weigh every dollar invested in your wedding if you're going to spend like a sailor on the honeymoon. But with the wedding-related stress behind you, it's easy to succumb to the temptation to indulge your every whim, leaving you and your new spouse with a big fat credit card bill on your homecoming.

The average newly married couple spends $5,111 on their honeymoon trip, according to a Conde Nast Bridal Infobank survey. Favorite destinations include Hawaii, the Caribbean and Mexico, with more distant destinations such as Tahiti and Europe gaining in popularity, says Janet Hyman, regional vice president of Frosch Travel Duet in Deerfield, Ill.

Hyman stresses that it's important for the couple to really think about what kind of trip they want before planning it.

"Figure out what activities you both enjoy and build those into the honeymoon," she says. "It's hard to plan a trip with lots of different types of activities."

Like most events in life, careful planning will help you stretch your dollars to accommodate what you and your spouse most want to do on your honeymoon while avoiding the extra charges that can quickly suck up your cash. Start with an idea of how much you want to spend, because without a budget or some type of spending limit, costs can escalate quickly.

When planning your honeymoon, consider these cost-saving tips:

1. Book way ahead. The farther you plan in advance, the better deal you'll get. Whether you purchase an all-in-one resort or cruise package or painstakingly put the pieces together yourself on the Internet, the earlier you start working, the better.

Booking early means a year or close to it; by even six months ahead of your trip, most of the deals evaporate. "The travel landscape has really shifted. A couple of years ago you could get a lot of bargains, but since last year, things have picked up and the planes and hotels are getting crowded," says Alan Fields, co-author of "Bridal Bargains."

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Don't count on cutting costs by using frequent-flier miles. The frequent-flier market has gotten so tight, Fields says, that you have to figure on booking a year in advance to get anything, even an upgrade to first class.

"I know that United, for example, opens their flights for booking at 2 a.m. 330 days in advance, so if you want a hope of using your miles, especially on a prime destination, it's not a bad idea to stay up until 2 a.m. to try to book it."

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