Getting engaged is a momentous occasion. You pose for the perfect photo. The congratulations phone calls and social media comments come pouring in. You and your fiance are on cloud nine. Then you start looking for wedding venues, caterers, DJs, honeymoon airfare and hotel accommodations. Dollar signs begin adding up as reality sets in —things are about to get expensive.
According to WeddingWire’s 2017 Wedding Report, the average cost of a wedding in 2016 was $28,000 — we’re talking enough to cover a down payment on a house here. And this figure doesn’t even include the cost of the honeymoon, which costs couples a whopping $4,000, according to the same report.
If these numbers are making your head spin, you can rest easy knowing your dreams of a luxury vacation aren’t down the toilet just yet. Planning smart can get you to a beautiful destination after you exchange vows.
Noah Bouillon, a 27-year-old travel blogger, is an example of a honeymooner who paid less than $400 for a trip to Fiji and New Zealand that was valued at around $14,000. Bouillon and his fiancee (now wife) got crafty with credit card points and miles to make their dream trip a reality. They signed up for multiple credit cards with huge sign-on bonuses to stockpile 435,000 points and miles.
Aside from amassing points and miles, there are multiple ways you can get the money you need to have the vacation you want. We’ve put together an all encompassing resource on affording your dream honeymoon to help you review options.
Creative ways to pay for your honeymoon
Honeymoons don’t have to be a debt trap. Ideally, you want to avoid debt on travel altogether, and it’s possible if you plan ahead. Here are a few unique ways to pay for your honeymoon:
You’ve probably heard of gift registries related to home goods and furnishings before. You may be less familiar with honeymoon registries. Starting a registry for your honeymoon can potentially save you quite a bit of money. Honeymoon registries like Honeyfund, The Newlywed Fund™ and Traveler’s Joy let you create registries where guests give you money toward your trip.
Rebecca Forst, a 31-year-old administrative professional of Towson, Md., is one bride who’s using the Honeyfund website to afford a once-in-a-lifetime trip with her fiance. “My favorite movie is ‘Lord of the Rings’ so New Zealand is a bucket-list destination,” said Forst. “We noticed the cost of our wedding going up and were scared that we wouldn’t be able to afford our trip.”
To foot part of the bill, Forst and her fiance created a Honeyfund account. Close family members were concerned at first that the fund wouldn’t go over well with some wedding guests. “We also decided to put some traditional gifts on our registry for those who wanted to give that sort of gift,” Forst explained.
Honeymoon registries through Honeyfund are simple to set up. You list airfare, accommodations and excursions that you want as a gift. You can split the expenses into smaller gifts as well. For example, airline tickets to New Zealand for Forst and her fiance will cost over $1,000 each. She broke down gifts into smaller $25 to $100 options to make it manageable for guests.
Honeymoon registries work like a gift registry except they are for a travel experience. You share the registry with wedding guests and they buy experiences on your list as your wedding gift.
A crowdfunding campaign is different — it’s fundraising. You create a campaign and ask people to donate money so you can get where you want to go. FundMyTravel, GoFundMe and Plumfund are examples of sites that can help you campaign for travel expenses.
Understand that fundraising for your honeymoon may be difficult if you don’t have a highly compelling reason for someone to donate money. With that said, it’s still an option that you can consider to make your dream honeymoon less of a strain on your purse strings. It may be specifically worthwhile if you’re interested in ecotourism or voluntourism.
Credit card points
If you want to fund the trip on your own without asking for help, credit card points or miles can help you avoid having to pay completely out of pocket. Bonus points or miles that can be used for travel are offered by some credit card companies when you get a new card. But they may require meeting a minimum spending requirement before you can qualify.
Keep in mind, you should be a highly responsible credit card user before signing up for new cards. It makes zero sense to rack up credit to get points, and then turn around and get slapped with tons of interest charges on your unpaid balance.
Bouillon strategically gained the amount of points needed to pay less than $400 for an estimated $14,000 trip by signing up for multiple new credit cards that were all giving him a sign-up bonus.
“The biggest concern people have about [opening new cards] is thinking that it will be bad for their credit,” said Bouillon, but according to him, opening credit cards for points in this way has actually been positive for his and his wife’s credit scores. They increase their credit limits by opening new cards, keep their credit utilization low and pay bills on time. This formula can do great things for your credit score.
Bouillon suggests strategizing a good 12 months or more out to amass the points you need for your dream honeymoon. This will give you time to get approved for cards and have the bonus points added to your account. From there, you can use the points for travel and accommodation. Check out our top cards with sign-up bonuses here.
Sign up for a home-exchange program
House exchanging is when you swap houses with someone who wants to visit your area. You list your home and look through other home listings as well. Check out IVHE, HomeExchange and Love Home Swap for home-exchange opportunities. Contact residents of homes that you’re interested in and see if you can strike up an agreement.
Housesitting is another way to lower the cost of accomodation. You stay at someone’s home for free in your desired location and take care of household tasks while they’re out traveling. Housesitting placement sites like TrustedHousesitters can connect you with people looking to form an arrangement.
Todra Payne, a 50-year-old copywriter, has a home based in Los Angeles, but is soon going to be location independent with her fiance thanks to her house sitting hustle. She stays in homes across the world and does small jobs for the homeowner.
“[Housesitting] tasks can run the gamut from staying in the home so it’s not empty, watching farm animals, or managing a B&B,” said Payne. She adds that often a pet is involved or there’s a garden to water.
Payne suggests that honeymooners should be flexible in their travel dates or the location to make the most of housesitting opportunities. There are listings all over the world, including luxury homes. To learn the ropes, Payne recommends doing it locally first. Always talk to the homeowner before committing so you can ask questions about their home and neighborhood. Create a written agreement so you both know what to expect.
Don’t take a home assignment that gives you a lot of responsibilities if you really just want to relax on your honeymoon. Housesitting can even turn into a long-term adventure. Payne and her fiance plan to housesit across Europe and Australia for the next year.
Work in hospitality to get the perks
Connections can be your very best friend. Check to see if you have any friends or family that work for airlines or hotels because they may be able to offer you a nice friends and family discount.
For example, at the time of writing this article, the standard rate starts at $410 for a room at the luxury Marriott Scrub Island Resort in St. Thomas for dates Aug. 3, 2018 to Aug. 10, 2018. The starting rate drops to $269 when you use the Marriott employee discount. That’s a possible savings of over $100 per night.
Don’t know anyone in the hospitality industry? Consider taking on a part-time job to snag the travel benefits. You can get paid while possibly saving a nice chunk of money on your honeymoon and other travel.
Have a destination wedding
Before signing up for a Honeyfund account, Forst considered having a very small destination wedding. This would have made it easier to afford the nuptials and New Zealand trip on their own. However, Forst’s destination wedding idea was ruled out when she chose to have a larger shindig for family reasons.
A smaller affair or destination wedding may still be a good plan for some couples. It can give you some leeway to sock away savings for the honeymoon if a trip is what’s most important to you. Another option is making your destination double as a wedding location and honeymoon spot. You can find more frugal wedding tips here.
Borrowing money for your honeymoon — The pros and cons
We’ve covered several creative ways to fund your honeymoon, but you still may be considering taking on some debt to make your dream trip happen. Before borrowing a whole bunch of money, think about whether your money is better spent on starting a new life together. Also be careful about stretching yourself thin if you both have lingering student loans. Money trouble can bring strain to a marriage. You don’t want to your happily ever after to begin on shaky financial footing.
It can make sense to finance your honeymoon if you have a sound plan for repayment, and you’ve exhausted all other options beforehand.
Here are a few of the financing methods you can consider for your honeymoon:
Personal loans offer a fixed payment over a fixed period of time. Quite a few online lenders offer personal loans you can use for practically any reason.
- Pros. The best part of a personal loan is that you have one predictable payment each month and a predetermined payoff date. The interest rate is also fixed, which means you can calculate the total cost of your loan at the very beginning. With a decent credit score, you may be able to qualify for a remarkably low interest rate.
- Cons. At the end of the day, an affordable personal loan is still a loan and increases your debt balance. The money you spend on the loan and interest may be better spent on a mortgage down payment, furniture, household goods and other items you need as a new couple.
You can find a roundup of our top personal loan suggestions here.
Using a credit card may be the first thing you think of doing to fund your trip.
- Pros. Smart use of a credit card can make your dream trip come true at an affordable price. Instead of using existing credit cards, you can find and open a new credit card that offers a 0% interest introductory deal. Just be sure to pay it off before the promo period ends and interest starts to accrue. Check out our list of credit cards with the longest 0% purchase offers here. Opening credit cards with high points or mile bonuses can also help you fund a trip.
- Cons. Unlike a personal loan, your credit cards can have variable interest. The no-interest period on credit cards with introductory deals will expire eventually. The cost of borrowing with a credit card can be less predictable, especially if you pay just the minimum amount each month. Have a plan to pay off your credit card debt in a timely manner to avoid an array of interest charges.
Home equity loans
You may qualify for a home equity loan if you have enough equity in your home and a decent credit score. A home equity loan is sometimes called a second mortgage. It’s basically taking out a loan from the equity that you have in your home.
- Pros. The benefit of a home equity loan is it’s a fixed-rate loan that can be less expensive and volatile than credit card debt.
- Cons. Think long term before taking equity out of your house. Will you want to make home renovations in the future? Your equity can be valuable in a pinch when you need to do maintenance or home improvements. Also, you won’t be able to deduct the interest on your home equity loan unless you use it to substantially improve your home in some way.
LendingTree, which owns MagnifyMoney, has a more detailed walk-through of home equity loan pros and cons. Check it out here to see if it’s the right move for your honeymoon.
A cash-out refinance is when you refinance your mortgage for a higher amount and take cash out of the transaction.
- Pros. With a cash-out refinance, the payment for the cash you borrow is lumped in with your regular mortgage payment so it’s a simple one to keep up with.
- Cons. A mortgage refinance costs you money. You need to think about application, origination and appraisal fees, and more. Be sure to factor in these costs against the cost of your honeymoon to see if a cash-out refinance makes sense.
LendingTree has another detailed overview of how a cash-out refinance works.
Take a loan from your 401(k)
The balance sitting in your retirement account may look enticing when you’re planning your wedding and honeymoon. An employee plan may let you take out a loan from your 401(k) so check with your employer for details first.
- Pros. Borrowing money from your 401(k) can give you access to the cash you need without repercussions if you follow the rules. According to the IRS, money you borrow may not be taxable if you borrow up to 50% of your vested balance (up to a $50,000 max) and repay the loan within five years.
- Cons. Money put away in your 401(k) is there for a purpose — retirement. Make sure you can adhere to the rules to avoid having the money borrowed from your 401(k) taxed. This scenario would be a double whammy. You may have to pay out of pocket to cover the income tax and you lose a portion of your retirement savings. Not good.
How to plan an affordable honeymoon
Here are a few more ways to cut costs and save up money for your dream honeymoon:
Pump the breaks. You don’t need to drive straight from your wedding to the airport with empty soup cans jingling at the back of your car. You have a lifetime together, so what’s the rush? Consider putting off the big trip until you can save enough money for the honeymoon you want. It may take you several months or several years to save enough cash or reward points, but the experience (and not struggling to pay for it) can last a lifetime.
Put on that thinking cap. If you’re not set on a specific location, choose a location that will be budget-friendly. A local spa will save you money on airfare. This means you’ll have more to spend for luxury accommodations, meals, drinks and entertainment. You can also eliminate airfare costs by driving to your destination. A cross-country trip can be a romantic experience in and of itself. Another option is reaching out to family and friends who may have a timeshare that you can use. The bottom line is, use your resources.
Go where it’s cheap. Two honeymooners we interviewed for this article cite New Zealand as their dream trip. Let’s be honest, New Zealand isn’t a cheap place to visit. Some places are cheaper to visit than others. Go to a place where your money will go far. Always look at the exchange rate before you travel. Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico are a few affordable travel locations to think about visiting.
Test the waters with Airbnbs and hostels. A luxury hotel may not be in the budget, and that’s okay. Try Airbnb or hostels if you and your partner like exploring. You may not be in the room you rent often anyway. Plus, crashing at a place with the owner and other travelers means you can meet new people and even have a built-in tour guide.
Scroll through your contact list. Ask to visit people you know who live in unique places. You can even stay in a hotel for a few days to get some personal time, and bunk up with your contact for the rest of the stay to cut costs.
Go all-inclusive. Vacation packages may offer you a cheaper rate than booking each individual arrangement for your own trip. Pros. Travel aggregators like Expedia and Priceline may offer a discount for booking a package all in one. In some cases, food and drinks are also included in your stay. The beauty of this is you don’t have to worry about budgeting cash for spending money. Cons. A low-budget, all-inclusive resort can also mean low quality. Beware if this is a deal breaker for you. If you do find a decent all-inclusive deal (one that includes airfare, hotel, food etc.), compare the cost of the trip booked separately to be sure it’s cost-effective.
Bring in the professionals. Sometimes travel agents have a hookup on deals that you wouldn’t be able to find on your own. Look for an agent that gets paid solely on commision. You won’t need to fork over cash if they don’t find any worthwhile vacation specials.
Get airline deal notifications. Having open travel dates can make booking airfare less expensive. The Flight Deal and Fare Deal Alert are two sites that regularly post specials and flight glitches. Be warned — you need to book these deals fast whenever they come up because they can disappear. You snooze, you lose.
Peruse deal sites regularly. Groupon and LivingSocial are two examples of places where you can snag travel package deals. Again, having open travel dates will often help you book the most affordable trips. You may also find some opportunity in last minute deals.
Save without effort. Automatic saving apps can help you save without you even having to think about it. Digit and Rize are accounts that can help you automate money to travel savings. Cash that these apps save on your behalf can add up quite a bit before you know it.
Traveling can get expensive. But you can still make the honeymoon of your dreams happen without going broke before your first or second wedding anniversary. Run through these tips and be thoughtful with your cash.
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