Going on a honeymoon has been something I’ve been thinking about and looking forward to for a while – as I’m sure most brides and grooms do. It’s your first big trip together as husband and wife. It’s a nice way to relax and decompress after the chaos of planning (and going through with) a wedding. Just the idea of lying on a tropical beach for days makes it a little easier to deal with whiny wedding guests, unresponsive vendors, dress disasters and seating charts. I loved the idea of hopping on a plane the day after the wedding, leaving all the clean-up and work to someone else, and vegging out in a hammock sipping some fruity frozen boat drink.
However, in reality, it doesn’t always work like that. For us, taking a honeymoon right after the wedding was not an option. I just started a new job in the middle of December and have to “earn” my vacation days each month for my first year - I accumulate 2 days a month. Our wedding was in July, which meant that I had earned approximately 14 days. Then subtract the days I had already taken for sick days (2) and trips to Chicago (1), Jackson Hole (1), and Florida twice (4). That left me with six days. Since we were having a destination wedding in the mountains and we had a LOT of things to do before the wedding out there, it would require arriving a couple days early to get everything set up. There goes 4 days. And since we were already going to be in Jackson Hole (and it is one of our favorite places in the world) we decided to stay a few extra days there together to unwind after the wedding before returning to work (a mini-moon if you will). No more days.
So, we decided to postpone our honeymoon for a few months and take it over the holidays. We knew we wanted to do something exotic (and far away), which would probably require 2+ weeks, so if we split my time off over the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, I could use my remaining days of 2009 and then I would be in my second year of work and would receive all my days off at the beginning of the year (as opposed to earning them), so I could use them right away. It took some creative planning, but I think it’ll work! Plus, this would give some extra time to save up moolah for a bigger, better, beachier honeymoon. Christmas on the beach...bring it on!
With a time frame picked, we just had to decide on a destination. A while ago I posted on possible honeymoon locations – since we knew we would have around 2+ weeks, we wanted something exotic and romantic and warm, which in December/January meant going south. Anywhere far away with a beautiful beach and great snorkeling would be fine with us. We discussed Tahiti, New Zealand, Fiji, Chile, South Africa, Costa Rica, Australia, and Bora Bora. All amazing options! We had a lot of trouble narrowing down the decision, but we ultimately picked Fiji. Next step = booking it.
Here’s where we hit a snag. Apparently, it is impossible to go to the South Pacific for 2+ weeks over the holidays (peak season) for less than a couple million dollars (ok, not that much, but a whole freaking lot). We had a budget and it was impossible to even get close to it unless we cut our trip short and only stayed about 4 days. We didn’t want to go all that way just for a few days – hell, it takes 2 whole days just to get there! We didn’t have enough miles or points to get us a deal to somewhere that far away. We didn’t want to stay in a dump of a hotel, but we didn’t want to spend a million dollars. So, we had to rethink our strategy.
I proposed that we split the trip up into two separate trips: one week over the holidays somewhere warm (like we’d planned), but much closer to home (i.e. Caribbean) and one week in the summer/spring to Europe (Italy, Greece or Ireland). Two amazing trips instead of one! Ryan liked the idea, so we agreed to look into it. First up, the Caribbean. I’ve never really been to the Caribbean, so I really didn’t know anything about the different areas, islands or resorts. All I knew was that we wanted somewhere with great snorkeling/scuba, other activities (kayaking, hiking, etc.) and privacy. We split our budget in half and contacted the travel agent again, to see what options we had…which apparently, were not many.
Again we were thwarted by the time of year and the tropical destination. Flights were outrageous, hotels were limited, islands were completely booked…or so we were told. I was starting to get the feeling that this whole honeymoon trip was a bad idea. Nothing was going our way. I also got a sneaking suspicion that maybe we weren’t getting the full picture of what’s going on and available from a travel agent. I remember hearing that they make their money by booking certain “participating” hotels and those are the only ones they offer their clients. Surely there were a million other options, right? I really like our agent, but I was positive I could find a better deal myself.
So, the research began. I contacted a number of friends that vacation down there a lot and we picked out four places that we were really interested in: St. John, St. Lucia, Costa Rica and Belize – two islands and two countries. I would have been absolutely thrilled with any of these options, so then we started comparing prices. Right away, St. Lucia was crossed off the list. It had all of the things we wanted (beach plus gorgeous vegetation for hiking) but was incredibly expensive. The other three places had more of a variety of resorts/hotels at better price points. So we were down to three.
Next came flights. Now that we weren’t going to the South Pacific, there was a chance that I could use my frequent flier miles to get us to the Caribbean for free. That way we could use our entire budget on staying at a nice resort and eating amazing food. Between Ryan and I, we were able to come up with just enough miles to get us round trip tickets to the Caribbean, as long as we travelled on the “cheaper” days and around the black-out schedule. I tried every single imaginable combination of flights for all three places (as well as about 10 others, just in case) and the only place that was a possibility on the right dates was Belize. Done! I contacted around 15 hotels and resorts for pricing, which was expensive, but since we got free flights, was doable. We decided to stay on Ambergris Caye (an island off the coast) in our own private casita (beachfront hut) at a gorgeous resort. How exciting!
A little background on Belize --- Belize is a democratic, English speaking nation, once known as British Honduras, bordered by Mexico and Guatamala. The weather is mild, the beaches are beautiful, and the history is rich. Belize is a land of swaying palm trees and colorful sunsets. Ambergris Caye (where we’re staying) is the largest island in Belize, and San Pedro is the only town on the island. Ambergris Caye has been the hub of Belizean area maritime trade for centuries. Fishing, coconuts, and chicle were historic means of islanders support, but the last thirty years have led to a large growth in both the Belize dive and scuba trade, and ecotourism.
From the beautiful azure waters of the Caribbean, to the Maya Mountains and the Pine Ridge, Belize has an adventure for everyone. Spectacular caves, winding waterfalls, virgin tropical rainforest, and hundreds of limestone caves make for exciting vistas. Belize is home to many ancient Maya ruins and temples that will entice you to learn more of their history. Zip lining through the forest, cave tubing through Maya caves, scuba diving and snorkeling the Belize Barrier Reef, sailing the cayes, parasailing, or just hiking through the jungle; there are so many wonderful, unforgettable journey waiting in Belize.
Belize also has the amazing Belize coral reef system, the second largest in the world and this hemisphere's longest, running offshore, and many cayes (islands of coral sand) are surrounded by astounding reefs to snorkel or scuba dive. The reef lies one-half mile east of the Ambergris Caye shoreline and runs the entire 25 mile length of the island. This has made San Pedro Town the dive and water sports capital of Belize and Central America. The Great Blue Hole, Turneffe Islands, Shark Ray Alley, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Mexico Rocks, Lighthouse Reef, and many other diving areas are all only a short boat ride away from this coconut palm lined island.
Does this not sound perfect for us, or what! Honestly, the only real drawback about Belize is that it supposedly has the best bonefish fly-fishing in the world. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it means I might not see much of my husband on our honeymoon! I’m going to have a hard time prying the fishing reel out of Ryan’s hands! Wish me luck.