Whether it's a sandy beach or a rugged mountaintop, a lot goes into planning your perfect honeymoon.

This story first appeared in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Columbus Weddings, published in June 2018.

Early on a January morning, newlyweds Elizabeth Fiorile and Colin Kindgren—married June 26, 2016—stood on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and watched the sun rise. It was a moment for the pair to take in just where they were and how they’d gotten there.

It had been a four-day trek to the peak. But before that came a year of planning.

Daydreams of an exotic honeymoon rarely include the hours of internet research, careful planning and even vaccinations that precede the trip. But that’s the reality: The greatest getaways take an even greater deal of preparation.

There’s a lot to consider when planning a honeymoon, which is why couples should start planning early.

“[Couples] should start doing research 12 months out to determine what their budget is, whether they have any frequent flyer points they’ll be able to use … [and] the destination,” says Jeannie Gualtieri of Hilliard-based travel agency Active Travel.

For Caitlyn and AJ Otey, who wed Dec. 2, 2017, planning their honeymoon in the Galapagos Islands proved to be a hefty task. Between snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, scuba diving, wildlife-spotting and enjoying local cuisine, the couple was determined to make the most of time spent there.

Australia, says Gualtieri, is another destination couples will need to plan out by the day. With so much to see—the Sydney Bridge, the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru—detailed planning is critical to making all the puzzle pieces fit.

But for couples going a more traditional route and jetting off to Europe, think the opposite.

“[Couples] have it in mind to go to a ton of different places or cities within a week, but then a lot of times that can kind of be too much,” says Jennifer Kon, travel agent for Compass Travel. While it might be tempting to cross a handful of European countries off your list because they’re all so close, Kon warns that this can create more stress than relaxation.

Of course, relaxing might not be the top priority for you and your spouse. It certainly wasn’t for Fiorile and Kindgren. Both have busy work lives, so their honeymoon was a rare excuse for a full two weeks of vacation—and they wanted to make those two weeks count.

“It was one of those bucket list things that I’ve wanted to do for a really long time,” Fiorile says of tackling Kilimanjaro. “You can talk about it forever, but when are you really going to make that move to spend the money and plan the time?”

The pair spent a little over a week hiking the mountain with a group of international adventurers like themselves. For the rest of their honeymoon, the couple headed to Zanzibar for the more typical honeymoon relaxation.

The time couples have to take off can be a large factor in the destination they pick. More distant or exotic locations will translate to longer vacation time, says Gualtieri, citing flight time as a major deterrent in such trips.

Bora Bora, Thailand, New Zealand—all sound ideal for a scenic, once-in-a-lifetime trip. But honeymooners should consider the long flights needed to get there. To get to the Maldives, for example, you can expect to be in the air for nearly 30 hours.

So, although the typical honeymoon trip might be a week, Gualtieri suggests taking 10 to 14 days when traveling to any of those distant destinations.

The Oteys set aside 12 days for their Galapagos adventure. But with roughly a 10-hour flight there, they opted to break up travel. Flying in, the couple spent a night in the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil, and on the way home, a day and a night in Quito, Ecuador’s capital.

Flights, hotels and excursions are all common expenses. But there’s also a lot honeymooners may not consider.

Entry visas, for example, can sometimes prove much more complicated than couples expect. While there are many tourist-friendly countries—which issue visas upon arrival without a fee—there are others that have more restrictions. Case in point: Kenya, popular for its safari offerings, which requires at least one blank page in a passport and proof of departure ticket. A certified travel agent can be a helpful resource in determining these types of travel considerations far in advance.

Getting properly vaccinated is another key consideration; not only are certain vaccinations recommended for visiting travelers, but some countries require them for entry. An International Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever is common for many destinations, including typical exotic honeymoon spots like Thailand or Cambodia. Even if your trip doesn’t necessitate any specific vaccinations, it’s a good idea to be up-to-date on tetanus and Hepatitis A (which can be spread through contaminated food and water).

On the trip itself, there’s the question of cultural immersion. While Europe may not be too much of a culture shock for most Americans, couples spending their vacation in exotic and adventurous destinations will find themselves faced with new customs and habits.

For instance, Galapagos has a specific requirement when using the restrooms, says Caitlyn. Whether you’re out at a local restaurant or back in your hotel, toilet paper is something for the trash can.

“I understand every culture’s different,” she says. “It was just very different doing that.”

For Fiorile and Kindgren, the culture shock took the form of the obvious lack of technology that came with scaling a mountain. But the change was a welcome one, says Fiorile. “I would suggest that everybody go on their honeymoon without technology. … I thought that that was really a blessing.”

Feeling overwhelmed yet? Fear not. Central Ohio is home to several agencies staffed by pros who can take on the most complicated aspects of planning for you.

“We never would have been able to plan that trip without a travel agency,” Caitlyn says.

All of those pieces and parts—figuring out vaccination requirements and the visa process, and even just selecting a destination for your timeline and interests—can be neatly handled by a travel agent. Plus, he or she will be able to offer insider suggestions on the must-do activities of every location.

“We can handle almost anything and everything, from the usual things that people think about, like making those flight and hotel reservations and recommendations, down to making restaurant reservations or helping with something special, like if they want a private dinner,” explains Kon.