All-inclusive, warm-weather resorts in the Caribbean and beyond offer stress-free planning and ultimate relaxation.
Sparkling turquoise waters. Powdery white-sand beaches. Delightful accommodations. Restaurants galore. And tons of activities-or opportunities to simply relax poolside, drink in hand.
Those are some of the enticing amenities that prompted Toni and David Riley to hop on a plane after their elegant 2012 wedding at COSI and jet off to Mexico's stunning Riviera Maya.
"It was relaxing more than anything-full-fledged relaxing," Toni says of the sun-splashed, all-inclusive resort she and her new husband chose. "It was so wonderful after the hectic wedding to just have the chance to enjoy one another."
Like many honeymooners, the Rileys opted for an all-inclusive resort, enlisting the help of Grandview Travel. They paid one price up front, and it included just about everything. The package deal covered their airfare, deluxe room, meals and all activities, from energetic daytime pursuits, such as kayaking, archery, volleyball and beach exploration, to nighttime entertainment. "There were movies to watch each night and then things like salsa dancing and an American Idol-like show," Riley says. "We had four great restaurants to choose from each night-Mexican, Italian, French and our favorite, a Japanese steakhouse."
The honeymoon trend, Grandview Travel's Rob Elking explains, is skewing all-inclusive. "They bring a better value to the bride and groom," Elking says. "And while a decade or so ago there may not have been a ton of options, today [these resorts] are booming."
Elking notes that in the last three to five years there's been an influx of adults-only resorts. "A lot of these have opened in the last several years, and they offer luxurious accommodations, like five-star food and wine service," he says. These all-inclusive resorts can cost between $4,000 and $6,000 per couple, depending, of course, on the time of year and type of accommodations.
"Across the board, the all-inclusive resort is definitely the way to go for honeymooners," explains Marri Petrucci of Premier Travel. The typical all-inclusive package includes lodging, meals, drinks and activities. Add in your airfare, and you have a pretty good idea of what you're going to spend for the entire getaway.
"All-inclusive resorts are more and more popular; in fact, they are the No. 1 search on our website," AAA's Kimberly Schwind says. "These trips give [couples] a lot of peace of mind."
Resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico are popular among Central Ohio honeymooners and vacationers. From Columbus, the Riviera Maya, Dominican Republic and Jamaica are fairly economical and easy-to-get-to destinations.
Other Caribbean islands, such as St. Lucia and Aruba, are luxurious but are a little pricier and involve costly flights.
So what does a typical, seven-day all-inclusive honeymoon cost? "I would say couples should budget around $2,000 per person for airfare, accommodations, activities and meals," Petrucci says. "For $4,000, they can get something really nice."
Beyond the Caribbean, Hawaii is always a popular destination, although the islands aren't home to any all-inclusive resorts. Even more exotic is the South Pacific-Fiji, Tahiti and Thailand. And Europe-particularly Italy-offers a truly romantic honeymoon, says Jodie Shriver of Creative Vacations & Cruise Centers.
For really adventurous couples, Shriver says Costa Rica is a great choice. "They can do hiking in the rain forest, zip-lining, rafting and sport-fishing."
Elking says Costa Rica is hot right now because many of today's honeymooners are active couples who have trouble simply relaxing for an entire getaway. "Soft adventure: that's what Costa Rica offers … and extreme adventure if you want it," he says.
"Tahiti has always been a top-three destination, because it's such a unique place," Elking says, referencing the island's famous over-the-water bungalows. "And Italy is still quite popular for its food, wine and romantic spots along the Amalfi coasts."
On the opposite end of the spectrum, some couples opt for a close-to-home getaway because of time or budget constraints. "We do notice some people enjoying short honeymoon trips to the Hocking Hills or romantic inns in Amish country," Schwind says.
And don't forget about the rest of the continental U.S. Elking says Arizona's Red Rock country is a beautiful spot-with hiking, mountain biking, art galleries and gorgeous pools-as are the Florida Keys. "There are very romantic hotels in that area," he says. "It's not all about the party scene."
With all of the options available to newlyweds, there are a number of considerations for couples looking to make a honeymoon decision, and a travel agent can help a couple settle on a mutual decision.
"We provide a list of questions for couples to consider," Elking says. "Most brides and grooms have already spoken and know what their ideal honeymoon spot is, like Italy or the Caribbean or the South Pacific. Those are still big areas, though. We can offer guided questions … and consult with them about their desires. Once a couple determines their wants and don't-wants, Elking and the Grandview Travel team compile a short list of options.
As for budget, it's a "get real" conversation that needs to be had, but companies will work with couples to meet their needs. A travel agent may eliminate some things if a budget isn't realistic, but the goal is to have a positive experience-and for couples to enjoy the honeymoon of their dreams.
And it may be OK to ask for assistance. A recent trend, according to Schwind, is to enlist some help in paying for the trip. "Today, [couples] can start a honeymoon registry, similar to a bridal registry," she says. "That way, as a wedding gift, friends and family can help contribute to the cost of the trip."