Planning Your Own Honeymoon
If you aren't booking your honeymoon through a destination wedding resort and you also aren't using a travel agent, there are some things you should know about trip planning before you start shelling out deposits. A little foresight can go a long way toward making your honeymoon memorable for the right reasons, not because you ended up sleeping on the streets after you forgot to confirm your hotel reservations.
In certain sectors of the travel industry, there's a sort of backlash against customers who use travel Web sites to book their vacations; it's as though the businesses feel that their customers are ripping them off by looking for the lowest rate. (Mr. and Mrs. America know that this is a ridiculous notion, and if a business doesn't want to sell a hotel room for $150 a night, they shouldn't post it on a travel site in the first place — but that's a whole other book in and of itself.)
When you use a travel Web site, you end up in the middle between a hotel, for example, whose room you paid bottom dollar for, and a Web site that probably isn't going to go to bat for you if something goes wrong — or at least not right away.
If you check into the hotel room that you've booked through a travel site and are met with a major problem — let's say the room isn't the honeymoon suite you thought you reserved, but more like a dirty shoebox next to the vending machines — good luck getting the front-desk manager to fix the problem. You see, because you paid the travel site for the room, you'll be referred back to the site to fix the problem. (Yes, this has happened to real, live people who've paid good money for their vacations.)
Calling the Web site may not yield immediate results. You may eventually (weeks or months down the line) receive some sort of financial restitution, but if your honeymoon was ruined — not just by the lousy room but by the lousy attitudes of the businesspeople you've been forced to deal with — you may feel as though no amount of money is enough to remedy what you've been through.
Do yourself a huge favor: If you won't use a travel agent, book your honeymoon arrangements directly. Call the hotel yourself. Tell whomever you're speaking to that you're booking your honeymoon trip. Note the person's name, along with any sort of deal she presents to you. Write down the particulars of the type of room you've reserved and get the name of the person you've spoken with. Call the airline. Call the car rental company. Again, make copious notes about the details of your reservations. Organize it neatly, put it into a honeymoon folder, and bring it along on your trip. This may not ensure that absolutely nothing will go wrong, but you'll have far more leverage with any company if you can present names, dates, times, prices, and confirmation numbers at a moment's notice.
Educating yourself about the area to which you're headed can go a long, long way toward preventing or at least minimizing problems while you're there. If you're headed to a country where you don't know the language, take the time to learn a few important phrases (such as “Help!” and “Where is food?”). Learn about the local customs so that you aren't walking around offending people by giving them the thumbs-up sign for “okay” (which, in some countries, is the equivalent of flipping the bird) or making direct eye contact (which is a definite no-no in many Eastern cultures).
Even the nicest cities have a few rotten apples wandering around. Tourist spots are popular with criminals because out-of-towners are easily distracted and usually have some sort of currency on them.
Don't set yourself up as a target, no matter where you're going. Tourists are easy marks for nefarious characters, so don't wear your stars-and-stripes T-shirt while visiting the pyramids. (This is not a slam against patriots. If you want to make your country proud, don't act like a silly tourist.) Likewise, if you're in Manhattan, avoid doing anything to announce to professional pickpockets that you're just visiting.
Here are some safety tips for travel:
Try to blend in with locals as much as possible. If you aren't Asian, you're going to be somewhat noticeable in Tokyo — but if you do your best to act like one of the crowd, you will give the impression that you might be a businessperson who lives there and knows your way around, and therefore are not someone to mess with. Don't carry lots of cash. If it gets stolen, it won't be coming back. Credit cards and even traveler's checks are much more secure forms of currency. Use your carry-on wisely. Pack documents, medicines, and valuables in a bag that stays with you throughout your travels! Invest in a money belt. Let your new hubby keep any cash that you have right where he can protect it. Your credit cards and traveler's checks can also slide right in. Always keep your bags in front of you. Con artists are always thinking up new ways to separate you from your possessions. A disoriented, exhausted tourist is not going to be much of a match for a professional thief. Don't carry a purse. Straps can easily be grabbed or even cut to make stealing it as easy as 1-2-3. Know the way out. When you check in at your hotel, take note of how many doors are between you and the stairway. In the event of a fire, you can feel your way to the correct doorway. Don't wear or pack a lot of flashy jewelry. Ever visit a pawn shop? Some of those things came from unfortunate tourists. Know where you're going. Look at the map before you leave your hotel room. No one is an easier target than a lost tourist standing on the sidewalk studying a map. A “Make Up This Room” sign on your hotel room means you're not there. Let the maid in during her morning rounds so you don't have to announce your absence to thieves.
Use your common sense to protect yourself. Also, try to think like a criminal would. If you were living a hand-to-mouth existence and you saw a couple flashing big bills, what would you do?