After the stress of planning and pulling off a wedding, a honeymoon is a welcome chance to get out of town, relax with your new spouse and try something new.
While tropical destinations are popular – cheers to Hawaii and the Caribbean – there are plenty of options off the beaten path.
From busing through central Mexico with a willingness to wing it, to stomping through ghost tours in Charleston, S.C., two local couples show you how it can be done.
Mexico World Heritage Sites
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Immediately after their Sept. 27, 2014, wedding, Eric Chambers and Julie de Losada drove to Seattle, hung out at 24-hour restaurant 13 Coins and read their wedding cards while waiting for their 6 a.m. flight to Mexico.
Both Eric and Julie had traveled extensively before, and they knew they didn’t want to just spend their 12 days at a beach resort.
Instead, they booked the first few nights and last few nights of their stay, and left their schedule open to whatever felt best, though they knew they wanted to visit a series of World Heritage Sites.
“We had kind of an idea of where to go, and had pre-mapped places, but we didn’t necessarily think we would get to everything,” Julie says.
They started in San Miguel de Allende, then went to Guanajuato (city), Morelia and ended in Mexico City.
Because it was the second marriage for both of them, the two say they did not want gifts at all. But when people kept asking, they started an account at honeyfund.com, which allows friends and family members to pay for fun experiences for couples while they are on their honeymoon.
It was probably the best trip I’ve ever taken in my life.
One friend bought Julie and Eric dinner and cocktails, other friends paid for a cooking class, and others paid for a horseback-riding day trip.
“It was fantastic,” Eric says. “We’re out doing an activity we know is a gift from our friends.”
The couple also collected money through the site for a youth-serving nonprofit in San Miguel.
To get from place to place, the couple took buses, which Eric says he was surprised had Wi-Fi through rural areas.
“We did some tourist stuff but a lot of the things most interesting to us were those that really connected to the communities,” Eric says.
“On our second day there, we did a pre-Columbian cooking school,” Julie says. “It was just the two of us and the instructor in her kitchen, with pots that were her great-grandmother’s, in her house. She was teaching us traditional foods that were there before the conquistadors came.”
Both say they were surprised and humbled by how much people were willing to welcome them into their homes throughout their stay.
“It was probably the best trip I’ve ever taken in my life,” Eric says. “Our travel philosophy is we’re interested in people and culture and being a part of the environment where the people who live there are, while still understanding the irony that we’re in museums that most people can’t afford to go to.”
“These places were filled with local artisans,” Julie says. “To be able to see a different perspective of cultural art than we have here in the Pacific Northwest was eye-opening and gorgeous.”
The day after their June 2015 wedding, wedding photographer Katy Moran and her new husband, Charles Matthews, headed for Charleston.
The two had been thinking about where to take their honeymoon, and while many of their friends had taken cruises, Katy says she and Charles like to be active most of the time, so they knew they wanted to find an adventure that would keep them moving.
While searching for places to honeymoon in the United States to make the trip more affordable, Katy says Charleston kept coming up over and over again.
“I loved it,” Katy says.
As it happened, the couple wound up staying in a city in mourning, as they arrived just days after a white supremacist shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church left nine people dead.
“It was a little scary,” Katy says. “They were having lots of memorials, and a lot of the streets were closed for that.”
While emotions were tense, the couple was still able to get out and learn about the history of the area.
They stayed at the Andrew Pinckney Inn, enjoyed evenings on the rooftop bars in downtown and took a horse-drawn carriage ride.
The plantation was so cool. It was this beautiful piece of property. I can’t lie, I’m a huge Ryan Gosling fan, so it was super cool.
Between the culture and historic buildings, there was plenty for Katy to photograph with her appreciation for visual elements.
The two went on several walking tours, including a ghost tour of an old jail building, and a ghost tour outside Old City Hall.
“We kind of like creepy stuff,” Katy says.
She likes to plan things out in advance, and says it was easy enough to sign up ahead of time for the activities they did.
The highlight of the trip for Katy was going to the Boone Hall Plantation, where the history, butterfly room, moss-draped trees and the fact that some scenes from “The Notebook” were filmed there made the trip outside the city worth it.
“The plantation was so cool. It was this beautiful piece of property,” Katy says. “I can’t lie, I’m a huge Ryan Gosling fan, so it was super cool.”
Need more ideas?
Explore home like a tourist
Many who live in the Pacific Northwest already find some way or another to connect with the beauty in their backyards, be that through hiking, kayaking, skiing or biking.
Why not take a week or two to explore that landscape through the eyes of a tourist? Travel the coast for an extended road trip, stopping to hike along the rugged beaches. Stay at inns and bed and breakfasts, instead of brand-name hotels. Try restaurants and experiences you can get only in the town you’re staying in.
Write down your dreams
Pick a place to go by each writing down five to 10 places you would travel to if money weren’t a factor, then compare your lists and see if you can make your dream trip happen.
Travel the United States
Road trips can be surprisingly affordable if you’re willing to camp or stay with friends or relatives along the way.
You’ll see more of the country by ditching the freeways and interstates for smaller highways and stopping in diners and shops along the way.
Plus, saving on plane tickets around the world will give you more wiggle room to pay for experiences along the way and make a splurge on a five-star hotel or a fancy dinner part-way through your trip well worth the cost.