Not all love nests are created equal. Depending on your budget, your interests, and your desire for sexy seclusion vs. social interaction, one resort may be a dream and another a nightmare. As wedding season approaches and you look to book your trip of a lifetime, here are a few simple rules worth following:
1. Remember: Size Does Matter . . . at least when it comes to resorts. Some properties in romantic locales have as few as 25 rooms and others as many as 1,000. Before you book, decide if you want to hide away or be front and center. The trade-offs: Smaller properties often have fewer amenities, such as multiple bars and restaurants or onsite water sports, while full-scale resorts may force you to stake out pool/beach chaises early, book dinner reservations days ahead, or share your honeymoon with hundreds of pharmaceutical reps wearing nametags (ask about upcoming conventions).
2. Think Location, Location, Location If you just want to work on your tans and hit the swim-up bar for happy hour, an out-of-the-way resort—such as on a private island in Fiji, the British Virgin Islands or the Maldives—will be heaven on earth. But if you want to see every last inch of your destination (you love to hike, shop, bike, sightsee), choose a property that offers easy access to taxis, tour companies and rental cars or is a short stroll from a lively city or town, such as Cabo San Lucas, Old San Juan, or Honolulu.
3. Weigh Adults-Only vs. Family-Friendly Some popular all-inclusive resorts—namely Sandals, Couples, Excellence and Secrets—do not allow kids, while others—such as Beaches, Dreams, and Breezes, as well as certain Hiltons, Hyatts, and Marriotts, have extensive children’s programs. Even Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons attract a significant family clientele at many of their resorts. If the one you’re interested in seems especially kid-friendly, ask if there is an adults-only pool (it’s often near the spa) or restaurant before you book—ensuring you’ll have a quiet refuge.
4. Earn an Upgrade A room upgrade would be wonderful, right? To up your odds, book at a hotel where you are a frequent stay or guest rewards member (or join the hotel’s program before you book). A few to consider: Starwood Preferred Guest, Fairmont President’s Club, Hilton HHonors, and Marriott Rewards. Also, don’t book the lowest category (usually a standard or garden view). Trade up to a deluxe or partial-ocean-view room and when you check in, let the front desk know you are on your honeymoon. Newlywed couples tend to return to the spot where they honeymooned for an anniversary or other celebration, so hotels are typically eager to make them happy.
5. Consider a Split Stay If you have 5-star taste and a 3-star budget, this may be the key to the suite of your dreams. For a week-long stay—especially on a large or geographically diverse island such as St. Lucia, Jamaica, or the Big Island or if you are visiting two cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai or Rome and Florence—book your first three nights in a more affordable yet hip boutique hotel or national resort chain that runs under $200 a night—some good ones are Renaissance, Radisson, and Outrigger—then move for the final four nights to a more luxurious resort offering a “Stay Four Nights Get a Fifth Night Free” promo (see below). Tip: Always stay at the cheaper option first, so you’re trading up not down.
6. Shop for Multi-Night Deals Once you have narrowed your resort options, check each website for special offers. Many upscale properties—such as Rosewood, Four Seasons, and One&Only are currently offering a free additional night with stays of three or four nights—lowering your cost by as much as 25 percent.
7. Think: Do Not Disturb To keep the peace (and quiet), remember the following: Do not book a hotel adjacent to an airport or highway. At check-in, request a room on the top floor (especially if floors are marble, tile or hard wood), away from the elevators (to avoid mechanical noises and voices) and not directly over a bar or casino with late-night hours.
8. Go Exotic If you want a suite with unforgettable flare, check out these locales, where opulent décor is typically de rigueur: India for elaborate palaces-turned-resorts; South Africa for safari lodges that redefine rustic luxury; Morocco for palm-studded resorts and welcoming riads; and Tahiti for sexy overwater bungalows.
9. Set Sail For a moveable feast, consider a cruise, which lets you to unpack just once but visit a variety of places. Today’s staterooms are actually pretty snazzy. For some of the most innovative, check out: the Penthouse Suites on Seabourn Odyssey and Sojourn, the Sunset Veranda Staterooms on Celebrity Solstice or Equinox, the Spa Staterooms on NCL Epic, and the Loft Suites on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas.
10. Enjoy Sexy Extras There’s no better excuse to spurge than a honeymoon. So when resort-hunting online, search for Jacuzzi tubs, plunge pools, outdoor showers, couples massages and private dinners—all the extras that will make your private time together extra-memorable.