The honeymoon

Wedding trip can be a dream vacation or a romance on a budget

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The wedding trip can be as diverse as a couple’s wedding. Some couples want the trip of a lifetime, a week or longer in an exclusive spot that will always be their dream vacation. Other couples find that between paying for the wedding and setting up a new household, there’s just not as much money left in the budget for a big honeymoon.

The good news is that couples don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy a romantic honeymoon at their dream destination. Here are some ideas for a more affordable, yet still romantic, honeymoon.

Exchange homes

If you prefer to mingle with the locals rather than other tourists, look into a home exchange for your honeymoon. In a nutshell, you go stay in someone else’s house while they stay in yours. Sound risky? Maybe-but tens of thousands of people have exchanged homes since the 1950s. For an annual membership fee (usually around $50), home exchange clubs will help you find someone willing to swap homes with you, as well as offering tips to make the exchange go smoothly. According to ExchangeHomes.com, a home exchange can cut your travel costs by as much as half. More importantly, though, you’ll get to live like locals, and perhaps make life-long friends.

Rely on the hospitality of others

Hospitality clubs can hook you up with people who are willing to host you in their homes. The largest such club has more than 23,000 members in 148 countries. Membership is usually free, although you’re asked to provide hospitality to others in return sometime in the future. In addition to saving you money, it’s a great way to meet locals who can give you an insider’s perspective on your honeymoon destination. Other places you can look for free or reduced-cost accommodations include hostels (they’re not just for the young and single anymore) and monasteries and convents, some of which open their doors to guests for little or no charge.

Go camping

Firelight and shooting stars every night. Breathtaking natural beauty. Snuggling with your honey in a cocoon of zipped-together sleeping bags. Yes, camping can be romantic, as long you’re well prepared and have the right equipment (warm sleeping bags, a comfortable mattress pad, and a waterproof tent are a must). Plus, it’s pretty cheap--$10 to $20 per night at most locations. It’s even cheaper if you cook your own food. You can mix a few nights of camping with a few nights in hotels to make your honeymoon more affordable. And don’t overlook the rustic (but cheap) cabins available for rent at many state and national parks. Some even offer a honeymoon cabin!

Travel in the off season

It may be obvious to seasoned travelers, but those with less experience may not be aware of how affordable it can be to honeymoon in the “off season”-basically, any time other than when most people travel to your destination. Certain destinations’ accommodation and airfare prices may be slashed by 30 percent or more during the off-season compared to the peak travel season.

Consider your airline alternatives

When booking airfare online, don’t overlook the discount airlines. Some are not listed on the big travel portal Web sites, even though they might have a lower fare to your destination. Also be sure to compare rates for alternate airports within a reasonable traveling distance. You might live half an hour from a major airport, but the smaller airport a couple hours away might have substantially lower fares, perhaps saving you hundreds of dollars. Finally, be flexible about your arrival and departure dates; the major travel portals all have options to search for the cheapest flights within a range of dates. Any one of these alternatives could potentially save you hundreds of dollars.

Check budget travel newsletters

If you're not picky about where you honeymoon, you can probably cash in on promotional deals offering deep discounts on airfare and lodging-if you know about them. To stay abreast of the latest offers, sign up with as many free budget travel newsletters as you can. Start by signing up with the budget travel newsletters offered by Frommers.com, About.com, and MSNBC.

n If you've saved for the trip of a lifetime and, by george, you're going to take it, here are some hot travel spots for honeymooners who aren't worried about the budget -- although many of these also offer incentives and deals for those who plan ahead.

The Maldives

If you are drawn towards lounging on a silver beach all day with hotel waiters offering infinite margaritas and the most stunning scenery you will ever see the Maldives is the place for you. The Maldives is one the most magnificent places of natural beauty on earth; it has the essential elements of sun, sand and sea. The area is made up of thousands of deserted islands, vast lagoons with infinite shades of blue and turquoise, and beautiful underwater coral gardens, a natural paradise for a tropical honeymoon.

The religion is mainly Islamic and the people are a mixture of Sri Lankan, South East Asian and Aryan origin, Dhivehi being the native language. The Maldives has always been a busy maritime route for the African, Arab and South East Asian mariners, and the sea now plays a major roll in tourism by providing exciting water activities.

Snorkeling, diving and underwater photography, are major activities here with one of the highest underwater visibility distance of 50 meters. New to the list is surfing but it's a growing one with the O Neill Deep Blue contest being held there this year.

If you prefer doing nothing at all, there are luxurious resorts to cater to your every need, with the majority containing relaxing spas and stunning scenery there is no need to move from your resort, although a spot of late night fishing while relaxing under the night sky sounds like a treat you might want to enjoy.

Las Vegas and the Canyon

If you can’t stand the idea of long lazy days and nights why not take a trip to the premier entertainment destination of the world, Las Vegas. Vegas, the city that never sleeps, has everything a couple who are young at heart and looking for fun can enjoy.

Famously known as the play ground of the rich and famous, Vegas has something for everyone with its concerts, nightclubs, comedy headliners, art and its famous productions shows, no one will be bored. For the gamblers at heart there are plenty of casinos to hang out in. The hotels in Vegas are very impressive with some of the most original and luxurious around. The Venetian and Mirage are just two to mention. There is also the option to visit the Grand Canyon which isn't too far, you can take a helicopter ride straight from Vegas to the Grand Canyon and see one of the most beautiful natural terrains there is. You can also take the five hour drive and stay overnight in a log cabin.

Once at the canyon, there is plenty to do. If you want to get down and dirty, you can take a trip down into the floor of the canyon which will take about five to six hours on horse back or mule. Once there, you can spend the night sleeping around a campfire covered by a blanket of stars. If that's not adventurous enough, why not go water rafting down the Colorado River? That should put some wind in your sails.

Snow-capped Canada

Canada offers a winter wonderland on white snow capped mountains. From the mighty Rockies to the alluring Laurentain’s, Canada’s mountains are perfect for winter sports. With its natural topography and perfect snow accumulation, the Canadians have created some of the best ski resorts world wide since the 1960s. The diversity of the resorts is one of its best attractions, from the champion slopes of whistler to the laid back hangouts of Red Mountain there is a little something for everyone.

Tremblant is a popular resort, described as a cross between a cute Quebecois village and a theme park. There is lots of fun to be had here, and you don’t have to be a professional skier to enjoy yourself. Tremblant is a beautiful quaint village with brightly colored buildings knitted together along the main street of boutiques and restaurants. There are plenty of cozy cabins, bistros and cafes. In the evening, the village comes to life with open-air theaters of fire-eaters, clowns on stilts and live music.

European vacation

Perhaps this is a chance to see all the historical sites you’ve dreamed of. To see the beautiful and romantic city of Paris for the first time together. Enjoy late night strolls and whispering sweet nothings under the Eiffel Tower. Stop off in Venice and take an evening gondola ride down the famous canals before dining in the fabulous Venetian restaurants. European cities can be as romantic as they are portrayed in the movies, but do your homework. It is also easy to travel between the big cities of Europe by rail or plane, so a European honeymoon could make you a world traveler!

Beach, beach and more beach

Some couples just want to kick back and enjoy a week or 10 days at the beach to unwind from the blissful wedding stress. So, if you’re going to go to the beach, why not consider one of the beaches voted by www.weddingchannel.com as the five most romantic beaches in the world?

1 Matira Beach, Bora Bora, Tahitian Islands

It’s not the soft white sand, the spectacular sunsets or the languid tropical breezes that put Matira Beach on Bora Bora’s southern tip at the top of our list of the world’s most romantic beaches. It’s the calm, warm, crystal-clear water -- the perfect playground for dolphins, ray, vibrant tropical fish and you!

The island of Bora Bora is completely encircled by reefs and smaller islands, creating a shallow, protected lagoon that offers the best swimming and snorkeling around. For a day -- or a year -- of pure, lazy pleasure with your new spouse, Matira Beach is an unbeatable choice.

2 Pink Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas

No list is complete without the Bahamas famous Pink Beach. Wide, lined with palms, and made up of fine-grained sand in a glorious shell-pink, Pink Beach would be stunning even without the warm and welcoming Caribbean lapping at its edge. Spend a day there, and we bet you decide to come back for your first anniversary -- and maybe your second and third.

3 Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France

Picture a wide promenade lined with stylish boutiques and cafes just steps away from the azure waters of the Mediterranean. Jaunty blue and white umbrellas dot what must be the world’s most chic beach -- the Promenade des Anglais on the glamorous French Riviera.

The Promenade des Anglais offers beautiful sand and swimming to rival other top beaches, but with an aura of pampered sophistication that can only be found in France. If you’re looking for the romance of pure delight, turn your attention to Nice and the Promenade des Anglais.

4 Green Sand Beach, Hawaii

White-sand beaches aren’t common. Pink-sand beaches are downright unusual. But only on the geological wonderland that is the Big Island of Hawaii can you find the rarest of them all -- a beach made of deep green crystals. The sand is formed almost entirely of olivine, a crystal found in the nearby volcano. The beach is tiny and offers wading more than swimming. And considering you have to hike three miles to get there, the Green Sand beach is romance you have to earn. But don’t be discouraged. The memory of standing with your new spouse, watching the blue waters of the Pacific pound glowing green sand, will fill your dreams for a lifetime.

5 South Beach, Florida

If your idea of romance is good, clean fun, South Beach in Miami, Florida, is for you. Sherbert-colored Art Deco buildings vie with the warm turquoise water of the Caribbean for your attention. Whether you spend the day walking along the shoreline hand in hand or sipping iced coffee in cheerful cafes, South Beach is sure to make you realize that being part of a couple makes every experience double the fun.

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