There’s a reason why eloping was invented: The best part of getting married is the honeymoon. Consider it the icing on that decadent three-layer wedding cake — and with any luck, your honeymoon will be a heck of a lot more delicious.
But in the madness of planning the big day, don’t leave the honeymoon details in the hands of burned-out travel agents (um, Cancun’s fine, in that Julie, Gopher and dinner-at-the-Captain’s-table kind of way) and well-meaning relatives with frequent-flyer miles. Consider the honeymoon the first thing you get to do as an official ball-and-chain, and let it be an extension of your relationship — not a stereotype to be endured by drinking heavily.
So, before you pack the bikini, here are a few less-traveled vacation ideas.
Gives new meaning to the term “working vacation”
“I always tell people you get back more than you give,” reveals Cheryl Friedman, marketing manager of i-to-i (www.i-to-i.com or (303) 991-5401). The agency organizes trips for couples who want to do more than just soak up the rays and slurp drinks with little umbrellas. i-to-i plans volunteer vacations.
Here’s the deal — instead of jetting off to an all-inclusive resort where you most likely never rub elbows with the local culture (no, chatting with the staff doesn’t count as meeting the natives), you spend your holiday living with local folks while lending a hand to such varied projects as building homes, teaching kids and working with wildlife. Sure, you miss out on the tan, the hangover and the tacky souvenirs, but you do leave with a feeling of accomplishment. Sound good? Why not consider a volunteer vacation for a honeymoon?
“We have a lot of husband-and-wife teams that go,” Friedman insists. “I’d suggest a building or community-development project, like working in an orphanage, where you’ll be together.”
i-to-i (and similar organizations) offer trips to such exotic locales as Bolivia, Kenya, Croatia and Mongolia. Costs for the programs do not include airfare, but cover most other expenses, such as meals, accommodations and health and travel insurance. Check out www.globalvolunteers.org for more ideas.
Once you’ve learned everything the Kama Sutra has to offer
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with just wanting a little you-time (especially after surviving the Olympian feats of matrimony). Holistic retreats offer healing, serenity and revitalization in a setting that’s more spa, less spring break. Retreats can range from the indulgent (hot tubs overlooking scenic vistas, gourmet vegetarian meals, soothing body treatments) to the introspective (yoga, meditation, Ayurvedic counseling, leisurely strolls through wooded groves), but the point is to retreat — getting away from jobs, phones, families and other stresses. Do so close to home or abroad — these holistic getaways can be found from Arizona to Martha’s Vineyard to Tobago to the South of France.
Starting the marriage on a note of self-improvement is a good first step, but languishing about in a seaweed wrap might not be everyone’s idea of relaxation. So why not use the honeymoon to learn a new skill together?
A journey to France doesn’t have to be about shopping in Paris. Instead, embark on a language course. Explore Italy by way of a cooking class, and come home with great photos and recipes. Or take in Ireland with an easel and a set of watercolors. The Worldwide Art Directory (www.theartgallery.com) lists trips that range from art breaks in Edinburgh to carving lessons in Bali.
Head out on the highway
Maybe you’re more of the mindset that, art and culture be damned, all you want to do is veer off into the sunset. No crime in burning rubber — but if you’re going to be a road warrior, why not do it in style?
AAA Vacations (253-5376 or www.aaa.com) offers the surprisingly edgy Harley Wild West Tour among its packages. This 7-night adventure includes a late-model Harley, luxury accommodations and stop-offs in Western hotspots like the Grand Canyon, the Anasazi cliff dwellings and Yosemite National Park.
“I think it’s a niche,” admits AAA agent Lisa McKinney of the Easy Rider-styled trip, “but there are certainly more and more requests for the unusual honeymoon as couples get more and more adventurous.”
McKinney points out that these “soft adventure” trips (as opposed to extreme-sports tours, which can also be arranged) offer a balance of rugged exploits and sumptuous indulgences. Hey — it is your honeymoon, after all.