Your Long and Winding Road-Trip Honeymoon

By Angie Jaime

CTW Features

The archetypal honeymoon, jetting off to Niagara Falls after a traditional June wedding was, for many, a mid-century dream come true. Though a honeymoon is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, it can be quite the task to set out on the marital adventure right after the ceremony. Thankfully, for the couple looking for a truly one-of-a-kind adventure, setting out on the road can mean a healthy vacation from a "typical" honeymoon.

"The theory that you go on your honeymoon, and that's the big trip of your lifetime is wrong," says Joe Brancatelli, a New York-based travel expert who runs the travel website "You don't have to do the big Niagara Falls thing and then talk about it for the next 20 years."

For some, the pitfalls of airline travel alone can be enough to trade a destination getaway for a low-key adventure.

"The journey hasn't been part of the adventure of a honeymoon for a long time," Brancatelli says. "I can't think of a whole lot of things you can do nowadays on a plane that are honeymoon-ish. You're going to have a helluva time finding champagne."

Because in-flight regulations and restrictions - not to mention shrinking passenger space and growing luggage fees - have taken a bit of the glamour out of jet-setting, staying stateside - within your time zone even - and embarking on a road-trip honeymoon can create memories out of the journey itself.

The pressure is off of having the "well-planned, show-you-pictures" honeymoon, Brancatelli says. Now, it's more about making it what you want - not what society tells you it should be.

"You are on your honeymoon, the moment you're in the car. You can pack whatever you want; tailor it to be anything you want," he says. "'The Great American Road Trip,' to some degree, is back," he says.

Road-trips are certainly easier to tailor to your schedule than airline travel, but that doesn't mean you can just hit the road, tin cans trailing, without putting some thought into. Here's how to do it:

Do Your Homework

"Don't just pile up your things in a car and go somewhere. Google places in the areas you'd like to drive to; don't be an information-virgin," Brancatelli says. "Don't lock yourself in, or plan yourself within an inch of your life but, give it some thought."

"On a car trip it's a temptation to go too far, but if you only like driving for three hours, only go that far. Think of your partner and what they really love to do," says Marybeth Bond, author of "50 Best Girlfriend Getaways" (National Geographic, 2007). Take advantage of the chance to make some dreams a reality.

Jamie Jensen, author of "Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America's Two-Lane Highways" (Avalon Travel Publishing, 2009), suggests simply going somewhere you've always wanted to go - whether it's a romantic tour of New England in fall foliage season, or something a little wild and rowdy like New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

"Having a focus or theme makes the rest of the road trip fall into place. If you have secret dreams of playing Wild West - a la Doris Day in "Calamity Jane" - look into a road trip out where the buffalo roam. Wyoming and Montana have fabulous 'dude ranches,' which range from rough and ready to full luxury," he says.

Don't Forget the Season

"Depending upon when the wedding is, the list of possible honeymoon road trip locations simplifies itself," Jensen says. "The Arizona desert is wonderful during the early spring wildflower season but less-than-perfect in August."

Don't limit yourself to big cities. Bond suggests avoiding them. "Go outdoors, in nature, Yosemite, national parks, state parks. It lends itself to doing things where you aren't just going to run around and spend money," she says.

Locate Lodging

"You don't necessarily need to arrange all your accommodations in advance, but depending on your tastes, your road trip accommodations could be anything from a deluxe bridal suite in a Big Apple hotel to a tent in a backcountry campsite - even a combination of these, on different nights," Jensen says.

For many couples, stays at a bed and breakfast are a happy medium.

"Unlike a hotel, where you're only paying for a place to sleep, breakfast is included," says Mary White, author of "Running a Bed & Breakfast For Dummies" (Wiley Publishing, 2009). "Innkeepers are the local area experts and are available to make restaurant suggestions or suggestions on the best spot for a romantic picnic."

However, bed and breakfast accommodations are popular and book quickly.

"Don't assume just because it's not 'high season' weather-wise that the inn that you want will not be booked," says White.She suggests you calling ahead to ensure availability.

For those couples looking to take the road to the great outdoors, the National Recreation Reservation Service has updated its policies on booking campsites in national parks. For individual campsites, reservations can be made up to six months in advance for all agencies under the NRRS, with a five-month block window for Yosemite National Park, as that is particularly popular year-round.

Rules of the Road

Even the most unforgettable honeymoon comes with a few do's and don'ts.

"You have to work to make it romantic," Bond says. "Keep up the work to make the trip special, take some heart-shaped chocolates, some sexy lingerie, pack a bottle of champagne, make a playlist of 'your' songs to take on the trip." And don't over-extend the driving part of the road trip.

"On a car trip it's a temptation to go too far, but if you only like driving for three hours, only go that far. Think of your partner and what they really love to do," she says.

With endless possibilities and options of where to go and what to do, it's easy to forget that there are definite things to avoid on your newlywed adventures.

"Check your e-mail only once a day," Bond says. "That's right, you're on your honeymoon, take your honeymoon. Check your e-mail in the morning but otherwise leave the BlackBerry or iPhone off."

(c) CTW Features

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