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Help with honeymoon planning

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Hello all.

Spent the last several days perusing through the forums and have been amazed by all the wonderful help provided on here. So, I'm hoping someone could help me out a bit in planning my honeymoon. I had no idea that this would be more difficult than getting the wedding together. :(

Anyway, the fiance and I are getting married in mid-June and so looking to go on our honeymoon sometime soon after that. We will be flying out of Philadelphia and currently have a budget of $5000 alloted for the honeymoon (this includes airfare and food money).

These are some of the items we are looking for in our trip (listed in order of importance):

1. romantic hotel
2. aquatic activities (e.g. snorkeling, kayaking, swimming with sharks, etc.)
3. spa services
4. good food
5. nice beach (e.g. white sand with turquoise water).

Basically, is it possible to do a honeymoon in the Caribbean with just $5000? We are currently thinking about either St. Lucia or Antigua. I'm of the opinion that Mexico might be a better option, but the fiance doesn't think Mexico would be romantic enough and would prefer a trip to the Caribbean instead.

Help please!!

Thanks in advance.

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    Maxico's Riviera Maya can be quite romantic and does offer the "Caribbean" experience. For a honeymoon you may want to look into adults only resorts.
    Do you want all inclusive, small boutique, evening entertainment, etc.??
    Your $5000 will go further in Mexico than in most of the islands.

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    Saint Lucia jademountain.com best bit out of your price range
    other hotels like Jallousie Plantationmight work. almondresorts.com also good AI there. luxurylink.com
    travelzoo.com top 20 monitor for deals excellent values
    Fairmont.com Royal Pavillion Barbados great for me in the past.

    bookit.com for cheaper packages puntacana.com
    Excellence and Hard Rock great there.

    RockHouseHotel.com roundhill.com Couples.com Swept Away Negril
    all might meet your needs at great price points.

    Flying Spirit.com saves me a lot Big Front Seat there first class is a great way to travel upscale and save on air.

    Congrats!

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    Here are some hints:

    1) You'll be on your honeymoon so almost any destination you choose will feel "romantic". As for resorts/hotels, most mid-to-high end properties are designed to have a romantic appeal, so that shouldn't be an issue. If you stay away from the "mega-resorts" and concentrate on smaller resorts or boutique "hotels" you'll find all the "romance" you'll ever need (even if that resort/hotel were in the middle of a big city).

    2) If you want good snorkeling consider going to the USVI's (St. Thomas or St. John) or one of the British Virgin Islands. Those islands will also have just about all the aquatic activities you'd ever need" The only one that may cause you some difficulty is "swimming with sharks". I believe there are some places in the Bahamas "out-islands" where you can do that and you can "swim with the sting rays" on Grand Cayman but you won't find that type of activity to be very prevalent throughout most of the Caribbean.

    3) You can find spa services at just about any "good" hotel/resort" although there are a few very high end resorts throughout the Caribbean places that are known for having excellent Spa facilities. With your budget I wouldn't concern yourself with staying at a "spa resort" but rather just rely on the Activities Director at the resort you do choose to arrange spa treatments for you on an as needed basis. FYI - Spa treatments in the Caribbean are not inexpensive and will eat into your limited budget.

    4) Lots of islands are noted for having good food so if "good food" is important to you you should avoid going to an "All Inclusive" resort as generally speaking the food at those places will be mediocre at best (unless you opt for a very high-end AI resort). Islands that are noted for having an abundance of restaurants offering very good food include St. Martin, St. Barths, Anguilla - some consider these islands the "dining capitals of the Caribbean". Truth is, once you choose your island, finding restaurants that serve "good food" is relatively easy. For what it is worth, you can find "good food" on just about every island and it doesn't have to be "gourmet expensive" either. There are lots of "local dining" spots on every island which are not fancy but serve up some very good food at reasonable prices. Plus there's always places you can go to for one or two "splurge dinners".

    5) Nice beaches - If you are are looking for white sand and turquoise waters you'll have to limit your reaches to the flatter, arid coral/limestone based islands like Grand Cayman, Anguilla, the Turks & Caicos, the Bahamas Out-islands, Barbuda, Anegada, Aruba, Bonaire or Curacao as these will generally have the best combination of very white sand beaches and shallow surrounding waters that will give off the turquoise hues you are seeking. If you are willing to expand your definition of "nice beaches" to include light golden sand than you open up a great many more choices like the USVI's, the BVI's, St. Martin, St. Barth's, the Grenadines and a few others. The light golden sand will often give you the bright turquoise waters you want but you'll also see some darker shares of blue mixed in. Avoid the larger volcanic based (very mountainous and thus very lush) islands such as St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Vincent, Dominica, St. Lucia, etc. as they will tend to have darker sand (browns, grays, even black) and deeper surrounding waters which, in turn, causes the water to take on a darker steel blue tint.

    Now, as for your budget, by "$5000 alloted for the honeymoon - this includes airfare and food money" I'm assuming you mean airfare, hotel and food. If that's correct it is on the low side but doable because you'll be going in "Low Season" when room rates are traditionally at their lowest. You should concentrate your search to the "major islands" that are reachable from Philadelphia as those will generally have the most reasonable airfares - say between $400 and $550 per person round trip. That will leave you around $4000 or so for your hotel and food which comes to something like $575/day for a typical 7 day/6 night vacation. You can find nice hotels in the $200 to $300 per night which will leave you enough money for some very nice meals. One hint - you can save a lot of money on accommodations and still stay at a higher end resort by opting for a garden view or mountain room vs. a beachfront room. You'll have access to all of the resort's amenities yet the room costs will be much lower - all you give up is a view of the water. When you consider you won't be in your room very much and when you are you'll either be sleeping or engaged in "newly married adult activities" with the drapes closed the view from the room is not too important.

    So where should you go? Check out some of the boutique hotels in Grand Case on St. Martin, Estate Lindholm or Gallows Point on St. John, perhaps Galley Bay on Antigua or any of the resorts on St. Thomas.

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    If you don't already have a credit card that earns some kind of travel points (airline miles, hotel points or some other kind of points, like Amex Membership Rewards, that you can convert into travel "currency"), get one now. You'll be spending more money than usual in the lead-up to your wedding and if you use a points/miles-earning credit card to do so, you may be able to accumulate enough points or miles to reduce the cost of your trip. These days, I find the best option is to get either a credit card that earns points or a general card that generates points that you can convert into various types of travel currency. Some examples include:

    - Chase Marriott Visa
    - American Express Green, Gold or Platinum
    - Starwood American Express
    - Citibank (Thank You Points)

    We just got back from a trip to Grand Cayman. I used Marriott points for 5 out of the 6-night stay, Citibank Thank You Points that I had converted into Marriott gift certificates to pay for the 6th night, and Continental miles to upgrade our economy class flights to First Class.

    Similarly, a couple of years ago we took at 2.5 week trip to Egypt. We used British Airways points for the business class tickets (we still had to pay about $400 per ticket in fees but the overall ticket value was at least $5000 per ticket) and used Marriott, Hilton and Starwood points to cover our hotel stays for all but 2/13 nights.

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    Many of the "rewards" credit card companies will also give you a one-time bonus of between 25,000 and 40,000 "bonus" miles or points (depending on which type of card you choose) to new customers just for opening the account and/or charging a certain amount (amount varies from company to company but usually around $1,000) within the first the first few months. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER when using a "Rewards or Travel Credit Card" is to pay off your balance in full every month otherwise interest and finance charges that accrue on unpaid balances will exceed the value of any "free" airline ticket, upgrade or hotel stay you get.

    We've had an Airline Rewards Card for years - charge everything we possibly can (hardly ever pay cash for anything) and rack up thousands of FF miles every year that we use for free tickets and/or upgrades to Business/First Class seats - been all over the world and haven't sat in an Economy Seat in almost 10 years.

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