Annina & Emre
Honeymoon Destination: Florida (Alden Beach Resort)
Without Traveler's Joy, we wouldn't have been able to have a honeymoon at all. Emre is a graduate student and Annina works for a non-profit organization, so money is always a little tight. We paid for much of the wedding ourselves, and even though it was a small affair, it didn't leave much left over for a honeymoon. While we really wanted a honeymoon, we also really needed one. Emre's family came from overseas for our wedding, and it was a huge blessing to have them, but they stayed in our house for two weeks before the wedding and two weeks after. So without a honeymoon, we would have spent our first two weeks as a married couple sleeping on our own living room floor, the house filled with relatives. Yikes!
We were at a loss about what to do until Annina read about Traveler's Joy in a bridal magazine. We chose this over similar websites because Traveler's Joy allows users to register for specific things, rather than asking guests to simply throw money into a general honeymoon fund. We knew our guests, mostly young, well-traveled people, would enjoy purchasing honeymoon experiences for us, rather than the usual household items. We received lots of positive feedback on our Traveler's Joy registry from our guests, who thought it was a great idea!
When it came time to choose our destination, we both knew we wanted to relax on a beach. It seemed like a great way to decompress after the wedding, and the ocean holds a lot of appeal to those of us who live in landlocked states like Oklahoma. Since we had to purchase the plane tickets before we knew how much our guests would contribute, we needed to be conservative about cost. It turned out the cheapest plane tickets from Oklahoma to a beach-y area was to Tampa, Florida. Tampa was close to St. Petersburg's pretty beaches and the aptly-named Honeymoon Island, so it was decided! Florida it was!
We have to admit that when we told people we were going to St. Petersburg for our honeymoon, the usual response we got was, "Huh. Isn't that for, like, old people?" Yes, St. Petersburg is known as a retirement community, but we're not exactly party animals, so we weren't looking for wild nightlife and crazy beach parties. It turned out to be a really nice, low-key place with lots of great restaurants and fun things to do.
After a beautiful wedding on August 8, 2008 (yes, we were one of those 8-8-08 couples, but Emre's a mathematician so what can you expect?) we had our wonderful honeymoon from August 10 - August 17 in Florida. We stayed at the Alden Beach Resort, because it was very reasonably priced and right on the beach (http://www.aldenbeachresort.com/). Our room had a little kitchen, which allowed us to relax and make our own coffee and omelets in the morning. We enjoyed the two pools, the great beach access, the beach bar, and even the shuffleboard games! (Yes, we were the youngest people playing.) It was a nice place to stay, especially for the price.
We were so grateful to our guests, who purchased almost every single item on our honeymoon registry. We were able to enjoy tons of activities and meals at nice restaurants without worrying about money. That carefree abandon is NOT something we're used to! We made so many amazing memories together, but some of our favorites were visiting Honeymoon Island (hello photo op!), parasailing, visiting the Florida Aquarium, and taking a dinner cruise on our last night in Florida.
We stopped by Honeymoon Island on our way to Caladesi Island (http://www.floridastateparks.org/CaladesiIsland/). Accessible only by boat, Caladesi Island has the #1 ranked beach in the U.S. It's also a national park, and it's a great way to explore a Florida key. While the weather didn't cooperate (we got doused!) the boat ride and tour of the island was a lot of fun. And of course, we simply had to go to Honeymoon Island! There, we collected a lot of shells that are now part of a honeymoon shadow box that hangs on our bedroom wall.
One of our guests purchased a jet-ski trip for us, but when that wasn't available, we decided to go parasailing instead. We felt it honored the giver's intention of giving us a heart-pounding experiencing, and it was a blast! Even though Annina is deathly afraid of heights, we both could have stayed up in the air for hours! (There are numerous parasailing vendors on every beach - if you're interested, finding one isn't a problem.)
Annina grew up watching PBS specials about marine ecologist Jacques Cousteau with her dad, so we couldn't go to Florida without visiting the Florida Aquarium (http://www.flaquarium.org/). While we were probably the only couple there without kids in tow, we had a great time and there were a ton of great exhibits. One of Annina's favorites was the Australian Sea Dragon exhibit, showcasing seahorse-like creatures in which the male of the species gets pregnant! Emre was a little freaked out, but Annina thought that sounded like nature's perfect plan.
On the last night of our honeymoon, we took a romantic dinner cruise with Starlite Cruises (http://www.starlitecruises.com/). The food was great, the weather was gorgeous, and the dancing was romantic - it really was the perfect way to end the trip.
All in all, we had a great honeymoon for about $2,000, including flights, hotel, car rental, meals, and activities. We would recommend the St. Petersburg area to honeymooners on a budget, who don't mind sharing a beach with families and people of all ages. Even if it wasn't the most exotic location, we spent a blissful week together and made memories that will last a lifetime. We are so grateful to all of our guests and to Traveler's Joy for making it possible.
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