From Australia to Fiji, Bora Bora to Italy, and Brazil to Africa, the possibilities for a great honeymoon seemed endless.
We envisioned this as a once in a lifetime opportunity. With a wedding date of July 21, 2012, we planned to honeymoon for eight or nine days in late July. As a couple for seven years before our engagement, we felt as if we had everything we needed and had no room to store new gifts. We both felt that the honeymoon was very important to us as we rarely got to spend time together, much less travel together.
I was currently working three jobs and going to grad school, typically working rotating day and night shifts, therefore we felt as if we NEVER saw each other. We couldn’t wait until the honeymoon to have one whole week to ourselves as a couple. Heck, we couldn’t wait until the wedding day to actually see each other!
With this in mind, a honeymoon registry was in the picture since day one. None of our friends or family were familiar with this idea and some websites that offered such registries appeared unreliable and complicated. We wanted something that our guests felt comfortable with and a website that shared our story and the adventures we were seeking as newlyweds.
Traveler's Joy was our first and only choice in creating a honeymoon fund. There was no question in our mind that we wanted to honeymoon immediately after the wedding. We wanted to experience that feeling of renewed happiness and romantic adventure as newlyweds. Bu honeymooning in July can be a challenge as most tropical destinations are uncomfortably warm, while Australia is typically having their “winter” season.
We are a couple that is constantly on the go, and we are adventure seekers. This played a big part in choosing our honeymoon destination. We spoke with travel agents and came close to settling for a couples resort in the Bahamas or a cruise, but ultimately decided that those options just weren’t us.
Then one day, a friend of the family suggested California. Since we once considered the possibility of traveling from Southern California to Northern California, we saw it as the perfect opportunity for both adventure and relaxation. We took it upon ourselves to research various cities and destinations within California and went on to book all of our hotels, transportation and activities to our liking. We knew relaxation would be well needed following the wedding, therefore we started our trip at the LaCosta Resort in Carlsbad, California. Resembling a tropical getaway, we were amazed that we were experiencing the luxury of such a resort on the outskirts of a California city. The best parts were the beach and fresh fish by day and a dinner, fireside, at sunset, with a live band and the relaxation of an infinity hot tub during the chill of a West coast night. The stars and lights of the California hills lit our evening. We were amazed at the variety of scenery and the experiences we had all in one day while in Carlsbad. After two days of relaxation, we continued our adventure by boarding a boat to Catalina Island. I wish I could say that this was an enjoyable experience, but I spent this time doing research and completing work for my summer graduate class. That's right, I had assignments and homework due during our wedding and while on our honeymoon.
But when arriving to the beauty and adventure of Catalina Island, I forgot all about my class and went back into honeymoon mode. This was a perfect place for our adventurous side as we rented a golf cart and toured the island.
Meanwhile, Rick had convinced me that scuba diving was in our future. Afraid of the ocean and slightly claustrophobic, I thought, “What better place to conquer my fears than Catalina Island?” No limits, we were determined to make our honeymoon an unforgettable experience and we couldn’t have had a better first dive with the fish and reef off of Avalon. With a one night stay at the Avalon Hotel, we were greeted with free champagne and chocolates (and also those employees who found our Wisconsin accents quite distinct and entertaining). Located within the heart of Catalina, our hotel offered us easy access to all the activities of the island. We even found a favorite local establishment and danced the night away. After two days, we put our swimsuits away and packed our hats and jackets as we prepared for city life in San Francisco. We almost didn't get the opportunity though, as we nearly missed our flight from Long Island to San Francisco. We couldn’t have been more grateful for the small size of the Long Island airport as we abruptly woke up at 5:30 in the morning for our 6:30 flight.
In hindsight, the memory is entertaining. In the moment, we were probably nearly divorced as we fought to pack our bags and find transportation. The first sight on our agenda: Alcatraz Island. What we didn’t realize was how prevalent shin splints would become as we walked the many hills of San Francisco’s city streets, but not without stopping to experience Chinatown, Alamo Square, and its cable car system. On a windy evening, we hopped aboard a boat for the night tour of Alcatraz. Unique to this experience was the fact that we were able to visualize the Golden Gate Bridge, which we were informed is frequently hidden in the fog of the bay.
After an entertaining and educational tour of the mysteries of Alcatraz, we shared a romantic dinner and the joys of fresh seafood at a restaurant near historic Fisherman’s Wharf. While we expected this to be the end of our night, what we didn’t realize is how difficult it is to get a cab in San Francisco. With our winter hats and gloves, waiting nearly an hour in the wind and cold of the bay, it began to feel less like a honeymoon, and more like a typical winter night in Wisconsin. To our relief, a limousine randomly pulled up and offered its services. I guess we really were going big on this honeymoon. Back at the historical Fairmont Hotel, we enjoyed our city view room as we tried to sneak a peak of the nighttime skyline that remained hidden behind the fog. After two days in the city, we were ready for a change of sound and scenery. Renting a car, we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and headed to the Muir Woods for a taste of nature. A calming walk through the historical redwoods, we began to recollect all the joys and excitement of the five days of honeymooning. We couldn’t have been more excited to be sharing all these experiences as a married couple.
Leaving in awe at the size of the redwoods, we continued on our journey to Napa Valley. Dressed in jeans, sweatshirt and a jacket, the thermometer slowly crept from 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 85 degrees Fahrenheit as we entered wine country. Taking the windy roads of a scenic route, we stopped atop a hill to feel the sunshine on our faces and share the view of the vineyards below. The hat and gloves were being packed away as I changed into a dress and sandals. We were eagerly awaiting the hot air balloon ride and wine tour we had scheduled for the next day. Well, that is if we had a place to stay.
When we arrived to our hotel room in Napa, we walked into a room being freshly painted and under construction. Honeymoon suite? Not so much. We laughed it off as we informed the front desk of our discovery, but the smiles quickly left our faces when they informed us they were completely booked. I could see the pool in the background and couples enjoying their samples of wine. After waiting nearly an hour, staff had somehow found us a suite. The only catch was that it featured a Murphy bed. I giggled to myself and gave a look to my new husband that said, “We’ll take it.” As the alarm went off at 4:30 in the morning, I thought to myself, “This is a bit too early." However, I quickly forgot about fatigue as we witnessed eight colorful hot air balloons preparing for lift off. Before I knew it, we were in a basket, atop the hills, experiencing the peaceful sights and sounds of Napa’s sunrise. We had a bit of an unpredictable and hard landing, but celebrated our survival with mimosas and an entertaining wine tour. Packed aboard a van with others seeking fun and a good wine buzz, we couldn’t have been luckier to visit some of the most well-known wineries in the valley. Although we had an entertaining group of new friends to tour with, I did happen to fit in a quick cat nap (behind my sunglasses) to recover from my early morning balloon trip. Better yet, we spent our last night in Napa staying in, ordering pizza, and reliving the memories of our wedding night and honeymoon experiences. While our honeymoon may have cost more than a typical all-inclusive resort, we enjoyed the ability to explore different destinations and restaurants. Approximately $2,500 per person, we would highly recommend California as a destination for newlyweds, especially those seeking variety and a memorable honeymoon. As our story conveys, California has not only beautiful weather to offer, but for those seeking adventure, excitement and relaxation, all within the same trip, this state should be a first choice for a memorable experience.
Traveler's Joy allowed our guests to feel as if they were a part of this experience and helped to create the honeymoon we had hoped for. With only great things to say, we have recommended TJ to many other couples that are currently planning their wedding and honeymoon.