The honeymoon is supposed to be one of the most magical moments in a lifetime, right? The stress of planning a wedding is behind you, the carb counting is over, and you’re both sporting some shiny new bling on your hands that you can’t wait for the world to see. The more times you can see “Mr. & Mrs.” the better, and you find yourself beaming to random strangers in the security line at the airport saying, “We’re newlyweds!” while they are slipping off their shoes and removing their belts.
When we sat down to contemplate where we wanted to go, the choice seemed obvious. We’d had the opportunity to travel to the Middle East for a few weeks shortly after we got engaged, we had seen each other through two master’s degrees, but we’d never taken that self-indulgent trip to a tropical paradise. And there seemed to be no better time than the honeymoon. So, we spent July 30th – August 5th in Riveria Maya, and choose to stay at the Valentin Imperial Resort. Our entire trip, with roundtrip airfare and a $600 honeymoon pack add-on cost $3,300, but we only ended up paying of course for a small fraction of that.
And since the ever-popular “50 Shades of Grey” writing style isn’t appropriate for the blogosphere, we’ve elected to share the rest of our honeymoon story in true David Letterman style with our own “Top 10.”
1. In all reality, newly married couples want $$$. You’re likely paying off a wedding, looking at your first home purchase and getting established in your careers, so when it comes down to it, cost defraying is more helpful than a four-slice toaster and a third crockpot. But, Great Aunt Mable and some guests may be a bit more traditional, which is why the honeymoon registry is such a great idea. We still had total flexibility over our trip and how we spent our funds, but our guests could still feel like they were contributing to our new memories as a family.
2. Heather works in marketing, and has learned to usually not trust glossy brochure covers with clear, bright blue water and iguanas running between palm trees. But now, we’re believers! Those places really do exist, and working with Traveler’s Joy can help you see them. (But be forewarned, some of those iguanas look more like small dragons than lizards in person! Heather may have had an “episode” on a sidewalk one morning with one, but we’ve spared you that photo.)
3. We are foodies. When new restaurants open in town we get really excited to hit them up, so when deciding on a location for our honeymoon, access to diverse food was really important to us. Our resort had seven different themed restaurants on site – Italian, Mexican, French, Japanese, Indonesian, and then a steakhouse and seafood place. Every night we picked a new place to go. It took us a night or two to get over that it was really all inclusive so we could try two appetizers, two entrees and split a dessert without feeling like we were taking advantage of the place (yes, we kept looking over at other couples the first night to make sure we were being normal with our ordering!)
Not only was there variety to the food, the presentation and flavor were very high-end dining. On our third night of our honeymoon we had arranged a romantic tasting menu at the French restaurant, complete with sorbets, soups, salads, appetizers, palette cleansers and prime seafood. You’ll see Heather enjoying a trio of appetizers here that have a really fun presentation to them. She felt like a judge on Top Chef.
4. Because our guests had helped us get to this location, we took full advantage of splurges. One of those was choosing to have a romantic, moonlit diner on the beach. We had our own private waiter for the evening and enjoyed a six-course dinner (see carb-counting reference above!) that finished with stuffed lobster tail. As the sun set and the breeze came off the ocean it was nice to be able to enjoy each other’s quiet company over a bottle of champagne and the roll of the ocean water. That was perhaps the moment it really hit that “this was it, and we were married.”
5. We were blessed with tremendous weather. It was never too hot (who feels romantic when you’re worried about sweating) and we only had rain one evening (which always bring a smile to our face as we played leapfrog to dinner under palm trees with Heather in heels). After taking in the beach and pool for a few days, we got in touch with our more adventurous side and went kayaking for a morning on the ocean. Heather isn’t afraid of water, but she is afraid of sharks. (Coral in the right light can look like Jaws if you think about it hard enough!) After 15 minutes we found our rhythm and got more comfortable careening through the waves without tipping over.
6. Our resort had done a great job of planning evening activities, and the Saturday night of our honeymoon they brought in a fire troop that we were both excited to see. We caught an early dinner of some exotic sushi and then went to the plaza to grab some fun frozen drinks (like “The Hulk” or the “Drunken Monkey”). After going to the Middle East together and seeing cultures in Asia, we really enjoyed seeing more of the culture of South America. Alan had student taught in Belize for a while in college, but Heather had never been below the equator before. We tried to include a photo here, but trying to capture men dancing and twirling fire sticks tends to blur very easily! The performance was engaging, yet fun and interactive.
7. Sometimes, even in the most exotic of locations, you want to take comfort in the elements of home. If you know us as a couple, you know the Olympics are a big deal in our house. The first night we confessed our feelings to each other had a component of the Olympics to it, and our rehearsal dinner was the night of the opening ceremonies for 2012. So, one morning we decided to forget the fact that we were surrounded by oceans and spas in our beach-front villa. Alan ordered eggs and toast for room service, we pulled a saved bottle of champagne from the fridge and paired it with our orange juice, and we watched the Olympics in Spanish from bed. Confession: We had hoped to find gymnastics or soccer, but what is popular in Mexico was a lot of water polo and synchronized swimming!
8. Having our honeymoon registry also made it possible for us to use some of the spa services at the resort. We had a couples’ massage mid-week and then a body scrub the last day of our trip. One of the moments we probably laughed the hardest of the week was during our body scrub. After we were covered in grit, our spa staff told us it was time to go rinse off.
RESORT TIP: When it’s time to go rinse off, you are sent to a couple’s shower while the staff stays in the room and prepares the linens for the lotion part, so make sure if you ever visit a resort with friend’s you don’t get a body scrub with your closest girlfriend! Nothing felt better than washing off a week’s worth of sweat, sand and chlorine from our hair and skin. It was the perfect way to end the week and prepare for life back in Iowa.
9. The resort was comfortable and romantic enough that we didn’t really want to leave, but we ventured away one day (our resort had transportation provided which made going to Playa del Carmin very convenient). Seeing some of the local culture in a more natural environment – the shops, the street food and the people was a nice contrast to laying out by the pool and catching up on People magazine while we passed a digital Scrabble game back and forth.
10. And – of course - you have to save the best for last. What honeymoon would be complete without meeting a few friends along the way? We had some great conversation with other newlyweds at a hibachi table or at the swim-up bars during water games at the pool, but meeting Moki was our favorite! He came around one morning on the beach with some of the resort staff, and we got so close he even made it onto our first family Christmas card!
Overall, our honeymoon experiences were some of the best memories we’ve had in our time together. It wouldn’t have been possible without the generous giving of our friends and families, who were given the opportunity to be a part of our honeymoon through Traveler’s Joy.