I’ve always joked that a honeymoon is more important to me than a wedding. But it’s not really a joke! I don’t think a honeymoon is more important than a marriage, but I would prefer to invest more into a multi-week honeymoon than a one day wedding.
Well before we got engaged, Colin and I began discussing honeymoon options. We both agreed we wanted to go somewhere new for our honeymoon and spend a good amount of time there. We certainly weren’t going to be the newlyweds who spend 5 days at a Sandals resort (although there’s nothing wrong with all-inclusive vacations!).
In fact, on my wedding planning spreadsheet, “Honeymoon” is the first tab and currently sits at a very impressive 530 rows long (whereas my wedding checklist is only 79!). Clearly, the honeymoon was always going to be a big deal to me.
Planning a honeymoon during a pandemic
Sadly, the planning experience hasn’t been everything I’ve dreamed of. Planning a trip during a global pandemic is both a hopeful life raft and a huge struggle. I loved having something to look forward to and actively plan during the longest times of lockdown, when we weren’t permitted to sit in restaurants or go camping at a nearby park, let alone get on a plane and cross the world. But it’s also been so difficult to try and make plans and get my hopes up when case counts and restrictions change daily.
I’m someone who has always loved planning and certainty. While I pride myself on my ability to take action under pressure and I appreciate flexibility, I love a plan. And I especially love to plan when it comes to travel. One of the best parts of travel to me is planning a trip. I love doing the research, finding the best routes, looking for deals and ensuring I’ve put together the perfect itinerary. I don’t schedule things down to the minute, but I do like to be prepared.
Unfortunately, this kind of honeymoon planning is not commensurate with pandemic-era travel. Travelling in 2021 is about booking refundable hotel rooms, watching for daily restriction updates, taking a risk with your health or time, and not getting your hopes up.
So as our October honeymoon loomed we had to make a choice: Where should we go for our honeymoon that would be fun, new and worthy of the three weeks Colin had off work while ensuring it was as safe and certain as possible?
Ultimately, we did make a decision. And you’ll have to scroll to the bottom of this post to find out where we’re going!
But before that, I want to share five honeymoon itineraries we sadly are not going to be able to use. That’s not to say we’ll never go to these places, but we just won’t get to see them on our honeymoon.
Honeymoon #1: New Zealand & Australia
This was our first plan for our honeymoon and, sadly, the first honeymoon itinerary that went out the window. As you know, New Zealand has done an incredible job with their covid response and one of the main ways they’ve been able to do that has been by locking down the country. They’re likely not opening for international visitors until 2022/23.
New Zealand is a country at the top of my bucket list and a place Colin and I both haven’t been to. We also wanted to add Australia to the itinerary, since we’d be on that side of the world anyway.
Here is the honeymoon we had planned for New Zealand and Australia:
Sydney (3 days)
Sydney is the easiest place to fly into, so makes sense for our first three days. We’d use day one to get over jet lag, day two to explore the city beaches and day three to hang out by Sydney Harbour.
Whitsundays (3 days)
From Sydney, we’d fly up to Hamilton Island and spend the next few days in luxury on the Whitsundays with boat trips over the Great Barrier Reef. I’ve had the Whitsundays on my bucket list ever since my mother-in-law visited in 2018 and wowed me with her photos. And the Great Barrier Reef would be pretty iconic to see!
Melbourne (4 days)
Next we’d fly to Melbourne and spend the first day or two checking out the city and enjoying some great eats. We’d then rent a car and do a one day road trip along the Great Ocean Road and a day trip to Phillip Island.
Queenstown/Milford Sound (2 days)
Finally, it’s time for New Zealand! From Melbourne we’d fly to Queenstown and explore the city. But we’re really there to do an overnight cruise of Milford Sound. I’ve heard this is the most incredible spot in New Zealand and I can’t wait to see it one day!
Coromandel Peninsula (3 days)
After our Milford Sound cruise we’d return to Queenstown, fly up to Auckland and then set out to explore the Coromandel Peninsula. We’d be checking out amazing forests, coastal towns and hot water beaches.
Rotorua (3 days)
The road trip would then continue down to Rotorua where we would explore geothermal pools, see glowworms, walk through red wood forests and, of course, visit Hobbiton! We’d make our way back to Auckland and fly home to Vancouver from there.
Looking back on this itinerary, it’s a little rushed. I hate that we’d have to be on a plane or long car ride every few days. It may have been worth it to see so much, but I think when we do go to Oceania in the future, I’d prefer to have more time or cut Australia from the itinerary.
Honeymoon #2: Japan
Our next choice for our honeymoon was Japan. Colin and I have both been to Japan before (but for Colin it was only a jet-lagged 24 hour visit to Tokyo) however, we love what we’ve seen and we were eagre to explore more of the country. At first, I wanted us to add Taiwan or South Korea to the itinerary too, but eventually I agreed that just Japan would be amazing enough.
But with restrictions, case counts and the fact that the Olympics were held without spectators, we decided Japan wouldn’t be a good idea for 2021.
Here is the honeymoon we had planned for Japan:
Tokyo (4 days)
We’d arrive in Tokyo and even though I’ve spent a month there, the city still has so much to discover. I’d like to dedicate one day to the Shinjuku and Harajuku areas, taking in the view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Building and getting cheap eats in Golden Gai. We’d also visit the famous fish market and TeamLab Borderless exhibit. Lastly, I’ve heard DisneySea is pretty cool! We’re not big Disney or amusement park people, but this one looks awesome.
Hakone (3 days)
From Tokyo, we’d take a day trip to Kamakura to check out the incredible temple, shopping and natural sights, and then transfer to Hakone. In Hakone we’d spend one day by Lake Ashi, making sure to get the iconic photo in front of the Hakone Shrine, and another day inland visiting the Hakone Open Air Museum and taking the ropeway to Owakudani.
Kyoto (5 days)
Next we’d transfer to Kyoto. I made a Google My Map to plot out all the places we wanted to see in Kyoto and divided them into five days: a night out in Gion, the bamboo forest and Golden Pavillion, the Inari gates and Nishiki Food Market, Kiyomizu-dera and other temples along the Path of Philosophy, and finally a visit to Nijo Castle, Kyoto Imperial Palace or the Manga Museum. We also considered a day trip to Nara or Uji.
Hiroshima (3 days)
A lot of people visit Hiroshima on a long day trip from Kyoto or Osaka, but we wanted a bit more time there to properly explore. I’d love to stop at Himeji Castle on the way and then wake up early the next day to explore the Peace Memorial and nearby gardens. On our final day, we’d do a day trip to Miyajima Island to see the famous shrine and Mount Misen.
Osaka (3 days)
Lastly, we’d head to Osaka for a few days of food, mostly. We’d visit Dotonbori and the Kuromon Market, take a cooking class, go to the Cup Noodle Museum and visit Osaka Castle. From there, we could fly home to Vancouver without having to train back to Tokyo.
I stand by this itinerary! I think it packs a lot in and definitely hits all of the must-see places in Japan. For a future trip, I hope we have even more time to visit some places off the beaten path. I’ve heard amazing things about Kanazawa, as well as the less visited southern islands and northern mountains of Japan.
Honeymoon #3: New England
So after New Zealand and Japan were off the board, we decided to scale back. What about visiting our neighbour to the south? I found a great flight deal to Montreal and we figured we could visit a few places in Quebec before driving into New England for prime leaf peeping.
While this honeymoon itinerary does seem less far-fetched than New Zealand or Japan, we still decided against it. Covid case numbers and overly loose restrictions across the US had us nervous. Plus, we’ve heard that if we want to have the ultimate fall foliage experience, we need to book cute accommodations months and months in advance.
Here is the honeymoon we had planned for New England:
Montreal (2 days)
We’ve visited Montreal before so didn’t want to spend too much time here on our honeymoon. Just enough time to grab some delicious bagels and pick up our rental car!
Burlington, Vermont (2 days)
From Montreal we’d drive down to Burlington, Vermont. We’d hang out on Church Street, watch the sun set over Lake Champlain, eat all the delicious local food (cheese, chocolate and ice cream were high on the list) and possibly take a quick trip to Stowe, another cute town in Vermont.
Boston, Massachusetts (4 days)
Three hours from Burlington we’d find ourselves in Boston. Of course we’d want to check out the Boston Common and Freedom Trail, take in a basketball or hockey game, drink at some of the local breweries, and shop at Quincy Market. I also planned for us to spend a day exploring Harvard in nearby Cambridge and go on a day trip to Providence, Rhode Island.
Portland, Maine (3 days)
From Boston, we’d drive two hours to Portland, Maine. We’d mostly be in Portland for the incredible food and brewery scene, but also to check out the iconic lighthouses, Old Port District and other beautiful views around town.
Quebec City (3 days)
Lastly, we’d drive five hours back into Canada and end our honeymoon in Quebec City. I wanted us to stay at the famous Fairmont Château Frontenac and spend our time pretending we were in Europe while walking around Old Quebec. We’d also spend a day on Île d’Orléans admiring the local artisans and farms. Finally, we’d drive back to Montreal, return our car and fly home to Vancouver.
While this itinerary is pretty fast moving, I think it’s very do-able, especially if we were driving ourselves and not waiting on a bus or boarding a plane. My only worry with this itinerary is that it might start to feel same-same with each location known for its beautiful fall views, good food and brewery scene. We’re also not spending a ton of time out in nature, opting for cities instead, which might mean missing the best leaves and views.
Honeymoon #4: Greece
I forget exactly how Greece came up in our honeymoon planning but it seemed to fit the bill: a country neither of us had visited, warmer weather, cheaper travel costs and open to tourists. I knew there’d be enough in Greece between the mainland and the islands to keep us busy for a few weeks.
While a few people warned that the islands would be completely shut down by October, I still thought it’d be a good time to go. We’re not beach people or club people; we’d much prefer to explore in cooler temperatures with smaller crowds. But rising case counts in Europe, restrictions on the Greek islands, wildfires and the difficult journey to get to Greece made us reconsider this honeymoon itinerary.
Here is the honeymoon we had planned for Greece:
London (2 nights)
The easiest way for us to get to Greece would be to fly through London. And since I’m such a London fan, I thought we’d take advantage of the layover and spend a couple of nights in the city. My main goal would be to see whatever was playing on the West End.
Santorini (4 nights)
From London, we’d fly directly to Santorini (skipping the long ferry from Athens). I know Santorini is expensive and crowded but it’s also iconic. And hopefully it’d be less crowded in October. I wanted us to splurge on a place in Oia, take in the beautiful sunset, explore local ruins, and take a boat trip out to the volcano.
Naxos (4 nights)
After Santorini, we’d take a short ferry over to Naxos. I couldn’t decide between Naxos and Paros but after showing both to Colin, he favoured Naxos. And since Paros is just a 45 minute ferry ride away, we figured we could make it a day trip. On Naxos we’d explore the mountain towns, Apollo Temple, beaches and kounas.
Athens (3 nights)
Next, we’d ferry to Athens. I know most travellers don’t love Athens, but there seems to be so much to do that I think it’s worth a three day stop. In Athens we’d have to check out the Acropolis (of course!) and other ancient ruins around town, walk along the track at the Olympic stadium, watch the changing of the guard, take in the views and eat the best food.
Mainland road trip (5 nights)
From Athens, we’d set out on a little road trip around the mainland. First we’d visit some ruins on the way to Nafplio in the Peloponnese Region. This little town looks so cute! Night two would take us through Sparta and Olympia, the home of the first Olympic games. Night three we’d arrive in Delphi to check out the incredible Apollo temple and oracle. And then on the fourth day, we’d head to Meteora to see the stunning mountaintop monasteries.
After that epic road trip, we’d return to Athens for a night, then fly to London and finally fly back home to Vancouver.
I still think this Greece trip sounds like a lot of fun and I hope we get to go on it some day. Of course, having more time to explore some lesser-visited islands, like Milos and Sifnos, and more of the mainland, would be great. I also kept hearing amazing things about Crete and Rhodes. So there’s definitely lots of Greece for us to discover one day!
Honeymoon #5: France
With the spread of the Delta variant, we were ready to remove Europe from honeymoon contention. That was until Colin let me know that France had just seen a huge spike in vaccinations, thanks in part to some new rules requiring vaccinations in order to eat in restaurants and cafes. We hoped this rise in vaccinations would mean less of a problem with covid cases going forward. That, in addition to the fact that we can fly directly to Paris, made a France honeymoon seem pretty attractive.
While both Colin and I have visited France, we haven’t seen much of the country. There are so many places we both still wanted to discover. So putting together a honeymoon itinerary that was unique and new, without having to change hotels too often, was actually pretty easy. Ultimately, we decided it was still too risky for us to head to Europe, but I’m excited to explore more of France one day.
Here is the honeymoon we had planned for France:
Paris (2 nights)
We’d fly from Vancouver to Paris and spend two nights there. We’ve both been to Paris a few times (even our dog, Ellie, has been to Paris!), so don’t have a strong desire to spend much time there. But since it is our honeymoon, would we be required to get at least one Eiffel Tower selfie?
Loire Valley (5 nights)
From Paris, we’d take a two hour train to Tours in the Loire Valley, which would be our base for five days of castle hopping. I love the idea of us spending five relaxing days in this cute French town, taking day trips to famous castles like Château de Chenonceau, Château de Villandry and Château de Chambord.
Normandy (5 nights)
Normandy was high on Colin’s list and while WWII history and cemeteries may not sound like things that belong on a honeymoon itinerary, I was happy to oblige. We’d train from Tours to Caen, where we’d base ourselves for our time in Normandy. From there, we’d rent a car and explore nearby WWII historic sites like Omaha Beach and Juno Beach, drive along the coast at Côte Fleurie and Étretat, and take a day trip to beautiful Mont Saint Michel.
French Riviera (6 nights)
From Caen, we’d fly down to Nice for the final stretch of our honeymoon in France. I’ve been to Nice before and didn’t love it, but would like to give it a second chance. Plus, it’s a great base for exploring the south of France. We’d spend a few days in Nice and then do day trips to ritzy Monaco, medeival Eze, perfumed Grasse, and possibly Antibes or Menton. We’d be able to get to all of those places easily by train!
From Nice, we’d take a six-hour train back to Paris and then fly home.
I love how relaxing this France itinerary is! It sounds amazing to be in the same place for 5-6 days instead of jumping on planes/trains/ferries every few days. While the itinerary does have a lot of day trips, most are less than an hour away. I could see this being a very relaxing and enjoyable honeymoon for us.
Of course, it doesn’t cover every part of France I want to see. I wanted to include more of the southwest part of France (Provence and Carcassone) as well as towns like Colmar and Strasbourg in the east.
Why not just postpone?
I know many newlyweds actually take their honeymoon many months (and sometimes even years!) after their wedding. And with covid, more and more couples are postponing their honeymoons. But I really wanted us to go on a honeymoon this October (a few weeks after our wedding).
The main reason is because Colin already has the time off of work. Unfortunately, he’s not able to get it paid out or move it to next year. We have to use it, so we might as well make the most of it! And, because we’re travellers, it’s not like this will be our one epic trip. We’ll go on whatever honeymoon we can this year, and still go somewhere awesome next year!
So where are we actually going for our honeymoon?
So after saying a tearful goodbye to the five honeymoon itineraries above, we finally decided…
We’re honeymooning in Canada’s Maritimes!
The Maritimes (comprised of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick) are located on Canada’s east coast. I visited on a family trip when I was about 12, and Colin has never been. It’s not France or New Zealand, but it is a new place that we feel safe exploring.
We decided a domestic honeymoon was the safest route forward. I struggle with this because I want our honeymoon to be epic. There’s a lot of pressure on us as travellers to go somewhere far off and exciting, and a lot of pressure on this trip being that it’s not only our honeymoon but also our first big trip in almost two years.
But as I said, I’m someone who loves certainty and planning. As much as I’d love to be travelling internationally, I didn’t want to be stressed for months leading up to our honeymoon, worried about rising cases, new restrictions, testing requirements and quarantines. By keeping our honeymoon domestic, we eliminate most of that (though the Maritimes have previously closed themselves off to the rest of Canada, so we’re not totally out of the woods).
I also want to use this opportunity to get excited about travel within Canada. Most of my trips have been outside of the country but there’s so much to see and do (and eat – I can’t wait for some fresh lobster!) within our borders. There’s no reason why we can’t have an amazing trip without leaving the country.
So that’s our plan! We’re still putting the finishing touches on our Maritimes honeymoon itinerary, but I’m sure I’ll be sharing that and a lot more in future blog posts. If you’ve been to or live in the Maritimes, let me know what recommendations you have for us!
Where did you or would you want to go for your honeymoon?
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