So two weeks ago I wrote the beginnings of Wedding Friday III… and never finished it. Life happened. Work, travel, Oktoberfest- I had no chance to share the hub and I’s amazing honeymoon (and how we helped make it that way). Work’s calmed down, I’m back in Dallas, and Oktoberfest was an awesome (if rainy) time, so here is the long awaited honeymoon breakdown.
Disclaimer 1: The honeymoon was a total surprise to me. Kevin planned all of this 100% on his own, so I can really take very little credit.
Disclaimer 2: This is a long-ish post, so at the end of each section there is a “Travel Lessons Learned” bit to summarize the big hitters that you need to know.
Kevin travels a lot for work. I mean a lot. Canada, Mexico, China, Korea, Europe… The guy gets around. He does all this getting around on American Airlines (our company used to have a deal with them). Because he flies exclusively on one airline as opposed to spreading them around to all of them, his miles really build up. The extra $50 (if that) you might pay for American really pays off in the form of several free trips a year on miles (and business class upgrades) for us.
Kevin saved all of our miles for an entire year for the honeymoon. He had enough to fly us from Indianapolis to Tahiti and back to LA for free. We only had to pay for a one-way flight from LA to Dallas (and we also sprung for a business class upgrade on our Air Tahiti Nui flight… totally worth it).
Travel Lesson Learned: Flying on one single airline might cost a few extra dollars here and there, but if you sign up for their mileage programs, it definitely pays off in the end!
2. Travel SNAFUs turned one-night-stays
The hubs and I got married in Indianapolis. We were then supposed to fly to Dallas and on to LA (Indy doesn’t fly directly to LA for some reason). Unfortunately, a maintenance issue on our flight to Dallas caused it to be delayed and then cancelled. We were rebooked on a flight to Memphis (one of my all time favorite cities, BTW, but that’s another post) and assured we’d make our connection in LA. Well… we didn’t. After running flat out through LAX to the international terminal, we arrived just after the gate had closed for our flight.
Undaunted, Kev talked to the airlines, our hotel in Tahiti and Viola! We had a free night at the Hilton, $50 to spend on food, and almost an entire day to kill in LA. We took the bus to Redondo Beach and I got to put my toesies in the Pacific for the first time!
Travel Lesson Learned: Quit crying because you missed your honeymoon flight (that would be me, not Kev) and go talk to the people at the airline desk. If you’re calm and patient, they’ll usually hook you up! Also, don’t be afraid to ask for things like meal vouchers. It never hurts to ask!
Kev and I stayed at the Hilton Moorea on the island of Moorea, just off Tahiti. It was gorgeous. Over water bungalows, white sand beaches, coconut palms… it was truly paradise. I will say that even at the unbelievable rate that we paid, it was still expensive. We saved for over a year for it though and decided since you only get one (first) honeymoon, we might as well do it right.
Our room was in a private, over-water bungalow. How much did we pay? First, depending on the season, over-water rooms typically go for $1500/night at the Hilton. Crazy right? We couldn’t afford that, but we still got to have a bungalow. How? Two words: Travel agents. Kevin had several. He called each one asking for quotes on the same basic honeymoon. When he had them, he took the best quotes and shared them with the other travel agencies, asking if they could match or beat the other quotes. He finally narrowed the search down to two agencies and ended up going with one called Islands in the Sun. The travel agencies also arranged all of our transportation to-and-from the airport, ferry to Moorea, and hotel. We just had to show up and a car was waiting on us.
So how much did we pay? Kevin and I paid less than $600/night. Still pricey, but waaaaay less than the usual rate.
Travel Lesson Learned: Don’t be afraid to use a travel agent, and don’t be afraid to ask if that’s the best they can do. Usually, it isn’t. Show them you mean business (by showing them a competitor’s quote) and they’ll likely match or even beat what the other company is willing to do. Especially in places like French Polynesia, tourism is their main source of income. They really, really want you to come!
Part of our stay at the Hilton included a traditional French Polynesian breakfast (poisson cru, fresh fruit, croissants and much more). At breakfast each morning, we grabbed a few extra croissants and took them with us for a mid-morning snack.
Just down the road from the hotel was a small grocery store. We visited it early on and bought a baguette, canned tuna, and Ramen noodles (which we made with the hot water kettle in our room) for lunch. No, I didn’t always dream of eating Ramen on my honeymoon, but not going out for lunch allowed us to go all out for dinner.
Because French Polynesia was once owned by France, there are some awesome French restaurants on the islands. We set up reservations through the hotel each night. The restaurants have shuttles that pick up twice a night, so by working through the hotel desk we saved the cab fare (=more food for me!). We had some incredible meals (seafood every-single-gosh-darned night), but the best was definitely my birthday meal at Rudy’s: local coconut crab stuffed parrotfish with a balsamic tarragon pan sauce, haricot vert, ratatouille, and jasmine rice. I can’t even describe how good this meal was. Literally. There are no words. Yummiferous. Delicioustastic. Orgasmiwonderful. None even come close.
Travel Lesson Learned: Eating only one meal out each day allowed us to splurge on every dinner (ie. bottle of wine, appetizer, seafood at every meal, and dessert and coffee). Also, working with the hotel to set up our reservations not only saved us cab fare, but allowed us to get the local’s opinion on the best food on Moorea.
For all the time on the honeymoon we weren’t, um, entertaining ourselves, we were outside/in the water. The Hilton provided many free amenities including kayaking, paddleboats, board games, and daily classes in Polynesian culture. We kayaked in the lagoon almost every day. We also snorkeled every day. Because we planned on diving on the honeymoon, we already had our wetsuits, mask, and snorkels with us. The hotel provided free fins (which we decided were too bulky and heavy to lug from Texas to Indiana to Texas to LA to Tahiti), so we were able to pass a lot of time exploring the lagoon (which is never more than 6′ deep).
It rained one day while we were on Moorea, so we ordered a (white tuna alfredo) pizza in and watched a movie on the hub’s laptop on our covered deck. It was one of our best afternoons there and almost entirely free.
We also took several excursions around the island, including a boat trip to an outer motu (rim island) where I got to help make poisson cru (basically Tahitian ceviche), and a 4×4 truck tour of the mountains on Moorea. For both of these tours, the company offered specials for week day morning outings. Thanks to the jet-lag, we were up by dawn each morning anyway, so we saved quite a bit of money by doing the early tours. This also allowed us to come back and snorkel/kayak in the afternoon before getting cleaned up for dinner.
Travel Lesson Learned: Take advantage of the amenities your hotel offers! Ask any excursion companies if they offer discounted rates for morning/weekday trips, and take advantage of rainy days to just relax and spend some quality downtime together!
One last tip: if you’re getting married anytime soon (or just taking a couple’s trip), let your other half plan it all and surprise you! I had so much going on with our DIYed wedding that there was no way I could have planned even half as amazing trip as Kev did! It was a little hard to step back, but once I did, it felt great!
That’s all the travel advice I have for now! Happy Monday!