If there is one thing you should know about me, it is the fact that I absolutely love to travel. I have been known to jokingly tell others my true career path is as a travel agent, but in the back of my mind, I think I would make a pretty solid business. I always find super cheap flights; I love researching destinations; and I have a knack for finding off-the-beaten path sights, bars, and restaurants. And, here’s the major catch! I do all of this while keeping a budget in mind to make travel affordable.
When the stress of wedding planning hit (read: day 1), I did what any sane bride would do: I turned to planning the honeymoon! Alex and I first created a bucket list of travel destinations, and then discussed topics such as budget, time of year, and amount of time off work. If you haven’t already made a travel bucket list, I would highly recommend you start one! Our top destinations included Thailand, Croatia, and Eastern Europe.
Because we planned to go on our honeymoon immediately after the wedding, we wanted a trip that would be somewhat relaxing, but also full of adventure and never-ending excitement. After going back and forth (multiple times…and then again), we decided on Eastern Europe. We knew Prague and Budapest were must-see cities, but with 3 weeks off work, we decided to also visit Munich and Venice. Munich was a no-brainer because we would be there during Oktoberfest (Prost!), and Venice… well, it is the most romantic city in the world!
Prague, the city of one hundred spires
Exploring Castle Quarter in Budapest
With so many travel websites, it’s often hard to know where to start. I have consistently found the best flight deals on Google Flights, which pools prices from all airlines. I played around with my searches and found it was cheapest to fly into Venice and out of Budapest. This worked out perfectly because we could rely on planes or trains between each city. We booked our flights about 9 months in advance, which is pretty far out, but the main advantage was being able to budget and allocate money each month to different travel expenses. (Money Saver: Knowing we were going to have A LOT of wedding expenses, we decided to open a credit card with travel benefits. We choose the Chase Sapphire card, and we have definitely reaped the benefits, but more on this later!)
From Venice to Munich, we flew Air Dolomiti, which is a relatively cheap regional airline. But, beware! When booking flights within Europe, make sure you pay attention to the different seat categories and which seats include checked luggage. European airlines can be very, very tricky! From Munich to Prague, and Prague to Budapest, we utilized Czech Railways. Each ticket was about $20, a complete steal. Make sure you check out Seat61 for tips and tricks on European train travel.
After booking our flights, we created a monthly list of things to purchase, such as AirBNBs and hotels, intercity transportation, and excursions — again, for budgeting purposes. We decided to rent apartments in Venice, Munich, and Prague, and boy, did AirBNB not disappoint! Not only were the prices at least one-third cheaper than hotels, but we also had so much more room, and we were truly able to immerse ourselves in the local culture. (Tip: If you are planning to go to Munich during Oktoberfest, book your AirBNB or hotel EARLY! Lodging gets ridiculously expensive, and there are also hundreds of thousands of other people visiting the city at this time!) For Budapest, we used our travel points from the Chase Sapphire card and stayed at the Corinthia Hotel Budapest (a.k.a. The Grand Budapest Hotel) — all for $11. (Yes, you read that right.)
The view from our apartment in Venice
The street in front of our apartment in Venice
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Spa & Baths at the Grand Budapest Hotel
Because Alex and I have lived together for 6 plus years, we really didn’t need much in terms of kitchen utensils, bathroom towels, or bedsheets, so we decided to register for honeymoon experiences instead! We registered with HoneyFund, which I would highly recommend. Thanks to our amazing family and friends, we were able to have a honeymoon of a lifetime. From wine tasting to a night out at the opera, we created so many incredible memories and we did so much that we otherwise might not have been able to do. Believe me when I say this was probably one of the best decisions we made regarding our wedding. You won’t regret making memories over receiving new mixing bowls!
Our biggest expense was definitely food and drink. There was no way around this for us. We love trying new food, and we love finding local pubs, cozy wine bars, and speakeasies for a good drink. Some mornings in Prague, Alex would run to a local bakery for coffee and pastries and we would enjoy breakfast from our apartment. This actually turned out to be one of my best memories from the Czech Republic — having the kitchen windows open, looking out over Old Town Square, and hearing the church bells ring and horse carriages below. But this is the closest we came to having a budget for food and drink. (I should mention, one of my biggest surprises was how much cheaper meals and drinks were in all cities we visited. In Venice, you could get a glass of wine for 2 euros, and a half liter of beer in Prague and Budapest ran about $1.50.)
Drinks at Gritti Palace in Venice
Cicchetti and wine in Venice
Gelato in Venice
German beer, dumplings, and pork knuckle
Czech pork knuckle
High Tea at Gresham Palace Budapest
Anonymous Shrink’s Office — speakeasy where you order your drink based on the Rorschach test
Ruin bars and street food in Budapest
Overall, we had the absolute, best honeymoon E-V-E-R. I am already looking forward to our next adventure! What is your idea of the best honeymoon? What are some of your favorite travel destinations? I’d love to hear from you!