Where many couples once headed to quiet beach resorts to relax after months of planning and then surviving the actual wedding, a growing number of today's newlyweds are choosing a whirlwind of excitement instead.
"What we're getting is a lot more adventure travel," says Brennan Baumer, president of Brennan Travel in Metairie. "Couples are looking for something exciting to do. Among the exotic locales popular with couples looking for a combination of luxury accommodations and adventure sports like snorkeling, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and rafting are St. Lucia, Bali, Tahiti, Fiji, New Zealand and the Masai-Mara Game Reserve in Africa.
"People are waiting longer to get married, so they're further along in their careers and they're able to spend more," says Baumer. "They're going to high-end resorts where you get the pampering, but you also get the adventure during the day."
Marta Vigel of Two Lanes Travel, which specializes in South and Central America destinations, says Mexico is the favorite honeymoon destination among her clients, with Acapulco remaining one of the most popular spots. She also finds Baja, Calif., rich with health spas, is gaining popularity, and Puerto Vallarta, Belize and Cancun continue to attract romantics.
"It all depends on what they want on their honeymoon," Vigel says. "We have resorts, we have health spas, you can watch whales. Where you go all depends on what you want to do. Some people just want to relax; they can go to Belize or Cancun or Puerto Vallarta."
For AAA Travel Agency, an international concern with local offices, Caribbean cruises, Cancun, Belize and Disney's cruise and amusement-park vacation package are the top hits among its honeymooners who want a lot of bang for their buck. Hawaii, although more expensive, also is a common honeymoon spot.
"People are really money-conscious," says AAA travel agent Kathy Favorite. "We get a lot of honeymooners, and we do the total package: hotel, air, transfers, tours."
As weddings become more extravagant and expensive, some couples are choosing destination weddings by themselves rather than spending the money on a ceremony and reception at home with lots of guests, Baumer says. To that end, Brennan Travel offers a wedding registry for people who want to contribute to a couple's trip as a wedding gift. For those planning a wedding in a foreign country, Baumer warns couples to make arrangements with the consulate of that country ahead of time in order to meet requirements of its marriage laws.
Closer to home, Brennan books trips to such popular getaways as Napa Valley and Santa Barbara, Calif.; The Inn at Blackberry Farm in Knoxville, Tenn.; the Florida Keys; and Fisher Island near Miami's South Beach. Regardless of the location, newlyweds want to get the most they can out of their vacation.
"If I see a major difference, it's that when we grew up, we called them honeymoons," says Baumer. "Today, it's a wedding trip. The trip becomes more of the experience."