ZACH & I SITTING CALDERA SIDE (RIP to our tans)
I think every girl (or boy..or dog…or cat even) out there at some point or another has dreamt about what their dream honeymoon would be. Is it in the mountains? (cue Jennifer Anniston a la Rachel in Friends wistfully whispering “swoosh swoosh swoosh” when describing her families trip to Aspen) Or is is lounging on the beach sipping that sweet blended beverage you let yourself indulge in because, it’s your honeymoon and you’re on vacay mode, so you can finally treat yo’ self…#MoreMaiTaisPlease. Perhaps it’s hiking in the mountains? Jetting off to a major city you’ve never seen before? Whatever your dream honeymoon is, I’m here to tell you: IT CAN HAPPEN. And on a budget, mind you!
For Zach and I, the ideal trip to celebrate our newly instated nuptials was exploring a place we had never been together, but had always wanted to go to. After many, many attempts (Belize? Thailand? Brazil? THE WORLD IS SO COOL! WHERE DO WE GO??) We went round and round (and then around again) and finally, we decided on one place we had both always wanted to go: GREECE. More specifically, Santorini. Even more specifically, the charming town of Oia. There was only one minor issue. Turns out, getting to Greece is expensive AF and we were trying to ball on a budget during this trip, if ya know what I mean. With lots of research, lots of wine, lots of sweat and a little bit of blood (just kidding about that last one) we figured out a way to make this dream vacation happen without going into debt. Luckily for you, dear readers, I’m sharing our tips & tricks to you!
1. FLY INTO (and out of) A MAJOR CITY
LE TOUR EIFFEL, IN ALL HER BEAUTIFUL GLORY
GAZING OUT AT MY LONG LOST LOVE IN OUR FIRST PARIS AIRBNB
Greece, ah, yes those mythical isles long written about in all of our history books. The beautiful white calderas we’ve seen splashed across every postcard and Pinterest page we can remember (for good reason, I might add). Well, after all of that aforementioned wine and research, we found out that the teeny tiny little village of Oia we hoped to go to in Santorini was not convenient to get to. But we were determined! So rather than attempting to fly into that itty bitty island, we decided to spend some time in another major European city, that had more direct routes out of where we happened to be flying from.
There are so many iconic cities in Europe, how would we pick one that was both fiscally friendly and somewhere we wanted to land for our honeymoon? Cue my heart eyes, and Zach coming in for the win on this one with the suggestion of Paris. This happened to be incredibly romantic, as it was the place Zach had proposed the year prior. This was his suggestion, and not only was this so much easier for our budget, it also made my little heart swoon.
With that, we flew into Paris (cutting our plane tickets almost IN HALF!) and stayed there for two nights, before we moved onto our next location. If you happen to choose Europe as your destination, there are SO many budget airlines that will take you anywhere you want to go for ridiculously cheap prices. I mean..ridiculously…cheap. We used RyanAir, and paid around $60 USD each to fly round trip from Paris to Santorini and back again. Other budget airlines include Transavia, Brussels Airlines and more. We saved the cost of an entire ticket by doing this. Helllllllo, honeymoon!
I will also note that we live in Seattle, but chose to fly out of Vancouver, B.C. Vancouver is a much larger international airport, and for that reason, our initial flights to Paris were half of what they were out of Seattle. It was a bit of a drive to get there, but it provided us the freedom to really stretch out our honeymoon and make the most of it. The travel itself is definitely the priciest part of a trip, along with lodging. But if you search for it, you can make it happen.
Which leads me to…
2. CHOOSE AIRBNB OVER STANDARD HOTELS
OUR SIDE OF PARADISE: SITTING CLIFF SIDE AT THE OIA AIRBNB
TYPICAL MORNING ROUTINE AT THE SANTORINI AIRBNB
I can’t say enough about how much I love Airbnb, I have emoji hearts coming out of my ears as I’m writing this, in fact. We used Airbnb for the duration of all of our stays during our honeymoon. We stayed in a total of 5 Airbnb’s throughout this journey (Paris, Santorini, Naxos, Santorini again, Paris again). Airbnb is not only typically more affordable than standard hotels, it also provides an incredibly authentic representation of the true culture of the place you’re exploring. Let me elaborate.
The Airbnb we stayed in while we were in Oia (the iconic village in Santorini you hear so much about) was almost 50% less than that of hotels in the same area. WIN. Other than that huge plus, the authenticity you’ll experience while staying in one of these is second to none. We met the sweet owner of our Airbnb in the restaurant they also owned, which was just up the main path in the village from our caldera. The owner happened to be busy waiting tables at the time we arrived, so his daughter led us to our new home away from home. During the walk to our caldera, she explained to us that her mother was Greek and her father was French (fitting for our honeymoon, no?) and they fell in love while he was vacationing in Greece. At this point in the story I can’t help but sing Mama Mia in my head for the duration of the walk. Wouldn’t you?! Turns out, Greece was so incredibly beautiful, he didn’t want to leave. Her parents decided to marry and opened up the restaurant we were just in, and the caldera we were about to enter. I loved that story so much, and it made this stay that much more memorable.
Honestly, by the time we had to leave our little abode, we were contemplating opening up our own Airbnb there. They were the perfect hosts, and even brought steaming french pressed coffee, freshly baked bread, and delicious homemade jam to us every morning for breakfast.
When we got to our caldera, not only was it the most scenically beautiful place I’ve ever seen (see me, above, on cloud nine sitting on the ledge of our balcony) but our neighbors there were incredibly friendly. We learned that they were on holiday after competing in the 2016 Olympics. CASUAL. So we stayed next to olympians as we stared out into the Aegean sea. Something we will always remember. Sigh.
Speaking of remembering…
3. REGISTER FOR EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS
WINE TASTING AT DOMAINE SIGALAS IN SANTORINI
POST SCOOTER RIDE BLISS IN NAXOS (so sunburnt but so blissed out)
This was a biggy in helping us experience our dream honeymoon. Zach and I are both huge advocates of collecting memories over materials. Because of that, the majority of our traditional gift registry was compromised of gifts that we could experience together on our honeymoon (because really, you don’t need those 500 kitchen gadgets and dish towels.) We registered through Blueprint Registry, which I highly recommend! There are lots of others however, such as HoneyFund and more, so it’s just a matter of preference. Thanks to amazing friends, family and one hell of a bridal party, we were able to create memories throughout the entire trip we may not have been able to do otherwise! This included an epic wine tasting (Greece has AMAZING wine, it was definitely a highlight of this trip) and also included some four-wheeling around the islands. All in all, registering for experiences over things was so, so helpful during our trip.
Believe me when I say that you will remember something you enjoyed together (such as the wine tasting we were able to do thanks to some of our generous friends) much longer than you will remember that set of tupperware you thought you had to have.
Memories over materials. Always. You won’t regret it.
4. IT’S A PICNIC PARTY
PARIS PICNIC IN LUXEMBOURG GARDENS (post wine, obviously)
We did this daily while we were in Paris, but it was super simple to do in Greece also (or anywhere, for that matter) One of the biggest expenses of a trip, after actually getting there, is food and beverages. Clearly we were going to be indulging, because we were celebrating being #MARRIEDAF! How to do this without putting a gaping hole in your hard earned checking account? Picnic it up, baby!
In Paris, we perused the outdoor markets to get cheese, bread, and a bottle (or 2..) of wine. The markets are something to experience in general, so the fact that they served as are meals for the day was just an additional bonus. All of the food is incredibly fresh, and you can get amazing bottles of wine at super affordable prices, and I don’t say “amazing bottles of wine” lightly. Do this as often as you can.
So you have your beverage and bites of choice, and now, the world is your oyster! Explore your city and pick your preferred place to enjoy your perfect little picnic. We essentially just grazed our way through the days, and very rarely sat down to an actual meal. We opted to make our own restaurants on the sides of the Seine or perched along the cliffs of Santorini. Cue the sunset for two, please…
5. IT’S CALLED HAPPY HOUR FOR A REASON
SITTING SEASIDE AT SUNSET TAVERNA AT THE BASE OF THE STEPS IN OIA
Because it makes people happy, obviously. While bundling our food and wine to go was absolutely lovely, we of course wanted to experience the cuisine and hospitality that is traditional to these cultures. The answer? Happy hour. I was told by multiple people that many European cities “don’t do happy hour”. This was simply not the case. Turns out the world looooves happy hour, and it can be found almost everywhere. Though, I will admit, it is hugely popular with the tourist crowd. Places can get very packed, so get there early to snag a good spot.
My favorite? Sunset Ammoudi Taverna at the bottom of the steps of Oia. You are literally inches from the water, and the beauty of the sunset there cannot be put into words. We grabbed a table early and made our way through the meze (Greek appetizers) to get a solid sample of the menu. The discounted drinks and apps we got during these times helped us to stay on budget while still sinking our teeth into the local culture.
So, there you have it! I hope some of these tips help you plan the honeymoon of your dreams. Where is your favorite place to explore? Have any epic travel photos? Share them with me over on Instagram (@thelyonbadger) by using #CurateThatMoment!
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