By Rishika Sharma, on September 6, 2022

Rise Of The ‘Mega Moon’: Travel Hacks To Pimp Your Post-Pandemic Honeymoon

You’ve heard of honeymoons, mini-moons, and perhaps even babymoons, but did you know that ‘duo-moons’ and ultra-luxe ‘mega-moons’ are on the rise? As the pandemic’s chaotic effect on nuptial plans dies down, wedding fever has soared, and roughly 5 million “I dos” have been planned for 2023. And that pent-up demand is igniting expectations to make the post-pandemic honeymoon unimaginably epic. Expedia polled newlyweds across the US and discovered that 83% are planning a quick trip straight after the wedding, followed by a longer getaway further down the line – a trend we’ve dubbed the duo moon. What’s more, half the couples we talked to are planning to take their trip to hedonistic heights by making it a mega-moon: spending more, traveling for longer and firmly setting their sights on bucket-list destinations.

In the first episode of season four of our brilliantly useful travel hacks podcast Out Travel The System, our host Nissy Atassi catches up with the world’s longest honeymooners to get their tips on how you can get more out of your ‘moon. There’s no-one better to advise us than Anne and Mike Howard, who’ve been on a mega-moon for ten years now… and counting. They have even built a business, HoneyTrek, on the subject. Here are their biggest takeaways for the soon-to-be-hitched looking to make their honeymoon a high point they’ll never forget. Because, as they say: “Life is short, and the world is big.”

Forget keeping up with the Joneses

“Choose a destination based on your interests rather than what you’ve heard is a good honeymoon destination – those places are likely to be saturated. Hone into what makes you happy rather than what everyone else is doing.”

Choose experiences over things

“Do you want your honeymoon to be defined by a beautiful photo of your villa or the trip’s adventure, experiences, and stories?”

Treat life like a honeymoon

“Make your honeymoon a series of romantic and exciting adventures that are part of you as a couple. These are your quality moments as a couple, so it should be ongoing.”

Plan less

“You need space and time on your honeymoon to relax, dream, wander, get lost and not have that be stressful if something does go awry.”

Honeymoon goals! A cruise on the Hurtigruten is the perfect way to experience the northern lights without breaking the bank.
Elect a longer layover

“Picking an hour layover might seem like a good idea so you can get to your end destination as quickly as possible, unpack and hit the pool, but airports are stressful. Instead of rushing through the mile-and-a-half walk between airport terminals, instead give yourselves more time, go into the lounge and grab yourself champagne!”

There’s more to Ecuador than the Galapagos. The mainland is one of Mike and Anne’s all-time favorite destinations… and it’s surprisingly affordable.
Mix it up

“Go all-out luxury for a few nights and then bring it back to basics. Diversifying will let you experience what a place is like and allow you to connect with the people. It’ll also make your over-the-top experiences that much more rewarding.”

Remember, nothing is perfect and that’s okay

“There’s so much pressure on the perfect honeymoon. Leave yourself some room and breathing space if something does fall out. Keep rolling with the punches and don’t let things frazzle you into forgetting that you’re having this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”


Want to learn more?

Listen to the podcast now, check out the complete transcript below, or catch the full conversation on Spotify or Apple.

Nisreene Atassi, Expedia Global Head of Social Media, and host: Hello, hello! Welcome to season four, episode one of Out Travel The System. I’m your host, Nisreene Atassi, and I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to be back with you all. So much has changed since we last aired. We’re almost out of a pandemic, travel is back and with a vengeance. But that doesn’t mean things are totally back to normal. Airports are crazier than ever, prices are skyrocketing, and there is still a lot to navigate. But don’t worry – this season of Out Travel The System, we’re going to help you through it all, with amazing guests talking about fantastic destinations and travel stories to really inspire you – and, of course, they’re going to have lots of great tips to help make it all go as smoothly as possible. This inaugural episode we are talking all things honeymoons, duo-moons, mega-moons, and ‘Will I ever get married?’-moons.
We’ll talk trends…

Christie Hudson, head of Expedia PR for North America (sound bite): ..couples are increasingly taking multiple honeymoons. A whopping 83% are planning these.

Nisreene: ..hear from some serious honeymoon experts…

Mike Howard, HoneyTrek (sound bite): If you’re on a backpacker budget, don’t think you need to have this beautiful floating pool with, you know, your breakfast floating out to you…
Nisreene: ..and really get down to business.
Nisreene (sound bite): Whether it’s airlines or hoteliers, they don’t want to show you the cheap prices ’cause they don’t want their competitors to price match it.
Nisreene: For all the couples out there getting married or going on their honeymoons, this episode is for you! So here we go.

[Intro music]

Nisreene: So this episode is all about honeymoons, yes, but because out data hack episode from last year was the most downloaded of all the seasons, clearly it’s information that you all love, so we wanted to start incorporating a bit of that special insight into every episode. Yes, yes, Expedia’s a travel giant, the namesake of the show, and provider of millions of data points on destinations and experiences, but we also do a ton of research. Surveys, google surveys, population surveys. Why? Because it lets us get deeper into particular travel-related topics and provide further insight to perceptions and trends for Americans. FYI, publications like The New York Times, Reuters, Good Morning America, and the Washington Post, to name a few, all use our research. We pass that on to benefit our listeners and will always be discussing it here, in this section on the show, every week.
So without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to our fabulous data correspondent Christie Hudson. Christie has been a regular guest on the show, and also happens to be our head of PR, and talks about these tips and trends all day long. Hi, Christie! Welcome back.

Christie: Hi!

Nisreene: Okay, Christie, so tell us a little bit about what the research is saying in terms of honeymoon travel.

Christie: Well, we’ve recently surveyed 1,500 couples on how the pandemic impacted their honeymoon plans and it turned out it had a pretty big impact. For example, not one couple we polled said they were now planning to spend less on their honeymoon. On the contrary, most report their budgets have increased. You could kind of say they’re trading in honeymoons for something we’ve dubbed mega-moons, which means they’re spending more money, they’re seeking out bucket-list destinations and they’re really done compromising on what they’re gonna do with their trip.
I think the key takeaway here is that after being forced to postpone or pare back their honeymoons due to the pandemic, couples are through compromising. They’re going bigger and they’re prioritizing their first travel experience as a married couple above almost anything else. In fact, 65% of couples say they’re now more likely to add a honeymoon fund to their wedding registry instead of asking for more traditional household items and things you’d normally see on a registry. So it’s quite a big shift. Another huge trend we’re seeing is couples are increasingly taking multiple honeymoons. A whopping 83% are planning these. Often it looks like a quick trip immediately following the wedding and then an extended trip later.

[Musical interlude]

Nisreene: Not surprisingly, 97% of honeymoon plans were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly every couple being forced to either cancel, pare down, or postpone their post-nuptial trips. I don’t know about you, but I had so many friends and family members who had to reschedule their wedding like three or more times. Well, now that travel is back, so are honeymoons. 5 million weddings expected to take place between now and the end of 2032, so couples everywhere are getting ready to light up the sky and book some amazing adventures.
My guests today are Anne and Mike Howard Of HoneyTrek Travel. Anne and Mike are known as “the world’s longest honeymooners”. They started their honeymoon announcing on LinkedIn they would happily review hotels on their trip and what started as a short trip turned into a nearly 10-year honeymoon, a new lifestyle and a new business. They’re the authors of the National Geographic book on couples’ adventure travel titled Ultimate Journeys for Two, and also Comfortably Wild, the first glamping destination guide.
Welcome to the show, Anne and Mike.

Mike: Yeah, thanks for having us on!

Anne Howard, HoneyTrek: Pleasure to be here.

Nisreene: Why don’t we sort of start off with the basics? Talk to me a little bit about what your initial honeymoon plans were and for how long did you plan on going on your honeymoon for?

Anne: I’ll preface that with saying is that it sounded so dreamy, a year-long honeymoon – but I also had my fears, right? We had never really traveled more than 10 days together. How was this going to work out extrapolated over a year – totally, just, don’t get along with the way we thought we would? And I reserved the right to, like, back out. I was like, “I’m going to give it three months.” But… just in case I hit that three-month mark and I’m like, “This is… as long as we can make this last, let’s do it.” So we just sort of thought, like, let’s make it a year-long honeymoon and travel around the world. Life is short, we’re young, we have a little bit of a nest egg, we’re healthy. Like… we’re about to start a life together. When will there be a better time to travel than right now?

Mike: The biggest risk is waiting. The biggest risk is not what people think when they look at us and they say, “Wow, you guys both left six-figure jobs, a great life climbing the corporate ladder in New York, and you left to just go travel the world. And to us, that’s the less risky option than staying and hoping when you’re 65 you’re going to have working hips and not have grandkids pulling you in different directions and still owe money on your house. And so that was a big inspiration.

Nisreene: Yeah, I would say both equal parts inspiring and terrifying, because I feel like that’s maybe a little bit me. So maybe, maybe I’m going back on my honeymoon for eternity. Well, so how far into your year-long honeymoon were you before you decided that maybe you weren’t going to end it or your definition of home was going to be a little bit different moving forward?

Mike: During that first year, you learn a lot when you go on a trip like this and you learn that travel, destinations, the people you interact with are so different when you see them through the lens of a long trip, of a trip that has no end. And we were like, “Wow, we need to get more people doing trips like this, doing bigger honeymoons, bigger destinations, getting off the tourist track.”

Anne: It was really an investment in our education and ourselves. It wasn’t about… it wasn’t about the bucket list anymore. It was about… you know, ’cause if you’re trying to check things off, yeah, maybe you will reach the end of that list. But there was no end to this list because it was the people that you’re meeting. And that’s what makes every place so special so that that could go on forever.

Nisreene: Yeah, I love that. I think a couple of things about what you both just said really resonated with me. One, you’re starting to focus so much more on the experiences and more of the sort of emotional benefit and reward that you’re getting from traveling versus just sort of doing things to say that you did it or maybe those sort of Instagram-worthy trips and things like that, which I think is really interesting, especially when it comes to honeymoons, because I actually think that people put so much pressure on themselves to have these unforgettable honeymoons that are really Instagram-worthy. It’s supposed to be, like, an overwater bungalow or beautiful white, sandy beaches and things like that. But what you’ve just described is almost like sort of redefining what an amazing trip could be, but especially an amazing honeymoon can be.
At what point did it start to feel like, I guess, a job?

Mike: We do some glamping, we do some RV travel as well, but our beat is honeymoons, so we review honeymoon destinations. So we’re literally honeymooning multiple times per year. We’re going on different honeymoons, which is pretty amazing, but it’s also stressful, right?

Anne: It’s a philosophy, right? It’s, like, life’s a honeymoon. We truly believe that because it sounds so final to be like, “And now we have to adult hard and be big kids.” It just sounds no fun! Make the honeymoon a series of adventures of romance and excitement and think of it that way, that you’ll always be honeymooning, not this is the one thing that’s your only shot. This should be a part of you as a couple, having these adventures and having these moments just to have that quality time. So it should be ongoing.

Nisreene: One of the reasons why we really wanted to have you on the show is because you just have so many tips. So, I’m curious, in your opinion, what are some of the factors that you think make for a great honeymoon?

Anne: I think it’s mixing it up. Even if you have the budget for five-star hotels every single night, that is a very limited view of a place. You have just traveled, in theory, across the world, and to recreate the comforts that you know from home, you’re not getting the most out of that travel experience. So we say, you know, if you are… you know, absolutely, go for it. Pamper yourself, take some time, relax, but go on an adventure. You know, have a dinner in a local home, do things where you actually get a real taste of what the people are like beyond how it’s presented through the concierge.

Mike: Because this is your opportunity. This is the chance when your parents aren’t going to think it’s weird that you’re going for a three-week trip to Southeast Asia. Your boss is also going to approve it because he’s like, “Wow, this is your honeymoon. Okay, gift to you. Here’s an extra week vacation. We’ll get somebody to cover for you.” So you’ve got those three weeks to get to, you know, Turkmenistan or the Philippines or some, like, far destination that you couldn’t do in a 10-day trip. And, you know, the other point, if you’re on a backpacker budget honeymoon, don’t make people think, to your point, Nissy, that you need to have this beautiful, you know, floating pool with, you know, your breakfast floating out to you for that Instagram reels moment.

Anne: Because we have definitely had, like, $10 on-the-beach, white sand, turquoise water, accommodation. So don’t think that’s not out there and you have to… Like, it’s your honeymoon, so therefore things must cost $1,000 a night. They do not.

Mike: But it’s about the adventure, right? When you come home from that honeymoon – let’s say you go for two weeks to Southeast Asia or to South America. Do you want your honeymoon to be remembered as this beautiful photo of your villa, of the place you stayed in? Or do you want to come home and have five stories of some local person and, like, some cool trek you went on a adventure. We just don’t want people to think you need to fall in the camp of luxury villa and spend $2,000 a night because this is the only time you’ll ever spend that a night on a hotel room. Like, you know, fall into whichever bucket you want to, or both, you know? Do a little bit of the luxury and then do the serious adventure that’s going to bring that story home.

Anne: I’d say go super all out and for two or three nights and then do some more basic things because you do want that over-the-top experience, but it’s okay not to have it the whole way. And I think you’ll have a more rewarding, enriching and diverse experience if you do mix that up.

Nisreene: Yeah, so it sounds like balance is a really important thing. I like how you sort of talk about that mix of adventure and sort of relaxation because… I mean, I was so unbelievably exhausted after my wedding, and I said to my husband, “I’m probably going to sleep for the next two days, so we just need to account for that. And then we can do stuff once, once we’re sort of over it.” Because, you know, when you’re planning a wedding and all that, it can be a really, really exhausting time. So going into it having this idea of, you know, maybe getting a little bit of both, both sides, I think is really, really smart.

Anne: And that’s another strategy to touch on, too, is to maybe do a mini-moon where, right after your wedding, you are completely exhausted – exactly! And you also have all your friends and family in town, so the idea of rushing off when all the people you love have just come to see you is, like, slow down! It’s okay, you can take that honeymoon later. I mean, if you wanted to do what we actually did before this whole starting on a year to now 10-year honeymoon, we got married in Vermont and we stayed locally for a few extra days to have that veg-out moment. And then we left nine months later, because, one, we had to plan and budget and do all of those things – in our case, pack up our whole lives, and do a lot more. But, I mean, I think that’s the idea – an affordable, local, just truly relaxed mini-moon, and then plan for something truly epic together.

Nisreene: Yeah, that’s a trend that we’re actually seeing right now. So we’re calling them duo-moons, meaning basically just multiple honeymoons. And I actually did that as well. We wanted to go somewhere and just relax, but we didn’t want to go super, super far. And then in the summertime, we did that big adventure trip and we went to Switzerland and traveled all over.

Mike: And that’s totally what the duo-moon is for, right? It’s stay a few days, tell all your friends… We did this at our wedding. We got married on a Saturday and we said, “Hey, guys, we’re throwing a big party on Sunday for anybody who wants to stay.” We really only told the young kids, you know. We didn’t we didn’t tell the old folks about it, but we had, like, 45 or 48 people stay for a Sunday party. A lot even stayed Monday night, so we had two nights at the wedding. Then we did our little three, four-day mini-moon, and then you can be like, “Okay, well yeah, we’re not going to go to London in November, but if we want to go in the springtime when things are blooming for the Queen’s Jubilee, cool.”

Nisreene: What advice would you give to couples who, you know, maybe are having a hard time booking their dream destination? Obviously, inflation, prices are going sort of really, really high, or maybe people already have them booked. What kind of tips do you have from people who are in that sort of honeymoon phase currently?

Mike: Definitely look outside of every place. Back to our Instagram thing – if you see it featured on Instagram, look at other locations even in that same country, right? You look at France and you’re going to have maybe five regions there that are just slammed with tourists and hundreds of other regions that are just devoid of tourists and you can have them to yourselves. So look at those other destinations and I think your experience will be rewarding, your hotels will be cheaper, people will be more friendly to you when you get there because you’re not just another tourist crowding their city and creating waste and traffic.

Anne: On that same note is we lean on these household names. You’re like, honeymoon, what does that mean? Bali, Maldives, you know, Paris and then Venice. It’s like we need to expand our vocabulary. It’s almost like you shouldn’t know the name of the place you’re going. You should go based on what interests you, not what you’ve heard before, because those places are probably the most saturated. Are you into mountains? Beaches? Deserts? How much relaxation do you want versus adventure? And sort of hone in on the things that you love and make you happy, and expand beyond what everyone else is doing

Nisreene: Yeah. Everybody I know is in Positano and, like, the Greek Islands, and I hate them for it because I’m jealous, but they’re all in the same place. So I think that’s a great tip.
A lot of people, like, think when they check into places or when they get to, sort of, the gate, that if they tell the agents or the concierge that they’re on their honeymoon, that they’ll get upgraded and things like that. What’s your experience? Has that ever happened to you? If so, what’s the best kind of upgrade that you’ve gotten?

Mike: I mean, a funny story is that we are still on our honeymoon, so we still do occasionally drop that.

Nisreene: Do you still say, “I’m on my honeymoon”?

Mike: I’m on my honeymoon. Um, I would say, a lot of people are on their honeymoon and a lot of people are on their anniversary, so it’s not a surefire way. Obviously, these places, everyone now wants to charge for upgrades, especially on a flight or a hotel. At a restaurant, I think it works nine times out of ten – they’re going to give you a better spot near the fire, or a great place with a view. One tip, especially with a restaurant, but it also helps with the hotel, is one, obviously, be super friendly and try and engage with these people and not just be like, “Hey, I’m here for my 9 pm reservation and I’m on my honeymoon. Can I get a better table?” Like, be personal and maybe, you know, a little joking… and, especially if you can do it in advance. Like, for a hotel or a restaurant, they plan a lot of these things in advance. So call a few days ahead, one of you, maybe, and say, “Hey, I want to do something special for my husband because it’s my honeymoon, you know? Is there any chance you can upgrade us?” Or maybe, I don’t know, put a bottle of wine in the room or whatever little soft touch or give us a higher room or whatever. Something that might not cost them any money – or the better table at dinner. ‘Cause if you give it in advance, then they can plan.

Anne: I think the greatest upgrade slash travel and life tip is: Be nice. Yeah. I don’t expect anything from being nice, but just by sheer nature of being really nice, kindness comes back to you and we have seen that a million times over. So, yeah, you might not get anything in return, but that’s okay.

Nisreene: It goes back to, like, not setting such high expectations for everything and sort of just going with the flow. There was a great Friends episode where Monica and Chandler were on their honeymoon and the couple in front of them kept getting all the upgrades because they were like, ‘We’re on our honeymoon!” at the airline and then at the hotel. I felt really sad for them. When we were on our honeymoon, there was, like, one honeymoon suite. It was a tiny hotel. And, of course, it was booked because for those who actively listen to the show, I am not a planner. I book everything basically at the last minute. So we obviously didn’t get the honeymoon suite. But I remember when we got to the hotel, I was like, “I’m going to go see who’s in this honeymoon suite, because they better be really enjoying it because that’s our honeymoon.”

Well, so what about for the planners out there who, you know, were really on the ball, planned their honeymoon about a year ago. They’re about to take their trip. What tips do you have for them, for the people who are about to hit the open air?

Anne: For the super planners. I know it’s hard for you, but plan less. You need space and time on your honeymoon to relax, to dream, to wander, to get lost, and have that not be stressful when something will go awry. There’s so much pressure on the perfect honeymoon. Nothing is perfect. But if you leave yourself some room and breathing space so that if something falls out, it’s not a big deal. Or better yet, you find out about a festival that you could have never researched. It just sort of happened, and you’re like, “Let’s do it.” You want that spontaneity and serendipity in a honeymoon. Don’t plan to the minute. Leave that room for serendipity.

Mike: And another thing that I think honeymooners are especially guilty of is they go in with this preconceived notion of what it should be. And for every trip in general, people have this kind of rigid mentality. You would be surprised how, like, opening your mind and your preconceived notions of what a trip should be, what a destination should be, how good your meal should be. Should you not eat street food because it’s going to get you sick? Or should you not hang out in certain parts of town because someone said it’s, like, a little bit shady? When you get those preconceived notions out of your mind, your trip just goes next level.

Nisreene: Do you ever feel like you need a vacation from each other at all? I mean, you’re together all the time, which is amazing. But the reality is that traveling can sometimes be a little bit gritty. It has its stressful times to it. And now you’re, like, working together and you’re living together and you’re traveling together. How do you find the time to sort of, you know, get your own space – or do you feel like you don’t need your space?

Mike: I think we get it in little bits each day. Anne does her 30-minute yoga session every morning. Every evening, I go running and throw on my podcast and get my 30, 45-minute exercise in the evening. So that gives us, like, a little bit of time to de-stress. We almost have become like a unit, you know, because it’s kind of you against… because everything’s moving at all times, right? You need to be unit. Like, you need to be a rock together and be like, “Okay, you watch the right, I’ll watch the left and we’ll decide. Okay, you see something coming? Okay, is that good or bad?” And you make decisions together. I mean, we still fight. We’re still a normal couple. It’s not like we have this magical thing, you know. Like, I still throw my clothes on the floor and it turns into, like, a blow out 12-hour battle, like, my clothes, when I get to a hotel room.

Anne: You think he’d be really good at packing, unpacking.

Mike: I’m great at unpacking. It takes me about 30 seconds, 30 seconds to unpack. But, you know, so we still have those things. But in the big things that really matter, you kind of realize that you’re kind of this team together.

Nisreene: Yeah, okay. Well, so aside from Mike being a bit of a of a messy traveler, what are some of the other things that might create conflict for couples while they’re traveling – or at least from your experience?

Anne: I think the thing that we know to be true – and even for us – it is still hard not to fall in this trap, is packing too much in.

Mike: Not clothes.

Anne: No, not clothes.

Mike: Activities, adventures, days in transit to get to new destinations…

Anne: However long you think something’s going to take, give it more time to, one, enjoy it and also let, you know, snafus happen. And, you know, when snafus do happen, have the attitude of, just, everything’s an adventure. You’ve got to keep rolling with the punches because it’s, you can’t let things frazzle you. You are having this once-in-a-lifetime experience, and opportunity and adventure and beauty is all around you, and you’re fighting about something, like, a granola bar could have fixed, you know? Like, you got a little hangry and got things got blown out of proportion. So manage expectations, plan for basic things. Snacks and water and more time will actually do wonders for stress levels and enjoyment overall.

Mike: And another great tangible tip, as you’re booking these flights and you’ve got a layover somewhere, especially if it’s international, choose the flight with a longer layover. I know everyone wants to get there immediately and unpack their bags and be by the pool. But an hour layover when you land in Frankfurt and the airport is literally, like, a-mile-and-a-half-walk between terminals, an hour is not going to cut it. So give yourself a longer layover, go into the lounge, grab yourself a champagne. And those few hours will be better than a whole day later.

Nisreene: Yeah, no, I think that that makes a ton of sense and I’ve definitely been that type of person where I’ve been sort of scrambling from terminal to terminal, and that’s not good for anybody.
Well, what are the moments that you’ve found that have actually sort of brought you together throughout your travels?

Anne: You know, it’s funny, our best stories are really with, like, a bus breaking down or needing to hitchhike somewhere and things that seem terrible turn out to be when you really band together and, you know, get the other one to laugh, right? Like, sometimes when it’s a low moment and Mike has a way of just, like, making a joke or making it better because I’m getting upset about something and he’s just sort of… We ground each other, be like, “This is not a big deal.” Or, like, see the hilarity in the problems and they will just go away that much faster.

Mike: Yeah, because you would think that the best memories from the last 10 years would be seeing the Great Wall of China or scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef or seeing the Big Five in Africa or whatever, hiking, you know, the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. But if we listed our 20 most memorable things, maybe two of those would be an actual site.

Nisreene: Well, I want to get back to some tips for our listeners. In terms of the places that you’ve, you know, that you’ve been to and that you’ve traveled to, whether it’s a bucket-list place or a small, sort of unknown town, what are your almost, like, top five destinations for honeymooners who might be planning and listening to this as we speak? What are some places that you think are worth them exploring?

Anne: We actually just spent a good amount of time in French Polynesia and everyone knows it for Tahiti and Bora Bora. Well, the Marquesas are maybe the prettiest place ever, and it’s not someplace where anyone really goes because it’s four hours farther from Tahiti, but so worth it because these mountains are, like, popping out of the ocean. The, you know, culture and art scene are incredibly rich. It’s super wild. You’re not going to get a ton of luxury accommodations, but it’s so beautiful it doesn’t matter and the hospitality there is still incredible.

Mike: If anybody is looking at South America, I’ll say one of our top three countries in all of South America is Ecuador – and not just for the Galapagos, which is awesome and you should definitely go spend five days there if you’re on your honeymoon because the wildlife is out of control. But mainland Ecuador is so underrated, so affordable. It’s got amazing culture, great food. It’s got Volcano Alley, I think, with, like, 200 volcanoes. I think it’s got the best rainforest, or the best Amazon River, experience in all of South America.

Anne: The most biodiverse section of the Amazon, they say, is in Yasuni and we just saw so much more wildlife there. And it was just incredible.

Nisreene: What about in Europe? Any sort of honeymoon favorite spots there?

Anne: I’m not a “Lay on the beach, get a tan” person. Too much redhead in my family to know that’s just not a good idea for me. But the Azores of Portugal… So the Azores, depends how you want to pronounce it – it’s that archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic, two hours off the coast of mainland Portugal – is so beautiful and so fascinating. And they’ve got all these calderas, which also means hot springs. So you’re in these, like, dreamy hot-spring waterfalls and going canyoneering. And then even the ocean has hot springs – so it might not be warm water, but you can always find a way to make it warm and comfortable. And it’s just bananas in terms of scenery, ocean, mountains. And then it’s still Portuguese food and affordable wine and, overall, actually a pretty affordable destination.

Mike: Yep, totally.

Nisreene: Mike, what about you? Any favorite hotspots in Europe?

Mike: No, she just stole the Azores from me. I was going to… I’ve got a really good one. If somebody out there wants to see the northern lights and wants to visit Scandinavia without taking out a second mortgage on their home, there is a boat called the Hurtigruten. It’s the original mail boat, I think, from, like, 1865. They have newer boats, but it still does the mail. And you can do anything from a honeymoon suite all the way down to, like, an interior bunkhouse for very affordable… We did a 12-day sailing all the way from Bergen to the Russian border of Kirkenes – and out of that 12 days, I think seven of them were inside the Arctic Circle. And every single night, I would say two, if not three times per night, there was dripping showers of northern lights. Seeing the northern lights with a glass of champagne in your hand and being able to go inside whenever you want – that’s a honeymoon destination that’s very worthy and a great way to see Norway.

Nisreene: Well, that’s a great way to wrap up a show, to be honest. But before we go, one last tip from each of you for our listeners who are looking to have an epic honeymoon. What do you want them to sort of walk away with that we haven’t necessarily touched on yet?

Anne: Don’t wait till you’re 65 to have these life experiences and consider taking a longer trip for your honeymoon. I think it’s the perfect excuse because you’re young and you’ve got so much to celebrate. Take a sabbatical at some point in your life, a gap year of some kind to travel slow, to live like a local. Just to explore and feel and dream is so valuable. You will grow as a couple like you would not believe to have this experience and you never know what kind of doors it might open for you. But we sometimes just don’t give ourselves that space. It’s like a race to 65 and you’re going to be… you don’t even know what you’re cutting off by delaying, and especially because you just never know what’s going to happen. So, you know, make that time. Charge life, love hard and go have fun together.

Nisreene: I love that. Thank you guys so much for being on the show. It’s been so fantastic talking to you both. I work in travel and I feel so inspired after this conversation and I really feel like now I need a third honeymoon. So I’m going to go and do it.

Tell our listeners, where can they find more information about the two of you and your travels?

Mike: Our website is called HoneyTrek, like a long walk around the world. We’re also HoneyTrek across all social channels you could imagine. And, then, both of our books are up on Amazon if you want a little travel inspiration. They’re also linked off our website. We wrote a book about couples’ travel for National Geographic, it’s called Ultimate Journeys for Two. And when we wrote that book, we purposefully left out almost every household name in the world. We wanted to get people off those tourist traps. We organized that book by “What adventure do you want to have? Or “What kind of landscape?” “Do you want to go to deserts? Do you want to go to glaciers and ice? Do you want to go to rainforests? What do you like? We’re going to show you six places that you’ve never heard of that have that feature.” So it’s a really fun way to try and shake up the way people think about their destination and just our ethos on travel in general.

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Nisreene: What I loved most about this conversation was really the focus on how Mike and Anne talked about really connecting with the local people of the places they visited, and really embracing the experience and the emotional journey that they could go on. For so many people, everyone’s trying to get that picturesque honeymoon but Mike and Anne, I think, really talked a lot about how you can have those amazing experiences, even if it’s not necessarily on a white, sandy beach, which is great.
For those of you thinking of popping the question, nearly half of people polled would love to be proposed to while on vacation – so definitely something to consider. 50% said that they actually WERE proposed to while on vacation, so if it’s something you’re thinking about doing, definitely consider planning a trip around it.
I think one of the best tips that we at Expedia can give honeymooners who are looking to book is to really consider booking things together. Prices are still quite high because of inflation and rising gas prices, so bundling is actually a really great way to save a little bit of money. Whether it’s booking your flight and hotel, or maybe a hotel and a car, it’s a great way to get a little bit of a discount on things just to help save a little bit of extra cash for maybe a really nice dinner or another experience.
I’m a huge believer in the bundling on Expedia. I once had a scenario where I was taking a trip to Spain to go to my cousin’s wedding and the flights were super, super expensive, but I tried to check out our package path and I added a hotel for one night and it knocked off a thousand dollars. Now, the reason for why that happens is because whether it’s airlines or hoteliers, they don’t want to show you the cheap prices because they don’t want their competitors to price match it, so they hide it by bundling it all together. So, if you go through our package path, you’ll see one price for everything together and that’s how they sneak in the discounts.
So for more info on honeymoons or trip planning, be sure to visit Expedia’s Honeymoon Hub. We’ll be sure to link to it on our blog so that you can get as much inspiration and great tips and see all of the top destinations people are looking to head to this year for their honeymoon. Some of those places include Disney World, which kind of surprised me, and Los Angeles. But you know what? To each their own.

[Musical interlude]

Nisreene: Okay, I want to thank our listeners so much for joining us today, and also for your patience while we get this new season out. I want to thank Mike and Anne Howard of HoneyTrek for joining us – and If you’d like to find out more about Mike and Anne and to access all of their amazing coaching and tips, be sure to purchase their book. You can find them at If you have any questions, comments, thoughts, or, better yet, travel suggestions, be sure to DM us. We are @expedia on Instagram. Oh, and don’t forget to give the show a follow and subscribe on your favorite podcast player so that you don’t miss an episode as soon as it drops.

Out Travel The System is brought to you by Expedia, with special thanks to PRX and Sonic Union. I’m the Executive Producer and your host, Nisreene Atassi. Special thanks to the following:

Additional writing by Rachel Sullivan
Producer Rishika Sharma
Associate Producers Syma Mohammed and Nathanael Taylor
Production Assistant is Alex Thiel and Carolina Garrigo
Theme music and original composition by Kevin J Simon
Music edit, sound design, and mix by Rob Ballingall
Music supervision by Justin Morris
Executive Producer and Writer Halle Petro
PRX Executive Producer Jocelyn Gonzalez

Out Travel the System is recorded with Sonic Union in New York City.

Join us next week as we talk about demystifying travel destinations and the stigma that comes with it with the incredible travel author Jessica Nabongo.
Till next time, this is your host, Nisreene Atassi, for Out Travel The System. Happy travels!

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