On our honeymoon, we visited Paris, the Amalfi Coast, Florence, and Rome for two incredible weeks. I’m featuring my favorite activities, restaurants, and the off-the-beaten path finds in a Honeymoon Recap series! To kick off the series, today I’m sharing my honeymoon planning tips based on our own adventure in October. I’ve linked all my honeymoon essentials in my amazon storefront as well if you want to shop some of the items I mention below directly (I do earn a small commission on your purchases- thank you for your support that helps keep Belle on the Beltline up and running!)! Enjoy and happy travels!
Tip #1: Hire a Travel planner
We love to plan our own adventures and do all of the research before hand, but when it came to the honeymoon I was all too excited to hand off the work in the midst of wedding planning craziness! We had a really specific vision for our trip: no group tours, no super touristy activities, and lot’s of free time to wander. This wasn’t our first time in Europe, so we wanted to really explore on our own and stumble upon places to eat, rather than planning out each minute.
Even with our vision, we used a travel planner to do all of the heavy lifting of planning. We used Lavishly Travel, and they booked all of our hotels, transfers, and transpiration to and from each country, which was well worth the $200 fee. They were great for the honeymoon, although we probably won’t use them again as we like planning our own trips. But for the honeymoon it was such a relief to hand over all the planning ‘logistics’… and it was so nice showing up in Paris the day after our wedding and having a private driver take us right to our hotel, which was already handled and booked through the company! We didn’t really use the planner for anything beyond logistics as it was all group tours (and our agent was very vocal about not supporting my goals to rent a Vespa in Italy and spend most of the time in Paris shopping), but to have the hotels and transfers booked was totally worth the price.
Tip #2: Pack As Early As Possible
I packed for our honeymoon (which began on Oct 16) in July. Yes, you read that right…but hear me out, the wedding planning was getting so crazy that I felt like I wasn’t going to have time to pack properly! As soon as our invitations were going out, my brain felt completley fried as the planning went into full overdrive, and I could tell that things were going to slip through the cracks. Also, since we left for Paris from our hotel after wedding, I was super nervous about about transferring all my belongings from our home to our hotel to the trip.
To just get the packing over with, Ryan and I went to Target and bought three sets of all the travel things that I knew we would need- shampoo, conditioner, body wash, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, medication…pretty much everything in the travel section! I also picked up all my essentials for my wedding day emergency kit, like a Tide Pen and meds, and we just had one super expensive trip to Target where we took care of everything.
Then, we got home and divided up our sets of items: my honeymoon things, his honeymoon things (we were going for 2 weeks so we thought we would run out if we shared), our hotel things for the weekend of the wedding, and our emergency kit items. Then, I sat down and fully packed for our honeymoon and our weekend at the hotel of the wedding, knowing I wouldn’t need to transfer anything besides my purse the day after our wedding from the hotel to the honeymoon.
I’m so glad I packed so early- for 8 weeks I had three little piles of bags: the honeymoon stack, the wedding weekend stack, and my bag with everything for the girls the morning-of with our emergency kit inside. I had so much relief just seeing them, knowing it was handled. Plus, I was able to look at the bags and throw in last-minute items as I thought of them, like a travel perfume for the wedding weekend since our photographer would have my mine for detail photos.
And y’all, I have to be honest, on our honeymoon I still managed to forget a hairbrush, pants (yes, I literally forgot any pants and we had a very rushed trip to the H&M in Paris by our hotel with me wearing shorts in 50 degrees in October), and sneakers. But it worked out and we had a laugh, and honestly I can’t imagine how much I would have forgotten had we packed any later!
Tip #3: Pack Your Purse for the Whole Day
I brought my Longchamp for the ‘long days’ on our Honeymoon and it continues to be my favorite bag for Europe- it’s durable, waterproof, and the zipper can be tucked right under your arm where you can still see it, which makes pick pocketing a non-issue. Plus it’s big enough where I can stash all my essentials for the day and feel like I have everything I need, because sometimes we would leave at 8am and not be back at the hotel until 10pm that night.
Here is everything I had in my bag with me on our Honeymoon- I put a few of my favorites below in my Amazon Storefront!:
- travel wallet: holds my passport, Euros, and credit card
- baggie with coins: bathrooms are not free in parts of Europe, so having coins was essential
- camera: I brought my Sony A6 with a 16-55m lens to take pictures
- plastic baggies for snacks: this is probably ‘extra’ of me, but I tend to take snacks with me- especially to-go from our hotel’s breakfast buffet!
- portable charger: this has saved the day so many times
- travel hand wipes: these seem unnecessary… until you are eating a very sticky lemon crepe!
- disposable water bottle: On our honeymoon, I learned the hard way to use a disposable one- I actually had packed a reusable one, then realized we had no real way to truly wash it for 2 weeks. Ew! I would recommend buying a fresh one each morning, and sharing it and refilling it.
- hand lotion
- lip balm & lipstick
- hand sanitizer
- sanitizing wipes
- face powder
- demin jacket/ cardigan
Tip #4: Make & Save Maps for Your Trip
Ryan planned all of our honeymoon and did a ton of research with our travel books, online, and even watched Tik Toks to find cool spots and restaurants to discover. The best thing he did for planning though, was to make ‘Maps’ on his iPhone to have everything saved and ready to go when we were there.
He added each spot to a guide for each city, and would pull it up as we walked around. Then he could say, ‘Oh Hannah, there’s a spot for lunch I saved or a Gelato spot just 5 min walk away’ as we wandered through neighborhoods! It was so convenient to be able to explore with no real agenda, but have that in our back pocket if were desperate for a snack or wanted to know what was nearby.
Tip #5: Make Sure You are Prepared Before You Go
We had a lot of logistics with our wedding gearing up while we were preparing for our honeymoon since we left the next day, so we made a check-list of everything we needed to get done before we left.
Our rule with wedding planning was that I handled the wedding while Ryan handled the honeymoon- here’s everything that was on his list a month before our trip:
- Hold our mail & prep utilities for travel
- Ask a neighbor to watch the house (remember to get them a gift when you are there!)
- Set up transportation to and from the airport
- Photocopy passports to have in our suitcase
- Order Euros from the bank
- Look up COVID regulations in each country
- Research the VAT tax for each country
- Print out travel itineraries
- Buy an international cell phone plan
- Buy groceries to have when we get home (coffee, creamer, frozen pizza, etc)
- Check weather for trip & adjust outfits packed if needed
- Confirm tours and meeting places for them
- Make restaurant reservations (note this was done about 12 weeks out for Paris)
- Have final meeting(s) with Travel Planner
- Weigh suitcases to ensure they are within the travel limit
- Purchase lounge passes for layovers
- Call credit card company to tell them you are traveling
- Check into flights (this seems ovbious until you need to check in right in the middle of your first dance!)
Tip #6: While You are There, Manage Expectations and Do Only What You Truly Want to Do
Our honeymoon was a bit tiring and overwhelming at times because we left the day after the wedding, so we were already showing up tired, and we wanted to see everything. I have no regrets on when we left because limited time off work meant a day of rest was a day lost for our trip. That being said, during our trip we had to make sure to pace ourselves and manage expectations on what was realistic to do and see.
Even though we were tired, we were so excited to be in our dream cities and wanted to do it all! Before we left, we each picked one or two ‘must-do’ activity for each day. That way, we knew at the end of the day we would have done what we really wanted to do. Then, we let everything else go! If you are choosing an ‘adventure’-type honeymoon…remind yourself that you aren’t going to see everything, and that you are on this trip to have fun. And you can’t have fun if you are exhausted!
Because we were so tired, we chose to forgo all nightlife on the trip, upfront. We knew a nightcap or a night ‘out’ would simply take away from the following day and we just wouldn’t survive the whole two weeks. So, we opted for happy hours for fun cocktails and a few nights we ate dinner ‘early’ for European standards. We also had a few late mornings, where we just slept in and ordered room service- during both of which we tried to not to feel guilty for ‘wasting’ Europe while enjoying a slow morning. Honestly, some of my favorite memories are our happy hours in the fall sunshine and I can still picture our breakfast in bed overlooking the Piazza Santa Maria in Florence- it was amazing to just pause and soak it all in.
We also enjoyed slowing down and got some ‘time’ back in our days by skipping a few ‘touristy’ activities during our trip. If you have made it this far in reading (I love you, readers!) I am going to share a secret- we skipped the Louvre in Paris. In fact, the only museum we went to was the Museum of Parfum, and that was only because it had a fun activity (making perfume). I totally understand if you are cringing right now, but this was our honeymoon and we wanted to spend every second just enjoying our time, rather than cramming 25 hot spots into a few days. And frankly I had no interest in standing in lines, being in crowds, and dealing with all the hassle that comes with tourists on our honeymoon.
Without apology or regret, we did only what we wanted to do, rather than what we felt obligated to do. And, I hate museums and I hate being inside when it’s nice outdoors. After one day of rain, we had 70 degree weather in Paris, and we spent every second wandering around, getting lost and holding hands. And it was perfect- because we slowed down, we avoided the crowds and we just experienced the city, together. Ryan and I still say that the day we spent wandering around in the Latin Quarter and spent three hours on a square people watching with a bottle of wine was our favorite day of our time in Paris!
Bonus Tip: Book a Photography Session
We booked a sunrise photo shoot in Paris on the second day of our honeymoon, and I was pretty sure Ryan was ready to divorce me when we had to wake up at 5 am two days after our wedding. 🙂 But our wedding was four months ago, and I’m in the middle of printing all our photos right now for frames for our house, and he just asked me to feature our honeymoon pictures in our living room because he loves the photographs so much!
Most people I talked to had a good laugh when I said we were doing a photoshoot on our honeymoon (#knowyourband), but now that the wedding and our trip is over, I realize how much the shoot made us treasure our time on the trip. Since we did them on the second day, it was sort of like a giant memo, ‘this trip isn’t just a vacation. It’s the start of your lives together.’ And we spent the whole session just loving on each other and talking about how it felt so different than wedding pictures, because it was just the two of us, all on our own.
Logistics-wise, our photos were about $200 and we ended up with 50 images after just an hour at a few locations around the Eiffel Tower. We used @myparisphoto on Instagram, and it was a super easy session and she let us really have our own vision. It was extra-special to get the pictures together, because we never end up with photos of the two of us, as Ryan takes all our pictures! I’m so glad we have pictures from all our big moments- our proposal, our wedding, our honeymoon, and even with our lil guy Basil.