First Vacation: Under the Chupah and Over the Moon for Each Other

Over the moon for your honeymoon? Practice, practice, practice — well, in your mind, anyway — about what you're going to tell your spouse-to-be where you hope to go and what you plan to see while on the vacation of your life.

Okay, the date is set, the dress is bought, and the tuxes are rented — and Aunt Minnie and Uncle Sam have been promised that there'll be enough salt-free snacks to keep them occupied before the brisket entree arrives.

Now you get to plan your first vacation together as husband and wife. Whether your ideal honeymoon is traveling to the Swiss Alps for some mountain fun or relaxing on an exotic beach in the Caribbean, it's a special time that you'll never forget — for the best of reasons.

So what do you need to know to plan the perfect honeymoon that goes off without a hitch?

"Everyone wants the greatest honeymoon possible, but be sure to review the little details so they don't turn into big problems," says Michael Kelly, president of On Call International, a medical- and travel-assistance company.

"The best thing you can do is research, plan and prepare together as a team," he says.

The last thing the new mother-in-law wants to get is a phone call from her "kids" requesting a homemade antidote to those huge jellyfish bites.

Here are some things to consider when planning the perfect honeymoon:

· Choose a destination together. Pick a place that you both really want to visit. Each person should choose their top three spots and then compare lists.

If you want something relaxing, a traditional spa vacation in the tropics is a good choice. If you two are adventure junkies, then be sure to visit a location that offers lots of activities.

However, if one person prefers a "drink-as-you-go" adventure and the other thinks visits to high-tea emporiums would make a great theme for a honeymoon, then maybe a serious chat is necessary before the glass is broken at the chupah.

· Prep ahead of time. Make a checklist of things you need to do before your trip. Research the laws of the country to where you will be traveling and see what rules are different.

It's also a good idea to check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out what types of immunizations are recommended for Americans at that specific destination and if any outbreaks have been identified. (Just don't tell your mother about them!)

And remember, if you don't have a passport or need to renew yours, allow ample time for processing. If you're changing your name after your wedding, make sure that the name on your travel documents matches what's on your passport so that you don't experience any delays through security and customs.

· Get medical- and travel- assistance services. No one plans on getting sick or having other problems on their honeymoon, but wouldn't it be nice to have the peace of mind to know that if something happens, then you're covered? That's why it's so important to get medical and travel assistance. Shop around; a variety of policies are usually available.

· Pack the right stuff. Sure, you want to look great for your spouse, but sometimes, looking chic and dressing appropriately for the location you're visiting might not be the same thing. Research what tourists usually wear at your chosen location. If you're traveling internationally, different cultures might have different expectations (i.e., rules about modesty, especially in and around religious sites).

And remember that extreme weather, hot or cold, requires different types of clothing, so pack accordingly and you won't have to buy something at an exorbitant price when you get there.

Bring the right shoes as well. If you're planning on hiking or spending time at the beach, pack comfortably, throwing in at least one pair of dress shoes for dinner or dancing.

· Eat, drink and be merry. No one wants to be stuck in their hotel bathroom with a stomach ache on their honeymoon. Food and water in different countries can be contaminated, so do your research before celebrating at the local restaurant. When in doubt, ask your hotel concierge for advice. If you plan on buying your own food, sealed products are usually safer options because they come directly from the distribution center.

If you are buying fruit from local vendors, remember to peel and wash everything to avoid possible gastrointestinal problems.

Also remember, while avoiding the water, that a soft drink served with ice or the hometown brew may just be the contaminant to ruin your honeymoon.

Says Kelly: "These planning tips should help you have the honeymoon of your dreams. If something does go wrong, remember to work through it and enjoy the time you have together. After all, it's one of the most important and special vacations you'll ever take." 



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