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HONEYMOON TRENDS

While the traditional vows endure, the ways to celebrate a marriage have changed right along with the travel industry. Today's honeymooner may be looking for value, adventure, or variety and searching for a getaway that's as exotic as a stay in a private European castle or nearby as a local bed-and-breakfast inn.

One constant is that couples are willing to spend money on a honeymoon - an average of $1,402 per couple compared to $421 spent annually on regular trips according to the Travel Industry Association of America. Young couples, age 18 to 24 years, spend the most on honeymoons, averaging $1,873. And as many as one-third of all honeymooners spend over $2,500 for that once-in-a-lifetime trip.

And while the move is back toward the traditional wedding and honeymoon associated with earlier generations, today's newlyweds are a far cry from the travelers of earlier days. "They're looking more for luxurious and romantic places, like the little out-of-the-way small hotels and inns and private castles," points out Sylvie del Giudice, spokeswoman for Les Romantiques Hotels. "They're ready for a different experience. It's the experience of a lifetime. They are choosing to go further away on their honeymoon to a different environment and that includes everything: a different language, culture, and food."

Today's couples are finding new ways to celebrate their union, creating honeymoon trends that are being felt throughout the industry.

ALL-INCLUSIVE FUN

Started in Jamaica but spread throughout the Caribbean and Mexico and into some other regions as well, the all-inclusive vacation is becoming ever more popular with honeymooners - and their families. Their "one price pays all" policy makes the all-inclusive trip more and more convenient for parents purchasing a honeymoon package as a gift for newlyweds. Air, transfers, meals, drinks, watersports, and even tips are included in the tab at all-inclusive resorts.

GETTING MARRIED ON YOUR HONEYMOON

Getting married on your honeymoon is also an increasingly popular concept in the Caribbean, where resort packages provide everything from wedding cake to music. At some properties like SuperClubs (http://www.superclubs.com), guests can enjoy a free wedding, including the minister's fee and marriage license.

MEXICO AND CANADA

The devaluation of Canada and Mexico's currencies mean an increase in honeymoon business for financial reasons. Canada is also gaining popularity as a honeymoon hotspot. Couples looking for a white honeymoon find it in ski areas such as Banff, Whistler, and Jasper, and those seeking big city culture seek out cities like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. The current strength of the American dollar against the Canadian also makes our northern neighbor an attractive honeymoon destination. "Canada is extremely popular as a honeymoon destination," explains Judy Love Rondeau from the office of the Canadian Consulate General in Dallas. "Your money goes 40% further in Canada. Also, honeymooners like the cities of Montreal and Quebec City because they are like going to Paris without going so far and spending so much money."

CITY DESTINATIONS

For some couples, a chance to enjoy the romance of a big city and the elegance of fine dining makes major cities a honeymoon destination. A recent study by the American Society of Travel Agents showed that the most popular city was Las Vegas. Orlando, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles were other top choices.

OVERSEAS DESTINATIONS

While some couples choose to vacation close to home, conserving both time and money, others see a honeymoon as a chance for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. For these travelers, it's the time for a fantasy journey to destinations whose very names mean romance. For these lucky honeymooners, the American Society of Travel Agents has found that Great Britain is the top European destination, followed by France and Germany.

"We see more and more honeymooners going to Europe versus the Caribbean," says Les Romantiques Hotels' Sylvie del Giudice. "People are getting married older, and they're more interested in the culture and the experience and the discovery of Europe. Or they want to go back to Europe. I deal a lot with people who went to Paris once and now want to show it to their spouse.

"They usually combine romantic cities like Paris, Florence, or Rome with a resort escape like the Riviera or Normandy or the Amalfi coast of Italy so they have the best of both worlds," explains del Giudice. "We have also noticed that honeymooners are becoming more and more adventurous and discovering new areas."

Looking for new European experiences is also bringing more honeymooners to less traditional destinations. Destinations like Portugal, Malta, and Turkey are gaining popularity.

ADVENTURE HONEYMOONS

The current trend toward adventure and eco-tourism vacations hasn't overlooked the honeymoon industry. "We have seen a number of newlyweds go on dude ranch vacations as well as our other trips like the cattle drives," says Dave Wiggins, president of Boulder, Colorado-based American Wilderness Experience. "It's the kind of thing for couples who are looking for something inspiring, something they can come back and say 'guess what we did on our honeymoon.'"

Although Wiggins has sold many honeymooners rugged adventure packages, ranging from a 10-day safari in Alaska to sea kayaking in Baja Mexico to river rafting along Idaho's Salmon River, many honeymooners favor soft adventure. "The lodge-based vacations tend to be more popular with honeymooners because they have a bed and roof over their head and a hot shower," points out Wiggins.

"We're seeing more and more soft adventure travel so we have more deluxe lodge-based options," points out Wiggins. Whether honeymooners overnight in a mountain cabin or in a seaside tent, however, he explains the popularity of adventure travel with today's travelers. "At a resort there's a lot to pick and choose, but you can find yourself being a spectator and watching the action go around. On an adventure trip, you're smack dab in the action. There's no sitting back and watching the action go by in front of you - you are the action on an adventure tour."

Finding that special quality is up to the individual honeymooners themselves. With the myriad of choices and a selection of atmosphere that ranges from white-knuckle adventure to hedonistic laziness, there's something for everybody.

Husband and wife team Paris Permenter and John Bigley have authored over 20 guidebooks and also edit the FREE Lovetripper.com, a romantic travel magazine featuring worldwide destinations.

Copyright©2001 Paris Permenter and John Bigley