Where to Honeymoon in September, October or November?

It used to be, that the summer months were the most popular, but lately, couples are choosing more and more to get married during the fall months.

With September being peak hurricane season, many ask where should we honeymoon in September or October? Is it safe to travel to the Caribbean during hurricane season? What do we have to expect from hurrican season? And, are there any alternatives?

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Of course, choosing a destination has a lot to do with the time a couple has available as well as their budget. It also has something to do with what they ultimately want to experience.

Some couples aren’t worried about hurricanes and don’t mind a daily afternoon rain shower. That is mostly what you should expect during hurricane season. However, every now and then a hurricane forms and eventually takes one path or another.

Nowadays, hurricane tracking is fairly reliable and a hurricane’s path is predicted days before it actually happens. This can be both, great if indeed the hurrican takes a certain path and the chosen destination is affected, upsetting if you change your plans, only to find that the hurricane takes a different path or has weakened.

hurrican-tracking

The most important thing to have in this situation is solid travel insurance. If you have a “cancellation for covered reasons” policy, chances are that you are only covered if the hurricane hits. Meaning, that if the hurricane is supposed to hit tomorrow, but you are traveling today, you have no option to cancel because “fear of a hurricane” is usually not covered.  If you want to have the flexibility to decide not to go because you are worried a hurricane might affect your honeymoon, you need a so called “cancel for any reason” travel protection plan.

But, which Caribbean island to pick during hurricane season? If you want an all-inclusive experience, go with Jamaica, the Negril side to be precise. The island’s Blue Mountains offer a natural, protective barrier to the other side of the island. They also catch most of the rainfall. If an all-inclusive honeymoon isn’t on top of your list, pick one of the ABC Islands (Aruba, Curacao or Bonaire). These are usually out of the hurricane belt and less prone to stormy action.

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Whichever destination you choose in the Caribbean, or along the Pacific Coast, there never is a guarantee though. Weather patterns have been changing and are no longer as predictable as they once were.

For those who want to stay away from hurricanes altogether I suggest a trip to Europe. Fall in Europe is the best, and depending on where you go, you can still enjoy a beach vacation.

Here are some of my top choices:

IRELAND

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Great for nature lovers, couples on a tighter budget, couples afraid of long flights, and couples worried about language barriers.

How long does it take to get there? A quick 6- 7  hour flight from the East Coast will take you there.

ITALY

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Perfect for romantics, history buffs, art lovers, music lovers, food lovers… need I say more, the country screams amore and passion. Fall is less crowded, the weather mild, prices lower.

How long does it take to get there? Expect a little over 8 hours from the East Coast

GREECE

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For a laid back, sunny, island hopping experience. Sipping ouzo, nibbling on olives, watching a donkey go by. The perfect setting for a romantic, relaxing honeymoon. However, keep in mind that once October hits, many hotels, shops and even ferries shut down

How long does it take to get there? Expect a little over 10 hours from the East Coast

PORTUGAL

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Douro River – image courtesy of Viking River Cruises

For a romantic river cruise along the Duoro River where vineyards abound and harvest season is in full swing. Lisbon is also one of the most stunning cities in Europe!

How long does it take to get there? Expect a little over 6 hours from the East Coast

PARIS, LONDON & AMSTERDAM

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For a three city power pack cultural experience. Each unique, each worth a visit. Super easy to connect via high-speed trains. Track Royals in London and have High Tea at Kensington Palace, stroll book stalls along the Seine in Paris and enjoy dinner atop the Eiffel Tower, and ride a bike in Amsterdam and check out the Anne Frank museum.

How long does it take to get there? Expect between 6 – 7 hours from the East Coast, depending on which city you fly in and fly out of.

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Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of  AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm, specialized in creating and customizing honeymoons. You can contact her at stefanie@aavromance.com

 

 

Finding Paradise at Zoetry Agua Punta Cana

Late afternoon, I am gently floating at the edge of the perfect infinity pool, overlooking the beautiful beach of Zoetry Agua Punta Cana. All I can hear are the gentle waves of the ocean, some birds screeching and the distant chill out music. The peace and calm is incredible. Until, all of a sudden, a dark, saddled horse flies along the water’s edge. Shortly after, a rider is coming in sight, trying to catch the escaped stallion. A fleeting glimpse of excitement before everything becomes still again. But wait, there sprints the resort’s heavy set security guard towards the resort grounds. What is going on, I wonder and then I see. The dark stallion has taken a drastic turn and instead of continuing to run along the beach, decided to escape through the middle of Zoetry’s beautifully manicured grounds.

zoetry agua, pool, punta cana, honeymoon, ocean, aavexplorationsThis is the most excitement and action I got to experience during my time at Zoetry Agua Punta Cana. But then again, the people that stay here are looking for anything but excitement and action. It is an oasis of tranquility and relaxation, and it is beautifully done. Guests stay here because they want to escape the hectic world, take a holistic approach, both via organic food as well as spa indulgences.

The resort grounds are beautifully lush with swaying palmtrees and many flower bushes. Three story palapa buildings containing luxuriously spacious suites, sprawl out along meandering pools. Zoetry Agua reminds me of Tahiti. But wait, we are in the Dominican Republic, not far from all the mega resorts that call Punta Cana their home.

zoetry, agua, punta cana, aavexplorations, allinclusive, palapazoetry agua, zoetry, punta cana, swim up, all-inclusive, aavtravelEvery suite at Zoetry Agua has a wonderful outdoor area and people here like to enjoy the privacy of their rooms. Who can blame them though, they are truly gorgeous. Some are laying out reading books. Some are engaged into a loveable embrace chatting away. Some are here with friends, gathering in one of the suites’ swim-up pools.
zoetry agua, all-inclusive, penthouse suite, aavtravelzoetry agua, punta cana, beachfront suite, plunge pool, aavtravelThe world seems perfect and there is nothing to worry about. Guests at Zoetry Agua keep to themselves but are friendly when engaged. The suites are great, spacious, every comfort provided. I really enjoyed the subtle, Balinese style décor, the Bulgari amenities as well as the awesome steam wand provided. I also liked that there was a decent hair dryer. My daughters and I have an ongoing discussion about how often toilet paper is of bad quality at hotels. Well, I am glad to report that Zoetry has excellent toilet paper.
zoetry agua, punta cana, penthouse suite, dominican republic, aavtravelDespite all the beauty, arriving on a Sunday was not ideal. Much of the resort staff is off and service is very slow. During my 4 hours along the beach and pool area, I was not once offered a drink. I ran into some guests that had been there for a while and they told me that this had been the first day it happened. And they were right, come Monday beach waiter service was readily available. There was way more staff visible around the property, eagerly cleaning and taking care of all guests’ needs. Always a smile, always a friendly hola. A truly welcoming atmosphere.
zoetry agua, punta cana, beach, oceanfront, all-inclusive, aavtravelMany of the staff do not speak enough English and oftentimes have trouble answering even the most basic questions. Personally, it is something I like, as it makes you engage more with the local culture, learn some words in a different language, and use your hands and feet to communicate. It is a lot of fun and can be very rewarding.
zoetry agua, piragua restaurant, punta canaThat evening I went to dinner at Piragua. The menu looked exciting and I opted for a tuna sashimi, followed by a pumpkin cream soup. Main course was chicken on a lemongrass sauce with couscous. The sashimi was good, very thinly sliced, almost like a carpaccio. It had slightly too much soy sauce. The pumpkin cream could have been excellent, but unfortunately was lukewarm. The chicken skewers were served in a Teriyaki sauce which, since it was supposed to be lemongrass, I didn’t expect. The food tasted good with the exception of one skewer that was undercooked. The passion fruit chocolate mousse combo was excellent but lacking in presentation. All in all I would rate my food experience as good, not excellent, but still better than many other all-inclusive resorts. Breakfast was a similar experience. Some ingredients weren’t in the omelet I ordered which still tasted fine. The bacon was overcooked, the sausages good but cold. Again, I didn’t eat badly but since this is a luxury all-inclusive resort, I expected more.
zoetry agua, breakfast, egss, all-inclusive, aavtravelAll around, I had a wonderful stay at Zoetry Agua Punta Cana and would go back in a heartbeat. The property is so beautiful, the pool area absolutely stunning and the beach peaceful, secluded and well maintained. The relaxing atmosphere of the resort is hard to come by at an all-inclusive and it is wonderful not having to worry about being able to snag a palapa, or find a great chair by the pool. With only 96 rooms it feels like a privilege to stay here. I also loved that wifi was easily available and reliable throughout the property.

zoetry agua, punta cana, all-inclusive, aavtravelstefanie pichonnat aavtravelWritten by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is a Honeymoon & Destination Weddings Specialist. She is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

 

 

Sandals La Source Grenada – the sizzling hot all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean

Grenada has been on top of my bucket list for a long time. I was hooked ever since I first tasted an authentic rum punch with a sprinkle of fresh nutmeg at a traditional Grenadian restaurant in Zurich Switzerland in 2002. My friend Yvonne who invited me there, had traveled to many Caribbean islands at the time. She insisted that Grenada was the fairest and friendliest of them all. Little did I know, it would take less than 15 minutes for me to fall in love with this beautiful island.

grenada, rum, aavtravelGrenada – also know as the Spice Island – is located South of the hurricane belt, making it an excellent option for summer wedding couples looking for a Caribbean honeymoon without the hurricane threat. GND – Grenada’s Maurice Bishop International Airport – is slightly outdated but fairly large and very convenient. Much better than many of its Caribbean neighbor islands. The airport’s runway has water on both sides which provides a little extra thrill when landing.

grenada, airport, sandals, stefanie pichonnat, aavtravel As soon as you get out of the airport you will start noticing the green rolling hills, long swaying grass, flowers and palm and fruit trees. What a great way to be welcomed to this lush island! You also immediately notice the rock–dark and very distinctively volcanic. The drive from the airport to Sandals La Source Grenada is less than 10 minutes, which is an extra perk after a day of travel.

Arriving at Sandals La Source literally means driving down a hill into a village. The lobby is airy and very welcoming. Sandals La Source is made up of several villages. Unlike other Sandals properties these are very sleek, almost a bit Asian inspired. There is a nice mix of rondovals, two-story cottage looking buildings, as well as a few high rise buildings.

sandals, grenada, pink gin, aavtravelWith the exception of the “Pink Gin Village” (pictured above) all buildings at Sandals La Source were built from scratch. No expense was spared to create some of the most luxurious and at times, sexy accommodations. Everything there is for a romantic, but also fun-filled vacation. The new building blocks are off the beach. Some have views of the distant ocean, some overlook the rolling hills, some overlook the beautiful gardens and pools. A couple of romantic rondovals cluster in the middle of the property. Those offer the ultimate in privacy and romance and offer a charming focal point with their thatched roof tops.

sandals, grenada, rondoval, aavtrave;The Pink Gin Village is located closest to the beach. It consists of the the original “LaSource Resort” which Sandals bought in 2013. Each building has several floors and the rooms were beautifully redone. The balconies are fairly small but the sound of the ocean carries right into these rooms. Just imagine laying in bed and falling asleep to the gentle sound of the waves.

sandals, grenada, pink gin, beach, aavtravelAs with all Sandals resorts there are many inclusions; from gourmet restaurants, bars, land and water activities as well as entertainment. Sandals Grenada will keep you busy! Here are a few things that deserve to be highlighted in particular:

Workout
If you are a fitness buff you will love finding this brand new, state of the art fitness center. Numerous treadmills, elliptical and weight stations await, all overlooking the beautiful lush gardens of Sandals La Source. A wonderful, air-conditioned area to burn some extra calories.

sandals, grenada, fitness, workout, aavtravelSushi
You might think, did she really just say sushi? Absolutely.  True sushi lovers know that this particular delicacy can be a hit or miss at an all-inclusive resort. Not at Sandals’ La Source. Soys sushi chef, Berwin Barraca, makes some of the best sushi we’ve ever had. So if you are a true sushi lover, this might just be your all-inclusive resort.

Butch’s Steak House
The newest addition to the Sandals restaurant family. The first ever Steakhouse at a Sandals resort, serving some fantastic meat. Expectations were high, given that it carries the Sandals Chairman and Founder’s name. It simply had to be good and truly did not disappoint!

Bathrooms
Yes, bathrooms. Some of the most spectacular might I add. You might just end up spending a couple of hours!

sandals, la source, grenada, bathroom, aavtravelThe resort is wonderful no doubt, but what about the island?
Air lift to Grenada is still limited but both, the islands’ government as well as the Sandals & Beaches management are working on getting more airlines to service Grenada. Either way, you simply need to make it to this beautiful Caribbean paradise. If not convinced yet, allow Zach and Morgan, both students in Grenada, tell you more.

stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

 

Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the Certified Sandals & Beaches Specialist at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

Three days – three Caribbean Islands – the Sandals and Beaches 2014 MegaFam

Wow! Talk about making things happen! Sandals has been an innovator in brand imaging and marketing for years–and not only that, they also have been improving their product ever since my first stay with them eight years ago. Today I am proud to say that I have personally visited all but one of their resorts. Many on several occasions. The commitment this company has shown to improving their resorts, bringing their properties up to speed, making older Caribbean style resorts look updated and chic as well as making sure travel consultants get to know their product, is amazing. But let me start with our 3 day – 3 island whirlwind tour through the Caribbean.

airline, flight route, grenada, providencialesThroughout 2014 Sandals & Beaches Resorts have been conducting 14 of the so called “MegaFams,” each departing from different US gateways. Every time they chartered a plane and hosted all agents for a minimal fee. The idea was to get them to experience three different islands, resorts, as well as update them on the latest and greatest going on in the company.

My MegaFam departed from Chicago and it was the first– and only one–to charter a #767 to take approximately 200 agents to the Caribbean. All agents were hand-picked and chosen because of their commitment and dedication to their clients, as well as understanding what Sandals and Beaches is all about. Our first stop was the island of Exuma in the Bahamas. Get this, we were the first ever #767 plane to land there. The airport is so small, we could hardly turn around on the runway! It was truly amazing. And not only that, in order for liability insurance coverage, the airport had to be upgraded before we could even land.

sandals, beaches, exumaWe started off by visiting Sandals Emerald Bay, a gorgeous and spacious resort with one of the most spectacular golf courses ever. As a former Four Seasons property, this resort is absolutely stunning. Beautifully landscaped, spacious suites, gorgeous oceanfront and one heck of a pool! This place is a heaven for beach lovers looking to just getaway or for any avid golfer. The spa is beautiful as well.

sandals emerald bay, exuma, bahamasOn we went that evening to Providenciales where we would spend the night at Beaches Turks & Caicos. This resort blows my mind, simply due to the fact that literally nothing grows on this island and everything you find at the resort has to be flown and shipped in. Ever wonder why Turks & Caicos is such an expensive destination? Well, this is the reason.

beaches, turks & caicos, providenciales, aavtravelThe next day we spent in a classroom learning about what is new with the company and what we can expect in the next couple of years. Did you know that they will be breaking ground to start building over-water bungalows within the next couple of weeks? Want to know where? Comment below and I will share the scoop.

The best part of the training was meeting Adam as well as Butch Stewart. They flew in just to speak to us and it was incredible to hear their vision. Butch is definitely “old school” whereas Adam is young, charismatic and with a very modern vision for the company. It is amazing to see how the two work together and are able to combine their vision for the future.

adam stewart, beaches, sandals, aavtravelThe next morning we departed very early for Grenada. Wow, wow, wow! This island is so gorgeous. Hands down one of the prettiest in the Caribbean. Not only that, the people are some of the friendliest ever. The drive from the airport to Emerald Bay takes about five minutes. The resort is truly stunning, the rooms are spectacular and currently some of the best out there. Expect to find sky pools, infinity pools, and see lush, green gardens nestled in the hilly seaside.

sandals, la source, grenada, aavtravelThe small volcanic beach has a beautiful color.  The light mocha sand is mixed with the black volcanic sand and creates different patterns. I felt the color was a bit like my favorite Ben & Jerry’s ice cream “Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz”. Grenada is a divers’ paradise and with Padi naming the Sandals diving operation one of the top five in the world, any diver is lucky to stay at this resort. So far, the main challenge for Grenada has been the airlift. However, Alexandra Otway, Grenada’s Tourism & Aviation Minister, welcomed us in person and assured us that the government is working on making the island more accessible.

sandals, grenada, beach, aavtravelThe non-stop flight back on our #767 from Grenada to Chicago took 5 hours and 30 minutes. The past 72 hours have been incredible. I am truly grateful to Sandals and Beaches for giving me this opportunity and can’t wait to share it with the world. But first, I had to sleep because only getting 15 hours of sleep out of 72 simply wasn’t enough. And, change my flip flops for more wintery gear.

sandals mega fam, flip flop, winter blues, aavtravelstefanie pichonnat aavtravel

Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the Certified Sandals & Beaches Specialist at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

Honeymoon Budgeting

Just like a wedding, a honeymoon is a once in a lifetime affair. It sets the start for a new life together, lasts several days, and creates and endless array of hopefully treasured memories. Still, when doing their wedding planning, some couples neglect to allocate a part of their budget to the honeymoon.

But how do you budget for your honeymoon? It completely depends on what you want from your honeymoon:

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  • How far will you travel?
  • For how long will you go?
  • What are your expectations?
  • What time of year you are traveling?


All these factors influence the potential cost of your honeymoon. Budgeting is a crucial point in the process since it will avoid disappointment. Allocating the right money to your honeymoon makes sure that you get the vacation you wish for and deserve.

Whilst you can get an idea for pricing online I would suggest contacting a specialist. After all, you not only want to make sure you have an accurate idea of how much you will need but you also want to make sure you are well taken care of. Rely on an expert to help you plan your honeymoon so you can be sure to get what you expect. And, once you travel you have a real person to answer your questions and solve any issues.

So many things can go wrong and a specialist is there to help you minimize the risks and take care of you should something happen. Your honeymoon is most likely the most important vacation you will ever take.

  • You want to know that the ocean view room you are booking has an actual view of the ocean
  • You don’t want to get to the hotel you especially picked for your honeymoon, just to learn that they decided to relocate you somewhere else
  • You are having issues with your flights – you want to be able to call a number without being on hold for hours
  • Arriving in a foreign country can be overwhelming. You want to know who picks you up and takes you to the resort and don’t want to be harrassed with an endless time-share selling conversation



That being said, the most important factor should not be price. You should know what you get and the value should be right. Also, make sure you budget according to your wishes and expectations. Your specialist will be able to give you a good idea on what is right.

The first step to a successful honeymoon is making it an integral part of your wedding budget and finding the right specialist. If you need help budgeting for your honeymoon feel free to contact me anytime.



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