Having worked for travel magazines for the majority of my career, you would think my honeymoon would have been flawless. But even seasoned travelers make mistakes, and while most everything went smoothly, I learned plenty of lessons during our 19-day adventure through Southeast Asia. (And I don't use the word "adventure" lightly: Any trip where you visit four countries in less than three weeks is not a vacation.) Here are a few key takeaways that you can apply to your own post-wedding getaway.
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Credit: Andrew Katz

Do adopt a splurge and steal mentality.

For many, the honeymoon will be one of-if not the-most expensive vacation you'll ever take together, which is why it's common to pull out all the stops. Upgrade to a suite? Sure, why not! Fly business class? Absolutely-we're only doing this once! My husband and I chose to take a different tack, however, alternating between more affordable hotels and higher-end properties. Not only did this help save money, but it also meant appreciating the finer things in life-in our case, everything from a complimentary bottle of bubbly to even hot water-that much more when we had them.

Don't try to squeeze in too many destinations.

It's easy to rationalize spending a single night in a place when chances are good that this is the only time you'll likely ever visit [enter far-flung destination here]. Because one night is better than none, right? At least that's how we approached our trip, usually spending two nights in every city-which translated to nine flights in 19 days (not counting to and from New York). During our week in Burma, we were in the temple-filled city of Bagan for less than 24 hours. (And an eventful day it was, complete with a motorbike than ran out of gas just as it was getting dark, but that's a story for another time.) In short, it was exhausting. My recommendation for multi-destination honeymoons: home in on a few key cities (or countries) even if it means missing out on something. And try to spend at least three nights in each hotel; any less and you won't feel relaxed, any more and you may start to feel antsy for what's next on the itinerary.

Do consider the ratio of travel time versus how long you spend in a destination.

Our last stop was the Thai island of Koh Lanta, meant to be a calm beach respite after a whirlwind few weeks. But had we known it would take so long to get there-a flight from Bangkok, followed by two car ferries, and a 45-minute drive to our hotel-we may have decided to check out the more accessible (albeit touristy) Phuket or nearby Krabi. The almost four-hour journey was far too long considering we only had two full days to spend there.

Do pack light.

I'm a firm believer in writing a list of everything you want to pack, and then crossing five to 10 items off of it. Because in the end, your new husband won't care if you wear the same thing four days in a row. Too bad I didn't follow my own advice. Sure, I had a backpack, but it was enormous and I was always forced to check it. My husband, meanwhile, used a carry-on, which meant I was the sole cause of our waiting around at the baggage claim carousels. So take it from me: you never need as much as you think you do, and it's easy to do laundry in your hotel sink-just pack some travel-sized detergent for the occasion. (Another reason to spend three nights in a hotel: to give your clothes ample time to dry.) And, no, you don't need that extra pair of shoes or accessories for every outfit.

Do research airport amenities if you have a long layover.

Perhaps the biggest mishap I made was scheduling a long layover in the Yangon airport in Burma. Eight hours in an airport with world-class food and shopping or easy-access to the city center for a quick jaunt is one thing. But this airport had neither. So rather than waste an entire day sitting around in a stifling, non-air-conditioned room, we sprung for new plane tickets for the next flight out to Bangkok (strict airline policies meant we couldn't just stand by for seats). It was the best $350 we spent all trip.

Don't leave too soon after the wedding.

This suggestion applies to couples that are planning both their nuptials and a more complicated honeymoon, two things you probably shouldn't do simultaneously for your sanity-and your relationship's-sake. (Of course, you'll have to consider the timing of your wedding and where you want to go. We got married in June and traveled in December, a good time of year for Southeast Asia, but not ideal for, say, a warm European getaway.) If delaying the honeymoon does make sense, take a one- or two-night mini-moon right after the big day, preferably somewhere a car-ride away-because if you're making the effort to get to the airport, you may as well just go the distance. The best part about honeymooning a few months later? When the day finally comes, you'll feel those wedding-day excitement butterflies all over again.


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