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Where In The World Is Romance?

(February 2001)

Valentine’s Day is approaching quickly. It is the day devoted to romance, something nearly synonymous with travel. You’ve seen the enticing vacation commercials showing tanned couples frolicking on beaches or couples dining in charming Parisian cafés. Are these images supposed to compel us to turn to travel to find the perfect romantic nirvana? If so, where are the best places to go? Are beach resorts more romantic than say, Paris in springtime?

To find out what’s hot and what’s not in the world of romantic travel. I recently interviewed Susan Breslow-Sardone, About.com's guide to Honeymoons and Romantic Getaways, and Yahoo Internet Life’s Getaway Guru. In the following Q&A, Susan has provided us with some insight into finding the perfect romantic vacation.

Q. Susan, how do you know what makes a romantic vacation?

A. I’ve been fortunate to have done a lot of traveling in my career. I’ve been sent on an African safari, seen the capitals of Europe, island-hopped in the Caribbean, steeped in the warm spa waters in Iceland, and visited many of the fifty states (including Hawaii and Alaska). I’ve written about these destinations for magazines that include Travel Holiday, The New Yorker, and Travel & Leisure. I also started the “City Weddings & Honeymoons” section in New York Magazine. Then five years ago, I got married for the first (and I hope only) time. It was time to put words into action.

The combination of being a travel writer and a newlywed inspired me to apply to be the Honeymoons/Romantic Getaways guide at About.com. There’s nothing like traveling with my best friend, my husband. The ease and comfort I have with him, plus his wonderful sense of humor, make him a great traveling companion. Not to mention that he carries the luggage!

Q. Where would you recommend going for a honeymoon?

A. What exotic place did we pick to seal our vows and honeymoon? Las Vegas! And if I had it to do over again, I’d do it there once more. It was an elegant turnkey affair in the chapel of a brand-new hotel on the Strip. And best of all, it was far enough from Florida that I knew my mother wouldn’t be able to attend.

What I don’t advocate is B&B stays for honeymooners. I know that if I were spending my first night with my husband, the last thing I’d want would be to come down to breakfast the next morning and face a bunch of smirking strangers. In fairness, though, not all B&Bs are like that.

According to recent statistics, couples spend an average of $4,000 on their honeymoon. That’s three times as much as the average U.S. adult spends on a vacation. Planning is essential. Couples need to strike a balance between an overly regimented trip and being so completely laissez-faire about it that they end up with no place to stay for the night.

Q. In your opinion, what are the top romantic getaways?

A. Hawaii is by far the top choice. The weather is perfect, the hotels are terrific, the beaches are gorgeous, and the food, the flowers, and the Hawaiians themselves make it paradise. Other good choices include:

  • Jamaica: A country that extends a warm and sunny welcome to honeymooners.
  • Mexico: A great value south of the border, and muy simpatico.
  • Tahiti: Travel here for an exotic, once-in-a-lifetime thrill.
  • Florida: America’s easy and (relatively) inexpensive choice.
  • England: London and the British countryside beckon lovers.
  • Italy: Venice, Florence, Rome, Milan, Naples, and Tuscany all flame the fires of passion on honeymoons.
  • Bermuda: Gorgeous pink sands, transportation via mopeds, and not much to do at night—which is just fine with many honeymooners.
  • France: Journey to the country that invented l’amour.
  • St. Lucia: One of the Caribbean’s lushest islands, St. Lucia combines French-Creole warmth and hospitality with English sophistication.
Q. I have been hearing a lot about Disney World and adventure travel as being popular with couples. Are they really good romantic getaways?

A. A lot of people seem to think Disney makes a good honeymoon vacation. I can’t imagine voluntarily going to a theme park and being surrounded by thousands of children. My husband and I went to DisneyWorld a couple of years ago and stayed in their Caribbean Beach Resort, a terrible place for a romantic getaway. It had a tiny bathroom (you deserve a bathtub big enough for two on a romantic vacation!) and no changing area.

Then there are adventure trips—hiking, kayaking, and other activities that make you sweat with your clothes on. These are great for hardy couples who know each other well and for whom sex isn’t going to be the big event. Even if you’re planning an adventure trip, you can still afford to include a luxury element. Active couples can choose an outdoorsy trip like bicycling in Tuscany or walking the Cotswolds that also includes staying at great places and savoring fine food and wine at day’s end.

Q. What do you suggest for couples on a tight budget?

A. Transportation can eat up a high percentage of a small budget, so I advise couples without much money to spend to drive rather than fly. Where you go is a matter of personal taste. I think cities are fascinating, and you can certainly find the privacy you need there.

If you must have a beach and can’t afford the Caribbean, places like the Florida Panhandle, Alabama’s Gulf Shores, and Mississippi’s Gulf Coast are all quite affordable. But watch the calendar; you don’t want to be there at spring break or during school holidays.

Q. What are the best values for romantic travel?

A. As for the best values, I suppose those would be all-inclusive resorts and cruises. For young couples, couples on a budget, or people who get nervous about the uncertainties of travel, these are ideal.

Q. How has the Internet changed planning for romantic travel?

A. You can really do all the planning yourself now. Not only are there giants like Expedia and Travelocity to guide you through booking an entire vacation, but you can also preview where you’ll stay and thoroughly research your destination. From the smallest inns to worldwide hotel groups, everyone has a website now. And as more and more people get broadband access, and sites get to stream audio and video, virtual honeymoon tours will provide everything but the tan.

Q. What are the keys to a great romantic vacation?

A.
  • No kids.
  • No cooking.
  • Privacy.
  • A great bed and a bath that fits two.
  • Discovering a new place together.
  • Time to do nothing.
  • Time together, and yes, time apart.
  • Laughing.
  • Saying out loud how lucky you are to have found your mate.
  • And a small gift left on the pillow never hurts either.
Or, just do the opposite of what I say in How to Have a Miserable Vacation.

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