Wednesday, July 11, 2012

No Passport? No Problem

Who says you need to jet off to Italy for two weeks to have a proper honeymoon? Sure, we'd love to spend our vacation rowing down Lake Como with George Clooney, but let's get real. The last thing most of us want to deal with post-nuptials is a two-hour line at customs and the nagging fear that we bought the wrong converter for our hair dryer.
International travel doesn't always make sense. If you're short on time, a trip across the pond can quickly cut your weeklong honeymoon down to three or four days. If you're short on money, international currency is rarely your friend. And if you're short on patience, the pressure to see thousands of sites in Paris or Rome might just be too much. I interviewed six newlywed couples who honeymooned within U.S. borders (and did some research of my own) and found that, thankfully, you don't have to travel far for the vacation of your dreams. So put down your passport and consider these closer-to-home honeymoon destinations.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Hoping to avoid a vacation full of long flights and extra travel time, Ann Prowant, 25, and her husband honeymooned in the picturesque town of Bar Harbor, Maine after their Chicago wedding. "We loved walking around the little downtown and browsing the shops. We spent time hiking and even went on a whale-watching tour," says Prowant, "We wanted a vacation that involved the minimal amount of stress."

Bar Harbor is perfect for de-stressing with some outdoor time. Acadia National Park offers plenty of opportunities for rock climbing and camping, and the gorgeous waterfront provides a perfect kayaking location (and some of the best lobster in the country). Book a stay at one of Bar Harbor's many B&B's on the shore if you're looking for some old-fashioned romance.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

"I'd recommend a Cape Cod honeymoon to anyone," says 27-year-old Lisa Rice (who honeymooned there after her 2009 Ohio wedding), "It's a quaint area with a lot of history, and the summer culture is very slow-paced and relaxed. We didn't feel pressure to go and do things, so we were able to spend a lot of time enjoying each other's company and decompressing after the stress of the wedding."

Charleston, South Carolina

Jill Lusk, 25, and her husband, Bill, were married in Pittsburgh and honeymooned in Charleston in 2011. The Southern city offered them a well-rounded trip in a laidback atmosphere. "Our honeymoon had everything we ever could have wanted: amazing food, gorgeous location, perfect weather, nice locals, great accommodations, and the freedom and flexibility to enjoy it all at our own pace," says Lusk.

However, that's not to say that basking in the Southern sun will completely slow you down, "Charleston offers a lot of amenities of a larger city, such as a very well-developed restaurant scene and a decently sized airport," says Lusk.

New Orleans, Louisiana

The Big Easy is home to some of the country's most famous food, music and history. Stay in century -old establishments (like the Hotel Monteleone, founded in 1886), keep close to your new spouse on a ghost tour, and make sure to stray from Bourbon Street to experience the real New Orleans.

California Wine Country

California's sprawling wine country offers romance around every corner (or, around every barrel of Meritage). The accommodations are intimate, the food is sensual, and the atmosphere is decidedly laidback. Los Angeles native Amber Lorentzen and her new husband planned a Napa Valley honeymoon for these reasons, but it was the Valley's proximity to their Calamigos Ranch wedding that sealed the deal. "The major benefit was the cost and time to travel," she says, "We didn't want to spend half of our one-week honeymoon flying to and from Europe."

For oenophiles dreaming of a trip to Italy on a limited budget, consider jetting off to the West Coast instead. "It was way more fun feeling like we could splurge on food and wine if we wanted to," says Lorentzen.

Lake Tahoe

Nestled on the California/Nevada border, this massive body of water is host to both luxury resorts and cozy cabins. Escape during the winter for prime snowshoeing, skiing and snowboarding conditions. The summer offers plenty of hiking excursions and an opportunity to experience water sports on the lake.


Katie Helfenberger, 24, married her husband in his hometown of Zurich, Switzerland, but chose to return to the States for a honeymoon closer to home. She offers a concise review of their 2011 trip to the Hawaiian Islands: "It is probably the closest thing to paradise one can reach without leaving the country ... Hawaii is a bit of heaven on earth."

It's time to stop thinking of Hawaii as a honeymoon cliché and start imagining it as the ultimate getaway. If the hustle and bustle of Oahu isn't your scene, look into the other, smaller islands for quiet romance. The island of Kauai hosts a little over 1 million visitors per year, while Lanai hosts only 94,000 (compared to well over 4 million visitors on Oahu).

The U.S. Virgin Islands

Even with a dead giveaway in the name (that little "U.S."), it's easy to forget about the U.S. Virgin Islands when planning a passport-free trip. Maybe it's because the islands feel so international. "It was the most gorgeous, tropical, sunny island getaway I could have ever imagined," says Chicagoan Jaime Straus, 35, who married and honeymooned on St. Thomas in 2010. "It was still an island destination without the hassle of international travel."

Still not sold? Check out a cruise.

Many cruises that depart from (and return to) an American port no longer require a passport to travel. Check the regulations of your favorite cruise line, and you could be sailing down the coast of Mexico quicker than you can say, "Cerveza, por favor."

Christy James


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