Honeymoon Help – Helping you Plan a USA Road Trip!

Photography Credit: David McNeil

Hello Kat,

Hope you are keeping well!!! I see you have been very busy and it’s not even Feb yet!!!!!
I have to thank you again for blogging the wedding. We’ve been married now for 5 months but I still go to your blog religiously everyday! David has also been amazing and used one of my pics for the link to his website which just makes me grin like a cheshire cat!!!!!! (You can she Shalma & Leo’s wedding here!)

We’re planning our honeymoon at the moment. We decided not to do the honeymoon straight after the wedding for a number of reasons, money, timing and I didn’t want to peek too much in all the excitement and have nothing to look forward to.

Have you got any tips on all things honeymooney? How to get the best deals, where to go, how to get upgraded rooms and flights!!!! Any wisdom of yours will be greatly appreciated!!!!


I love to get emails from you, my darling readers. Although I get a lot (and I mean a lot!) of messages everyday I do try my hardest to reply and help out everyone that takes the time to email me. However, as I’ve said many times before, I’m certainly not an expert in all aspects of wedding day planning (after all, I’ve only done it once myself!) yet what I do have is a crack team of experts on hand to help out and guest write their little asses off to help you.

For Shalma’s dilemma I called upon the expertise of the fabulous Emma Gibbs of The Honeymoon Project.

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Ah, upgrades, that all-important honeymoon question! The key to getting upgrades is to tell absolutely everyone that it’s your honeymoon – so if you email a hotel or make a reservation, add a note saying “this is for our honeymoon”, and drop it into conversation every time you check in. Hotel upgrades are pretty standard for honeymooners – we arranged our honeymoon independently and were upgraded everywhere we stayed. Unfortunately, bagging a flight upgrade isn’t quite so easy. If you book your tickets through an agent then do let them know it’s your honeymoon and they will probably add a note to your booking, which might help. Otherwise, it’s really a case of letting the check-in staff know (but they will hear it a lot, so may not play ball); dressing relatively smartly and having a frequent flyer card can also help. Failing that, most airlines will let you pre-book a bottle of champagne to enjoy when you get on board, so you can always do that just to make the economy experience feel a little bit swankier.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco by Alain Picard

September is a fantastic time to hit America’s West Coast – though the weather in San Fran is notoriously fickle so remember to pack a jumper or two just in case. The main thing is to decide is where to fly in and out of – you can then get an open-jaw ticket so that you don’t have to double back on yourselves. Shop around online for the best deals, and it’s also worth checking with travel agents like Trailfinders as they might be able to offer a good combined price for your flights and initial hotel stay.

Napa Valley by Mark Leary

The most common route is to fly into San Fran, hit the wine country (Sonoma makes a great alternative to Napa if you fancy somewhere a bit less touristy) and then head down the Pacific Coast Highway to LA – it’s a fantastic, beautiful oceanside drive, and you’ll want to allow a good few days so that you have time to really enjoy it (and to stop and take a million photos of the views). You should definitely check out the gorgeous yurts at Treebones on the Big Sur, which all have beautiful views out over the ocean.

Big Sur by Daniel Peckham

After a few days in LA (Santa Monica makes a great base, or choose Hollywood or Beverley Hills for that real “We’re in LA” feeling), I’d really recommend heading out to Joshua Tree National Park. It’s just a few hours’ drive from the city and feels like a completely different world – getting out into the vast desert there is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced (oh, and you have to stay at Spin and Margie’s Desert Hide-a-way). From here it’s just another four hours to Vegas – even if you’re not into the whole gambling and glitz thing, it’s a pretty good base from which to see the Grand Canyon, or you could just embrace the whole Wild West cowboy thing and stay out on a ranch

Joshua Tree National Park by Emma Gibbs

With regards to car hire, I generally find that ebookers and Car Hire 3000 offer the best rates for the USA. Make sure that insurance is included, and be aware that you’ll probably get charged a fee for dropping off the car in a different location to where you picked it up (sometimes payable in advance, otherwise on collection or return). Also, watch out for pesky parking restrictions (they’re always signposted) in LA – I’m rather ashamed to say that last time we were there our car got towed…returning from a rather lengthy trip to a record shop to find our car had disappeared was not a good holiday moment.

Las Vegas by Werner Kunz

There are generally two ways that people on road trips handle their accommodation: book it all in advance, or allow yourselves a bit of spontaneity and just see where each day takes you. Regardless of which you choose, I’d definitely recommend booking at least your first couple of nights, and if you want to stay anywhere special then booking ahead is always a good idea (though it’s always fun to turn up and see if they’ll offer you an amazing last-minute rate).  If you fancy just rocking up to roadside motels, then one way of making sure you don’t end up in a total flea-pit is to ask to see a room before you pay any money. And, it may not be the prettiest website in the world, but check out Roadside America – their town by town listings include a whole range of motels, so you can get an idea of where you might end up.

It’s really hard to beat the feeling of driving the “open road” in the US – so wherever you guys end up, whether you end up staying in motels that look like they haven’t changed since the 70s or in break-the-bank oceanview resorts, you’ll have a most amazing time.

Thunderbird Motel by Nils Gore

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Huge thanks to Emma of The Honeymoon Project for helping Shalma out with this today! Darling, I hope you have a fabulous trip!
The Honeymoon Project is the dedicated guide to all things honeymoon – whether you’re looking for a two-week beachside trip with nothing more strenuous that ordering another glass of champagne, ideas for getting off the beaten track, or help finding that perfect romantic hideaway.

Emma Gibbs is a travel writer and editor for Rough Guides, the UK’s best-known series of guidebooks for independent travellers. Having recently planned her own honeymoon – a four week road trip around South Africa – Emma set up The Honeymoon Project to help other couples plan their own trips by drawing on her extensive travel knowledge.

*This is NOT a sponsored post


  1. What a great post, some very useful tips. We had our honeymoon in October and traveled the west coast too, although we flew to LA and headed up to San Fran and then down to Vegas after Yosemite and Death Valley. We really had the most incredible time and I think about it everyday! I’d recommend it to anyone! For us though, we made the mistake of finishing in Vegas and it was a huge disappointment. We’d done so many amazing things and practically walked into a bear at Yosemite (!) that Vegas couldn’t beat that for us. I think we would have loved it if we’d started there with all our spending money and really excited about it being the start of the adventure. A little tip from me when doing a road trip is to allow for parking charges at hotels – we didn’t think about it and some of them were quite pricey – it all adds up!


  2. Could not agree more about Sonoma – we booked a little tour whilst staying in San Francisco and got to visit wonderful tiny vineyards and bring back some really special wine.

    Also you must go to Alcatraz! (We also did an incredibly geeky segway tour up and down the hills of SF, so much fun!)

    Oh I totally want to go and do more. Curse you Emma!!!

  3. We travelled around the west coast three years ago, our last big travel plans before planning our wedding. It was an amazing trip. We flew into LA and had booked a really nice hotel in advance for our first two night. We booked some accommodation in advance along the way and winged it in between which we were delighted about, it gave us more flexibility to spend more time in the places we loved. We drove LA, San Diego, Lake Havasu, Grand Canyon South, Grand Canyon, Vegas, Death Valley, Yosemite, Carmel, San Francisco.

    Our highlights were San Diego, brilliant town, such a buzz, even if we did stay in a total dump. The Grand Canyon, we stayed in a ranch on the South rim then drove around and stayed in a log cabin on the other side, amazing! I walked straight into a bull on our first night on the ranch, drunk after the camp fire, got the fright of my life, found out the next day he was a pet, tame bull. Also saw a wild wolf/dog. He was roaming the camp, very rare apparently. We got a helicopter ride over the canyon from the ranch, although I was so ill it was deffo worth it. Death Valley was pretty amazing, swimming in a pool in the dead of night, it was soooo hot during the day but very cool.
    Bodie, a real ghost town on the way to Yosemite, so creepy, so surreal.
    Driving into Yosemite we had just come from desert and were in shorts and t shirts, we climbed so high there was snow and ice, frozen lakes, then driving down into the valley it got so humid the ice started melting, by the time we got right down into the valley it was like another world, crazy waterfalls. The road can be a bit daunting, sheer drops, a deer jumped out straight in front of us, lucky Alan was driving or we’d have been over the cliff!
    Vegas was a bit of a let down, best part was the show we went to, Zumanity, wow! We stayed two night, more than enough time there.
    I loved San Francisco too, great nightlife and met so many strange an wonderful people there.
    Best advice is give yourself plenty of time to drive from A to B it will always take longer than you think. We rented a jeep which I would recommend some road around the Canyon, less travelled were more dirt tracks with major pot holes. And make sure you have plenty of Gas and water, some roads we met no one for hours!
    It’s a brilliant trip, once in a life time, so many extremes. You’ll love it.
    Sorry for the long post!

  4. Shalma Brend

    Oh my!!! Im so over whelmed at the time that was spent doing this post and for the comments from the girls.
    Kat, thank you so much for yet another wonderful post with me involved!!!
    Emma, I can’t wait to go on our honeymoon now! Your recommendations are brilliant and I have already been on all the sites to check everything out.
    Thank you a million times over!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  5. I’m so glad you like it, Shalma! And I really hope it helps – do drop me a line if you have any more questions.
    Thanks for asking me to do this post, Kat!

  6. rebelllll

    Yay! Yay! Yay! This is exactly what we wanna do for our honeymoon in October! Can’t wait!!

  7. BB

    We did this trip over 2 weeks in September last year, and it was so fantastic from start to finish that my boyfriend proposed on our last day in Venice Beach, LA!

    We flew into San Fran, spent a glorious few days there (high point: late-night lobster raviolli at a little wine bar in Little Italy), before hiring a car and driving up to Sonoma. We stayed at The Gaige House, which was truly amazing, and I would totally recommend Sonoma over Napa, it’s lovely and sleepy quiet, with amazing vineyards and great food to be had.

    We then drove down to Yosemite for 3 days of hiking around (high point: watching the sun set over Glacier Peak with a bottle of wine and a couple of plastic cups :-), before heading back to the coast to spend some time driving down Big Sur.

    We ended up in Venice Beach, LA for our final 4 days, staying in a private little apartment set in the garden of a private house on Venice’s walkstreets, which the lovely lady-of-the-house lets out as a B&B rental. Perfect location near Abbot Kinney blvd and the beach, amazing weather, and a proposal to top it all off!

    Can’t recommend this Californian itinerary enough.

  8. Fave holiday ever. So many contrasts, from city to beach to desert to snowy mountains. Yosemite is just jaw droppingly stunning, dont miss it.


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