As you approach your dreamy wedding day, you’ve probably put a lot of thought into the best honeymoon destinations. You can picture you and your new husband whisking away, waving goodbye to the trail of sparklers held in celebration by your loved ones, which fades with distance in the rear-view mirror as the two of you begin your new life together.

Too many bride-to-be’s get caught up imagining themselves heading straight to the airport where they’ll take off on a plane and jet to some tropical island or romantic European city. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that weddings are expensive and that faraway honeymoon might not be in the cards. If you need to save money and explore other alternatives that are closer to home, consider taking a road trip across the United States.

If you don’t think a honeymoon roadtrip can be romantic, think again. We’re here to show you how you can plan a budget honeymoon that’s nonetheless romantic and still super dreamy!

1. Start with the Right Car

Even though loading up the car will be the last phase of planning, knowing what car you plan to take on the road can help your sort through where you want to go, what you accommodations you’ll need, and how much to budget for.

For example, if you have a restored VW Bus that contains a mini kitchenette, you can probably get away with camping in it most nights of your trip, thereby saving a ton of money on lodging accommodations that can be better spent elsewhere. If you have a 4WD Jeep Wrangler, then you can plan a route with plenty of off-road adventures. Or maybe you shopped certified pre-owned Audi cars that shine in fuel efficiency, but lack a super roomy cabin. In that case, you’ll probably want to add a couple 5-Star hotels to your stop — and you’ll be able to afford your stays considering the savings you enjoy with that high MPG.

In other words, your car will largely determine the type of road trip you plan. It might mean spending your honeymoon in the moonlight, camping under the stars, or it might be a bonding experience as you travel between each metropolis. Whatever vehicle you bring on your voyage, make sure you consider all plans with your set of wheels in mind.

Start with the Right Car

2. Pin Places of Interest on the Map

When most people get started planning road trips, they don’t really know where they want to go, let alone what routes to take. Now’s the time to get organized for your honeymoon with some tactical planning. Bust out an old-school map — the bigger, the better, because the more clearly you’ll be able to see — and decide how many states you want to travel through, how many days you plan on being gone, and which stops are totally non-negotiable.

Let’s say that you’re newlyweds in Southern California preparing to make a West Coast tour. You’ve always wanted to see the super bloom in Joshua Tree, kayak the Grand Canyon, hike through Zion National Park, and cross the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies. Take push pins or use a permanent marker to designate spots on the map where each attraction is located.

Next, take a piece of string or a ruler to draw lines between each of the closest locations. Scope the peripherals of each straight line for major cities, state parks, national monuments, and so forth to see what you might be driving past but have no idea about.

Once you have all points of interest pinned down, you can start planning where you’re going to stay near each destination and which roads you’ll take to get there. One good strategy is marking a half-way point between two major cities; you cut your driving time in half and will likely benefit from cheaper rates in rural areas. Other couples might choose a spontaneous stay in the heart of downtown, while still others might choose to camp as close to the action as possible.

3. Pack the Essentials

From portable chargers to eye masks, the best road snacks to moleskin journals, don’t forget all the essential items you need to stay comfortable and happy during your honeymoon bonding experience. You’ll be stoked on all the money you save up for your next romantic getaway!

Pro Tip: Consider picking up a postcard from everywhere you visit and making a scrapbook of memories to ensure this is a trip not soon forgotten!

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