We’re currently in the throes of wedding season. Summer and into early fall is prime time for knot-tying and chances are, you’ve got a few invitations stuck to your fridge. If any of the invitations in the pile involve travel, either for a weekend or longer, you may have some questions about planning, booking flights and hotels, packing and general logistics around how to make the most of your upcoming trip without cleaning out your bank account in the name of (someone else’s) love.
Whether you’ve agreed to hop on a short flight for a wedding weekend getaway, or you’ve just committed to crossing oceans to watch one of your favorite couples get married, there are admittedly a few things to think about that wouldn’t factor in if you were attending a wedding closer to home. From when to book flights (which you found on Cheapflights.com) to how best to pack for a wedding away, read on for our best wedding season travel tips.
Whether the wedding is only a few states away or a destination wedding in a tropical paradise, it can still be fun to get a vacation out of the deal. Here are some travel planning tips to keep in mind:
Flights: As a general rule of thumb, when someone is planning a wedding that requires the majority of guests to travel, save-the-dates go out eight-to-12 months before the big day, while you should get the actual invitation three-to-six months in advance of the wedding day. So when should you book your airfare? That will depend on where the nuptials are being held. The further away the wedding is from you geographically, the further in advance you should book your flight. For example, if you will be traveling from Toronto, Canada, to Nassau, Bahamas, you won’t have to book as far in advance as if you were heading to a wedding in Santorini, Greece. Start your planning and destination research when you get the save-the-date, but wait to book until two-to-three months outside of the wedding date, with a longer lead time for further destinations. Once you know the date, you can also set up fare alerts to keep an eye on prices and book when you see a good deal.
Before you book, read all of the information you were given (on the save-the-date, wedding website and on the invitation) very closely. What do the bride and groom recommend in terms of booking travel and accommodations? If the information is vague, don’t be afraid to ask questions (the earlier, the better) about booking your flight and hotel.
Travel documents: Depending on where you’re going, like any vacation, you’ll need to make sure your travel documents are up-to-date well in advance of your departure date. Many countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months from your time of entry, so, if the wedding is out of the country, double check as soon as you decide you want to attend. Destination weddings are typically smaller and couples may struggle to limit the guest list. You don’t want to RSVP for a destination wedding only to realize too late you’re unable to fly.
Accommodations: Most likely, the bride and groom will have booked out a block of rooms at their resort or hotel of choice for guests, usually at a reduced group rate. Does this mean that this is your only option when it comes to where you stay? Not necessarily. If the hotel or resort on offer doesn’t fit into your travel budget, or you would rather stay elsewhere (like an Airbnb or cheaper hotel) look into other options that are more in line with your budget. Just note that you will likely miss out on shuttles to and from the wedding and other wedding-related events usually provided to guests, so be sure to factor in these transportation costs.
You’re already spending money on flights, hotel and other travel-related necessities – and now you need to think about a gift, too? Yes and no. Gifting can a tricky topic when it comes to destination weddings, but here are some general things to think about.
To gift or not to gift: There’s a lot of information on the internet about whether or not it’s necessary to buy a gift for a destination wedding. One school of thought says a simple card is enough since you’ll already be spending money on flights and accommodations, while the flipside is that you’re going to a wedding plain and simple – which in itself denotes that a gift is required. Etiquette-wise, it’s still your best bet to get a gift (unless of course the bride and groom have implemented a no-gift policy). Consider a lower-cost, more personal present or an experiential gift.
Flying with wedding gifts: Air travel complicates what you can and cannot take with you to a wedding. Flying with gifts can be inconvenient. They take up precious space in your luggage, may break or be damaged in flight and should be packed unwrapped (airport security personnel can unwrap gifts if they see it necessary), and once you gift it, the couple will need to get it home. Gift cards and checks are always a welcome alternative, or opt to mail your gift ahead of time or even after the fact. (Wedding etiquette says you have a full year from the wedding to send your gift — this is also a way to budget, if you are close to the couple and want to give a gift but have exhausted your finances). If you take advantage of the extra time, do bring a card to the wedding.
Figuring out what to wear to a regular wedding (as in, one where you don’t need to travel to get there) can be enough. But when it comes packing your formal attire, as well as clothing for other wedding-related events, things are trickier.
Know what you need to pack for: Will the wedding be casual or formal? How many other pre- and post-wedding events will you be expected to attend? What will the weather be like where you’re heading? These are all important things to consider before you even start pulling things out of your closet. You’ll likely find all of this information on the invitation or on the wedding website, but if you don’t have all of the information you think you’ll need, ask before you start packing.
Be strategic: Most likely you’ll have to attend at least a couple of pre- and post-wedding events, which means packing more than one wedding-related outfit. Since you don’t want to end up saddled with multiple bags, be strategic. This means packing items that can be used more than once in various ways (i.e. a blazer that can be either casual or formal).
Have a carry-on outfit: Unless you’re just heading out of town for a couple of days, you won’t likely be able to pack everything you need in a carry-on. But you will want to make sure you have something to wear to the wedding should your checked bag somehow not show up when and where it’s supposed to. Aim for something simple yet stylish, ideally made of fabric that doesn’t wrinkle.
More wedding travel tips
Here are a few more tips for attending a destination wedding:
Make a vacation out of it: You’re spending the money anyway; you may as well enjoy it. Of course, there will be commitments to keep in mind, but during your downtime, make sure to take advantage of where you are and if you can, tack on a few extra days of travel after the wedding.
Don’t over-RSVP: There will likely be more than a few planned events to RSVP to. Don’t feel the need to over-commit yourself. You can’t skip out on everything, but make sure you build in time so you don’t stretch yourself (or your budget) too thin.
Have fun – but don’t overdo it: It’s a wedding, you feel like you’re on vacation and maybe there’s an open bar featuring fun, umbrella-laden cocktails. By all means, enjoy yourself, but be responsible and don’t be that guy; you know, the one who ends up passing out on the beach after one too many tequila shots.
Have a just-in-case in-flight hangover plan: OK, we did just tell you not to overdo it, but if that ship has long since sailed – and you need to get yourself onto a plane while dealing with the aftereffects of too much wedding wine, you’re going to need a plan. That plan involves downing water (and lots of it), eating a light yet protein-packed meal well in advance of your flight to get your energy up and having earplugs and an eyeshade on the flight so you can ideally get some hangover-reducing sleep on the way home. Check out our guide to handling an in-flight hangover for more tips.
How do you prep for an out-of-town wedding? Let us know in the comments below, and when you’re ready to start your travel search, head to Cheapflights.com to find the best prices.Search for flights