The number of destination weddings is growing — 24% in 2014, according to The Knot’s Real Weddings Survey. That means that more and more guests are spending the time and money to travel for the nuptials of their friends and family.
When you’re planning to attend a destination wedding, you may feel like everything about your trip should focus on the bride and groom. But if you’re already paying for a plane ticket and asking for time off from your boss, there’s no reason not to turn it into a real vacation for yourself. Here are six ways to make that happen.
Plan extra time on the front end
One of the best ways to make a destination wedding feel like a vacation is to spend a few extra days there. But if you book that time during the days after the wedding, you may run into a few problems.
The bride and groom may be sticking around after the ceremony – in which case, you’ll end up feeling like you’re crashing their honeymoon when you keep running into each other. Or, even worse, you’ll discover that other guests are sticking around too — and you’re stuck meeting up with your aunt, uncle, and crazy cousins for dinner every night.
Instead, arrive a few days early without telling anyone and have your vacation pre-wedding. You’ll be relaxed and ready to enjoy the festivities, and if you discover that any friends are family are planning to stick around afterwards, you can share a few expert recommendations for what to do before you catch your flight home.
Skip the extra events
Many couples realize that a destination wedding is a big commitment, so they try to plan several extra events before or after the wedding for their guests to do. For some people, these bonus meals, tours, excursions, and game days could be all the vacation they need!
But if you prefer to set your own schedule and explore on your own, don’t be afraid to skip these bonus activities and set your own itinerary. As long as you’re there for the main event — and as long as you let the bride and groom know not to plan for your attendance at everything else — you’ll be able to squeeze in a little vacation time without leaving behind any hard feelings.
See what’s close by
There’s no rule that says you have to limit yourself to the spot where the wedding is being held. If you’re taking a few extra vacation days, there are probably several fun places nearby that would be easy to get to, especially if there’s somewhere else you’d rather be!
Maybe the bride and groom picked a Caribbean hotel that you’re not crazy about. Stay there the night of the wedding, then make a reservation at a nearby resort that you would like to visit. Scope out cities in the same state; for example, if you’re attending a wedding in Atlanta, you could rent a car and head to Savannah for a few nights. You can even move between countries — if you’re at a wedding in England, consider hopping on a train and making your way to Paris for a few nights.
Take advantage of amenities
Making a vacation out of your time at a destination wedding is all about embracing the things that are outside your normal routine. That can include pampering or indulging yourself a little bit.
If you’re paying for a fancy hotel or resort, make sure to take advantage of all the fun amenities that you don’t ordinarily have access to. Is there a beautiful beach nearby? A pool with bar service? A spa where you can pop in for an hour to get a massage or a facial? Set aside a little time to treat yourself to something out of the ordinary. Even if you only have an hour to spare before you have to get back to wedding things, the time you spent relaxing will still feel like a vacation!
Leave the kids behind
Sometimes, creating a vacation can be as simple as who you have with you. Or, for busy parents, who you don’t have with you — your kids.
Even if the wedding invitation says that children are welcome, consider turning the weekend into an adults-only vacation and leaving your kids with helpful parents, siblings, or family friends. Even if you are only gone for a few nights, the chance to get away without your whole family there will instantly make the getaway feel extra special and relaxing.
And if you can add in some pampering time at the spa or an extra day or two of sightseeing, even better!
Book your own hotel
Most brides and grooms thoughtfully arrange a block of rooms at one hotel for their guests. But if you’re the sort of person who needs downtime to relax — or if you just don’t want to be surrounded by other wedding guests 24/7 — you might want to rethink booking your own accommodations there.
Booking rooms at a nearby hotel that’s not associated with the wedding gives you a little more privacy without sacrificing convenience. You’ll be able to attend all the wedding events, brunches, and parties you want to, but still escape and have some time to yourself. And if you’re planning to spend a day or two on your own, staying in a separate hotel will make it easier to slip away without having everyone ask what you’re doing or if they can come along.
Setting aside time and money for a destination wedding can feel like a bit of a struggle. But with a little planning and the right attitude, you can turn it into a fantastic vacation that also lets you celebrate with the people you love.