This is part three of my ongoing series on honeymooning while on a budget.
By staying within driving distance of their hometown of Austin, Lesley and Bryan’s honeymoon in Big Bend was both affordable and undeniably romantic. Choosing a destination that’s a little off the beaten path (at least as far as honeymoons go) allowed the couple to avoid crowds, tours, and temptations to over-spend and instead enjoy quiet, romantic time together over an awe-inspiring view.
Here’s how they planned it.
How did you decide where to go for your honeymoon?
We chose [Big Bend] because we were on a tight budget, and we wanted somewhere relatively close to our wedding in Austin but still far-removed from our everyday lives. Additionally, Bryan had never been to Big Bend, and I’ve always loved West Texas, so I wanted him to experience it.
How important was price in choosing a honeymoon destination?
Very important. I was a student at the time, and although our wedding registry was a honeymoon fund, we ended up having to spend some of that money on bills, and we wanted to save the rest for an international trip, which we’re taking this year.
What was your best budget find?
The best meal we ate there was barbeque sandwiches on Texas toast, slow cooked for two days by the lady bartender of the High Sierra tavern in a ghost town called Terlingua. It couldn’t have cost us more than ten bucks, but I’m telling you, it’s one of the greatest meals I’ve ever eaten, and we’ll both remember it forever.
What made this a good destination for someone on a budget?
There’s not a whole lot to spend money on in West Texas. Most of what we did was exploring by car or by foot, which happen to be free. We did have to budget for gas, of course — it’s an eight-hour drive from where we live — but it was nice to be in a place where there’s no pressure to buy things and spend money all the time. It allowed us to relax and focus on each other, and sort of forget about money altogether for a few days. It felt very minimalist and romantic.
Did you plan in advance?
We planned a little bit in advance: we booked the room at the resort, and we also bought tickets to a Star Party at the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis ahead of time. But part of why we chose West Texas was that we knew we wouldn’t have to plan much. There are no crowds out there, no museum lines, no sold-out show tickets, no busy airports; we could wake up every day and do whatever we were in the mood for. It was the perfect break between planning a big wedding and going back to our jobs.
What type of accommodations did you choose?
We could have camped; the weather in Big Bend was beautiful that October and the state park has wonderful camping. But we wanted to be comfortable (RE: lazy), so we booked a honeymoon suite at the Lajitas resort in Big Bend.
How was the quality of the accommodation in comparison to the price?
Lajitas is in the middle of nowhere. It’s a small, rustic Old West-themed hotel with a golf course and a pool, and a general store a mile down the road. It’s practically on the banks of the Rio Grande and at the edge of the state park. The staff was incredibly friendly and the accommodations were very comfortable, though nothing particularly luxurious. We paid a bit more for it than a comparable hotel in any big city, but it’s basically the only place out there, and we did enjoy lazing by the pool under the desert sun. Staying in an expensive, five-star hotel was not something that was important to us; we cared much more about the overall experience. Lajitas was perfect for our needs.
Did you always agree on how to spend your money?
We generally always saw eye-to-eye on what to splurge on, which were all things we could both enjoy. We spent an afternoon in Marfa, which is a quirky little art town, and spent some money on escargot and fancy cocktails, since we had been so thrifty otherwise. The Star Party at the observatory, where they set up all kinds of telescopes for you to look through, was another expense, but a total no-brainer. It’s so surreal to walk through a crowd of people whose faces you can’t see in the dark, looking at star clusters and galaxies and nebulas — true mood lighting.
Would you recommend this honeymoon destination to friends?
I absolutely recommend it to anyone. I won’t shut up about it if you get me started. We had an incredible time. We lazed by the pool, ate insane barbecue, saw wild horses in the desert, and stargazed every night (the stars are beyond compare out there); we hiked, climbed, and explored ruins, and we met the most interesting, friendly people. I only wish we’d had more time out there. I’d go back in a heartbeat.
Any advice for couples planning their honeymoons?
Keep the strange destinations in mind. Choosing an odd, isolated place will reset you emotionally and intellectually. Not being distracted by money, crowds, or rigorous schedules will give you more time to focus on each other. Dramatic, sparse physical landscapes are undeniably romantic: they inspire awe and reflection. Don’t let the weirdness of a place turn you off to its possibilities. America is full of strange places, so odds are you won’t have to travel far.