When you hear about honeymoons or romantic getaways for Valentine's Day or other occasions, so often the trip involves expensive hotels in upscale destinations.
But Mike and Anne Howard took their honeymoon on the road, threw in a sense of adventure and learned to travel cheaply in trips to seven continents over five years. They blogged about being the "world's longest honeymooners" at HoneyTrek.com and wrote a book, "Ultimate Journeys for Two: Extraordinary Destinations on Every Continent," featuring 75 destinations and travel advice. And they recently launched a travel agency, HoneyTrek Trips , to help others experience destinations from the book and other places in what they call "HoneyTrek style" — a mix of "local and luxury with a dash of travel hacking."
"Adventure can be romantic even if it doesn't have rose petals on the bed and chocolates on your pillow," said Mike Howard.
The Howards recently discussed their journey and philosophy on the weekly AP Travel "Get Outta Here!" podcast .
The book "Ultimate Journeys for Two" is organized by type of place rather than region — mountains, beaches, deserts, road trips, snow and ice, etcetera — with an emphasis on less well-known spots like Tortuguero, Costa Rica, Thailand's Railay Peninsula or Tromso, Norway.
"Paris is amazing and Kyoto is fantastic but you don't need to hear that from us," Anne Howard said. "We want to share these remote corners of the world that you may not have heard of."
Looking for a warm destination for spring break? They Howards recommend Eleuthera in the Bahamas, just a hop from Miami, with the Caribbean on one side and the Atlantic on the other, colorful clapboard homes and roads only wide enough for a golf cart. Or consider the Dominican Republic — not Punta Cana's all-inclusive resorts but southwest's mountains and beaches, where the Howards stayed in a glamping retreat called Eco Del Mar that costs $35 a night for a comfy bed in a beach tent.
A favorite U.S. winter destination is Vermont, where they got married. "Vermont under a blanket of snow could not be more romantic and adventurous," Anne Howard said. Apres ski, enjoy a romantic dinner in a yurt by the fire: "There's something about cozying up in a cabin with the person you love."
FROM A HONEYMOON TO A BUSINESS
The Howards' odyssey began in 2012 with an around-the-world honeymoon. As their destination wish list got longer, they decided to spend their savings to travel for a year. They originally aimed to spend $100 a day, but after visiting 33 countries in two years, they found they were spending just $35 to $76 a day. Now, Anne Howard says, "our budget is more like $24 a day for two. ... Travel does not have to be expensive."
How do they do it? "Travel hacking" — accumulating credit card miles for free flights, cheap Airbnbs or house-sitting, where they'd take care of plants or pets in exchange for free lodging. They also recommend saving up for travel by putting aside a portion of every paycheck.
Travel can be stressful. So how did the Howards get along during their years on the road?
"You really have to roll with the punches," said Anne Howard. "There's going to be snafus, just accept that out of the gate and learn to laugh about it and get over it quickly. Don't hold grudges and also take preventative measures. Sometimes you have a blow-up but really your blood sugar is low and a granola bar would have fixed it. Be prepared. Have charged batteries and snacks on hand. Taking breaks and drinking water and some of those basic maintenance things can alleviate little tiffs."
Long trips also involve a different mindset. It's "not the 10-day trip where people want to pack in everything and have every cab and hotel and museum appointment so dialed in," said Mike Howard. On longer trips, "something changes in the way you travel. ... You get a chance to learn from these other cultures and the people. Those stresses fade away because you get in this rhythm of travel and you have different takeaways from the cultures you meet and you see the way they handle their day-to- day life."
And never mind upscale restaurants with overpriced menus. "I don't think there's any dinner more romantic than a sunset picnic overlooking an incredible vista," said Anne Howard, "and it's just the two of you and a bottle of wine."