Ask the Pro Series – Issue 1: Planning the Perfect Honeymoon with Brownell Travel

I’m so excited to share with you the first issue in my new Ask the Pro editorial series, where experts in their field share inside tips and how to’s with HDP so I can share them with you! I’ve been very selective about my partners in this series because I want you to hear from the very best in the business! Most of these partners are based in Nashville and Birmingham, the cities where I’ve lived and worked the most. However, their reach extends much further.

First up…Brownell Travel. I’m thrilled for you to get acquainted with this company (if you aren’t already),  the leading upscale travel firm in the Southeast since 1887. Brownell is a member of Virtuoso, the world’s oldest and most prestigious leisure travel association. Less than 1% of America’s agencies are accepted for membership in Virtuoso. These select agencies must be able to offer clients extensive knowledge and wide-ranging experience on travel throughout the world. Virtuoso travel consultants create experiences, not just trips or vacations.

Brownell Travel is based in Birmingham, AL, but has experienced advisors all over the world. So, no matter where you call home, they have knowledgeable pros to help plan your perfect honeymoon, destination wedding, vacation or trip to just celebrate life!

“Travel, it leaves you speechless
and then turns you into a storyteller.”
— lbn Batutta


 

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Haisley Smith, CTA Vice President of Marketing and Development,  Brownell Travel (image supplied)

Haisley Smith, CTA is the Vice President of Marketing and Development for Brownell Travel. Haisley joined Brownell in 2005 as the Director of Marketing and now serves as the Vice President of Marketing & Development. She set her sights on a career in the travel industry after studying anthropology abroad at the University of Innsbruck in 1998. Through her position at Brownell, Haisley is able to combine two passions – seeing the world and promoting the amazing travel experiences Brownell can offer.

Haisley promotes Brownell by highlighting travel advisors’ expertise, access to authentic experiences, legendary personalized itineraries, and travel perks that come from Brownell’s strong reputation and relationships with other Virtuoso travel providers. In short – “Travel Beyond Your Expectations.”

Haisley and I have known each other since 2000, where we worked together at a magazine publishing company. We’ve stayed in touch ever since, working together on various projects for Brownell over the years. I’ve even photographed her two beautiful daughters and watched them grow up through my lens. Brownell has also planned amazing trips for me, including Paris and Mexico. Next up on my list is Italy! Haisley has never met a stranger, is passionate about her job and is truly an exceptional person. Here’s what she had to say in response to our honeymoon planning questions.


Q&A with Brownell Travel:

What makes Brownell Travel the best option for all my honeymoon planning
needs? 

Connections and Experience. We’ve been in business for more than 130 years and we’ve worked with hundreds of resorts since they opened their doors and that opens (otherwise closed) doors for our clients. 

What is the best advice you could give newlyweds on finding their perfect honeymoon destination?

Your honeymoon should be as thoughtfully planned and as personal as your wedding. You wouldn’t duplicate your friend’s wedding, why would you duplicate their honeymoon? The perfect destination and honeymoon is uniquely yours. Use an expert to help you uncover what that is.

What are ten things you need to know before planning your honeymoon? 

1. If you didn’t want a cookie-cutter wedding, a cookie-cutter honeymoon from the Internet is going to disappoint you. 

2. Prices for the same room at the same resort can fluctuate by several hundred dollars per night depending on the time of year.

3. The day after the wedding is not always the best time to depart for your honeymoon. Delayed honeymoons can be even better because you have the luxury of anticipating the trip instead of worrying about wedding details.

4. All-inclusive resorts are not always a great value, but many fantastic resorts have all-inclusive packages they don’t promote to the public.

5. Domestic honeymoons are often overlooked but can be magical with the added bonus that they are easy to return to for anniversaries.

6. Don’t be fooled by pretty pictures on the Internet. If sugar-white beaches and turquoise water are important to you, work with an expert who knows what the destinations actually look like, season by season. 

7. Talk through your expectations of what you want to experience on your honeymoon with your fiancé. You may picture yourselves on a beach under an umbrella all day, but he may be expecting rock climbing and kayaking!

8. Be wary of travel advice from well-meaning friends and family. Their ideal is probably not yours, even if they are great spokespeople for their favorite destinations and resorts.

9. Agree on a budget and be transparent with your travel advisor. A professional travel advisor will not try to “upsell” you and will be very candid about what kind of experience you can expect with your budget. 

10. Even though you may be excited to use your new name, don’t book your airline ticket in your married name!

What are the top places to honeymoon in Europe? 

The hot destinations for honeymoons in Europe now are Greece, Portugal and Spain. Italy and France are always popular and always a good idea.

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Canaves Oia, Greece, (image supplied)
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Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Italy, (image supplied)
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Six Senses Duoro Valley, Portugal, (image supplied)
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Belmond La Residencia, Spain, (image supplied)
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Park Hyatt, Paris, (image supplied)

What are the top places to honeymoon in the US?

Napa/Sonoma Valley, San Francisco, South Florida, Oregon, and New England are great honeymoon destinations.

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Faena, Miami (image supplied)
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Acqualina, Miami (image supplied)

How would you suggest making the most out of your honeymoon when you only have a few days of vacation?

Choose a destination with a short flight or short drive. No need to waste valuable relaxing time in an airport, on a plane or on the road. Don’t overschedule or over-plan and DEFINITELY don’t over pack. Maximize your time by having a plan and not scrambling for restaurant or activity reservations on site.

What are the top three places to honeymoon in the Caribbean?

It changes every year. My personal favorites are St Lucia, Turks & Caicos and the BVI.

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The Shore Club, Turks & Caicos (image supplied)
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Hermitage Bay, Antigua (image supplied)
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Curtain Bluff, Antigua (image supplied)
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Amanyara, Turks & Caicos (image supplied)

Do all-inclusive resorts actually save you money in the end? 

I’m personally not a fan of all-inclusive resorts for honeymoons because the experience can be very cookie-cutter and you become one honeymoon couple among hundreds. The “brand-name” all-inclusives give many of the special, independent all-inclusives a bad name with poor service, poor food, and watered-down drinks. There are some gems out there, but in the end, you can’t put a price on disappointment.

“Wedding season” is May-August which is hurricane month for most of the Caribbean…what are other easily accessible tropical destinations?

There are lots of destinations in the south Pacific, South America and even in the Caribbean that very rarely (if ever) are affected by hurricanes. They are each very different with very different price points. 

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The Brando, French Polynesia (image supplied)
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Laucala Island, Fiji South Pacific (image supplied)
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Gili Lankafushi, Maldives (image supplied)  

“We are wanting an adventurous honeymoon in the US”…what are the top places we should consider? 

The American West – we love Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona

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The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana (image supplied)
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Amangiri, Utah (image supplied)
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The Resort at Paws Up, Montana (image supplied)

“I want to surprise my bride with our honeymoon”…How can Brownell help me make sure I include everything she would want? 

Brownell has a really powerful tool – think of it as Netflix for travel that helps couples rank and rate their travel styles and wish-lists.

Is there a secret trick to getting upgrades?

Yes, a well-connected travel advisor has access to exclusive preferred partner programs with hotels and resorts that give their clients special amenities, perks and put them top of the list for upgrades – some at the time of booking!

Website: Brownell Travel | Phone: 205.802.6222EndCap

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Photo by Heather Durham Photography in La Jolla, CA

Whether you are a bride and groom planning a Destination Wedding or honeymoon, or Parents of the Bride and Groom needing a vacation after all the busy wedding planning, if this first issue of Ask the Pro doesn’t get you grabbing your passport and online shopping for new luggage, I’m not sure what will! Thank you to Brownell Travel and Haisley Smith for sharing your expertise with us!

 

 

Rachel & Alex’s Downtown Nashville Engagement Session

I had fun getting to know these two on a perfect fall day. We started their Engagement Session at Centennial Park, because several months ago, Alex flew in town, surprised Rachel there and asked her to marry him on the steps of the Parthenon. From there we made our way to the Shelby pedestrian bridge downtown. Rachel won’t be living in Nashville after they get married, so she wanted to capture this beautiful city in their images since it’s an important piece of their story.

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Rachel & Alex's Downtown Nashville Engagement Session by Heather Durham Photography

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Rachel & Alex's Downtown Nashville Engagement Session by Heather Durham Photography

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Liz & Thomas’ Country Music Hall of Fame Wedding, Nashville TN

Liz, Thomas and their families were an absolute delight to work with and I’m thrilled to share their lovely Nashville wedding day. Liz was a stunning and graceful bride in her Pronovias gown at West End United Methodist Church, which was a beautiful setting with its wood arched atrium and old stone. Thomas owns an extensive collection of country music vinyl, so their reception at The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum was the perfect choice. He was all smiles while we were doing their portraits at Walk of Fame Park and inside the museum. The Event Hall, on the top floor of the museum, boasts beautiful views of downtown Nashville from its wall of windows. I love it when Nashville gets all dressed up and Jayne Bubis Events did an amazing job!

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PHOTOGRAPHER | Heather Durham
ASSISTANT PHOTOGRAPHER | Emily Kicklighter
PLANNER | Jayne Bubis
CUSTOM INVITATION DESIGN | You’re Invited
FLORAL DESIGN | Terry White
WEDDING GOWN | Pronovias from Lana Addison Bridal
HAIR | Michelle Clark
MAKE UP |Val Cole
 GROOM’S ATTIRE | Street Tuxedo
BRIDESMAIDS DRESSES | Watters and Watters
CAKE ARTIST | Dessert Designs by Leland
CEREMONY VENUE | West End United Methodist Church
RECEPTION VENUE | Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville TN
ENTERTAINMENT | The Downtown Band
VIDEOGRAPHER | Loomis Films

 

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Kristen & Sean’s Nashville TN Destination Wedding at The Cordelle

Kristen is a self proclaimed ‘Military Brat” who has lived all over, including Germany when she was a young girl. Sean is from Mobile, Alabama, but they both currently live and work in Dallas. So the question became, “Where in the U.S. will we get married?” They decided to choose a city that was a fun destination and an easily accessible distance for their friends and family to travel. They decided on Nashville and The Cordelle with accommodations at The Westin.

Kristen chose a beautiful, yet simple wedding gown design by Truvelle, based in Vancouver, Canada. The bridesmaids wore a soft color palette of complimenting pastel hues by Jenny Yoo. Bella Petali did a beautiful job dressing up The Cordelle with lovely florals, and I’m a fan of any caterer who serves biscuits at the reception. Thank you Mariposa’s Catering!

Here are some of my favorite images from Kristen and Sean’s wedding day in Music City. You’re going to love their First Look. Sean’s reaction was priceless. HDP-Wells-10_-WEB.jpg

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PHOTOGRAPHER | Heather Durham
ASSISTANT PHOTOGRAPHERS | Jana Sobel & Colt Fetters
VENUE | The Cordelle
WEDDING GOWN | Truvelle from A and bé Dallas
VEIL | Hushed Commotion NYC
BRIDESMAIDS DRESSES | Jenny Yoo from Bella Bridesmaids Birmingham
GROOM & GROOMSMEN ATTIRE | Joseph A. Bank
FLORAL & EVENT DESIGN | Bella Pateli
CATERING | Mariposa’s Catering
CAKE ARTIST | Susie’s Sweets, Susie Dennison
HAIR & MAKE UP | Brittany Massey
RENTALS | The 12th Table
ENTERTAINMENT | Tim Tyler and Lane Wood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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