Specialist says planning is the key

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NEW YORK -- Plan well in advance. Encourage the couple to communicate with each other. Establish the budget.

These three factors are key to planning honeymoons and to becoming a successful honeymoon specialist, said Carol OConnor, a veteran travel agent who operates an online honeymoon travel-planning service and registry at www.travelbride.com.

OConnor recently was included on Travel+Leisure magazines 2004 A-List and named a Honeymoon Travel Super Agent, so she knows what she is talking about.

Based in Corte Madera, Calif., she is an independent agent who is affiliated with a host agency, Dimension Travel.

Planning ahead will allow clients the time not only to research destinations but also to obtain any necessary passports, visas or vaccinations. An early start may also enable them to use their frequent flyer miles for airline tickets and to receive some early-booking discounts, especially with the cruise lines, she said.

OConnor said it is imperative that [the bridal couple] communicate with each other and discuss their desires before the agent steps in.

A honeymoon ... must have the right ingredients to please them both. It is the agents responsibility to ask them questions, said OConnor. For example, do they want a beach vacation or an active adventure or a combination of both?

Ask if they share common interests, such as biking, golfing or diving, OConnor said. And, she added, the retailer needs to know what the romantic fantasies are. Are they dreaming of a sunset sail or a moonlight couples massage?

Then theres the cost. Before making any travel plans, they need to establish a budget for their trip. It is helpful for them to do some research online to get an idea of costs, she said.

OConnor suggested using her TravelBride.com honeymoon registry service as an option to enable wedding guests to contribute to the cost as their gift. Couples are charged a $150 fee.

OConnor had been a leisure agent in the San Francisco Bay area for more than 25 years before she began specializing in honeymoons.

In 1997, I had a client planning her honeymoon. It was her second marriage, and she really did not need household items as wedding gifts. She asked if I would accept checks from her friends and family as gifts that we could apply toward the cost of her honeymoon.

The agent liked the idea, implemented it and the couple received a substantial amount of money, enabling them to have the honeymoon of their dreams.

This led OConnor to launch TravelBride.com. Today, 50% of her business comes through her site, she said.

To contact reporter Donna Tunney, send e-mail to [email protected].

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