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CNNMoney Features our expert Honeymoon Planning Advice

Now that the kids are grown and the mortgage is paid, couples are taking full advantage.

By Jessica Seid, CNNMoney.com staff writer

March 17, 2006: 1:25 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Explore an ancient temple in Cambodia, ride an elephant in Thailand...watch a ping-pong match in China. These days couples are taking trips that complement their style and they are sparing no expense.

"I really think people want more than laying on the beach and having a pina colada handed to them," said Renee Duane, president and founder of Unforgettable Honeymoons.

More recently, couples are opting for diverse experiences that could involve exploring ancient cultures, pursuing special interests or charting unknown regions, and more personalized travel companies are popping up to help them.

"The trend nowadays would be for something absolutely unique and different," said Leslie Fambrini, a personalized travel consultant, but noted that travelers aren't sacrificing luxury for remote locales. "They still want all the pleasures...cappuccinos, the finest cuisine, the wine pairings."

Unforgettable Honeymoons tailors a distinctive vacation for each client. The travel company specializes in places that incorporate luxury and, what she calls, "soft adventure," such as sea kayaking, snorkeling, sailing, hiking (not backpacking) and village visits.

"We ask our clients a lot of questions, so we can give them some great choices," Duane said. "I describe our service as matchmaking."

New York-based Absolute Travel will also arrange a personalized trip for every patron. The culinary-minded traveler may opt for a private tour of the local street markets, cooking lessons or even lunch in a neighborhood home.

"We recently had a family in China and they wanted to attend a ping pong academy," said Christina Stubbs, the company's marketing manager. "We've had a request for just about everything."

Not only does the company tailor unique experiences but changes to your vacation plans can be made on the spot. There is no fixed agenda or set plan, "the suggested itinerary can be altered as you wish."

Gone are the days of bus tours through Italy and all-inclusive beach resorts. "You've done the basic beach vacation, the basic city vacation," said Carley Roney, editor-in-chief of The Knot. "People are trying to push the limits."

And if you missed the boat on your honeymoon, the 25th anniversary is a great time to go "because for some (baby boomers) it's the first big trip after the kids are grown," said Fambrini.

"There's a lot of that empty nest moment," agreed Roney. With more money and more time, couples may want to make the second honeymoon the truly memorable one.

Duane named Fiji as her top recommendation, because the island is "really private" and "you can have a picnic on a private beach without someone selling time shares."

Unforgettable Honeymoons' Fiji packages start at around $1,700 per person but a week on the ultra-exclusive Turtle Island, which only accommodates 14 couples at a time, costs over $12,000 a pair.

Asia, Africa and the South Pacific are some of Absolute Travel's most popular regions -- a 13-day trip to South Africa will set you back more than $8,000 a head and a seven-day exploration of Dubai and the Maldives can be as much as $26,000 for you and your sweetheart.

Other hot locales include India, Seychelles, Australia, China, Japan and Cambodia. (Click here to see a photo gallery.)

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