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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Planning a Romantic Valentine's Staycation

Some of us either don’t have the money to take a romantic getaway or want to spend that extra cash that you could use for a larger vacation later. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to enjoy a Valentine’s Day that will impress and create lifetime memories. Believe it or not, some of the best things in life really are free or at least cheap. Show your significant other that you care by doing something a little out of the box and unexpected that won’t empty out your pockets.

Have a Picnic

If you happen to live in an area of the country where winter has decided to give up, it’s pretty easy to find a nice little spot to take a meal to, or even throw a blanket down in your backyard. If, like us in the Northwest, you have cold and usually rainy weather, you have to be a little more creative. Push the living room furniture out of the way, light a fire or put on a yule log video (this is streaming year-round on Netflix) and toss a blanket and some throw pillows on the floor.

Some fun ideas for picnic foods:
  • Salad in a glass, so you have individual portions and can personalize each salad easily.
  • Caprese salad on a stick. These are delicious, simple and fun to eat.
  • Lasagna is delicious, but messy. Make lasagna cupcakes. Bonus that you can feed them to each other!
  • A great baguette or loaf of garlic bread. If you both eat it, it won’t be so unromantic to breathe on each other.
  • Cheese, cracker, fruit and meat platter. It can be sexy to eat with your hands.
  • Fruit! Grapes, apple slices and even chocolate covered strawberries.
  • Pressed sandwiches that you can cut into bite-size slices.
  • A nice (inexpensive) bottle of wine, sparkling juice or fruit water you can make yourself by infusing your favorite fruit in a pretty bottle or carafe of water. Here's a fun and fruity drink to whip up for the two of you as well.
  • Hand pies or empanadas. Put whatever you want in them, from curry chicken to cheese and veggies. You can make them easier by using biscuits or croissants in a tube.
  • Have a tea party with a selection of tiny bites: sandwiches, scones, sweets and all your other favorite things.
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Make Your Own Drive-In

We love movies. For one of my husband’s birthdays, I purchased a Roku projector and outdoor screen so we could watch movies in our yard. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on such a thing. In fact, you can turn your smartphone into a projector with a few items you probably have around your house. Use it inside with a sheet or do the same outside if it’s warm or you can snuggle up in the car and pretend you’re at a drive-in.

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Get It to Go

I am a big advocate for going out to dinner, but Valentine’s Day meals can be expensive and a lot of pressure. Get the experience you want by ordering a fancy dinner and bringing it home. You don’t have to dress up, you don’t have to see all those other couples and, if you get drunk, you don’t need to call a cab or an Uber. This is also nice, because you can skip paying for drinks and a big tip. (You'll want to dish everything out on real plates.) And if you want to make it extra special, here are 10 ways to set your table.

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Take a Drive

Sometimes it’s just nice to get out of the house. Pack a lunch and your camera, then jump in the car and drive around your city or to a nearby city or attraction (like a waterfall or historic district) and just take it all in. A nice little stroll along a romantic street or a riverbank can be relaxing and fun. Take photos of the two of you and your surroundings.

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Make S’mores

Got a firepit in your backyard (or not too afraid of flaming marshmallows in your fireplace)? Why not grab some sticks or fondue forks and spend a little time making an old favorite. Everyone likes a s’more, but you can also mix it up by using peanut butter, bananas or cookies. Feed each other your creations!

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Be a Kid Again

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be all about romance, as long as you enjoy yourself. Head to your local video arcade or laser tag arena and team up to beat the bad guys or rule a group of strangers at virtual war.

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Host Your Own Wine or Beer Tasting

You can do this as a couple or as a group. It’s quite a bit cheaper to purchase a selection of wine or beers and then try them out at home. You can break out your nice glasses and talk about the flavors and smells you detect. Not sure what to look for, there’s still time to order a book to help you through. Here’s one for beer and one for wine. Make sure you have some food to pair with it, because alcohol on an empty stomach is not a great idea. If you’d rather have an expert on-hand, lots of tasting rooms are open on Saturdays.

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Plan a Vacation

Not for Valentine’s Day, but for another time during the year. If you are planning to take a trip and you haven’t worked out the details yet, like we haven’t, this is a great time to sit down and find all the fun things you want to do, places you want to eat and visit and imagine all the fun you’ll have. If you don’t have a vacation planned, how about making a travel bucket list for the two of you (or your family). Post it somewhere you can see it every day so you have goals for your travel future. 

And if you need something to strive for, here are 6 ridiculously cheap cruises and tips on how to save when you think you don't have any money. Travel + Leisure even has 17 reasons to travel more and America's most romantic winter destinations.

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Critique Free Art

There are lots of places that have art and other kinds of museums that offer free admission. Maybe you have a park full of sculptures that you’ve never gone to before. Take your SO to view an art exhibit and talk about the art and your interpretations.

Do it for Less

I’m always going to tell you to use daily deal sites. GrouponLiving Social and others can save you at least 50% off dining out, experiences and spa services. Many times these won’t be valid on a holiday, but that just means you can use it before or after Valentine’s Day and use one of these other ideas. Look into spending the night elsewhere in your city, just for a change of scenery. Airbnb is a good resource and FlipKey has specials for as little as $48/night.

Want a little gift that means a lot? Check out these personalized bracelets from Soko. They're under $50 and 20% of each sale goes toward women's programming for artisans in Kenya.

You don’t have to spend a lot to have a great day with your loved one. Here are the 10 most budget cities in the U.S. Need more ideas? Check out my staycation Pinterest board.

What are some of your favorite free/cheap romantic activities?

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