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Personally, I’ve always believed Valentine’s Day is a holiday created by Hallmark shareholders. Why is there only one day of the year dedicated to love? You should show the love and appreciation towards your significant other everyday of the year, right? Excluding PMS. (Sweetie, if you’re reading this I’m just kidding. I love you even when I’m PMSing ). Anyhow, I guess it is kind of nice after all to have one day of the year where it’s expected to be extra sweet and romantic.

I’ve been with my boyfriend for 2 years and a half now and Valentine’s Day is always a bit “budget tight” for us. We just finished celebrating Christmas, then his birthday, then my birthday, so when Valentine’s Day comes around our wallets are all emptied out, not to mention the fact that we’re all out of gift ideas. So last year instead of exchanging gifts we did something a little different: we decided that we would each pay for a separate activity instead of the usual gift exchange. It actually worked out better and more romantic than I thought. We went horseback riding on a trail that went through a woody, grassy area and lead to a private beach and then we had dinner at a restaurant later that afternoon and since it was right on a (different) beach we got to see the sunset on the beach as well. The horseback riding was his treat and dinner was mine. This was the most memorable Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had.

So I thought to put together a little list of both classic and out-of-the-ordinary activities/ideas for Valentine’s Day that would be great to do if you’re budget tight like we are and would prefer a romantic activity over gift exchanging, or if you’re in need of a little inspiration for the perfect setting to give him or her that special gift you purchased. These date ideas are great whether you’ve been together for years or if it’s your first date.

  • Kayaking – Here in Puerto Rico there’s a couple of bio-luminescent bays where you can take a kayaking tour at night. Imagine you and your other half kayaking under the moon and the stars in glowing water… But if you don’t live in Puerto Rico, you can still go kayaking without the glowing water and it’ll still be super romantic.
  • Horseback Riding – As I mentioned previously, we did this last year and it was a fun and different activity to do together for Valentine’s Day. Especially if you’ve never ridden a horse before. I promise you it will be interesting.
  • Movie Theater – Nothing says classic date like going to the movies. Whether you go all the time or hardly ever, there’s no better place to flirt or snuggle with your partner than at the movies. With this one you have two options: either go see a crappy movie and make out like teenagers throughout the whole thing or go see the movie The Vow starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams (eye candy anyone?) which is about a husband and wife who get into an accident and she gets amnesia and he takes on the task of making her fall in love with him all over again. If you are not cuddling or crying by the end of this movie then you secretly enjoy killing kittens in your mind, that’s how cold you have to be not to get emotional with this movie. Even the trailer makes you want to hug your grumpy neighbor.
  • Ice Cream – This is best combined before or after the Movie Theatre. Nothing says I love you more than a large Coldstone “Birthday Cake Remix” flavored ice cream (except an engagement ring inside “Birthday Cake Remix = Epic Win).
  • Picnic – Either on the beach or at a park, take a blanket and a basket filled with preferably food you can eat with your fingers. It’s easier to clean up and you can feed each other if that’s your thing. What ever floats your boat. Take strawberries, grapes, cheese, crackers, cookies, sandwiches, etc. Oh and extra points for packing wine glasses for some wine or champagne. Add a strawberry to the bottom of the glass of champagne and your set.
  • Breakfast in Bed – How can you go wrong with heart shaped pancakes? And there’s no excuse if you don’t live together. Wake up early, go to his/her house and make him/her pancakes. This way you can also get a sneak peek of what he/she looks like in the morning.
  • Bike Ride – This is very similar to horseback riding but likelier to be less expensive. You can take your bikes if you own them or rent two bikes and ride them up to a scenic area and enjoy the view and each other’s company. Feel free to end the ride with a picnic.
  • Theme Park or Local Fair/Carnival/Festival – This is also a very classic yet underrated date idea. You can pretend you’re scared on a ride and hold on to your date (you would probably have to be a girl to pull this off) or you can win your date a big stuffed animal (you would probably need to be a guy to pull this one off).
  • Stargaze – My personal favorite area to stargaze: drive to an empty lot or parking lot near a local airport and sit on the hood or trunk of your car and watch the planes takeoff and land. This is also the best place to view the stars since there’s usually no trees around. Works well when combined with ice cream, smoothies or other desserts. You can also stargaze at a beach or park.
  • Skydiving – If you can do this for Valentine’s Day you should marry each other immediately. Enough said.
  • Wine Tasting – This one is self-explanatory. Just be careful not to get too tipsy because nothing can ruin a date more than an incoherent partner.
  • Outdoor Dinner at Night – You eat dinner indoors everyday right?  You can have dinner at an outdoor restaurant like at a beach or maybe someplace with a terrace. This sets the mood just right because of the low lighting, candles and the stars. My recommendation is to time it just right so that you can see the sunset.
  • Couples Spa – Guys tend to normally think of this as more of a girls thing. But a couples massage is the perfect date for relaxing and setting a very, very romantic mood.
  • Surprise Homemade Dinner – This tends to work best if you’re usually not the one who cooks dinner, because it takes the element of surprise to the next level. If you are the one who usually does the cooking, make the romantic surprise stand out more by adding extra details to the table, such as rose petals, candles, prettier dishware and cook something a little fancier than usual (if your cooking skills allow you to do so… unlike mine).

For extra savings I would recommend checking for any local specials or sales and always remember to compare prices so that you can get more bang for your buck. There are also a lot of daily deals and specials websites that usually offer coupons and sales based on upcoming holidays. I highly recommend taking advantage of these websites and checking them daily for some great offers especially since most of the offers are for limited time only. Such websites include Living Social (for worldwide deals), Groupon (for U.S deals) and Gustazos and Groupon PR (for Puerto Rico deals).

What’s the most romantic date you’ve ever been on? I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Valentine’s Day