As Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s easy to equate romance with candy and Champagne. But what if you want to go the extra mile for your significant other?
Peter Greenberg, CBS News travel editor, says you should strongly consider waiting until after Feb. 14, which falls on a Saturday this year.
Greenberg says some companies raise prices anywhere from 50 to 150 percent over what you would normally pay any other time.
“(Hotels and resorts) like to overcharge everybody because they’re playing upon emotion, they’re playing upon guilt and they’re playing upon a fact that this year (Valentine’s Day) takes place over a weekend,” he says. “What you have to be aware of is, if you’re in love with somebody, you can actually go to Denny’s and have a romantic dinner and be OK.”
A romantic getaway is one where you don’t have to worry about lots of details and logistics, says Summer Hull, founder of MommyPoints.com, a travel rewards blog. “You want to go somewhere where your only job is to relax and enjoy each other,” she says.
Greenberg says it’s a mistake to make a Valentine’s Day hotel reservation. “What would usually go for $189 now goes for $599, but they’ll give you Champagne, roses and chocolate,” Greenberg says. “You have wildly overpaid.”
Still, if you’re planning a romantic Valentine’s Day getaway, why not choose one of these opulent Valentine’s vacation venues?
Located off the southeastern coast of Georgia halfway between Savannah and Jacksonville, Florida, Sea Island is a lovers’ paradise. This coastal Georgia resort is surrounded by five miles of unspoiled beach on the Atlantic Ocean.
Whether you stay at The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club, in one of the refined guest rooms at The Cloister at Sea Island or at Sea Island Cottages, you’re going to enjoy a serene, romantic stay. For instance, couples can enjoy breakfast on an oceanfront balcony and then relax in a complimentary rose petal bath.
For a less cliche romantic time, Scott Steilen, president of Sea Island Co., recommends wandering through the resort’s “historic, magical Avenue of Oaks” or five miles of pristine, private beach. “End the night with cocktails on The Lodge’s veranda, listening to the bagpiper play at sunset, followed by a tasting menu at the Forbes Five-Star Georgian Room, its Chef’s Table or wine cellar at The Lodge,” he says.
What’s that? You wish you could ride horseback along the beach? Sea Island offers private horseback rides on the shore and along the dunes. Speaking of snazzy nature activities, why not go on an early morning beach trek to spot sea turtles?
“The island of Key Biscayne is Miami’s tropical oasis, only minutes away from the heart of downtown Miami and 20 minutes from Miami International Airport,” says Tatiana Lora, area communications manager at The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne. “(It) gives the sense that you are in a Caribbean island, without having to leave the U.S.”
Just last month, the Ritz-Carlton brand was dubbed the “Best Upscale Hotel Brand” by Buying Business Travel magazine, and Key Biscayne’s location makes it clear why that’s a legitimate designation. The beachfront resort keeps romance alive with two heated pools, one exclusively for guests 17 years and older. (As in, you won’t have to worry about pesky kids cannon-balling your romantic moment.)
For adventurous couples, there’s the nearby Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, one of the most stroll-worthy, picturesque places in Miami. Explore the historic Cape Florida Lighthouse and enjoy stunning views 109 steps above.
Afterward, give your feet a break by visiting Cantina Beach, the resort’s Mexican restaurant. There’s a complimentary mojito tasting, and you can learn about the classifications of tequila. The restaurant has a collection of more than 100 tequilas.
And in case you haven’t run out of energy, there’s still plenty to do. “Check with the concierge for additional programming throughout the hotel, complimentary for our in-house guests, including live entertainment in Rumbar, the resort’s Havana-inspired bar lounge, or Dune Oceanfront Burger Lounge,” Lora says.
Photo credit: Steve Uzzel / Kiawah Island Golf Resort
Named the No. 1 island in North America and No. 2 island in the world by Conde Nast Traveler magazine, Kiawah Island is only 21 miles away from historic Charleston (which itself has won awards as the No. 1 destination city in the U.S.). Lauded for its authentic Southern hospitality, the staff at Kiawah Resort goes out of its way to make visitors feel welcome.
“We pride ourselves on having that five-star service that you get in a New York restaurant or hotel. But rather than be stuffy and standoffish, we’re more friendly, more outgoing and very comforting when people come here,” says Mike Vegis, spokesman for Kiawah Resort. “It’s a very genteel kind of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara type of situation.”
With five award-winning golf courses (The Ocean Course was the site of the 2012 PGA Championship), 24 tennis courts, 10 miles of beaches, a five-star spa, four swimming pools, first-class restaurants, the surrounding ocean and barrier island environment, you’d have to be a zombie not to find romance here.
Though prices can be high, whether you reserve a suite or a room at The Sanctuary Hotel or rent a private house, Kiawah offers year-round packages to ease the pocketbook.
“Hawaii continues to be one of the top U.S. destinations for travelers looking for a romantic getaway,” says Jerry Gibson, area vice president, Hilton Worldwide. “All of our Hawaii resorts, including the Hilton Hawaiian Village, provide exotic escapes with the conveniences and comfort of domestic travel.”
This Waikiki Beach resort, which sits on 22 acres, was the location of Elvis Presley’s “Blue Hawaii” film in 1961. Fun fact: The Rainbow Tower exterior features the world’s largest ceramic tile mosaic at 286 feet high and 26 feet wide, with over 16,000 colorful tiles.
Romance and fun are an active part of anyone’s stay at Hilton Hawaiian Village, whether they’re spending time in one of its many pools, basking in the glow of the Waikiki Starlight Luau or gazing at the Friday night fireworks display.
Maybe you want your time of romance to have a more cultured slant. Try The Lowell, if that’s the case. “We are actually not a resort but a boutique, luxury, 74-room hotel on the Upper East Side of New York,” says Sarah Bolton, the marketing manager at The Lowell.
“The Lowell evokes a feeling of ‘coming home,’ from the service our guests experience to the unique decor,” Bolton says.
The hotel offers personalized amenities when you arrive. Couples will enjoy 24-hour room service, afternoon tea in their Pembroke Room and pre-theater dinner. After a full evening of high-brow entertainment, couples can settle down next to a wood-burning fireplace in one of the suites with a fully equipped kitchen, deep-soaking bathtub and terrace. They even provide Frette bathrobes and La Bottega slippers.
In case you want to take a break from the unique elegance of your room, you’re in luck. The Lowell is between Madison and Park avenues on East 63rd Street, just a block from Central Park and close to Midtown.
“The bottom line here is: Be a contrarian traveler,” says CBS News’ Greenberg. “Go in the offseason. Go with someone you love. You’ll have a much better time, and it’ll be much more romantic because wherever you go, you’ll more or less be owning the joint.”
Maybe you think land-based romance is overrated. If you want something completely different, booking a cruise might be the ideal romantic getaway. Royal Caribbean International, voted one of the best cruise lines for the money by U.S. News & World Report, is also one of the largest lines setting sail hundreds of times every year. Royal Caribbean offers packages that cover food, lodging and lots of onboard activities. And not just the cheesy kind; you can actually go rock climbing, take foreign language classes and attend Broadway-style performances.
In April 2013, Royal Caribbean introduced its new generation of cruise vacations: Quantum cruising ships, which will offer a sky-diving simulator, bumper cars, roller skating and more.