*Warning: there will be a lot of lovey-dovey pictures of Tom and I. Prepare thy barf-bag.
There are two celebrations I’ve developed especially low expectations for: Valentine’s Day and my birthday. Coincidentally, they fall within two days of each other.
I’m not bitter because of bad experiences or anything, it’s just that one thing I’ve learned in my (almost) 25 years, it’s that you really can’t force fun or romance on a specific day. What you can get, with even just a little bit of effort, are experiences.
Last year, Tom and I spent Valentine’s Day exploring the Tombolo in Sainte-Marie and eating ice cream. It wasn’t romantic in the traditional sense of the word, but I had a nice time and it was a memorable experience because I hadn’t been there before and we had fun. For my birthday, Tom took me on a boat tour around the coast of Martinique to see dolphins and migrating whales, as well as snorkelling in Bellefontaine.
Okay, that was actually pretty awesome – how ever could I top that this year?!
A few days ago I remembered that my work gives us our birthdays off – whaaaat! – and I thought to myself: Self, let’s have a new and exciting experience. *Checks flights* Shit, upstaged by Valentine’s AGAIN.
So, what did I do? I surprised Tom with flights to – wait for it – Budapest! It’s a new European city for both us and we’ll be spending both Valentine’s Day and my birthday there. I’m not expecting romance (though maybe a river cruise on the Danube will sort that out) or even fun. I’m just looking forward to seeing a new place with someone whose company I enjoy (besides my own of course).
Valentine’s Day is a racket of a weekend – especially if you haven’t planned in advance. Not to worry! For you folks who still haven’t booked your Valentine’s Day travel, there’s hope for you yet! A romantic getaway with you and your sweetie is still an option, just follow these tips:
Decide what you want out of the trip…
I wanted to have an easy trip, tranquilement. I wanted a short flight, somewhere familiar where I could get at least get by in the language, with delicious food and even more delicious wine (I think there’s something about being in your ‘mid-twenties’ that makes you like wine).
I wanted Tom to come with me some place he hasn’t been before.
I also wanted to add a new stamp in my passport. That was mostly motivated by me feeling like I have no credibility as a travel blogger after only travelling to 10 countries (11 if you count England and Wales separately). Whoa! After typing that I just realized that my trip to the Czech Republic was actually my 10th country! That’s worth celebrating too 🙂
…But be open to locations.
I used Skyscanner to have a look at where I could go from London for the least money. You can look for flights to ‘Everywhere’ and Skyscanner will list the cheapest countries in ascending order.
If you’re not hoping for one particular place, it can take you somewhere you didn’t expect! Unfortunately, my dates of travel weren’t that flexible, but I was happy to make it work regardless.
After this search, here were the options:
Dublin I had a blast there and Tom hasn’t been as an adult.
Marseille That was the cheapest flight and it wasn’t fussy, though I’ve already been to and lived in France.
Paris Who doesn’t want to spend Valentine’s Day in Paris? But it was a total racket.
Barcelona I thought it would make an awesome city break and Tom is probably the only English guy who has never been to Spain.
Book on a Tuesday and check Kayak
I don’t know why, but flights really are cheaper to buy on Tuesdays. When I checked the flights, I added this option into the mix:
Brussels At £100 return, with good flight times it was at the top of the list.
I also tried Kayak, which I never had before and it was awesome! The cool thing about them is that they find the cheapest flights for each journey, so you may not end up flying with the same carrier or to and from the same airports, but you end up with a pretty good deal.
Be flexible and forget your expectations
I called Tom and I said, “We’re going to Brussels.” And instead of being like, Great! he throws out a curve ball: “What about Budapest?”
Budapest Flights aren’t too bad, but I know nothing about this place except I probably don’t speak Hungarian…
In the end, I booked the flight to Budapest! I don’t know why – maybe because Tom sounded really excited about it and I’ve generally heard nothing but good things. It was also more money than I wanted to spend on flights, but what’s that I said? Oh right, you can’t put a price on experience!
So yeah, I don’t speak the language, it might be a little more fussy than I had wanted, but good food and wine will be had!
Use Air BnB for lodging
Because it was Valentine’s Day, a lot of the nice boutique hotels were booked solid. So we had a look at Air BnB and chose a really nice flat just a few blocks from St. Stephen’s Basilica for £44 for two nights.
Just remember that no matter where you go, a romantic or fun weekend is about the activities you choose and the company you have – if those are right, it will be unforgettable!