25 affordable last-minute romantic getaways for Valentine's Day
Baby, it’s cold outside, and we’re fantasizing about going on “love leave” this February to the coziest, quietest corners of the world. We tapped our savvy friends in the travel biz and found four amazing deals to some of the most luxurious, romantic (and now totally accessible!) spots. From the cuddle-worthy New England coast to the white sands and turquoise waters of the Caribbean, we’ve got your back when it comes to impressing your SigOth this Valentine’s Day.
Boston, Massachusetts, is one of America’s best cities for new music, and if music be the food of love, play on! Aloft Boston Seaport presents some of Beantown’s best local talent at its live, intimate performances each Thursday evening in the WXYZ Bar. Ask for a room with a water view. From $169/night. Boston is also one of the most design- and technology-forward cities, and Element Boston Seaport is “green from the ground up,” with water-efficient fixtures, kitchens with Energy Star-rated appliances, in-room recycling, and design details like picture frames fashioned from recycled tires. From $179/night
Cape May, New Jersey, is one of our favorite oceanside destinations, an easy escape from NYC and Philly. Peter Shields Inn will impress even the most jaded travelers with its 20th-century Georgian Revival mansion overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, nine luxe guestrooms, and one of the city's best fine-dining restaurants. Maybe most impressive of all, rooms start at $99/night.
Clayton, New York, feels like a trip back in time, with shop-lined Victorian-era streets along the St. Lawrence riverfront. The 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel will lavish lovebirds with Champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, cheese, and gourmet nuts on arrival, plus rose-petal turndown service and breakfast for two at Seaway Grille. From $189/night.
Edgartown, Massachusetts, combines old-world charm with sleek contemporary fixtures and amenities, and in winter you can experience the beauty of Martha’s Vineyard minus the summer crowds. Harbor View Hotel offers a farm-fresh prix-fixe Valentine’s Day menu at its signature restaurant, Lighthouse Grille (named for the classic Edgartown Lighthouse in the harbor outside the hotel’s windows. Browse Edgartown’s beautiful shops and galleries. Film fans will recognize Edgartown’s old-timey New England storefronts from Jaws, which was filmed on the VIneyard in the 1970s. From $109/night.
Kennebunkport, Maine, wants to be “New England’s Most Romantic Town,” and its “Paint the Town Red” festivities have the whole town decked out in red twinkly lights, with great deals to get you there. Kennebunkport Resort Collection is offering the “Love KPT” lodging package that includes a two-night stay for two people at The Boathouse Waterfront Hotel (starting at $373) or the Kennebunkport Inn (starting at $405), arrival goodies of red wine and chocolate-covered strawberries, a three course dinner for two, and a late check-out at noon. And since romance isn’t limited to Valentine’s Day, the package is available through March 30, 2017.
Lake Placid, New York, is one of the coolest towns in Upstate New York, with great opportunities for cross-country skiing in the Adirondacks, Whiteface Mountain’s 284 skiable acres, and great food and shopping. Hotel North Woods, an Ascend Hotel Collection member, is an indulgent lodging with views of charming Main Street, Mirror Lake (right in town!), and the Adirondacks’ legendary High Peaks. From $99/night.
Mystic, Connecticut, boasts The Whaler’s Inn, a charming New England classic that offers a romantic dinner for two, floral arrangements, assorted local chocolates, and a bottle of sparkling wine for couples. The town of Mystic is home to some of the coolest living history experiences in America, with its Seaport and great aquarium. From $195/night.
Stowe, Vermont, offers a gorgeous setting in the Green Mountains (near one of America’s great ski destinations). Field Guide, a new boutique B&B, provides Instagrammable guestrooms, and indulgent amenities for your romantic escape. From $139/night.
Westport, Connecticut, is one of the Nutmeg State’s coolest towns, with great theater, food, the Connecticut Audubon Society’s guided nature tours, and Sharpe Hill Vineyards award-winning wines. Westport Inn, an Ascend Hotel Collection member, will pamper you in sweet serenity. From $127/night.
New Orleans, Louisiana, is known for its incredible music, food, and party scene, but its charming old-world streets and thriving gardens make it a wonderful place to take a “love leave.” Canal Street Inn is located along the city's most iconic thoroughfare, Canal a 30-minute ride on one of the city’s iconic streetcar lines to the French Quarter, and an easy walk to exceptional restaurants. The inn’s gardens will charm you with live oak, fruit, and pecan trees—a nice break the Big Easy's bustle. From $145/night.
Williamsburg, Virginia, is known for Busch Gardens, Colonial Williamsburg, and many more local attractions. The Kingsmill Resort puts couples up in style with its Bed & Breakfast Special, including a cozy guestroom, homemade breakfast, a free shuttle around the resort and the amazing local Williamsburg attractions, plus indoor pool and spa. From $171/night.
Wimberly, Texas, is one of the gems of Texas Hill Country, known for its great wines and proximity to hotspots like Austin and San Antonio. Blair House features an art gallery highlighting the work of local artists, a day spa with a sauna, and even a cooking school. From $160/night.
Chicago, Illinois, may be the ultimate “shockingly affordable” American city, with culture, food, and activities that are second to none. Villa D' Citta offers luxury in a 19th-century Greystone mansion in the city's Lincoln Park neighborhood, including a kitchen fully stocked with Italian meats, imported cheeses and fresh bread that is always open to guests. Insider tip: Ask for a made-to-order pizza cooked in the inn's stone oven and served with a complimentary carafe of house wine (from $129/night). Chicago is also home to the Magnificent Mile’s amazing shopping, dining, and entertainment opportunities, and Cambria Hotel & Suites Chicago Magnificent Mile gets you right in the heart of the action, including nearby Michigan Avenue, Navy Pier, legendary Wrigley Field (home of the world champion Chicago Cubs), Millennium Park, and Soldier’s Field (from $105/night).
Golden, Colorado, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, is a historic Old West town nearby some of the best skiing in America. The Golden Hotel, an Ascend Hotel Collection member, looks out over Clear Creek, offers shuttle service within a five-mile radius for taking in the best of Golden’s local history and culture, plus a cozy indoor fireplace perfect for snuggling after a day in the snow. From $169/night.
Grand Canyon, Arizona, is, of course, a jaw-dropping national park, and it also makes for an off-the-beaten-path romantic escape. Ride the scenic railway for 50 percent off for Valentine’s Day, a gorgeous 90-minute ride across high desert plains, arroyos, and ponderosa pine forest from Williams Depot to the Grand Canyon Depot, a short walk from the South Rim. The Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel starts at $120/night.
Taos, New Mexico, with its artsy Historic Plaza, Taos Mountain, and incredible history and culture, will melt stress upon your arrival. Hacienda Del Sol offers 12 large guestrooms among several adobe structures, decorated in Southwest style. You’ll love the private outdoor hot tub. From $160/night.
Whitefish, Montana, is beautiful year-round. In winter, Good Medicine Lodge is your cozy, charming gateway to Whitefish Mountain skiing and Glacier National Park’s winter wonderland. Guestrooms and suites are beautifully appointed, and you can order your breakfast each evening for the next morning. From $130/night.
PACIFIC COAST GETAWAYS
Anderson, California, is an epicenter of outdoor activities in California’s unparalleled great outdoors. Gaia Hotel & Spa Redding, an Ascend Hotel Collection member, offers a heated pool, complimentary Wolgang Puck coffee and tea, free WiFi, and a fitness center. From $93/night.
Cloverdale, California. This Sonoma County town is smack in the heart of wine country, overlooking the vineyards of Anderson Valley. The Auberge on the Vineyard offers seven rooms in an early 20th-century Queen Anne Victorian with a lovely wrap-around verandah and the remodeled Carriage House. You’ll love the three-course breakfasts, and you’ll even love the bill, from $140/night.
Napa, California, isn’t exactly “under the radar,” but it is one of the most romantic escapes in America. Napa Winery Inn, an Ascend Hotel Collection member, is near the beautiful Napa Wine Trail, several well-known vineyards (including Robert Mondavi Winery), the historic Napa Valley Opera House, and much more. From $185/night.
Seattle, Washington, is one of our favorite affordable cities for its Pike Place Market, stunning views, and design-forward aesthetic. Sleeping Bulldog Bed and Breakfast boasts a central location, freshly baked cookies, and innkeepers who are Seattle natives who are happy to dispense locals-know-best tips. From $141/night.
El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico, is the setting for the stunning El Yunque Rainforest Inn, on five acres that draw birdwatchers, hikers, and horseback riders for its beauty and tranquility (not to mention the inn’s luxurious claw-foot bathtubs and fireplaces). From $165/night.
Nassau, Bahamas, is home to Paradise Island, which is genuinely as awesome as its name suggests. Enjoy all the splendor of the island without breaking the bank at A Stone's Throw Away, with its luxe lounge spaces, wraparound verandah, and welcoming staff. From $180/night.
Tulum, Mexico, is a short flight from the U.S. and an enticingly romantic escape. Casa Jacqueline will spoil you with stunning views (including star-gazing), jacuzzi, pool, and a quick walk to Cenote Manatee and a short drive to Tulum’s iconic Mayan ruins. From $140/night.
Las Catalinas is an innovative seaside town on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. The car-free community is being built as a walkable beach town between the ocean and the mountains on the wildlife-rich Guanacaste peninsula. Studio Casa Indigo offers an intimate hideaway with complimentary sparkling wine and brigadeiros (irresistible Latin American chocolates), from $195/night. (To make reservations or for more details, visit lascatalinascr.com.)
Deals to Escape Winter!
Despite all the fun we had last weekend sledding and sipping cocoa, I'm getting a little weary of winter. So, I was psyched to see some luxe-for-less deals come our way. They can drop you on a warm, sunny beach, pronto: PUERTO RICO. You don't need a passport to visit this U.S. territory, but in all other respects you’ll be a world away from home. Stroll the old-world streets of Old San Juan, kayak in the eerily beautiful Bioluminescent Bay, and taste local favorites like arepas and spicy Asian-fusion dishes that juxtapose noodles with Latin-flavored meat and vegetables. Copamarina Beach Resort & Spa is located on a secluded beach with 20 acres of tropical gardens and nearby diving opportunities from $145/night. OAHU. From the iconic beachfront of Waikiki to dramatic Diamond Head and amazing beaches, authentic luaus, hula dances, and traditional art demonstration, the Hawaiian Island of Oahu is one of our very favorite winter escapes. Hilton Hawaiian Village is one of the island’s most famous hotels and they’re offering an incredible discount of 20 percent off, with rooms from $177/night. COSTA RICA. Want your winter escape to include beaches, rain forest, and a volcano? Budget Travel editors, readers, and even many of our friends and family have been raving about how Costa Rica is the ultimate getaway. TripMasters is offering flexible, customizable tours starting at 6 nights from under $1,000, including air and hotel.
Three-Day Weekend: Barcelona
Sunlight pours through stained-glass windows, illuminating the interior of La Sagrada Família’s columns and pillars, evoking a forest. Wow, I think. That’s just the inside of the cathedral. The building’s magnificent, still-under-construction facade, which depicts famous Bible scenes and is expected to be completed by 2026 (more than 90 years after architect Antoni Gaudí’s death), is what most people come to Barcelona to see. The first time I visited the city, I made a tragic rookie mistake: I didn’t plan my visit to La Sagrada Família ahead of time. If I had, I would’ve learned that a special event was taking place on the one day I was able to visit, and only those who had previously purchased tickets could go in. I was out of luck. In May 2015, I returned to this beautiful basilica, ticket in hand, and got the experience I’d been waiting for. The price was well worth the view ($16, sagradafamilia.org). That day, at the basilica, Barcelona became my new favorite place on earth. The same might happen to you, too. Whether you’re an art lover or a foodie, or you simply love strolling along European boulevards admiring beautiful buildings, here’s how to make the most of a quick visit. Get your Gaudí fix Another Gaudí masterpiece, Parc Güell (pronounced “gway”), offers the best panoramic views of the city, but the number of daily visitors is limited. Be sure to get a timed-entry ticket early—up to three months ahead of time online—in order to avoid missing out ($8, parkguell.cat). For a solid primer on the artist’s life, visit Gaudí’s former residence, Casa Milà, with the striking rooftop piece La Pedrera ($22, lapedrera.com). Casa Batlló is another colorful modernist masterpiece based on nature, and the last that Gaudí designed, between 1906 and 1910 ($23, casabatllo.es). Feast on tons of tasty tapas The best way to enjoy Barcelona’s creative food scene is by ordering plenty of tapas (small plates) and washing them down with a cool, refreshing glass of cava, Spain’s delicious answer to champagne. Sample staples like fried hot green padrón peppers and grilled artichokes topped with Iberian ham at Bar Lobo, located in the trendy El Raval neighborhood (padrón peppers tapas from $6, artichokes tapas from $9, grupotragaluz.com). Or toast the start of a great trip with a glass of the bubbly stuff in the fairy-tale atmosphere at El Bosc de les Fades Café, hidden away in Passatge de la Banca, just a few steps from La Rambla, a beautiful pedestrian-only boulevard that stretches from Plaça de Catalunya to Port Vell. Its montaditos—mini-sandwiches with ham, sausage, and cheese—and olive tapas pair nicely with your cava (from about $4 per glass, montaditos and olive tapas from about $2 each, museocerabcn.com). Visit La Boqueria market Don’t miss this brightly colored market, located just off La Rambla, where vendors sell locally sourced fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses. Stock up on candies and nuts and sip delicious fresh-squeezed juice drinks for a refreshing afternoon treat (prices vary, Rambla, 91 Mercat de la Boqueria, boqueria.info). Stroll beautiful boulevards and experience local Catalan culture Strolling La Rambla will be one of your favorite parts of your weekend, but pay close attention to your belongings at all times, as this area is, unfortunately, as popular with pickpockets as any other European hotspot. As you walk along ancient streets, look up and admire the buildings of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. On Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. or Sundays at noon, stop by the Catedral de Barcelona to see locals perform the solemn Sardana dance, a proud Catalan custom that was banned under the Franco regime. If you visit in summer, don’t miss the tradition of castellers building tall human towers by standing on one another’s shoulders on Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. Stay in the center of town—for less Experience Barcelona like a local (and save cash) by renting your own private apartment in the city center (from $54, airbnb.com). Generator Barcelona, a new “poshtel” designed to resemble a boutique hotel more than a hostel, offers private rooms and a ton of fun activities like tapas nights, game nights, movie nights, and Barcelona bar crawls designed to help you connect with your fellow travelers (private rooms for two start at $60 per night per couple depending on room style, single bunks from $12 per person per night, generatorhostels.com). WANNA TAKE A DAY TRIP? TRY SITGES, MONTSERRAT, OR THE DALÍ TRIANGLE Hop on a 30-minute commuter train on the RD Sud Southbound line from Barcelona-Sants to soak up rays on the beach in Sitges, known for its epic nightlife scene and LGBTQ-friendly atmosphere (round-trip train ticket from about $8, free beach access). Visit Montserrat Monastery for gorgeous mountaintop views and a chance to see where Benedictine monks defied Franco by continuing to hold Catholic mass in the traditional Catalan language. Viator offers half-day trips from Barcelona ($57, viator.com). Mix some surrealism into the natural beauty and venture to the Dalí Triangle: the Salvador Dalí House in Portlligat, the Gala Dalí Castle in Púbol, and the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres (house from about $12 per person, castle from about $9, museum from about $13; tickets must be reserved online ahead of time, salvador-dali.org). Bus and train service from Barcelona is available but time-consuming, so consider driving (from $97 for a one-day car rental, hotwire.com).
5 Underrated European Countries You Should Visit Now
By Meagen Collins for Yahoo Travel It’s 2016 and many of you will most likely be making those two big New Year’s resolutions: 1. Lose weight and 2. Travel more! Well, we are here to help you with the second one. Not only are we going to inspire you to travel more, but we want to inspire you to outdo your friends this year and discover some of the best off-the-beaten-path European destinations. And guess what? They all are stunningly beautiful — and they’re super affordable too! Score! These unexpected European destinations will give you a serious case of wanderlust, and will have you packing your bags, booking a flight, and discovering the great unknown this year. 1. Kosovo Kosovo, in particular the city of Prizren, is our new favorite spot in Europe. When we were there in November, winter was approaching and the days were becoming colder. But even so, the people were still out enjoying the limited hours of sunshine they had every single day. We discovered locals drinking coffee in the numerous coffee shops around town, restaurants full every night, and bars offering cheap drinks and a chilled atmosphere. A must-see is the view from the Kalaja Fortress. If it’s a nice day bring a picnic and hang out with the locals, many of whom are happy to chat with foreigners. What to eat: Try pljeskavica, grilled meat stuffed with cheese. We had this dish at Te Syla restaurant and it is seriously the best in town — so good we went back the next day and had it again! The prices is less than five dollars, and many restaurants serve it with salad and fries. Fun fact: Kosovo is the youngest country of the 21st century. It officially declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008. Related: The Best Value European Destination You’ve Never Heard Of 2. Albania We visited Tirana and Shkodra, but the coastal towns of the ‘Albanian Riviera’ are a popular place to visit during the warmer months. This country is jam-packed with so much natural beauty it would be a shame to leave it off any European trip. The people are all welcoming, and go above and beyond to help any foreigners in need of assistance. What to eat: Veal appears to be the specialty of Albania — or 'the baby cow’ as it is usually described. We recommend giving the Albanian pilaf a try, rice cooked in seasoned broth. It usually costs around $1 for a small serving. Fun fact: Albania, Armenia, Macedonia, and Vatican City are the only European countries without a McDonald’s branch. 3. Republic of Macedonia The first thing to realize is that there are two Macedonias in Europe. In fact they are side by side. One is the the Republic of Macedonia (sometimes called the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or FYROM), and the other is a region of Greece. It’s best not to get these mixed up — otherwise you might encounter some rather upset locals. We visited the capital of the Republic of Macedonia, Skopje, and though it is a city under construction, it’s still beautiful to visit. It’s going to be incredible once it’s finished. You can wander the streets admiring the architecture and art bridges, or head into the Old Bazaar or Bit Pazar area to get a taste of the local market scene. What to eat: Make sure you try pastrmajlija — this is a fried dough pie that is covered with salted and cubed meat pieces and sometimes cheese or egg. Often you’ll get a couple so chili peppers on top as well. The dish is so tasty there’s even a festival for it every fall. A small serving cost around $3 and fed both of us! Fun fact: Of all the Yugoslav territories, Macedonia is the only one that gained independence peacefully. Related: The Cheapest Places in Europe for Just About Anything 4. Montenegro One of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the Balkans, Montenegro offers beautiful coastlines, stunning mountains, and historic old towns to explore. Whilst not as cheap as some other Balkan destinations, you can certainly still get some bang for your buck if you go about it the right way. In the summer months prices go through the roof, but come during the off season and prices of accommodation can sometimes be negotiated. What to eat: Seafood, especially squid known as lignje, is popular in Montenegro. Due to its positioning there is also a lot of Italian influence in local cooking, with Turkish coming in a close second place. The cuisine also revolves around fresh produce including olive oil, olives, and cheese — all of which are divine. Fun fact: Montenegro features in the James Bond movie Casino Royale — but in name only. Bond supposedly bullet trains to the small European country and then joins a high-stakes poker tournament at a hotel there. But the filming was actually done in the Czech Republic. Related: The World is Not Enough: How to Travel Like James Bond 5. Romania We spent close to four months living in Bucharest in 2015, and we fell in love. The people are friendly, the countryside is captivating, and it doesn’t hurt that the cost of living is quite reasonable. Plus, being able to say you’ve visited Dracula’s castle will make you instantly cool with your friends — trust us. What to eat: When heading out for a meal in Romania know this: You will never leave the restaurant hungry. Romanian food is incredible, and the portion sizes are insane. Make sure you try the grilled minced-meat rolls called mititei (meaning “small ones”). We also liked sarmale, which is minced meat with rice wrapped in either pickled cabbage leaves or vine leaves; it’s served with a few slices of ham or bacon and a nice big helping of polenta. For dessert, order papanasi, a boiled/fried donut of sorts that’s been smothered in jam and cream — heavenly. Fun fact: In 1889 the Romanian city of Timisoara became the first in Europe to have electric street lighting. So there you have it, Europe’s best off-the-beaten-path destinations to visit in 2016. I recommend adding these countries to your itinerary straight away, and as soon as possible too — they won’t be quite so 'unvisited’ in the coming years.
Have You Taken Our "Where Should You Go in 2016" Quiz?
We knew that our Where Should You Go in 2016 Quiz would be a hit with Budget Travel readers, but we were also psyched that the quiz (which determines your "travel personality" then matches you to one of our top 2016 destinations) is such a hit with our own staff: We’ve all been having a blast taking the quiz, comparing the revealing results (I was pleasantly surprised by my result!), and sharing with our friends and colleagues on social media. Here, a quick look at where our Where Should You Go in 2016 Quiz says we should be going in 2016. How about you? ICELAND, our No. 1 “Where to Go in 2016” destination pick, was recommended to BT’s Photo Editor Whitney Tressel (“My best friend is getting married and I want to plan her bachelorette party in Iceland!”), Media Relations Representative Amy Mironov (“It’s on my bucket list!”) and Digital Project Manager Ruthie Kaposi (“I’ve always wanted to visit its otherworldly landscapes.”). By the way, don’t forget to enter for a chance to win a trip to Iceland! CUBA was my personal quiz result, and, as Editor in Chief (not to mention a Cold War baby), I have to admit that just being able to wholeheartedly recommend this gorgeous, once-forbidden island as a potential travel destination for Americans is a dream come true. Plus, I’ve been repeatedly watching our brand-new exclusive Cuba video and counting the days till I can get there in person. PORTUGAL resonated with a bunch of BT staffers, including President, Publisher Elaine Alimonti (“It’s the choice for foodies like me!”), Advertising Manager Maureen Kelley Stewart (“My husband and I were in Lisbon for 48 hours in 2014 and can’t wait to get back there!”), and Marketing Manager Rosalie Tinelli (“It’s a part of Europe I’ve always wanted to see, and I’m ready for some new and exciting food and wine!”). MARTINIQUE is where the quiz says Senior Editor Jamie Beckman should be headed (“Perfect because not only do I enjoy Caribbean beaches, I also enjoy French wine and cheese. Total win-win!”). GREECE was a nice match for Creative Director Chalkley Calderwood (“I have wanted to go for years and this is a sign that it has to move to No. 1 on my bucket list.”). ISLA HOLBOX, a Mexican dream trip, is apparently perfect for photo director Amy Lundeen (“It’s been on my travel list for years!”) and Lead Developer Chad Harter (“I’m pretty much always looking for a beach vacation.”). SAN ANTONIO is a good fit for Director, Business Development Michelle Craig (“I am a huge fan of culture and history. I hear the River Walk is awesome for a fun-filled evening.”).