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Five Tips for the Romantically Challenged

With stores everywhere littered with predictable Valentine’s Day candies and cards, finding something special can be a real challenge. When you’re under pressure to impress and have no clue what to get, getting inspired is half the battle. If you’re looking for that wow-factor present – and fast – I don’t think there’s anything better than an unforgettable dinner or surprise getaway to say “I love you.” Here’s some ideas to make Valentine’s Day romance a little easier:

1.Make it a surprise staycation: A romantic night at a top hotel, minus the driving, is a great way to get away with zero hassle. Let the hotel do the work – its staff should be ready to accommodate requests like rose petals on the bed, a bottle of bubbly and chocolate-covered strawberries in your room. The element of surprise is key for upping the romance ante here, so keep mum while you plan. If you live in a city with a business district, you can find great deals on top city hotels during weekend stays.

2.Ask for the chef’s table: No time to get away? Find a restaurant that has a chef’s table to make your evening even more special, and make that the surprise. It may cost you a bit more, but this will offer you and your special someone VIP treatment and a special menu. If you can avoid Feb. 14, you’ll find much more availability and better prices.

3.Follow the two-hour rule: Where can you fly or drive within two hours? Keeping it close means less stress, and more options. If you’re on a budget, look for resort towns within driving distance. A cozy B&B with fireplace can be a great escape. For example, check out our Shelter Island Getaway for a quick escape out of New York City. In less than two hours you can stay at La Maison Blanche, complete with four-course dinner. (Available dates are post-Valentine’s Day, but this is a great gift.) If you want to splash it out even more and fly somewhere, look for last-minute sales on airline websites. Most airlines will have a deals section where you can plug in your home airport to find limited-time specials on last-minute flights.

4. Surprise with a vineyard picnic or wine-country getaway: I’ve found most wineries will do something special if you just call ahead and ask. A private vineyard picnic can be the perfect way to spend a romantic afternoon relaxing over great food and a bottle of wine. Many wineries work with top caterers or local hotels to provide incredible picnic lunches. For example our Meadowood Overnight Escape with picnic at Garguilo Vineyards, catered by Meadowood, could be the perfect surprise.

5.Consider islands and beaches: For an over-the-top romantic getaway, you can’t go wrong with a sun-and-sand getaway. The sound of waves and starry skies, walks on the beach and moonlit dinners are the stuff movies are made of. Some resorts will even create a romantic dinner under the stars, or on the beach. Depending on where you live, and your budget, you might want to consider these destinations: Bermuda, Mexico, the Caribbean, Key West or Hawaii. You’ll pay high season pricing right now, but to get a better deal on a resort, look for travel dates after mid April. Just show her (or him) the tickets on Feb. 14, and you’ll be a Valentine’s Day superstar.

Follow my adventures on Twitter @MindyJoyce