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How to plan a romantic getaway without going broke

Whether you love love or love to hate it, we can all agree on one thing — getting reservations at a nice restaurant on Valentine’s Day is damn near impossible. If you hope to enjoy your holiday this year, you’re better off taking matters into your own hands by planning a romantic day your beloved will never forget (and never see coming).

For most lovebirds hoping to plan a Valentine’s Day escape — at a nearby destination or at home — it all comes down to cost and convenience. Many of us have very high hopes for this lovely day of love and are often met with disappointment when restaurant wait lines are out the door and fine meals cost upwards of $60 a plate. If you’ve found yourself there before, then you might not be surprised to learn that Valentine’s Day spending hit a record high in 2015 at nearly $19 billion.

More: 100 Romantic ways to show your love on Valentine’s Day

While the average paramour is expected to spend $142.31, we’re betting that with a little preemptive planning, creating your own Valentine’s Day getaway (that doesn’t involve a five-star restaurant) is a great way to get more bang for your buck (literally).

Pick a place

There are two ways to do this, and both have their merits: Choose a nearby destination for a weekend trip or plan a romantic staycation at home. Taking a trip can re-spark a romance by breaking you out of your familiar routine, while staying at home gives you the (affordable) opportunity to get as wild as you want. Check out one of these top 20 romantic getaways to find a destination in your local area, or consider staying in and spending a weekend in bed.

For a quick and easy getaway, Midori Verity, relationship expert and host of The Ultimate Relationship Show, recommends, “Book an overnight getaway somewhere close to home. Bring tea lights, wine/champagne, picnic basket with nibbles or order room service. Bonus: Pack massage oil and bubble bath. Plan to never leave the room, until the next day.” She continues, “For couples who just want to slow down, plan a cuddly evening at home. Order takeout from your favorite restaurant, purchase a special occasion wine or champagne, light candles, grab a blanket and watch a romantic movie, or maybe a scary movie, so you’ll need each other’s protection!”

More: 10 Romantic getaways for lovebirds

Plan an adventure

Whether at home or away, you’re going to need something to keep yourself entertained (and to possibly help you fall in love all over again) on your romantic retreat. If you’re fresh out of ideas, try hitting up your local deals site for some money-saving inspiration. Andrea Woroch, a nationally recognized money-saving expert, advises, “Daily Deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer deals on last-minute getaways, including discounted hotel packages as well as 50 to 60 percent off spa treatments, restaurant meals and various activities like wine tasting, kayaking and more.”

Plan the menu

Now, here’s where your pre-Valentine’s Day prep really comes in handy. You can keep it nice and easy by ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant, or you can use this opportunity to cook that five-course meal you’ve planned on your Pinterest boards but have never had time to execute. Either way, make this low-key Valentine’s meal special by adding a personal touch: Personalized wine bottles adorned with an adorable picture of you and your SO start as low as $17.

Plan for dessert

And we’re not just talking about chocolates, though you’ll want to have plenty of those too. In this case, your Valentine’s “dessert” is actually the main event that you have been waiting for all night long. (S-E-X, if we need to spell it out for you.) To get yourself fully in the mood, author Christopher Sharp recommends pulling out all the stops: Make arrangements at least a month in advance to send the kids to Grandma’s. And if you’re staying in, Sharp says, “Once that’s taken care of, make a deal with your spouse that on the date in question you are going to shut the power off to your house/apartment and spend the night by candle light alone. (All electronic devices should be stowed away with the kids’ clothes when you drop them off.) Make sure there is plenty of wine and candles in the house before you turn the power off (trip the breakers one by one, don’t turn the whole place off or there will be no way to keep the wine cold.)”

You probably know what to do next — though you might want to think about busting out a few bedroom toys to get the party started.

More: Romantic Valentine’s Day ideas for people who like to procrastinate

Put the cherry on top

To truly make a lasting impression on such a romantic of days, it helps to think outside the box and go the extra mile. Personalized wine and a home-cooked meal are a great start, and if you’re staying in a hotel overnight, Brooke Hoffman of the Hilton Anatole in Dallas recommends having a quick chat with the hotel guest services team. She explains that most guests don’t understand (or take advantage of) how much a hotel staff is willing to help to make a special experience, saying, “The hotel’s guest services team can act as your Cupid by offering details on upgrades and amenities. Many hotels, like the Anatole, offer romantic in-room amenities that can be added to a reservation, ranging from plush robes and fruit plates to more extravagant options like our ‘Sweet Dreams’ turn-down complete with petite macarons, Grand Marnier and chocolate-dipped martini glasses.”

And while the full romance package at a hotel might not come cheap, it never hurts to ask for a little something extra to make your weekend getaway even more special.

Updated on 1/16/16

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