Five unique (and last-minute) Valentine’s Day dates

If you didn’t plan ahead and want to stay in for Valentine’s, we’ve got you covered

Valentine’s Day may be a holiday shaped by consumerism and expectations of a big night out, but we’d argue it can also be plenty of fun to celebrate with a date night in. And if you’re traveling with a baby or toddler, like we’ve been doing for the past year, you may find yourselves indoors—whether at a hotel, an apartment rental, or staying with friends or family—a lot earlier than if it were just the two of you on an adventure together.

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So if you’re lucky enough to be celebrating your travels this Saint Valentine’s Day in Italy, the country of the saints whose names adorn the holiday or if you’re anywhere else in the world, here’s a short list of activities to enjoy while your little one sleeps. (Also, not to be a grammatical nitpicker, but if there are two Saint Valentines, shouldn’t it actually be Saint Valentines’ Day?)

  1. While everybody else is jostling for restaurant reservations, what says love more than pizza? If you have an oven where you’re staying, throw your own homemade pizza party. And add a hot pepper to spice it up. Or if you have none of the necessary supplies, order in from a nearby pizzeria. It’s okay to be cheesy: ask if they can craft a heart-shaped pizza with red toppings. (Apparently Pizza Hut does this now, which sounds far less romantic, but if you love pizza (and each other) like we do, it’ll still be fabulous.) 
  2. Break out a complicated puzzle. If your child is as much a taker of puzzle pieces as ours is, you’ll enjoy having your own without worrying about any of the pieces disappearing, especially if you’re staying at an Airbnb. Even if you haven’t done puzzles in years, the idea isn’t the puzzle, silly: it’s about being together. Put your phones away, lean over the table side by side to sort through fragments of a greater picture, and light a candle for a touch of romance (also helpful if you’ve lost power in a seasonal winter storm). 
  3. Allow time earlier in the day for each of you to sneak away alone for at least an hour with a simple task: find something tasty that you’re excited to try together later on. This could be a bottle of wine or craft beer you’ve never tried before, an odd-looking or outright gorgeous fruit from your local grocer, or an unexpected flavor of a treat. (Ahem, here’s looking at you, Pickle Candy, and super-salty licorice, Sockerbit!) 
  4. Read love poems aloud to one another while your child sleeps mere feet away from you. Whispering is romantic, of course, but also practical. You can’t go wrong with the scintillating Love Poems by Pablo Neruda (and you can read the first dozen pages via Google Books) in its original Spanish and translated into English. And the mindful meditations of Thich Nhat Hanh’s How to Love are poetic if not explicitly poetry. 
  5. Expand your budget and embark on a reckless challenge: drink and eat everything in your mini-bar together. Or if you don’t have a mini-bar, come up with a viable alternative: send one of you out into the night to find a corner store and come back with too much of whatever you’d never buy in normal circumstances. OK, we’re mostly joking with this one but if you’re really out of options, this sounds like it would be too much fun.

It’s harder to be a romantic when you have a small child and her or his needs take precedence over all else, but we’ve learned to appreciate the small gestures much more. Many of these moments may not make their way onto Valentine’s Day greeting cards, but what else says love like a steaming cup of tea handed to you without expectation or your pair of slippers being cleaned by your partner after your toddler got sick on them. Lots of love every day along the way.

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