How to celebrate Valentine’s Day if you aren’t Joe Millionaire? Let us count the ways. Travel journalist Valarie D’Elia of www.travelwithval.com has pointed her Cupid’s arrow at four of the best values out there to satisfy frugal lovers from coast to coast. From a celeb-centric ski getaway to a taste of France in America, or saying “I do” again on the shores of Waikiki and romancing your lover on not one, but two Rivieras, you won’t have to bust your budget to impress your lover with the following getaways.
Snow lovers on a Budget — Sun Valley Lovers on a budget who love to ski can travel to central Idaho and enjoy some affordable rates at Sun Valley. Known today as a down-to-earth getaway for celebrities, visitors from all over the U.S. can “rough it in style” with a ski trip during the resort’s 72nd winter season. From now through the end of March, Midweek Madness Rates start at $105 per person, Monday through Thursday, at the Sun Valley Lodge or Inn and includes a lift ticket. Weekend rates through February 15th start at $121 per person and include one night lodging and one day of skiing for two adults. Check out the deals at visitsunvalley.com.
Couples will find lots of free events to enjoy, to save even more money off the trails. The Sun Valley Gallery Association offers a free stroll of the local galleries during the Gallery Walk from 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. on Friday, February 15th. Here are some other gratis activities to keep in mind:
- Snowshoe/cross-country skiing: The Wood River Trail System, which winds around Sun Valley and runs down valley to Hailey and Bellevue, is maintained and groomed for snowshoe and cross-country skiing. These trails can be enjoyed at no cost.
- Winter wildlife walks/snowshoe with a ranger: Reservations are needed for these great outdoor adventures and are free of charge.
- Museums and Old West history: Even in winter you can explore the heritage of the Wood River Valley. Take a trip back through time to the early years of skiing and challenges facing the pioneers of the sport of skiing, View skis and equipment from the past, and read about the many Olympic athletes who have come from Sun Valley. Learn about the history and beginnings of Sun Valley, Ernest Hemingway’s heritage here, and the history of the Indians and the first settlers. Pick up a free map at the Visitor Information Center for a self-guided walking tour of historic Ketchum.
- Health clubs: The Wood River YMCA, a $19-million facility, opened in November 2007. Members of any YMCA can visit the facility free of charge, and nonmembers can enjoy all of the amenities for $10 a day, including yoga, Pilates, a lap pool, locker rooms, rock-climbing wall, as well as day care.
Vow renewal on a budget — Hawaii Couples who want to say “I would do it all over again” can check into the the Outrigger Reef or Outrigger Waikiki hotels on Oahu. Each has a free Vow Renewal Ceremony for guests only. Rates over the Valentine's Day period start at $191/night for the Outrigger Reef and $200 for the Outrigger Waikiki, which are great values for beachfront hotels on Waikiki Beach, especially when you add in the free vow renewal ceremony.
This annual affirmation of love and commitment is a culturally rich and romantic ceremony scheduled for Thursday, February 14, 2008, on the sands of Waikiki Beach fronting the Outrigger Reef hotel. There is no charge for this special program, but advance reservations are required and are on a first-come, first-served basis.
Outrigger’s Hawaiian Vow Renewal Ceremony draws upon an ancient Hawaiian custom, Ho’ao Pa’a, in which a man and woman were bound in lasting union. The event will begin with the blowing of the conch shell, followed by a welcoming Hawaiian chant by the kahu (priest), traditional hula and song. Couples will also be blessed by a gentle sprinkling of sea water before they recite their vows in the Hawaiian language. In addition, each participating couple will receive a complimentary photo, commemorative certificate by which to remember the day, champagne toast and island-style lei (garlands). Visit www.outriggerreef.com or www.outriggerwaikiki.com for more info.
Romance on a budget — North Georgia What could be more romantic than Paris for Valentine’s Day? How about a quick getaway that’s a knockoff of a stay in a French chateau, without leaving American soil? The Chateau Elan Winery & Resort is a very romantic four-diamond destination resort located on 3,500 acres just 40 minutes north of Atlanta, in Braselton, Ga.
This French country estate and winery is the largest producer of premium wines in Georgia and has fewer than 300 guest rooms split between a spa and a chateau. Nightly Valentine’s packages are available from Feb. 14th through the 16th including overnight accommodations, special label wine, single-stem rose and chocolate turndown, four-course Valentine’s dinner for two, breakfast for two the next morning and tips. Prices range from $370-$465 per night. Visit www.chateauelan.com for more info.
Amore on a budget — Italian and French Rivieras Visiting Europe in the winter off-season is the best way to battle the bulging euro and get some value for your dollar. One of the most romantic places to visit is the Riviera — and you can double up by visiting both the Italian and French. Besides the legendary Italian cuisine, you can enjoy beautiful scenery and historic treasures as well as moderate temperatures.
TourCrafters makes it affordable to spend a whole week — 8 days and 7 nights — on both the French and Italian Rivieras, for under $1,200 per person, double occupancy, including airport taxes and fuel surcharges.
The package includes round-trip air on Alitalia from New York or Boston to Nice, four days of car rental, four nights accommodation on the Italian Riviera at the Hotel Europa in Rapallo, three nights on the French Riviera at the Hotel Mercure Marché aux Fleurs in Nice, daily breakfast, hotel service charges and taxes. Prices are valid through March 13. The Hotel Europa is located near Rapallo’s harbor, with a view of the Portofino peninsula. The Mercure Marché aux Fleurs in Nice is on the seafront, close to the opera house and Nice’s open-air market.
Departures from other U.S. cities are possible for an additional cost: $70 from Philadelphia, $74 from Washington, $126 from Miami, $133 from Chicago and $118 from Los Angeles. Reservations must be paid for within 72 hours of booking. For additional information about this and other good-deal spring breaks, visit www.tourcrafters.com. For reservations, call 800-482-5995.
For all these and many more Valentine’s Values from travel journalist Valarie D’Elia, check out her Web site at