Did you know the name Valentine was such a popular moniker throughout history that many people carried it? Or, that the Catholic church stopped venerating St. Valentine in 1969? The name Valentine means “strong, vigorous and healthy.” A man named Valentinus was martyred near Rome in the 3rd century. One historical account of St. Valentine reports he was beheaded for helping soldiers marry during wartime, which was prohibited. In the afterlife, Saint Valentine’s role is to watch over the lives of lovers and those who travel.
Valentine’s day is second only to Christmas for money making retail. It is a time when newlyweds, seasoned spouses and new couple devote their love to each other. Since the late 1800’s it has become customary to share a valentine, chocolates, flowers and perhaps a getaway to reconnect with the ones you love.
Valentine’s day is also a popular day for weddings and honeymoon retreats. A honeymoon is a great reason to travel far away to a secluded exotic area and get to know one another better in a romantic setting.
Your honeymoon, anniversary or romantic getaway should be as unique as your relationship. One of the most important considerations for a romantic trip is what makes both of you passionate.
For Fantasy Couples
Couples who enjoy novels and movies with wizards, sci-fi or super spies on dates might consider celebrating their mutual love of fantasy and science fiction with superfan destinations.
- Lord of the Rings: Take your affections to New Zealand and enjoy dramatic, cascading landscapes and rugged settings for some of the world’s most famous settings, like the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Explore the Hobbiton movie set, nestled in the rolling green hills of Matamata, visit middle earth and meet real people who worked on the set. Red Carpet Tours offers a fourteen day excursion at NZD (New Zealand dollars) $5,625 on February 6, 2016, airfare not included.
2. Finding Magic: Did you and your true love go for movie marathons of scary knowledge with the “Harry Potter” series? Leavesden, England was the home to the Harry Potter series for a decade. Warner Bros. Studio Tour makes it possible for you to experience the magic of film-making and visit King’s Cross Station and see for yourself whether you can find the gateway to Platform 9 ¾ at a price per couple of £97.9. The studio is surrounded by Watford hotels for the perfect stay.
3. Diamonds are Forever: Do you order your martinis “shaken and not stirred?” There’s a vacation destination for you in Jamaica where Ian Fleming first penned his now world-famous “James Bond” spy thrillers; And, where “Dr. No,” the first James Bond movie starring Sean Connery was filmed along 7 Mile Beach. Adventurous couples can stay in the Fleming Villa at the GoldenEye Resort. James Bond tours from Montego Bay, Negril and Lucea are offered at US $180-200.
For Animal Lovers
If you and your soulmate enjoy animals and wildlife, here are some unique excursions to consider.
- Go Cat Crazy: For some people, cats are a lifestyle. If the cat’s meow is calling to you, journey to Tokyo, Japan. Tokyo is the destination for exotic Cat Cafes. Cat Cafes are coffee and tea shops with a flair of whimsy. Cat Cafes host fascinating species of spoiled, clean, and cuddly cat residents. Many Cat Cafes provide slippers and couches to lounge upon while you de-stress, enjoy a drink and pet as many furry friends as you desire.
2. Swim with Jellyfish: Many couples can say they swam with dolphins, but not too many have ventured into water with jellyfish. There is only one place in the world where you can swim with hundreds of soft, golden jellyfish without getting stung. The archipelago nation of Palau which is also called the Serengeti of the Sea. Palau is home to Jellyfish Lake, a fluorescent green scape filled with colorful, harmless jellyfish of all sizes, from ping pong to bowling ball sizes. The show “Survivors” was filmed on one of the islands.
3. Support the World Wildlife Fund (WWF): Teddy bears are popular Valentine gifts. Surprise your significant other with the real thing; giant pandas are rare and cute beyond words. In 2014, only 1,864 giant pandas were living in natural habitats. Guests willing to pay a premium of about 2,000 RMB (US $307) can hold a panda for two minutes during their visit at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China.
For Foodie Couples
If you and your sweetheart love new restaurants and are delighted when your palate is teased with weird and wonderful cuisine, or you spend a lot of time perfecting your chicken cacciatore recipe, perhaps you could celebrate your love for each other and food with some of the best and most exciting eats in the world:
- World’s Best Sushi: It’s time to catch the gorgeously-filmed Netflix documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” then travel to Tokyo to eat at the legendary sushi restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro, a Michelin 3 Star restaurant. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had the pleasure; you can, too, if you plan far enough in advance. Reservations should be made the first of the month prior to the month you want to dine there. Chef Jiro Ono’s 20-course omakase menu, costs approximately $300 or 30,000 Japanese yen.
2. Get Lost in the Black Forest: Surprise your Valentine with a trip to the Black Forest. The mysterious 100-year-old Black Forest cake is internationally famous for its chocolate sponge cake, whipped cream, cherries, and schnapps. Black Forest Gateau is known around the world. The cake is the number one export of the Black Forest Tourism Association in Freiburg, Germany. Every two years, the Cherry Gateau Festival is held in Todtnauberg. The next one will be Spring of 2018.
3. Get in the Spirit: Love Tequila? The Tequila Trail offers distillery tastings and tours in a region outside of Guadalajara, Mexico. You’d fly into Puerto Vallarta and make a road trip commute. The 9 ½ hour fiesta begins aboard the Tequila Train which takes you from the desert to the agave countryside with mariachi bands in traditional costumes entertaining you. You will make stops at tequila distilleries and enjoy fine meals and live music. It is easy to understand why the popular tour is called, “Tour of the Senses.”
For Fitness Buffs
Perhaps you and your true love bond over adventure and physical activities you both enjoy. If you’re happiest when you’re breathing fresh air on the move, these trips might be ideal for you.
- Reel in a monster: Rods and reels are required to take in globally famous deep sea fishing adventures of Cape Town, South Africa. You can hook tuna, mako sharks, dorados and even crayfish off Cape Town’s shores. Hooked on Africa is a fishing charter offering some excursions to some of the richest yellowfin tuna excursions in the world. South Africa’s winter is our summer so reverse your plans to catch the tuna runs.
2. Rain Forests: If you like nature and adventure, Costa Rica has a lot to offer. Tropical rainforests, deciduous forests, Atlantic and Pacific coastlines, cloud and mangrove forests are all represented in a small area of 19,730 square miles. Costa Rica is a country about one-third the size of Minnesota. You’ll need to keep your head in the game if you visit because of their high crime rate and dangerous animals like crocodiles, jaguars and pumas.
3. Indoor Winter Sports: Dubai is home to a remarkable indoor winter escape where you can ski, snowboard and slide down giant tube slides inside of a shopping mall. You can also enjoy King and Gentoo Penguins at Ski Dubai in a controlled habitat. The average temperature is -4 Fahrenheit. Helmets are required along with minimum skill sets to ski on the slope for a day at AED 310.00. Apres ski you can enjoy a rolling desert safari or visit the mega tall skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa.
BEFORE YOU GO
You’ll want to make safety stick in your travels so you can identify and mitigate risks, get help if you need it and come home safely. International travel takes a lot of preparations. It is one of the most fun and romantic excursions you can venture out on. Peace of mind is priceless. Make a date with safety so you can safeguard your future and each other together.
Coffee, Wine or Sparkling Water and a Secure Wifi Required
Bring your boo to your favorite Internet cafe, get each other a romantic drink and sit down with your computers. It’s time to do some world travel online safety homework to avoid trip traps. This is a date to keep months in advance of your departure. While you’re doing Internet searches, hanging out and dreaming of your vacation, make these touchpoints a must do:
- Download the Depart Smart Travel Safety Checklist: It has more than fifty touch points to help you prepare for safe and rewarding journeys.
- Research your destination: Will you need a visa to enter your country? Is there a currency limit for people trying to leave? Is it winter, summer or monsoon season there? Do some important homework on your destination through the United States Department of State country-specific information page. Read the safety and security tab carefully. In downtown San Jose, Costa Rica, for example, US Employees are not allowed to spend the night because of crime. You’ll want to add the U.S. Embassy contact information to your smartphone’s contacts so you have it with you at all times. Once you make a decision on the country you will visit and book a trip, register your trip at step.state.gov. The US Government cannot reach or forewarn you if they don’t know where you are.
- Go to www.CDC.gov and click the Travelers’ Health tab. Select your destination and read health and safety tips. Try to visit a travel clinic weeks before your trip so vaccinations and medications prescribed for you have a chance to incubate and protect your health. Some frequently recommended vaccinations are for hepatitis, typhoid, rabies, and yellow fever to name a few. You might also ask your physician about prescribing enough prescription medications to last beyond your trip. Keep scripts in their original containers and be prepared to discuss them with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the airport.
- Update your personal health records: Once you have your pre-trip health screening, make sure your personal health record is current with vital information translated into the local language(s). In an emergency situation, seconds matter, and you’re going to want your care provider to be able to make informed decisions. Include details on allergies, chronic conditions, prior procedures, medications and your day-to-day health care habits. You might try using HealthVault for your personal health records. Give a copy of your personal health record and its translations to your emergency contacts.
- Applying for passports: Get the information you need for your passport and/or visa applications. You can apply for or renew a passport with the US State Department online. You, your honey and your emergency contacts need to have active passports good for six months beyond your return date to depart. Your emergency contacts may also need your living will, and powers of attorney to assist.
Perhaps your emergency contact are your parents or a friend. They need to be prepared and ready to help. A good emergency contact should be prepared with primary and alternate methods of contact – such as texts, video and voice calls. Contact should be updated on a scheduled basis about trip progress. They will need the names and contact information for the places you’re staying at, your trip itinerary, and funds to get to you and help. Emergency contacts can also enroll in step.state.gov to stay informed of location specific risks by the U.S. Embassy.
- Electronic Copies of Important Documents: Items like your passport, driver’s license, emergency contacts, credit cards, insurance information, etc. should be easily available to you and to your emergency contacts. Consider scanning them and putting them on a zip drive, making a zip file and emailing them to yourself, or storing them in the cloud on a service like Dropbox, Google Drive, or similar.
- Creating a travel budget: Determine the currency and exchange rate to establish exactly how much money you’ll need. It’s a good idea to notify your credit card companies of your plans, and perhaps ask them to be prepared to up the limit. You may need emergency funds you hadn’t planned on. Include costs for travel medical insurance, emergency funds and a comfy margin for celebrations and unplanned opportunities.
- Travel Insurance is not optional. No one wants to think about the worst scenarios but they happen all the time. It can cost the price of a small home to medically evacuate you or the one you love to a safe harbor or appropriate medical care. Be sure to purchase the right kind of travel insurance and read the fine print. Trip insurance is not the same as travel insurance although there are some crossover services. Trip insurance protects the money you invested on travel, while travel insurance protects your health and life. Ask your insurance provider about the differences. Some trip and travel insurance is null if you are under the influence of alcohol at the time of an incident or if there was an active US Department of State warning in place, but you chose to travel anyway. You may want to consider natural disaster or civil unrest evacuation coverage. You may need urgent medical care or emergency evacuation while you’re abroad. It takes a little time and money but can save you a world of pain and hurt. It can cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to medically evacuate a person home.
- Shopping Spree: Smart, safe, savvy travelers depart with some standard gear to reduce stress and make the journey fun:
- A travel outlet/volt converter: Go prepared with a travel voltage converter so you can charge your devices safely. Remember your charge cables. On long flights, you might want to bring along a travel power strip so you can share the electrical outlet with your sweetheart.
- Sunscreen: Ultraviolet rays are not selective. Sunscreen is a must even on a cloudy day or a wintry location. Protect your skin.
- Insect repellent: Mosquitos and insects are dangerous. Vector-borne diseases are deadly. Keep the various disease-carrying flies and mosquitoes off with a good insect repellent and barriers. Your travel clinic can make recommendations for your destination.
- Hand sanitizer and chlorine tablets: Are you always going to have access to clean water? Prevent stray illnesses with some disinfectants. Be super cautious of drinking water and make sure it’s potable.
- Anti-nausea and diarrheal medication: Going on a boat? Don’t get seasick and let it ruin the day. Even worse, be prepared for traveler’s diarrhea which affects up to 70% of all travelers. Depart with preventives and treatments to recover quickly. Wise up about Traveler’s Diarrhea before you leave. Such a romantic buzzkill to have Montezuma join you on your romantic getaway.
- Clothes: Have you dressed appropriately for travel? Figure out the weather in your destination’s climate. How much clothing you can bring and whether or not you need to cover your arms and legs to deter mosquitoes, ticks, flies or other pests. Layering clothing is often a great way to protect yourself.
Ready, Set, Go
The night before your flight, stay in, turn on your favorite music, and go through your travel safety checklist one last time. Did you insure your trip? If you did and a flight is cancelled, don’t wait in line at the counter, call your trip insurance concierge and let them bump the line on your behalf. Once you’re feeling comfortable and confident about your trip, turn in early and get some rest. You’re catching a flight tomorrow. Remember to stay hydrated and carry a water bottle.
Save journeys, sweethearts!
For more travel safety tips and information, visit Depart Smart.org.