The Travel Detective

Travel Detective Blog: The Most Common Valentine’s Day Mistakes

Locations in this article:  Paris, France

Arc de Triomphe - ParisListen up lovebirds, before you get blinded any more by love on Valentine’s Day, consider yourself also potentially blinded by Valentine’s Day hype. We’re talking about overpriced hotel packages and expensive restaurant menus, all designed to relieve you of your guilt…and lighten your wallet. Peter uses his Travel Detective blog to help you avoid the most common Valentine’s Day mistakes.

Let’s start with the hotel packages, they’re all about the same, and include the same contrived ingredients: chocolates, roses, visionless. Often, when you deconstruct these “special” packages, you discover the $19 bottle of champagne cost you $100, the roses were triple or quadruple what you could have bought at any store, and the chocolates? Don’t even go there.

Here’s my advice. If you truly need to express your love at a hotel with your significant other, wait a week. Give her (or him) a wonderful note letting them know of your special Valentine’s night or weekend a few weeks from now. Why? Obvious reasons: no crowds, no overpriced rooms, and YOU get to be the creative one.

Go to a local chocolatier and get something special ordered. Bakeries can do this as well. Then, forget the roses. Be a contrarian. How about gardenias? As for the champagne, cash in your frequent-flier miles and include two tickets to Paris for September — perfect for harvest season in France and all the tourists will have gone.

But, I’m just getting started. Of course, there are expensive restaurant menus on Valentines Day, but it’s actually worse. The insult I’m about to share with you isn’t just on Valentine’s Day–it’s year-round. I call it the tyranny of the restaurant business, and nowhere is it more prevalent than on valentine’s day — it’s the terrible twos.

The terrible twos? I’m talking about the tiny tables for two you see at every restaurant worldwide — where they squeeze you into a table where you are less than a foot away from two other people who are similarly jammed in to their tiny two-top. Feeling romantic yet?

Whether it’s Valentine’s Day or any other day of the year, I refuse to sit at a terrible two…there’s nothing special about it. Nothing private about it. Nothing spacious about it. Here’s my solution and I’ve done it for years. Every time i’m having a restaurant meal with just one other person, I ALWAYS make a reservation for three people. That way, the restaurant has no choice but to put us at a table for four. We have space. We have privacy. We can breathe. We can talk without worrying about anyone else hearing us, or worse, without having to hear the couple next to us. And what a surprise…that third person just never shows up.

I know I am potentially angering waiters who depend on tips. But not to worry, I always tip between 20 and 25 percent of the tab to compensate for that. I am happy to tip more just for not having to sit at a terrible two. I don’t care how good the food is, if I have to rub elbows with the stranger next to me in order to lift my fork.

Leave Valentines Day to the amateurs who overspend at hotels and restaurants and are stuck next to equally abused couples just inches away on both sides of them at restaurants. Wait a week, plan something really special in town or overseas. Forget the traditional chocolates, think anything BUT roses, and save the champagne for your after-summer trip to France. And you can always invite me as that third mystery person every time you make a reservation from now on. Don’t worry, I won’t show up…

For more romantic and unromantic travel, check out:

By Peter Greenberg for