Valentine’s Day can be a wonderful time to celebrate love; it can also be a hellish disaster waiting to happen. Here’s how to hack Valentine’s Day to make it a night you’ll actually want to remember—whether you’ve got someone to spend it with or not.
Blast from the past is a new weekly feature at Lifehacker, in which we revive old, but still relevant, posts for your reading and hacking pleasure. This week, we’re celebrating Valentine’s Day.
Note: We know some of you feel Valentine’s Day is a crappy, commercialized, load of BS—and that’s totally fine. While this guide is geared towards surviving V-Day, it’s not about following the traditional path. It’s also applicable to your next big date and a look at how to handle being alone. We don’t dive into the subject of love too often here on Lifehacker, but today we’re here to help you out regardless of what your romantic situation may be. Be sure to also check out our stress-free Valentine’s Day guide.
I’ve had just about every Valentine’s Day experience you can imagine: I’ve been broken up with, had a first date, gotten sick, visited places you wouldn’t speak of in polite company, and even had a great evening of romance. While Valentine’s Day can be a lot of fun, it’s prone to disaster. A lot of that potential disaster can easily be avoided, however, by just managing your expectations, preparing for problems, and planning your day a little differently.
Valentine’s Day can be enjoyed by anyone under the right pretext, but it was designed for people in relationships. If you’ve been lucky enough to find yourself in love this Valentine’s Day, here are some tips, tricks, and suggestions to help you make sure you don’t screw it up.
Don’t Expect Romance After Dinner
The traditional Valentine’s Day date generally consists of a nice, romantic date…and then falling into a food coma the minute you get home. There’s nothing wrong with having a really nice, delicious, fatty meal on rare, special occasions, but when that meal forces you into unconsciousness before your evening is officially over you might want to reconsider your plans. Sex advice columnist Dan Savage repeatedly recommends—even cautions—couples to save the food for last. If you’re planning on eating a big, heavy meal for your romantic night out, you ought to take care of the romance, sex, or whatever else you plan to do beforehand.
Try Something Different
You don’t have to buy gifts and go out for dinner for Valentine’s Day. You can do whatever you want. While you’re probably aware of that, there are two things potentially stopping you: the expectation of tradition and the absence of alternative ideas. If you talk to your significant other, however, you might be able to figure out a date you’d both enjoy that doesn’t involve the same thing that pretty much everyone else is doing. Here are some alternative ideas:
Be a Bad Valentine
One of the best dates I’ve ever had involved buying a large bag of french fries and sneaking into a tall building to eat, talk, and watch the city of Boston from the sky. While this may or may not sound like something you want to do with your date, there’s one thing you should consider: mischief. Being a little bad by yourself doesn’t have the same effect as being bad with others. You don’t want to do anything that’s truly bad, but just something where you could get caught and in a little bit of trouble if you did. The rush of going through that experience together will make it more fun and memorable. It will help create a bond. If there’s ever some safe, harmless trouble you wanted to make but never did, Valentine’s Day might be a good opportunity.
Photo by Jill M.
Celebrate What You Love
Romance shouldn’t necessarily be born out of gifts and food. It should be about expressing love and celebrating the love you have with somebody. Sit down with your significant other and make a list of things you both really enjoy together, then make the night about those things. These things can be food and gifts, but try to think about activities you enjoy together and the reasons you love/care about each other. Find ways to celebrate those things rather than simply going the traditional route.
Try Something New
Your date should be about creating a positive memorable experience that you can look back on fondly, and trying something neither of you have experienced before is often a good way to accomplish this. Try not to make it something you’ve necessarily always wanted to do, but something neither of you have really considered trying before and do not have a specific attachment to in any way. The idea is for you both to experience something new together and to bond over how much you either love or hate it. If it’s truly new and you don’t really have any prior feelings about what you’re about to try, the night won’t be ruined if you find out one of you likes it or doesn’t. Even if you both hate it, you’ll have plenty to talk about afterwards. Be a little strange, pick something you’d never thought you’d do, and do it together.
If a fancy, romantic dinner is the Valentine’s Day you want to have then you might want to consider having it on a day that isn’t quite Valentine’s Day. Restaurant reservations are difficult to find if you don’t plan fairly far in advance and, with so much restaurant traffic, you have a higher likelihood of getting screwed out of your reservation altogether. If you have your heart set on a particular restaurant, you’ll have a much easier time shifting Valentine’s Day a few days earlier or later. The day has no real personal significance to you (like, say, your birthday), so try not to get hung up on it. Of course, many people have a traditional dinner and a nice evening despite the hassle it sometimes brings, but if you want to avoid a potential mess just reschedule for a different day.
Prepare for Disaster
Sometimes there is nothing you can do to prevent disaster, so you have to prepare for it. Often times being able to quickly solve a problem can lead to something unexpectedly better. You may even find yourself feeling glad something went wrong because it turned out better in the end. Here are some suggestions:
- Have a Backup Plan – If you’ve got a very specific evening planned out, consider how it might go wrong and what you can do about it. If you have a backup plan ready when/if your primary plan is met with failure, you can continue the night smoothly without too much hassle. This may mean making an extra reservation, picking a backup restaurant you know won’t have a wait, thinking of two activities or places with emotional significance in case one doesn’t work out, and even planning an alternative night at home should going out just turn into a huge disaster on its own.
- Use Your Smartphone – While you probably don’t want to take out the smartphone if you don’t have to, it can provide you with easy access to information about entertainment, restaurants, and other activities near you should something go wrong. Have a page or folder dedicated to Valentine’s Day emergency apps so you can spring into action the moment disaster strikes.
- Anticipate Delays and Unexpected Problems – If you’re going out, you need to leave early. How early? That’s something you can plan for by checking your local traffic on Google Maps and looking for advisories on your local department of transportation web site. You can also check local event sites (or even local pages on Yelp and City Search) to see what’s going on near the area you’ll be so you can find a place to park your car (if you’re driving). Figure out what could go wrong and account for enough time to endure it. You probably won’t be able to avoid the inevitable traffic of vehicles and people, but you can at least figure out how much it’s going to affect your night.
If you’re single, Valentine’s Day can seem especially obnoxious. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. Here are some tips for spending it alone and with other single friends so you can stave off loneliness and don’t have to miss out on the party.
Make It Your Day
Be Somebody’s Entertainment
If you can’t go out and enjoy some entertainment yourself, just be entertainment for somebody else. One year, despite having a date, I performed in a Valentine’s Day concert. Sadly for my date, it was the highlight of the evening. What you do isn’t as important as the joy you get from doing it. Figure out something you love to do and then go out and do it somewhere that you’ll be appreciated. For most, Valentine’s Day is about feeling appreciated. When you get that feeling from a group of people, it’s pretty great. If you think you don’t have the requisite talent to go perform for any kind of audience, formally or not, you can always participate in the
free hugs campaign, do a little volunteer work, or do something for others in another more traditional way.
Organize a V-Day Group Outing
Some people have a tradition of spending Valentine’s Day with their other single friends. This is a great way to still go out and have a good time, but isn’t an option for everyone. Assuming you do have friends, or at least some acquaintances, you’re not out of luck if there’s no platonic date available for you. Even if it’s a bit last-minute, invite as many people as you can to a Valentine’s Day outing for singles. Don’t just invite friends you know well and like, but invite people you still need to get to know. The worst-case scenario is that they’ll think it’s stupid and decide not to come. On the other hand, you might make a few lonely people very happy to have something to do. It’s a good opportunity to make new friends out of your acquaintances, and you might even end up meeting your date for Valentine’s Day 2012.
You don’t want to forget about your family and friends regardless of whether or not you’re in a relationship. Contact the people you care about to say hi. Let them know you care. You don’t have to do this under the pretense of Valentine’s Day, but it’s a good excuse to remind people that they matter to you. You never know when someone’s going to need that reminder, but there’s rarely a bad time.
For those of you convinced Valentine’s Day is going to suck, we asked you to send your situation so we could record a message for you. It’s done!
You can contact Adam Dachis, the author of this post, at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.