Revealed! How to do Valentine’s Day on the cheap (without looking like a cheapskate)

February 12, 2019

By Joey Tyson

Valentine’s Day is just DAYS away. So, if you’re reading this, it’s safe to say you’ve dropped the ball. In fact, if you’ve left it this late, the ball is a punctured mass of leather and rubber.

But what if we told you there was still a way to come out of February looking like a hopeless romantic, without spending a fortune? Luckily for you, we’ve got a few ideas that could spare you the dog house. After all, real romance doesn’t have to bankrupt you.

Don’t travel on Valentine’s Day itself

While it may be a lovely gesture to whisk the one you love away on the most romantic day of the year, it’s going to cost you. You see, everyone else has had the same idea, and demand drives up the price. Plus, this year Valentine’s Day falls during many school’s February half term holidays.

Instead, why not surprise your other half with the promise of a romantic break on the day, but travel later in the year, when it’s much cheaper? Wow factor remains intact, as does your bank balance.

For example, fly to Venice on Valentine’s Day this year and it will cost you £258pp for a three-night break in a 3-star hotel (that’s £516 in total). Wait until the following Tuesday and that same break drops to £154pp. That’s £200 saved, all thanks to patience.

For an added bonus, cities like Paris will be manic over Valentine’s weekend, so by going later, you’ll avoid the crowds – and being a cliché.

Give the usual suspects a miss

Paris, Venice and Amsterdam are all very, very romantic. A bit too romantic, actually. The bridges over the Seine are buckling under the weight of all those love-padlocks and the charm of a gondola ride soon fades after the 16th canal traffic jam.

So, why not think about somewhere else? Somewhere cheaper. We’ve made a quick comparison to show how much cheaper it can be to wine and dine your loved one if you consider less popular (but no less romantic!) cities for Valentine’s.

Budapest, for example, boasts some of the grandest architecture in Europe, which you can enjoy during a stroll beside the majestic Danube. You and your other half could also soak all of your worries away in one of the city’s many thermal baths before enjoying a three-course meal for two for around €29.00 according to Numbeo*, less than half the price of a similar meal in Venice.

Or how about Slovenia’s compact capital Ljubljana, which is just a 40-minute drive from Bled, where there’s a shimmering lake surrounded by castles and towering mountains. You can save big on a meal and drinks here too, according to Numbeo data, with a three-course meal for two coming in at just €30 compared to €60 in Amsterdam.

Naples in southern Italy, meanwhile, may not have the obvious romance that you might find in Venice or Florence, but you can share some of the best pizza in the world with your other half for next to nothing – and isn’t that proper love?

Budget hotels don’t have to be bland

Look out for budget hotels with a difference to plan a getaway to a big city without spending a small fortune. European chain, Motel One, is a good example, with rooms available for less than £75 per night in cities including Barcelona and Amsterdam, slick bars that wouldn’t look out of place in Shoreditch or the East Village and basic but stylish rooms.

Ibis Styles, the upmarket version of the well-known budget chain, offers a similar product for decent prices. They have hotels in familiar European cities such as Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam, as well as places as far afield as Brazil and Mexico – perhaps save those for your silver anniversary.

Upgrade your next break for less

If you’re lucky enough to have a break booked already for you and your loved one, why not add the wow factor to it as a Valentine’s Day gift? For example, imagine starting your next holiday in an airport lounge away from the hectic mob with free food and drink - some No1 Lounges even include a champagne package. The best bit? Prices start from as little as £18 per person. The other half need never know you pocketed change from £20.

Romance begins at home

You really don’t have to look very hard to find a romantic spot in Britain. Where do you think Wordsworth, Blake and the gang got all their inspiration?

Fancy a windswept walk? Try the bleak and beautiful Yorkshire Moors. After a traditional seaside town? Call in on Cromer, Norfolk. A city break with bags of charm? Give Bath a go. We could go on and on. Luckily, the people at Visit Britain have put together a huge list of romantic ideas for you to steal and pass off as your own this Valentine’s Day.

There are loads of other, less expensive alternatives to your usual romantic go-to ideas as well. For example, swap an expensive spa day for a few hours relaxing in a traditional Turkish bath in Harrogate. Or, alternatively the closest city to you is probably packed with lovely spots for a stroll, for free. Take a romantic walk at the Kyoto Gardens in London, or up to Arthur’s seat in Edinburgh – if you know these places are likely to be popular, avoid the crowds by going early and taking a breakfast picnic.

Other last-minute Valentine’s ideas

Look out for cheap theatre tickets near you

A romantic trip to the theatre needn’t cost the earth. If you know where to look, there are deals to be had.

In London, try TKTS for on-the-day bargains and half-price deals to shows in the West End. The Globe and the National Theatre also do standing tickets from £5 – just don’t pick an epic!

Wherever you live in the UK, always try to buy your tickets from the venue itself. This usually does away with those wicked booking fees that magically appear after you’ve picked your tickets online.

If you’re lucky (and it’s not a super popular show you want to see), turning up at the last minute might even get you a cheap ticket. Alternatively, catch a live show at your nearest cinema with National Theatre Live.

Be savvy with Valentine’s vouchers

Do you think that couponing is seriously uncool? Well, if you can get a seriously good deal on Valentine’s Day, who cares? And it’s up to you whether you confess to your other half.

Deal sites like Groupon and Wowcher are always rife with decent discounts, even on Valentine’s Day when most other businesses kick into rip-off overdrive. Things like set meal deals, spa treatments and fun activities (haven’t you always wanted to learn how to make dim sum?) are often slashed well below half price.

VoucherCodes is another site that’s always offering up 2-for-1 meal deals or hefty discounts of your final bill. Café Rouge and Pizza Express regularly feature. also offers a pretty compressive list of restaurant deals and vouchers.

Try something different: bottomless brunch, anyone?

Nothing says “I love you” like a lazy brunch, soaked in all-you-can-drink prosecco or Bloody Marys. Bottomless brunches have become incredibly popular in the UK in recent years, and the craze shows no signs of abating just yet.

London is the UK’s bottomless brunch capital – sign up to TimeOut’s newsletter and every other deal promises endless prosecco – but the likes of Manchester, Edinburgh and Newcastle are catching on as well. We found deals in London for as little as £17 a head – with the booze factored in, that’s not bad at all.


Please note: All prices and offers were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change.


Have a comment or question about this article? You can contact us on Twitter or Facebook.

Latest travel tips and advice

Read more from the blog

Sign up. Be inspired. Travel.

Subscribe now for hand-picked holiday deals, inspiration and the latest travel tips, straight to your inbox.

Sign up to newsletter

We won't pass your details on to anyone else. By clicking the sign up button you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.