Chocolates are delicious, flowers are fun, and perfume and jewelry are always appreciated. But there’s nothing quite like embarking on a romantic escape with your forever travel companion to celebrate the biggest day of Cupid’s calendar year: Valentine’s Day.
“A vacation, even a short one, is always a good idea [for couples] because one of the most important aspects of successful romantic forever relationships is having fun together,” says Jamie Bronstein, a Los Angeles-based relationship expert and licensed clinical social worker. “That can be hard to do with all the stress of regular life like work, wedding planning, kids, bills, and COVID—so getting away to a neutral place where you can hit pause on those things and reset, reconnect, and remember why you fell you in love with each other is so beneficial to a relationship,” she explains.
Meet the Expert
- Jaime Bronstein is a Los Angeles-based licensed clinical social worker, couples’ coach, the host of the “Love Talk Live” radio show, and the author of MAN*ifesting.
- K’Hara McKinney is a Los Angeles-based licensed marriage and family therapist.
Fellow Angeleno and licensed marriage and family therapist K’Hara McKinney also believes in the therapeutic power of intentional travel and its usefulness as a relationship-building tool. “Travel allows not only for a deeper connection but for a better understanding of how a partner navigates risks, challenges, and changes outside of their everyday element and routine,” McKinney explains. “This is valuable in terms of being able to fortify joint problem-solving strategies as well as getting better acquainted with the strengths/weaknesses that each person holds [that are] only discoverable in novel situations.”
However, both experts agree that not all amorous adventures are created equal. This is why, here, Bronstein and McKinney put down their notepads and temporarily play travel agent, each picking destinations and trip types for Valentine’s Day getaways they believe can help couples strengthen their bond, pump up the passion, prepare them for married life, and hopefully keep them out of the office for a restorative experience.
No matter where you decide to go, McKinney warns couples to be cognizant of the common trap of placing too much importance on Valentine’s Day—and ensure you don’t fall into it. “Consider planning as though it’s just a time to enjoy one another rather than to celebrate something special,” she suggests. “It definitely helps things feel less stressful and still enjoyable at the same time.”
Ahead, find inspiration for our favorite relationship expert-recommended couples’ getaways for celebrating love this Valentine’s Day.
A Shore Thing
With sunset strolls in the sand, cabana lounging, rooms with spectacular views, and maximum opportunities to wear minimal clothing, a beach break is the “optimal, number one choice” for romantic Valentine’s Day travel, according to Bronstein. “There’s something energetically helpful about being in nature and near the water. It’s pretty. It’s calming. It’s sexy. It can be full of rejuvenating and romantic things like private dinners on the beach or long walks, or experiences that make your heart beat faster like swimming with sharks, both of which are bonding.”
Where to Go
The Eastern Caribbean isle of Barbados, the birthplace of Rihanna and rum, beckons with its pristine beaches, endless sun, sapphire turtle-filled waters, breadfruit delicacies, and welcoming Bajan hospitality. Whether you come on a cruise or check into a charming coast-hugging hotel like the pink-hued Cobblers Cove, fill bright days with snorkeling, sailing, or surfing the wild unpredictable Atlantic shore near Bathsheba’s iconic rock formations. If you prefer to stay dry, try spelunking at Harrisons Cave or wet your whistle at a tasting at Mount Gay, the world’s oldest still-operating commercial rum distillery. Spend nights having sushi aboard a submarine or following up a fish fry at Oistins with dancing to pulsating soca beats at a club in St. Lawrence Gap.
A Self-Care Sojourn
A trip to a high-end spa comes in a very close second to the beach in Bronstein’s opinion. “What’s not to like about these places? They encompass everything: scenery, food, taking care of yourself, connecting with your partner, unwinding, bonding,” she enthuses. “Most readers are in the midst of planning their wedding and that is so stressful. Spas can provide a reset.”
McKinney adds that some spa activities and treatments are “intimacy building and can possibly enhance sensuality,” and couples who spend time together at a wellness retreat might return with a useful souvenir. “[They] can be an opportunity to incorporate our partner into new coping strategies to manage stress [back] at home.”
Where to Go
Wellness meets woo-woo at resorts across the red-rocked majesty of Sedona, Arizona. Seriously, you can’t throw a crystal without hitting a meditation labyrinth, past-life regression practitioners, or sound bath set-up. But one of the most superior spots to get your spa on is at Mii amo and Enchantment Resort, a pair of sister properties that sit across from each other in the heart of Boynton Canyon. True believers will swear services are enhanced by the supercharged geography of Boynton as it is bookended by powerful vortexes. But even interdimensional gateway naysayers can’t deny the prowess of these healing hands or the regenerative results of cupping facials, aura photography, chakra balancing, a four-handed Ayurvedic massage, or manifesting with the new moon. The fresh air, gourmet eats, and almost limitless opportunities to hike and bike with help from the expert guides at the on-site Trail House outfitter also help you leave a changed person.
Prefer snow to sand? No problem, because the same logic applies to alpine adventures. Whether you hunker down in a cabin in the woods, pitch a tent by a glacial lake, or hit the slopes at a big resort, the mountains will work their magic. “Anything involving being in nature, particularly green or quiet spaces that allow for a bit of a disconnect, is naturally grounding,” McKinney says. “Seeing wildlife and stars, and planting feet in the earth all have calming properties.”
Where to Go
Surrounded by picturesque towering alps, the pine-scented playground of Lake Tahoe, a cobalt mass that unfolds across California and Nevada, offers four seasons of fun but winter truly is this region’s time to shine. Ski resorts like Heavenly are in full swing. Snow serenely blankets meadows and hiking trails and sits atop Sand Harbor’s signature rock formations, somehow making them more photogenic. Hearths roar to life, hot chocolate flows freely, and frigid temperatures constantly drive lovers into cuddle huddles. It’s easy to warm up at the Desolation Hotel, a brand new sustainably built micro-resort with a bubbly hot tub, deck heat lamps, fire pits, and a double-sided fireplace that can be enjoyed from the bedroom or the tub big enough for two on the balcony.
The Digital Detox
Building on the above idea that spotty service can be a blessing in disguise, gadget-less getaways also topped both therapists’ lists of recommendations. “This is a good test to make sure you are marrying the right person,” Bronstein says. “TVs and phones, the Internet, and social media divide our attention, disrupt communication, and distract from quality time,” she explains. “They keep people from being in the moment, from really listening to their partner. But when you filter out all of that noise, you can really be present, focus on each other and grow your love. The more time you spend together, the more your relationship can evolve and deepen.”
Where to Go
Gadgets weren’t an issue when Rancho La Puerta, a 4,000-acre wellness sanctuary just across the California border in Tecate, Mexico, was founded in 1940. But to maintain the peaceful setting in the modern day and continue to push their core tenets of “real conversation and connections,” they established some ground rules that include no cell use in public areas, at meals, or on your casita patio and limited browsing and scrolling to five hot spots. They’d prefer if you spent your time plugged into the fitness programming, attending a chamber concert, trekking up hills, meditating, getting a hot stone massage, or chatting with like-minded strangers.
A Classic Staycation
We get it: Between inflation, rampant flight delays and cancellations, and short-staffed hotels and restaurants, the juice isn’t always worth the squeeze. Forcing yourself to travel when you don’t have the time, funds, or bandwidth required to plan and thoroughly enjoy a big trip not only adds unnecessary stress but could actively harm your partnership. “Be mindful of optional versus mandatory stress, and take off optional stress when you’re able,” McKinney suggests. “Optional stress is anything miscellaneous that does not need to happen. Travel could be that, depending on your situation.”
The key to keeping travel stress from ruining the holiday altogether is to find something closer to home and “glass-half-full it,” suggests Bronstein. “The happiest couples can make anything fun, lemonade out of lemons and all that. The key is to be playful and creative and make it different than home,” she explains. “Get some new lingerie. Try a new cuisine. And don’t even talk about the same stuff at dinner that you do at home. That way it feels like you’re on a special vacation even if you’re just down the street from your house.”
Where to Go
You can certainly fancy up your home for a special weekend at the house, or book a nearby Airbnb or small rental. Otherwise, find a local hotel with lavish or unique amenities that aren’t part of your day-to-day, like the roof-top pool and Himalayan salt room found at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles. The 49th-floor Extreme Wow suite at W Philadelphia features a DJ booth, a gold-trimmed foosball table, and an electronic bed that spins 360 degrees. Certain cabins at Castle Hot Springs in Arizona come equipped with telescopes and an outdoor tub. (And remember what they already said about stargazing!) If the way to your heart is through your stomach, stay somewhere with a restaurant helmed by a top chef like the Thompson Denver (Michelin-starred Ludo Lefebvre’s take on the Mile High City’s namesake omelet is decadent and not to be missed) or the Line Austin (it’s the culinary vision of Top Chef season 10 winner Kristen Kish).
McKinney also sees value in revisiting a beloved shared favorite. “Go-to places that have been previously enjoyed together and that both people love to reinforce the positive memories connected with your partner and the place.”