On Valentine’s Day, winning a heart can cost an arm and a leg.
In 2013, Americans spent about $18.6 billion (an average $131 per person,) on Valentine’s Day cards, candy, jewelry, flowers, clothing, meals and other gifts, according to the National Federation of Retailers.
And that doesn’t take into account the cash some flush romantics spend on over-the-top hotel packages.
This year, for example, the Pelican Grand Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is offering a $13,000, three-night “Mega Yachts & Martinis” package through Feb. 28 with one night on a private chartered yacht and two nights in an oceanfront suite.
It includes sedan service to and from the yacht, catered shipboard meals and a magnum of Moët & Chandon. Back on land, there are “bottomless martinis” in the lounge—with a limit of five per person.
In Miami Beach, the three-night, $55,000 “Turn the Lights Down Low” package at the W South Beach Hotel is available Feb. 13 through 17.
In addition to a penthouse suite, this package provides round-trip helicopter transportation between Miami International Airport and Miami Beach’s Watson Island helipad, a Ferrari California loaner car and an aphrodisiac menu served en suite on Valentine’s Day. A seaplane tour of South Florida, a Miami night sky helicopter tour and a four-hour sunset cruise with dinner on a 120-foot yacht round things out.
Too busy to plan a special evening but thinking of popping the question on Valentine’s Day? Then the “Capital Engagement” package available Feb. 10 to 16 at the Capella Washington, D.C., might work for you.
Priced at the lucky sum of $777,777, this package has a long list of activities and amenities, including private jet transport for two from anywhere in the United States to Washington, two nights in the hotel’s presidential suite, a five-course en-suite dinner with a string trio accompaniment and a private tour of Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home.
The engagement part of the package covers (commercial) flights, hotel rooms and meals for 20 guests; a surprise rooftop engagement party; and a 5.01-carat diamond engagement ring.
“We’ll take it from A to Z,” said Alex Obertop, Capella’s general manager and the creator of the turnkey plan. “We wanted to make this over the top but comprehensive enough so that someone didn’t have to put their own imagination to work. We’ll do the work for them.”
Not enough for your sweetheart? Then “Proposal of the Century Package” at the Langham Huntington in Pasadena, Calif., could be the ticket.
This $100,000 plan includes private use of the Rose Bowl Stadium so you can pop the question out on the field in front of 40 friends. A performance by the 40-piece Pasadena Symphony Orchestra and a 2.5-carat diamond engagement ring worth $35,000 will help seal the deal. Back at the hotel, two nights in the presidential suite come with Champagne, 100 long-stemmed roses, meals and a host of other amenities.
If proposing on Valentine’s Day seems cliché, the package is available through the end of the year.
Those with smaller budgets might consider taking their true love to the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, for an exhibition of work by Robert Indiana, whose LOVE imagery has become iconic in American art (admission is $12).
Or stop by Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., to see the annual display of valentines from the collection of Esther Howland, the savvy businesswoman credited with inventing the commercial valentine industry in the United States in 1848 (admission is free).
And if you and your honey would rather stay close to home, you could instead let your Valentine’s Day card do the traveling.
For the price of a few first-class stamps, you can have a card remailed from Bliss, N.Y., or Hartsville, Tenn. And in Loveland, Colo., about 50 volunteers gather each year to hand-stamp and repost more than 160,000 valentines with a special Valentine’s Day cancellation.
“We get everything from handmade valentines to store-bought Hallmark cards, along with what we call ‘Chunky Monkeys,’ which are boxes filled with gifts and envelopes stuffed with letters,” said Mindy McCloughan, president and CEO of the Loveland Chamber of Commerce.
Loveland’s Valentine Remailing Program also sells its own official valentine each year.
For $9.75, volunteers will not only hand-stamp the card but write your love message inside.
(My story about high-flying Valentine’s Day packages first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior).