High-flying Valentine’s Day packages

Valentine couple

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.


Courtesy Farnsworth Art Museum



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).


Airports offer sweet treats for Valentine’s Day


This month, my “At the Airport” column in is all about Valentine’s Day specials at the nation’s airport.  Here’s a link to the column and, below, some highlights.


Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, so frequent travelers have a good chance of working out those plans to touch down in the same town as their sweeties. And while just showing up may get you a few extra points, arriving empty-handed just won’t cut it. Even if you have flown through three zones just to be there.

Romantic road warriors needn’t worry about making an extra stop at the mall. Many airports and airport shops around the country are rolling out love-themed art exhibits, giveaways, and special deals on romantic gifts you can grab-n-go in a heartbeat.

Hearts and art

To set the mood, a new exhibit titled Sweetheart Town – Loveland, Colorado at Denver International Airport is filled with items on loan from the Loveland Museum/Gallery, including Victorian-era valentines, historical photographs, memorabilia and new work by Loveland-area artists. Address one of the free exhibit-themed valentine postcards to your sweetie and the airport will take it to Loveland, 60 miles away, so it can be canceled with the town’s sweetheart postmark and then mailed for free. The exhibit is located pre-security in the walkway between the Jeppesen Terminal and the A gates.


At Miami International Airport, the newly renovated mia Central Gallery (Concourse E, second level, post-security) is home to a 120-foot-long art installation that uses 10,500 brightly-colored silk flowers to spell out the words “All we need is love, love” in six-foot-tall letters. The oversized artwork is by Miami architect/artist team Rosario Marquardt and Roberto Behar, who call themselves R&R Studios. “People walking by start singing that Beatles song All You Need Is Love all the time,” says Yolanda Sanchez, the airport’s director of Fine Arts and Cultural Affairs. “So the artwork makes its own soundtrack.”

Sweets for you and your sweetie

On Feb. 13 and 14, the Food & Shops in the Central Terminal at LaGuardia Airport in New York will be distributing free chocolate kisses to all travelers. And through Monday, Feb. 16, the shops in the Central Terminal will be offering special prices on gifts displayed on tables marked “Gifts for Your Sweetie.”

On Valentine’s Day, folks from Boingo, the new Wi-Fi provider at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, will be handing out free one-hour service cards to 100 travelers on their way into the terminal from the parking area. (Think e-valentines.) And on Feb. 13, 14 and 15, local favorite Amy’s Ice Cream will be setting up a temporary shop in the baggage claim area so travelers can grab their luggage and some chocolate-covered strawberries on their way home.


At Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the Brighton stores in Terminal 4 will be celebrating Valentine’s Day with balloons and free cookies. The Paradise Bakery, which has locations in all three terminals, is baking up small and large heart-shaped cookies for sale. The large cookies weigh in at 30 ounces and need to be ordered at least two hours in advance (602-681-0909). Fresh Gourmet to Go, located in Sky Harbor’s Rental Car Center, will be stocking fresh long-stem roses and chocolates “for travelers coming to Phoenix to surprise their Valentines!”


More sweets – and some relaxation

The Natalie’s Candy Bar shops at San Antonio International Airport, Indianapolis International Airport, and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport will be giving a free quarter-pound of red and white Gummi bears to all women who make purchases at a Natalie’s shop on Valentine’s Day.

At the AIRMALL at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Zona Mexicana is featuring Love Potion Margaritas until Feb. 14, and anyone who shows up with a heart-shaped anything (including a drawing of a heart on a piece of paper) will get a 10% discount on services at Destination Relax.

Finally, though Feb. 15, T.G.I. Friday’s, which has 18 airport branches (including 6 at DFW) is offering members of its Give Me More Stripes guest recognition program free Spiced Up Cupcakes with a side of ice cream when they purchase two entrees. Guests who visit Friday’s on Valentine’s Day will also receive a coupon for $5 off when they spend $15. (Coupons are redeemable between Feb. 15 and March 1. Joining the guest recognition program is free.)

For the complete article, see Airports Sweeten the Deal for Valentine’s Day here.

Free Valentines at Denver International Airport


It’s never too early to plan for Valentine’s Day. And to get you in the mood, the folks at Denver International Airport have unveiled a new exhibit.

Included are Victorian-era Valentine’s cards, historical photographs, memorabilia and artwork by artists from Loveland, the Colorado town with the famous post office that puts a special cachet stamp on more than 200,000 valentines each year.


The exhibit, “SWEETHEART TOWN — Loveland, Colorado” is located pre-security, on the walkway between Jeppesen Terminal and the A Gates.

Here’s the part about the free Valentines: the airport’s art program is handing out special exhibition-related Valentine’s cards and will pay the postage for any of these cards that are filled out at the airport. They’ll even take the cards to Loveland to get the 2009 Loveland postmark and Valentine cachet.