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By Nadine Jolie Courtney and Brianna Steinhilber
You share finances, binge-watch the same shows and spend countless hours talking about your hobbies, goals and dreams — so why is it that your significant other is the hardest one to shop for?
Every year before Valentine’s Day you hit the mall in hopes of finding something that will convey just how much they mean to you, and inevitably walk out three hours later with the same bottle of cologne, piece of jewelry or the standard flower and chocolate combo.
Instead of falling back on old reliables, get a little more creative this year with activities that will actually bring you closer (sans the stress of waiting in line at the mall). How? By gifting “experiences” that will bring you together and give your significant other the best gift of all: quality time with the person they love.
According to the National Retail Federation, a quarter of those those celebrating Valentine’s Day plan to give a “gift of experience” such as concert tickets or a day at the spa this year. And they may be on to something: with people spending an average $161.96, why not put that chunk of change to good use and make the gift a memorable one?
“The best gifts are thoughtful, and even better are experiential gifts that deepen and expand your love. Regardless of how many years (or mere months) that you’ve been together, sharing an experience will make you two closer and more connected,” says relationship expert and dating coach Laurel House.
Indeed, couples who schedule date nights around new and novel activities are more likely to report happiness, bringing to mind the old adage: couples who play together stay together.
The Night Sky Wall Art
Price: $60 (print only), $120 (with frame), The Night Sky
While not an experience in and of itself, this gift fits the bill because it celebrates a momentous experience in your lives — whether it’s the day you met, had your first kiss, got married or had your child. Whatever occasion you choose, you can create an 18″ x 24″ star map of the night (right down to the exact second it occurred), printed on the Art Matte paper (and framed if you choose). The print will be a lasting reminder of the special time in your lives, and allow you both to relive the moment every time you look at it.
You might also like: Custom star map, Etsy (starting at $20); Personalized Constellation of Love, Uncommon Goods (starting at $125)
Cozymeal cooking class
Price: Varies by class (starting at $65), Cozymeal
Whether your SO is a vegetarian, carnivore, dessert lover or an adventurous eater that loves to try new things, there is a class that will satisfy their taste buds. Attendees can choose from 500+ cooking classes and the location of their choice (chef’s place, your place or a premium third-party venue) — plus they have some romantic class options that lend themselves particularity well to a Valentine’s celebration where you don’t even need to leave home, like a Romantic Ravioli class for 2 (a private class where you make and enjoy your dinner in house) or a chocolate making class where the chef will guide you through making truffles and molten cake. We’re thinking this beats that heart-shaped box of chocolates from the drug store.
You might also like: Sur La table cooking classes (price varies); Bluprint, unlimited access to thousands of classes ($7.99/month, $79.99/year)
Price: $12.95, Amazon
A hybrid of The Secret and a positive Cards Against Humanity, Serenflipity takes you out of your comfort zone with fun adventure cards. Simply pick a card and then follow instructions — such as asking a stranger for a mantra, surrendering yourself to the chef’s whims at a restaurant, or lasting an entire day without spending any money — taking as long as you need to complete each task. It also features a texting service that will send you fresh, challenging ideas, to ensure you’re always on your toes.
You might also like: Spark Ideas Romance Box, Uncommon Goods ($12.95)
Studio Oh! Couple’s Guided Journal
Price: $13.99, Amazon
An interactive hardcover journal designed to help you express your love and foster a connection, this journal features writing prompts like detailing things you admire about your partner, and ways you make each other better people. Beautifully designed, there are also pages to reflect on bucket lists, anniversaries, hardships endured and favorite things.
You might also like: One Question a Day for You & Me, Urban Outfitters ($16.99)
Knack Bathtub date night box
Price: $131, Knack
There’s a time for extravagant, dressed-up dinner dates … and then there are those times when you just want to zone out together and relax. Enjoy a quiet night-in to de-stress together with the Knack Bathtub date night box, featuring everything you need for a sensual soak: Eyrie Vineyards Chardonnay, AYDRY & Co. Rose Geranium Hand and Body Wash, and a Prosperity Candle “Peace” soy wax candle. You may just start taking date night in from now on.
Zeel On Demand Massage
Price: Starting $109 for a 60-minute massage (varies by location), Zeel
Is there anything as romantic and relaxing as a couple’s massage? Unfortunately, the hassle of getting to the spa and the hefty price tag deter a lot of couples from indulging. Enter: Zeel. The app (or desktop version) allows you to choose from five different types of massages and book a masseuse (in as little notice as one hour) to arrive at your doorstep, table in hand. The service is currently available in over 85 cities and is especially smart to have on hand if you’re someone who tends to forget the holiday (and are left choosing between the picked-over merchandise at the mall on Christmas Eve).
#Married Life: A Snarky Adult Coloring Book
Price: $6.78, Amazon
Studies show that art therapy such as adult coloring books can help ease anxiety and increase mindfulness. De-stress together by working in-tandem on a funny adult coloring book like #MarriedLife. Designed for all color mediums — including pencils, paint and watercolor — the book is both satisfying to color and side-splittingly hilarious to read.
Cloud 9 Living Date Night activity
Price: Starting at $50, Cloud 9 Living
It’s easy to get stuck in a relationship rut. Shake things up by surprising your partner with an exciting activity from Cloud 9 Living: think a Champagne brunch sail, a helicopter tour, Ferrari racing, a hot air balloon ride or a trapeze lesson. Simply choose your city — Cloud 9 Living offers 2000+ experiences in more than 30 states — and then choose between categories like adventure, spa, driving, nautical and more.
Price: Starting at $25, Urban Sitter
Of course, planning that fun night out is a little more difficult when you have little ones at home. But as a parent, constantly prioritizing your kids’ needs can easily lead to burnout (and keep your relationship on the back burner). Take the hassle out of arranging childcare by gifting your partner an Urban Sitter gift card, available in any denomination. Users can choose from a wide variety of sitters, with the ability to search for options including sitters with background checks, drivers licenses, CPR training and experience with multiples or infants.
Love Is Art Couples Art Kit
Price: $70, Uncommon Goods
Art is known for its healing and therapeutic properties, and research shows that doing new and exciting things as a couple makes your relationship more satisfying. We can’t think of a better way to do “new and exciting” then by making one-of-a-kind art at home, with your bodies. This unique DIY kit includes a black or white cotton canvas plus a combination of colored paint to choose from, as well as plastic sheeting, disposable slippers and a body scrubber. May we suggest the bathtub date box for a little post-art clean up?
Price: Any amount, ClassPass
Couples who sweat together stay together. Stay fit in-tandem with a gift card from ClassPass, allowing flexible memberships to fitness classes you can easily book through the ClassPass app. Featuring hundreds of studios, activities and gyms in 39 cities — everything from spinning to boxing to yoga to barre — there’s something bound to pique your mutual interest. Users can also stream workout videos online, with the option to select videos based on length, fitness level, and workout type, so you can squeeze in a class together at home.
Molecular Gastronomy Kit
Price: $42.00, Amazon
Another way to throw some novelty into your date-night routine: Turn your home kitchen into a Michelin-level experience with this Molecular Gastronomy kit, featuring tools, food additives, utensils and a recipe DVD to help you and your honey create a mad science meal-to-remember. Cooking together can foster communication, so be prepared for serious bonding as you play with your food.
Premium Tasting for Two
Price: $115, Winc
Is there anything as romantic as curling up on the couch with a bottle of wine? Bring date night in by ordering this tasting for two right to your doorstep. In the box you’ll receive a red and a white wine, a corkscrew and two stemless drinking glasses. Add mood lighting and a romantic playlist and you have all the makings of a meaningful Valentine’s day (minus the crowded wine bar where you can barely hear yourselves think, let alone have an intimate conversation). Cheers!