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" 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."
Elsewhere at MIA, there will be free music on Valentine's Day between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at Mercado Miami and special offers in many airport stores. For example, on Feb. 13 and 14, purchase one item in a participating Westfield shop and you'll get a free chocolate heart and a coupon good for a 10% discount on the purchase of two items later in the month. Participating shops include Hudson News, Bayside Brush, Newslink, Borders, $10 Boutique, Mercado Miami, Ron Jon, Mindworks, Bijoux Terner, Taxco and Havana Shirts. (There are some restrictions.)
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.
Also at DFW, XpressSpa will be offering a "Sweethearts Foot Massage Combo" from Feb. 13-15: Buy one foot massage and your sweetie gets one for half price. And throughout February, Nashville Nails at Nashville International Airport is offering His & Her Manicures and a complimentary Manicure to Go with the purchase of a pedicure.
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.)
Harriet Baskas writes about travel etiquette for MSNBC.com and is the author of the airport guidebook Stuck at the Airport and a blog of the same name.