Valentine’s Day is only two days away, and if you’re still in need of a gift or activity idea, why not try arranging a treasure hunt for your significant other? Anyone who has seen the film Amélie knows how romantic and exciting a treasure hunt can be! And a recent episode of NBC’s The Office featured a clever and cute Valentine’s Day treasure hunt given to Erin from Gabe. Gabe also explains the difference between a treasure hunt (finding a series of clues leading you to a final “treasure”) and a scavenger hunt (collecting a list of objects).
A treasure hunt is a creative way to do something thoughtful for your S.O., and is very versatile for a subjective holiday like Valentine’s Day. If you usually exchange traditional Valentine’s Day gifts, you can hide your gift at the end of the hunt. If you and yours prefer not to spend money on gifts for Valentine’s Day, a treasure hunt provides a fun, memorable experience. The ending of the hunt in this case can just be a card, or a hug and a kiss.
A treasure hunt takes a bit of planning, and can be as creative and complex as you like! Here are some things to think about:
Location: Will the hunt take place in one room of your apartment (escape-the-room style?), across the whole house, or will it send your S.O. to various locations around town? You might need to plan in advance if you want to enlist the help of local shopowners or friends, or even if you just want to set up the hunt in your house without your partner noticing.
Time: Think about how long you want the hunt to take, and walk through the hunt in your mind. A hunt that took you an hour to put together might only take your partner 2 minutes to solve.
Difficulty: You probably don’t want your partner to instantly solve every single clue, but you also don’t want them scratching their heads in frustration on Valentine’s Day. Keep things simple but mysterious. Try and come up with puzzles and riddles that will make them feel a clever satisfaction when they figure them out.
Elements: There are lots of components you can utilize to make a fun treasure hunt:
- Wild Goose Chase – Use written clues to guide your partner from one location to the next (for example, “For the next clue, you’ll be getting warm when you’re getting cold”, and the clue is in the refrigerator). The clues should be riddles, and you can include inside jokes to make them even more personal for the holiday.
- Internet – If you’re tech-savvy, try setting up a website that requires a password to view. If you’re in a long-distance relationship, you can set up your hunt to be exclusively online, leaving hints and clues across blogs, twitter, forums, and other websites.
- Photo Clues – Let each clue simply be a photo of the location of the next clue. This is a great option for treasure hunts that take the hunter across town (as long as they can easily recognize the location). Mark a red X on the photo for the exact location of the next clue.
- Codes and Ciphers – If your partner is familiar with any type of codes or ciphers (the Caesar shift is a common, simple cipher), leave some of your clues in code. You can also make up your own code using symbols, and have your partner hunt down the page that has the key.
- Arrows – If you’re strapped for time or creativity, a hunt made up of simple post-it note arrows can still make a fun experience, Amélie style! The lack of words or explanation in this type of hunt adds an extra element of mystery and excitement. Something like this is especially fun if your partner isn’t expecting any Valentine’s Day surprises from you. Post-its work great for an arrow hunt in a small space indoors, but if you have some more space you might get creative with sidewalk chalk, posters, candy hearts, or rose petals.
- Significance – Since this is a Valentine’s Day hunt, try to use elements that are significant to you and your partner. The location of your first date, your partner’s favorite DVD on the shelf, dates that are relevant to both of you, etc.
Once you start getting some ideas for how you want your hunt to play out, it’s time to start mapping it and gathering up any materials you need. It’s a good idea to write down each step of the hunt and what your partner is supposed to find to move on. This will help you make sure you set everything up properly and don’t forget a step, leaving your partner stranded and confused! If you have the time and opportunity to set up the hunt in advance (without spoiling it for your partner), try running through it once yourself to make sure everything works and makes sense.
If you’re worried about setting things up without spoiling the surprise for your significant other, you might conspire with a friend of theirs to take them out for a while so you can set things up. Or, you could just tell your partner “I have a surprise for you, but I need the apartment for a little while to get things ready. How about a trip to the [mall, book store, arcade, spa (extra gift opportunity here!)] while I get things ready, darling?”
Making a treasure hunt for your significant other can be a really fun and rewarding experience. And the hunt itself is really only limited to your imagination! Get creative with the things you have in your house to make your hunt more interesting, like locks and keys (lock up an important part of the hunt, or make it the end-game), video tapes and CDs (record a mysterious message!), and anything you can hide something else behind (a painting), on top of (the ceiling fan), or underneath (the pillow on the bed). For one hunt, I made the image of one clue the desktop image on my laptop, ran my laptop out of batteries, and hid the power cord for my partner to find as part of the hunt. Creativity is key!
If you’re looking for some inspiration, try playing an escape-the-room game, or watching Amélie (with your significant other of course!) or a movie like National Treasure. Good luck with your hunt, and Happy Valentine’s Day!