How to Save Money on Date Night (to Spend on Travel!)

(Last Updated On: September 14, 2021)

Many couples have recently had to be flexible with their travel plans, whether it was a postponed honeymoon, canceled anniversary trip, or rescheduled just-because getaway. The good news is that right now is a great time to save up for future trips.

One great place to save money is date night. 

That doesn’t mean skipping date night — at least, not if you’re trying to plan for future couples travel, anyway. But you can save money on date nights and still have a fun, romantic, memorable time. Maybe even more so than if you’d opted for an expensive meal out. 

It just requires a little creativity. 

To help you out, here are nine creative, money-saving date night ideas:

Date Night Ideas That Will Teach You Something New

Travel challenges us and asks us to leave our comfort zone. It’s one reason travel is so affirming and addictive. While it’s not the same as the constant onslaught of new and exciting that we experience while traveling, learning something new is another way to tap into that part of our brains. 

So, why not learn something new together for date night? 

1. Learn a Foreign Language Together

I think everyone should learn a foreign language or two (or three or four) in their life, but I especially love this as a date night idea. 

Are you planning a trip to Italy? Learn Italian together. 

Not only is it helpful (and respectful!) to know some of the local language before you arrive, it’s a fun, shared goal that will remind you of your upcoming trip. Conjugation can be tedious, but if you have an accountability buddy and the gleaming promise of that future getaway, it’s less grueling. 

There are plenty of online resources for learning languages. A good one to start with is Duolingo, which is free. It’s great at incentivizing learners to get on the app and do their lessons. Then, add each other to keep track of progress and sprinkle a little friendly competition into the mix. 

A foreign language movie night is also great for exposure to the language you’re learning while still feeling more like a traditional date night rather than a study date. For more advanced speakers, put the subtitles on in the foreign language rather than English. It can be hard to follow rapid native speakers, but reading the words as you hear them will keep your brain engaged.

Related: Pimsleur Method Review: “Language Learning on Steroids”

2. Learn to Cook Something New Together 

Making a nice meal together is a classic money-saving date night, but instead of one of your go-to recipes, try something a little riskier.

To die for local cuisine is one of my favorite parts of travel, and I love recreating those flavors at home. Of course, Italian cuisine is a favorite (it’s also relatively easy to get the ingredients where I live). Still, anything is up for grabs — meals we’ve enjoyed on past trips, popular dishes from places we plan to travel to in the future, complicated recipes that we have no business making at all. 

You might not get it right on the first try, but trial and error is part of the fun. 

And when you perfect a dish that you hadn’t shared since that summer trip three years ago, and all those memories come flooding back? That’s magic.

Related: A REAL Pasta Carbonara Recipe

cooking foods from places you've traveled together is a fun, cheap date
We learned to make Italian pasticiotti, which tastes just like summer in the region of Puglia. © Meghan Crawford

3. Learn a New Skill Together

Picking up a new skill is exciting but challenging, making this a good date night idea. Pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone is great practice for traveling with your significant otherit’s not all beautiful sunsets and Instagram photo ops. 

You’re not going to be good at something new on the first try. Or the second try. Or the fifth or fifteenth. You’re both going to get frustrated, so be patient with each other. 

And on the other side of all that practice is an exciting new shared hobby that you can do together.

Whatever you want to learn together, there are all kinds of free resources online to help you with your endeavor. YouTube is particularly good for creative skills, like painting, playing an instrument, handicrafts, gardening, etc. 

You can use a course aggregate site like Coursera, which has plenty of free options for more technical skills if you don’t want a certificate.


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Inexpensive Outdoor Date Night Ideas 

The great outdoors is the perfect place to unplug and connect for date night. And the best part is that most of the best things to do outside are free or almost free. 

Here are some of my favorite date night ideas for getting outside together:

4. Have a Mini Camp Out

Of course, you could actually go camping if you’ve got all the gear and great campgrounds near you, but if you’re like me, you may not live within easy driving distance of any campgrounds. 

Don’t worry. You can still put together a camp-worthy date night. 

We love bringing our camp stove out to a nearby spot with a great view. Cooking over a camp stove isn’t glamorous or gourmet, but that’s part of the fun. We can also bring a few extras that we wouldn’t carry if we were on a multi-day hike. 

And even though we don’t have a backyard and can’t sleep outside overnight at any local parks, we can still go stargazing. Find a spot near you that’s far enough from the city lights to see the stars and bring a couple of folding chairs or a big blanket to lie on. 

To dial it up a few extra notches, find out when the next meteor shower is. You might be able to see it from where you are. 

Related: BLM Dispersed Camping: Camping For Free in the US

sitting by the campfire while camping is a romantic and affordable date night idea
Have access to space where you can build a campfire? Even better. © Chris Mougey

5. Find the Best Local Spot to Watch the Sunset

We were driving home from a friend’s house a couple of months ago and saw a couple parked next to a field, sitting on the hood of their car, arms slung over each other’s shoulders, watching the setting sun. It was so simple but so romantic. 

We immediately added it to our rotation of outdoor date night ideas. Whenever the weather permits, we go to our favorite spot (the base of a walnut tree on a west-facing hill at a nearby park) and have a picnic dinner while we watch the sun go down. 

You can make this date as fancy or as laid back as you’d like. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate if it’s nippy out or a chilled bottle of wine for a summer evening. Bring a cheese spread worthy of Instagram or leftover cold pizza. The food isn’t the point. 

It’s about the view and the company. 

6. Go Berry Picking Together 

I know, I know. Berry picking sounds like it’s right out of a cottagecore Instagram fever dream. But berry picking has been a seasonal favorite since way before social media made it chic. After all, who doesn’t love fresh berries on a hot summer day?

There are plenty of pay-to-play berry farms where you can pick to your heart’s content. Then, rinse and repeat for apple season in the fall. Depending on your budget, these could be a great option, but there’s a free option, too.

Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, mulberries, and many other varieties grow plentiful and wild in many places. Get the hook up from a friend, or use an app like Falling Fruit to find local berry patches near you and go fill up a bucket or a basket together. Just remember to wear sunscreen, bring plenty of water, and consider a pair of gardening gloves — lots of berry bushes have some serious thorns.

Bonus date night idea: Once you’ve got your berries, make something delicious together! Cobbler, pie, preserves, ice cream, the possibilities are endless.

fruit picking is a great, cheap date night idea
Apple picking is just berry picking but in autumn. © Chris Mougey

7. Pick Up a New Outdoor Activity Together

Though many outdoor activities require expensive gear and lots of training, not everything has a high barrier to entry. 

Here are a few options for outdoor activities you can try out for your next date night:

Hiking: If you’ve got great trails near you, this is a no-brainer. It’s beginner-friendly, both in terms of supplies you’ll need and how strenuous it is: you set the pace and distance. Use a resource like All Trails to find the best trails near you. Their difficulty ratings tend to be pretty accurate, so you’ll know what to expect. As for gear, you’ll need a good pair of hiking boots if you’re tackling harder trails, but for most easy to medium trails, a sturdy pair of running shoes should suffice. Make sure to bring enough water, some trail-friendly food, and stick to the golden rule (pack in, pack out). 

Skating: While you might live somewhere that it gets cold enough to ice skate, I’m actually talking about rollerblading or roller skating. You can get a decent pair of skates (inline or otherwise) for less than $100, and you might even already know how to skate if you learned as a kid. 

Biking: If you already have a bike, you’re good to go! If not, there are plenty of budget-friendly options, especially if you’re open to gently used bicycles or live in a city with bike rental options. A hybrid bike is a good, versatile choice since it works on regular bike paths, as a commuter bike, or on mountain bike trails. 

Kayaking/Canoeing: If you have a body of water near you, consider getting a kayak, canoe, or pack raft. The initial ticket price is higher than anything else on this list, but if you know you’ll get good use out of it all season long for years to come, that’s money well-spent and a great go-to date night (or day!) activity.

Stay hydrated out there: Water Filter Bottles for Travel

hiking as a couple is a fun and free date idea
We didn’t have any good trails near us, so we road-tripped to Colorado for this hike. © Meghan Crawford

Creative Date Night Ideas

Another great way to spend date night on a budget is by tapping into your creative side together. Here are some date night ideas for those creatively inclined:

8. Put Together a Travel Memory Photo Gallery 

If you’ve already taken a trip (or two) with your significant other, go through your favorite travel photos together and choose the ones you most want to display in your home. The walk down memory lane is the fun part of this one, but it looks pretty good to hang all the frames up, too. You can go for a uniform grid look or a slightly funkier look with mixed and matched sizes and frames. 

Alternatively, you can also work together to put the photos into a photo album. If like me, you sentimentally save small scraps from your travels like ticket stubs and postcards, you can turn this one into a scrapbooking date night. 

9. Make a Piece of Art Together

You can do a craft, create a piece of art, write a song — whatever creative medium speaks to you most. You can have a quiet evening or make a game of it. 

Some ideas for making it more spontaneous: 

  • A word of inspiration. Choose a word that your partner must work into their piece somehow, open to creative interpretation. You can pick a theme together or just choose a word at random. 
  • Leave it up to chance. Write a list of prompts and choose one at random. You can put them on small slips of paper, draw them from a hat or number them, and roll a die to see which prompt you’ll follow. 
  • Play tag team. Set a timer for one or two minutes and pass the project back and forth every time the timer goes off. Don’t discuss your artistic vision with your partner to make something surprising and maybe a little silly. 

Ready to Save Money with These Date Night Ideas?

Hopefully, some of these date night ideas have piqued your interest (or at least inspired you to come up with your creative date night plan!). Whatever you decide, the most important thing when choosing a budget date night activity is to pick something that you’ll both enjoy. The whole point of date night is to spend quality time engaging with each other, so both parties should feel invested in the activity. 

Finally, don’t forget that these are all great date night ideas to take on the road. Since most of them don’t require a ton of special gear or equipment, you can do them from anywhere, whether you’re at home or abroad. 

International travel might be a little up in the air right now, but domestic travel is still on the table and a great way to save money while still scratching that travel itch. 

Whether you decide to take a road trip to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go or just get an Airbnb close to home, you can continue to keep costs low by using the above ideas to build a creative, custom, money-saving itinerary for your trip.

by Meghan Crawford