Valentine’s Day treasure hunt

By Fouad Alaa

A ‘First World Problem’ for a guy when it comes to Valentine’s Day is always presentation.


Buying a gift is pretty simple, you just think of something that your partner would like (I said “simple” NOT easy), find it and buy it.


What separates a guy from the herd when it comes to gifts, however, is presentation.


A few years ago I was doing a national treasure marathon just a week before Valentine’s Day when I had the idea about having a treasure hunt just for Valentine’s. I was pretty excited about the idea and the more I thought about the details the more the idea itself seemed multi-purposed and unique.


Here’s how I did it:


The idea itself is simple, you need to place cards with the name of a chosen destination coded on one side, and a clue hinting to the next check-point on the other. The check-points should be landmarks in your relationship or a place of sentimental value like a favourite restaurant, where you had your first date or any place that is significant for you… all leading to the last destination in your treasure hunt which is, of course, the ‘Gift’ location.


Sounds pretty simple but, the romance is in the details.


The code


You can surf online for all sorts of cyphers and code systems to use for your ‘mystery’ messages or destinations, whatever makes sense to you and can provide enough of a challenge but still be fun for your partner to figure out.


For me, I used this code system: it’s made up of a list of rows, each row consisting 3 separate numbers, which together corresponds to a letter on a text of your own choosing.


For example if you have a word that you want to code, the first step is picking a book as a key for your code.


Pick the first letter of the word and search for it anywhere in that book of your choosing. Write down the number of page, paragraph and letter of that letter in a row, with each separated by a “-“and you will have something like this XX-XX-XX. Here is how the word YOU would be if coded:





I love you might look like this:







So keep the clues simple and use small words!



1- Pen and paper for a letter.
2- Any relatively cute set of rectangular cards about 7×12 in dimensions. (the cute part is optional)
3- Scroll holder (optional)
4- Wooden jewellery box. (the key word is box, anything else is optional)
5- A gift! (not so optional)


Pre-V-Day Preparation


Preparation level = Newbie
1- The decision: Decide the number and location of destinations of the treasure hunt, with the final destination as the gift’s location.

2- The letter: Write a love letter to your girlfriend or wife (keep it short, the content does not matter as long as it is at least … nice?) and try to make it contain all the alphabets.

3- The clues: Come up with clues for the destination, starting from the first one after the meeting point. Be creative, make a rhyme about the place or something you did there as a clue. DO NOT make it hard, the code takes time to decipher. And to avoid them giving up just make it a lame rhyme joke that can be too obvious.

4- The codes: Write the clues on one side of the cards, and on the other side write the code for the name of the check-point location.

5- The “treasure”: Place the gift in the final location.

6- The cards: Place all the cards in (hidden) locations at each check-point.

7- Aaaand you’re done.


Preparation level = Romeo
1- The perfect place to start the hunt should probably be the first place you met your girlfriend, so that your treasure hunt starts exactly where you both started (I know, right :D). If it is a whole day activity make sure that some of the check points are for lunch and a nice dinner. No one can enjoy much of anything on an empty stomach.

2- A love letter for the treasure hunt should not be more than 200 to maximum 500 words. If it is long, the decoding process of clues will be longer and borderline boring. As a final touch I placed it in an “ancient” looking scroll holder to fit the theme and seem more authentic.

3- Example for a rhyme, it all starts where it started (first date place), clowns and fatties (MacDonald’s), etc.

4- Make the codes as simple as possible as words so it wouldn’t look frustrating when it is in code form.

5- For the box, I made a hand-made wooden box that opens the same way as jewellery box. As a final touch I sanded it, and with a knife I started randomly scratching it so it would seem ‘old’ and fit the theme of treasure hunting.

6- As for the cards I made them from hard carbon and painted them in maroon with the code and clue written in black.


The treasure hunt is a fun and romantic way to spend Valentine’s Day and would suit different types of personalities. It would appeal to girls who like challenges since there would be cryptic codes and a bit of figuring out, or girls who like romantic dinners since that could be one of your check points, and girls who like excitement since it is a whole day or night of suspenseful activity. The whole point of Valentine’s Day is that for one day a year a couple would go out and do something fun together.


At the end of the day, the combination of a simple thoughtful gift, a symbolic ‘trip’ together down memory lane, and a nice meal can revive any long-term relationship. For a couple who has not been dating for long, it is the perfect romantic kickstart that can be an amazing story to tell about that one Valentine’s Day where you went on a romantic treasure hunt.

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