When was the last time you went on a date? A question that seems low priority for some given the impact COVID-19 has had on many aspects of daily life. However, many singles have been finding ways to virtually date, while couples may have encountered some challenges while being quarantined or living together. 

A May 2020 study found 42 percent of singles have downloaded a dating app and 41 percent have signed up to an online dating website since COVID-19 began; nearly three in 10 (27 percent) of singles have gone on a virtual date since the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Whether you’re single, in a relationship or married, Dana Lam, co-founder of The Surprise Date Challenge based in Phoenix, offers some advice.

The Surprise Date Challenge was established in March 2019 and plans dates for couples ranging from outdoor activities, attractions and dining options in Arizona, Nevada, California, New York, Colorado, Oklahoma and Utah. Lam and co-founder Marty Kupper also wrote a book released in March 2019 called The Surprise Date Challenge: Be the Happiest Couple You Know, which provides a year of surprise date ideas for couples.

They also have date ideas for each city listed on their website as a free resource and have their Date of the Month Club where members receive “surprise date” experiences: surprise date ideas for an at-home date, out-of-town date, a gift idea, food and drink suggestions and conversation starter questions to reconnect.

Lam offers advice for how to date during this time, steps for taking an online conversation to meeting in-person and date ideas for couples and spouses to stay connected.

“Our company originally was really created for couples and it was something that Marty and I practiced ourselves and so we really wanted to help couples stay together,” Lam said “because so many people put so much work and effort in the beginning of their relationship and then as time goes on, we get busy and sometimes our relationship gets left behind. 

“So we help all people whether you’re in a relationship, single and wanting to date and impress somebody or for friends and family to help people stay connected with creative ideas.”

Amid COVID-19 and social distancing, Lam said there are a lot of activities people can do online to virtually date before they’re comfortable meeting in-person if it gets to that point.

“One is a cooking class, which is great because you can both be online on a Zoom call. We have a couple of virtual companies on our website that you can do private cooking classes with, so it would be just the two of you in your own homes. It would be great to be in person, but if it’s a newer date too, that’s probably not something you would do, cooking in each other’s homes in the beginning. So it would definitely be a unique type of date.”

Other virtual date ideas include an oracle card reading about your future; game night at home; or an art project like planters, painting or crafting or a murder mystery game, Lam said.

An activity that Lam and Kupper did as a family was the Hunt a Killer game, which is a murder mystery, scavenger hunt game that’s delivered each month. Lam says you can also play the game virtually, which includes reading and showing the other person clues via video.

Prior to the pandemic, most people who met on a dating app would likely meet in-person after a week or two of talking; however, nowadays, most people are more hesitant to meet in-person if at all. The May 2020 study found three in four people think virtual dates are good for human interaction–but are not the same as in-person dates.

“Everybody has a different point of view on meeting in person,” Lam said. “One person can feel safe going out and the other person could be more concerned about it, so I think that’s going to make all the difference. If you’re both honest and ask, ‘What do you feel comfortable with? Do you prefer to wear a mask or not wear a mask and is that important to you?’ So I think it’s really important for both people to understand their comfort levels and know what you can and can’t compromise on.”

Lam recommends people going on some of their first dates try an outdoor activity like a morning hike or something water-related like paddle boarding or canoeing. If you’re not the outdoor type, Lam recommends an indoor activity like an escape room, where it’s likely just you and your date are trying to solve the clues together.

“My hope would be that people, no matter if you’re in a brand-new relationship, or have been together for a long time, that people will realize with everything that’s going on how precious and valuable our time is and what we do with it and will spend that time creating amazing, memorable experiences with one another,” Lam said. 74 percent of Americans prefer an experience over an actual physical item and I think with everything that’s going on, people are realizing what’s important to them and in their relationships, and  make their relationships a priority and cultivate them with amazing experiences.”