Tips for Visiting Napa Valley on a Budget
How to stretch your dollar in California’s world-renowned wine region.
Let’s be honest, Napa Valley isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind when we think of budget travel. The good news? It is possible to visit this beautiful region of California without causing a major blow to your wallet. With these simple tips, you can rest assured knowing you’re getting the most bang for your buck in wine country.
1. Choose the right season to visit
Most people flee to Napa during summer, which means huge crowds and high room rates. Harvest season in early fall is also extremely busy; however, if you decide to visit then (who could blame you? It’s stunning!), opt for November as it’s less crowded. Spring is an ideal time to visit, as the valley comes alive with sun and breezy afternoons and the vines are just beginning to sprout. More importantly, the crowds are slim to none so you’ll have a better chance of having an intimate experience at each winery, which could mean more heavy-handed pours.
2. Don’t splurge on accommodations
While I’m a huge fan of beautiful hotels, Napa is not the place to splurge on lodging. Besides, the only time you’ll be in your room is to sleep. Look into small hotels and motels for budget-friendly rates, and use resources like Airbnb and the Hotel Tonight app, which sells unsold rooms for heavily discounted rates the day of.
3. Take advantage of discounts
Two-for-one tasting deals are everywhere in Napa! You can get your hands on coupons by asking your hotel concierge, using apps like Winery Finder or Yelp, or visiting the Napa Valley Welcome Center. Overall, try to stick to $10 and $15 tastings, and only splurge on one or two.
4. Have a picnic
While the restaurants in wine country are delicious, you’re probably there for the wine and the scenery, so don’t get sucked into spending all of your money on an expensive meal. Instead, pop into Dean & Deluca (a high end grocery store in St. Helena) for sandwiches and eat them at a winery with beautiful grounds such as Chateau Montelena in Calistoga. They’re pretty huge, so you can even get away with splitting one with a friend! Also, keep in mind that most wineries offer something to nibble on like crackers and cheese with tastings.
5. Skip the tour
If you’ve never been to Napa, I highly suggest taking a full tour. However, limit yourself to one as they can be extremely pricey. During standard tastings, the staff will usually give you a brief history of the property anyway, and most wineries will let you explore the grounds on your own. If you do decide to take a tour to start your day, I recommend Robert Mondavi. This was the first winery I’ve ever visited. The moderately priced $25 tour includes an in-depth history, a walk through the barrel room and vineyards, instruction on how to properly taste wine (which is helpful to know before you taste wine all day!), and a full tasting paired with cheese and crackers in the tasting room.
6. Take home a bottle of wine
Most wineries waive tasting fees if you purchase a bottle of wine. Yes, this does mean dishing out some extra cash. But in the end, you’re getting your hands on an expensive bottle of wine for less than half of what it retails for. Score!
7. Take your time
One of the biggest mistakes first-timers make when visiting Napa is trying to squeeze in too many wineries in one day. Sure, they’re all beautiful. But you might as well take your time and enjoy each property, which in turn will save you money.
Need some more inspiration for your upcoming Napa Valley trip? Check out my travel photos on Instagram.