After all, tastings at Napa’s premier wineries come at a steep price. Plus hotels are expensive, especially when you’re competing for rooms with Silicon Valley’s elite. And don’t even get me started on restaurants. Some of Napa’s finest can set you back hundreds of dollars per person.
So what if I told you that I (Mr. Savings Academy) went to spendy Napa last weekend with a group of friends and family.
We had an incredible time over two days and two nights.
And the total trip cost less than $140 per person.
Yep, you read that right. That total includes accommodation, transportation, food, entertainment, and wine tasting.
So if you’re considering a visit to Napa, I highly recommend checking out our below guide and implementing some (or maybe all!) of these elements into your trip.
Disclaimer: This cost doesn’t include flights or rental car because I live in Mountain View - two hours from Napa. But you can certainly find reasonably priced flights and rental car to add to this itinerary!
When To Go
Many folks want to visit in the fall for harvest season which makes fall “peak season.” But we learned that, in reality, most wineries harvest their grapes at night. So there’s nothing all that special to see during harvest except for tons of tourists!
Our recent trip was in July, but in future we may prioritize those off peak months for weekend trips.
Like with most vacations, your choice of accommodation is a key factor in planning a fantastic and frugal Napa trip.
Sure there are plenty of 5-star hotels in Napa. But I’d wager you’d have just as much fun in a more modest accommodation. From my experience, the fun has more to do with who you’re with than your hotel pedigree!
In fact, for our recent fun-tastic weekend, we didn’t even stay in a hotel. We stayed in a yurt!
Specifically, a yurt in Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. Which cost us $75/night between 5 people!
For readers who enjoy camping, yurt life will be an easy sell.
My one caution: book early, as these yurts disappear fast!
Would you instead prefer to avoid camping at all costs? That’s OK too! Napa has many great reasonably priced hotels and AirBNBs. Especially in the off-season months I mentioned.
Are you more of a hardcore camper that thinks yurts are for city slickers? Napa has many traditional camping locations you can visit, including Bothe and Skyline Wilderness Park.
Our cost: $30/person for two nights.
Ah, wine tasting - the seminal activity of Napa Valley. Whether you’re a sommelier or you can’t tell the difference between an $8/bottle and a $40/bottle (like me!), you can wine taste frugally and deliciously in Napa.
How? Be sure to make one key stop to make on any Napa journey. One of the Welcome Centers! Where you can find coupons for two-for-one wine tasting discounts.
On our recent weekend trip, we visited three wineries that all had two-for-one coupons. Tastings at each cost $25, $30, and $30. Yep, that’s a lot of dough. But the coupons really helped.
You may also assume the wineries with discounts offer lower quality wines. Our group found that wasn’t the case at all. Even the most discerning among us loved the wines we got to taste with our coupons.
Even better, we learned that in November, when business is slow, the Visitors Center sells passbooks that include multiple wine tastings for way under the market rate. Another good reason to visit off peak!
As you go from winery to winery, know that it’s perfectly OK to share a wine tasting or not drink at one if you feel like taking a break. Personally, I decided to serve as designated driver so we could take our car rather than Ubers. I tried a tiny taste of some of the wines from friend’s glasses (while staying WAY below the legal limit) and none of the wineries minded. On past trips, I’ve shared a tasting with someone at several wineries and nobody minded whatsoever.
Even if you decide to do every tasting, the two-for-one coupons will go a long way. For those that did all three tastings on our trip, tastings plus tip came to $50/person.
While Napa is known for wine, it is also renowned for its restaurants. And they can burn a hole in your pocket faster than you can say “filet mignon!”
Now, if fine dining is the spending you gain the most “joy per dollar” from, and the cost fits in your budget, you should go for it!
For the rest of us, I’d recommend skipping the fine dining entirely! You can get delicious and nutritious meals at mouth-watering prices by:
Here’s how we did it:
Our food cost: $41/person!
If your group’s only form of entertainment is wine tasting and fine dining, Napa can get expensive real fast!
The great news is Napa is also home to several beautiful hiking trails!
We enjoyed the 5 mile hike near our campground, but there are so many others you can find on AllTrails that will be perfect for your level of skill and ideal exertion level. Examples include Ritchie Canyon Trail (challenging), Oat Hill Mine Trail (moderate), and Alston Park (easy and dog-friendly).
Additionally, you can always bring some card or board games for the evening! We brought a game and coupled it with a couple bottles of wine purchased frugally from the grocery store. It was a perfect way to pass our Saturday evening together!
Our cost: $4/person for the wine purchased from the grocery store to pair with our evening game.
Driving is by far the best way to get to Napa Valley. The roads are easy and it’s roughly a 100 mile drive each way, which will cost you around $32 in gas in a 25 MPG car.
I For getting around the Napa wineries, the ideal option is having one person per car who’s willing to be the designated driver, and fully stick to that role. That’s what we did.
If everyone wants to drink, Lyft and Uber are both easily accessible in Napa Valley.
I wouldn’t recommend the various winery tours in terms of value. You can’t use Welcome Center coupons and can’t buy a picnic lunch from a grocery store. You’re also fairly locked in on how many tastings you’ve paid for, even if you decide later you don’t want to drink as much as your compatriots.
Hopefully this goes without saying, but do not drink and drive to save money! It’s not worth it by any measure.
Our cost for to/from Napa and around Napa with a designated driver: $13/person
Hopefully some aspects of our recent trip resonated with you! I felt like this itinerary made Napa super fun and affordable.
And even if you decide against a Napa trip, I hope this post inspires you to believe that travel to premium destinations doesn’t have to be expensive.
Do you have a favorite Napa Valley or travel savings tip? Let us know in the comments!
Author Note: I want to shout out to the two people in our group who planned our awesome Napa weekend. You know who you are :) Despite this trip’s awesome frugality, I wasn’t involved in the planning at all! I asked the trip planners if I could document their itinerary for Savings Academy readers and they kindly agreed.
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