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5 Tips to Explore Napa Valley Without Breaking the Bank!

young RV coupleThis is a guest post from Shea and Erin from LivingMileByMile.com,who we met last year at the RV Entrepreneur Summit. They’ve been full-time RVing for 3 years now and if you aren’t following their adventures on Instagram, you should be. You’ll fall in love with their photography, genuine personalities, and zest for life and travel. So when we had the opportunity to feature their writing on our site, we were thrilled! Especially since we love finding ways to save money while traveling and being able to stick to our budget so we can sustain this lifestyle.

 

Full disclosure, we finished this article the same day that the fires broke out, decimating family homes and businesses throughout the valley. We are heartbroken for the victims of the fires and were hesitant to share this until we heard from several wineries stating that the best thing to do is support the community by supporting the businesses. So, we hope you find this helpful and we hope you support the community by visiting your favorite winery… or two.

Save Money in Napa Valley California Wine Country

Want to visit the valley but not break the bank?

Have you ever dreamed of a Napa Valley getaway that won’t set you back thousands of unbudgeted dollars? Well, we have some tips and tricks for you! As many seasoned RVers know, California is not boondocker friendly, so you need to find creative ways to make your dollars stretch to give you the ability to splurge on a great bottle of wine… or two.

Having visited the valley and surrounding areas prior to becoming a full time RVer, we know how quickly the tab can skyrocket. Between surging hotel costs, transportation from a major airport, fancy meals and wine tastings, a long weekend can cost as much as a full vacation. We wanted to find a way to visit on a budget without sacrificing the experience. Over the years, Napa has become a destination for wine connoisseurs and novice consumers alike, so don’t feel intimidated visiting this popular destination by RV.

Save Money in Napa Valley California Wine Country

Tip #1: Places to camp

While there are boutique hotels and resorts galore, the area features some spectacular places to camp. The valley itself is expansive so there are plenty of areas to choose from or move between and still be within an hour’s drive of a plethora of wineries and activities. Skip the hotel and opt for one of these great locations to launch your wine tasting bliss.

  • State Parks
    • Bothe-Napa State Park
    • Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
  • Participating Passport America Parks
    • Calistoga RV Park
    • Alexander Valley RV Park
    • Sonoma County Fairgrounds
  • Harvest Hosts (click here to get 15% off a membership)
    • Six Sigma Ranch and Winery
  • Independent Parks
    • Skyline Wilderness Park

**We know there are several other RV parks in the area and discount programs (we are members of them all!) but we found these to offer the best prices in proximity to the majority of activities.

Tip #2: Where to find discounts

As with anywhere, there are deals to be found! A typical wine tasting in the valley can cost anywhere from $25 to $50 per person, but most wineries offer a discount in one outlet or another. The typical discount is a 2 for 1 tasting, while others offer an additional discount on any bottles purchased. We found discounts in the following places:

  • Groupon
    • Wine Tour companies – if you are short on time or don’t want to drive, they often include the cost of tours but not necessarily tastings.
    • Tasting Discounts – we found a few wine tastings or pairing experiences during our search, typically offered by larger (high volume) wineries.
  • Priority Wine Pass
    • With a simple search, we found the Priority Wine Pass for $40 (recouped after two tastings) giving us access to discounts on wine tastings and purchases not only in the valley, but several other states and wine regions.
  • Local Wine Guides/Magazines
    • Almost every winery, visitor center and restaurant will have an area guide or local wine magazine of some sort (there are plenty to choose from) and most all have advertisements from wineries offering a complimentary tasting or discount of some sort. So, make sure to pick them up and browse through for great offers!
  • Fellow bloggers
    • As you can imagine, there are several wine bloggers who have valuable knowledge and connections to wineries in the area. Several of them partner with wineries to provide discounts, so log-on, read-on and save!
  • Corporate Referrals
    • If the winery is owned by a larger conglomerate, chances are they own another winery in the area that they would like you to visit. If you know this ahead of time (or ask) they will likely give you a card/flyer to visit their other locations with a complimentary tasting.

Save Money in Napa Valley California Wine Country

Tip #3: Pack a lunch (or dinner)

Since you have a home on wheels, make the most of it! Whether you have a rig that you are driving to each of the vineyards or unhitching and packing a cooler, having a picnic meal can save you a lot of money. As an added bonus, you are going to be picnicking at some of the most beautiful vineyards in the country with 360 degree views, what’s not to love?!?

Besides, you can only eat so many crackers that accompany your wine tastings before needing to throw in a little variety.

Tip #4: Free corking fees

On average, most wineries in the area close at 5pm, leaving plenty of time to explore any restaurant you’d like to check out. If you plan on enjoying one of your new bottles of wine from the day’s tasting, make sure to visit restaurants without a corking fee. There are a handful of restaurants in the area where a corking fee is always waived, but that certainly is not the standard. Again, do your research and visit the restaurant’s website to confirm.

However, as you are doing your tastings and talking with the staff, you will find that many have favorite restaurants and will even give you a card for a comped corking fee as part of the referral.

Tip #5: Get outside the tasting room

Want to do more than just eat, drink and shop your way through the valley? There are plenty of ways to explore what the area offers without spending a fortune.

  • Biking
    • While a little sketchy, there are both bike paths and bike lanes throughout the valley that allow you to soak in gorgeous views while getting a little exercise in. The designated biking paths are far safer than the bike lanes, but they are not as far reaching so bike enthusiasts may find this to be limiting. While there are bike lanes throughout the valley, keep in mind that the roads are VERY windy with limited line of sight; not to mention, drivers who are likely to have enjoyed a tasting or two.
  • Hiking
    • Since Napa Valley is indeed a valley, there are gorgeous hills on all sides that are begging to be hiked. There are several designated hiking trails that lead you up to breathtaking views without trespassing on private property. To find the perfect hike for you, we recommend using the Outbound App for trail maps, pictures and reviews of the trails.
  • Hot Springs
    • As you can imagine, the area is flooded with high end spas to help you round out your experience, but we like to highlight the spas in Calistoga due to their use of the area’s natural hot springs. You can enjoy a blissful day of relaxation with views of vineyards and mountains, all without getting out of a pool fed by natural hot springs. Most spas in the area have inexpensive day passes or you can find a discount using one of the methods above to enjoy a spa service along with your day of soaking.

napa valley california vineyard

We hope you enjoy Napa Valley and the surrounding communities as much as we have! What money saving tips do YOU have for visiting the valley? Tell us in the comments below!

Here are some other California posts you might be interested in:

For more California RV destination tips, visit our route page

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