A trip to wine country! The phrase alone may invoke images of breezy trips along sun-dappled California hills, punctuated by fragrant nights on a patio, sipping the best the vineyards have to offer. Wine country veterans agree, a trip to the Napa Valley has plenty to offer, whether it’s your first time or your hundredth — but how do you plan the nuts and bolts of a trip, especially on a limited budget? Metropolitan Shuttle is here to help — planning trips, after all, is what we do best.
Plan Ahead and Pick Your Season
There’s no bad time to visit Napa Valley While most wineries are open all year, your experience may differ depending on when you decide to visit. The Napa region has many festivals, plays and events going on all year, so you may want to schedule around some of these. You may not want to miss a chance to get on the Napa Valley Wine Train or a hot air balloon ride. March through May tend to be the prettiest months, while summer and harvest season (September through November) are among the most popular and expensive.
You should also keep in mind that while many major wineries are open year-round, some smaller operations may not be, and you should phone ahead before your trip to avoid disappointment.
Decide on Transportation
Presuming you don’t already live adjacent to wine country, you should then choose your mode of transport. Renting a car has its perks, but tasting wines and driving don’t really mix. Some groups even rent limousines for an all-out wine country extravaganza — though neither of these are necessarily in line with the words “budget-conscious.” Hiring a car or an Uber might be fine for small groups, but may not be the best choice if you’re going with more than a couple of friends.
A shuttle or charter bus can be a highly economical way to get around the Napa Valley, especially for more sizeable groups. A charter bus can seat anywhere from 20 to 50 people, depending on your needs. A large coach bus costs $150 an hour for a 5-hour minimum, bringing the transportation cost of a 6-hour day trip across wine country to about $900 — or about $37 a head for a 24-person trip. Not to mention that you’ll have ample storage for any wine you might want bring home from your tip.
If you’re planning a simple day trip through Napa Valley, you won’t have to worry about finding lodging. But there are over four hundred wineries in the valley, and while it’s impossible to get to all of them in a single trip, chances are you’ll want to visit as many as possible. Finding a homey bed-and-breakfast or a room through Airbnb can offer a more authentic (and less expensive) experience than your average hotel (typically $175 a night around the Napa Valley).
Food and Drink
Restaurant dining will add up quickly during your visit, so consider shopping for your own groceries during your trip, or eating primarily around the markets and sandwich shops around downtown Napa. Locals recommend places like Gott’s Roadside, the Oxbow Public Market, or Ad Hoc, where you can get a meal for $8 to $15.
Enjoy Your Tour
A typical Napa Valley wine tasting will cost anywhere from $15 to $20. If all you care about is the wine and plan to stay in the city, you can get a tasting card for $30 which will allow you to sample all the wine in Napa itself. Many wineries will also forget about the tasting fees if you buy a bottle or two while you’re there.
Before you embark, make sure to stop off at the Napa Valley Welcome Center to ask about any deals, coupons or discounts.
Leaning towards chartering a bus for your Napa Valley trip? Metropolitan Shuttle specializes in planning trips and taking the hassle out of organizing transportation for groups.
Summer is just around the corner, and wine country is calling. Call us at 1-866-556-3545 or contact us today for a free quote, and see what Metropolitan Shuttle can offer you.