My wife and I just recently returned from a 4 day trip to Northern California’s famous wine country and I wanted to share some awesome budget friendly family information we discovered on our trip. To be honest, the information I’m about to spew is good for everyone, but, I really want to make sure small families know that you can still have fun traveling with a child and do it on a budget!
We have lived together in Phoenix, AZ for the past 8 years. If you know us well, then you probably know that we are big fans of drinking wine. On top of that we love traveling together! And of course I always look forward to new photography opportunities! So when we feel like we need to get away from the grind and take a vacation, we usually end up combining wine and travel somehow, someway. We love being able to drive through the country, through the vineyards, up to the unique wineries and enjoy us some wine tasting.
Doesn’t the idea of traveling to wine country sound so peaceful and relaxing? (Inhale deeply…let it out slowly)
Well, THINK AGAIN!!!
Remember that child you had about a year ago? Yeah that one! The one who used to just sit there and didn’t move! Well, that child can now crawl and/or walk and your life has been completely flipped upside down!! But, you wouldn’t change it for the world. And guess what? Life moves on and we still need to take vacations! Traveling with a mini me can be exhausting to even think about, but I’m here to tell you their is still hope and you can do it on a budget!! Doesn’t that sound great?! Well, PAY ATTENTION, because this is how we did it:
FLIGHT: $150 round trip for two adults and one FREE child (under 2 years old). We did some research and found out that Allegiant Airlines, flying out of Mesa Gateway Airport, has flights to Santa Rosa, CA for as low as $37 one way (depending on the week). That’s $74 round trip per person! If you don’t know anything about Santa Rosa, that’s ok! It’s literally near the heart of the Russian River Valley, home to some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay you have likely tasted. It’s also within a half hour drive from Sonoma and Napa Valley and about an hour drive to San Fransisco. If you’re not familiar with Allegiant Airlines, they typically charge for EVERYTHING AND THE MOON! So here are a few questions that usually come up when you’re purchasing your ticket: https://www.allegiantair.com/
- Do I need to purchase a seat? When purchasing your airline tickets online, do not pay for your seat on the plane ahead of time. 24 hours before your flight, allegiant will assign you a seat for FREE. Keep in mind that you may not get to sit next to each other if you do this, but you will get your seats for FREE. Allegiant automatically assigned my wife and I seats next to each other on the way to Santa Rosa, but on the way back, we were supposed to be in separate areas. Since the flight wasn’t full on the way back, we were able to convince a few people to allow us to have an entire row to our selves. Use that kid to your advantage!!
- Do I need to pay for carry-on luggage? Do not choose to pay for carry-on luggage. Unless you know you are going to absolutely need it. Allegiant allows 1 FREE personal item per person and 1 FREE “diaper” bag per person on a flight if you have a child. If you do need it, then buy it when it prompts you while you’re purchasing your tickets. The price is usually $15-$20 online per bag. Don’t even think about purchasing carry-on luggage or checked baggage when you get to the airport, prices literally double compared to the online pricing ($35 per bag).
- Do I need to pay for a stroller and car seat? NO! They will allow you to check your stoller and car seat for FREE at the ticket counter. If you don’t want to do that, you can have your items checked at the gate before you board the plane. Just remember to grab the baggage tags from the gate check counter.
- Do I print my boarding pass? Choose to have the boarding pass e-mailed to you so you can print it or download it to your phone. Do not print your ticket at the airport. The cost is $5 per ticket printed.
LUGGAGE: FREE! If you do it right. You might be saying…”What!? Carry-ons are always free on planes”…not on Allegiant. You are allowed one personal item per ticketed passenger. This can be a purse, computer bag or “small” backpack. Well, “small” to me means a back pack, like the one you would take to school. So, my wife and I grabbed two back packs and stuffed them with enough clothes to get us through 4 days (I was able to fit my Sony A6000 camera and lenses in my backpack as well). When traveling with a child, you’re allowed one diaper bag per person with a ticket. That makes 2 extra bags! So we took a small duffle bag and turned it into our son’s “diaper” bag. It had everything that we needed for the 4 day trip…clothes, diapers, changing pad, wipes, food (formula & squeeze packs), sippy cup, toys, a book, hat, jacket, socks, etc. Our other bag was my wife’s purse and she had all of the extra ancillary items you need for a trip. We also put our jackets and sweatshirts in her purse…(its a big purse). When we rolled up to the gate before boarding, their were no questions from the ticket checkers. Easy Peasy! https://www.allegiantair.com/travel-info
TRAVELING TO AND FROM THE AIRPORT: FREE! If you can have a friend drop you off at the airport, that would obviously be ideal. If you don’t have anyone available on the day you depart, you can do what we did to cut a little cost. We called a friend who lived closer to the airport (we live an hour from the airport) and asked if we could leave our car at their house while we were out of town. Then we caught an Uber ride from their home to the airport and didn’t have to pay a penny! How did we do that you might ask?? Uber gives you up to a $15 or $20 credit if it is your first time ordering a ride. So my savvy wife put in a different e-mail address she hadn’t used before and viola!! We had a free ride to the airport! Side Note: Lyft is another option and they allow up to a $50 credit on your first 5-10 rides. Pretty cool!! Luckily our friend was able to pick us up when we returned. https://get.uber.com/sign-up/?exp=home_signup_form & https://www.lyft.com/signup
RENTAL CAR: $123 for 4 days. $101 for the rental plus $22 to refill the tank. That’s $31 per day all in! You can’t beat that! Now, their is a $200 deposit, but its refunded when the car is returned in good shape. The key to booking rental cars is booking early and in advance. Prices go up and up the closer you get to your travel date and never go down. You can book directly through the rental company or you can use a search engine like KAYAK to find your car. We typically do it through KAYAK https://www.kayak.com/cars. My recommendation is once you know your travel dates, book the rental car. You can always cancel the reservation up until 24-48 hrs prior to your trip at no cost. I highly recommend Hertz! They are the most organized and have the best customer service, which usually results in a fantastic experience! https://www.hertz.com/
LODGING: $398 for 3 nights (Thursday through Sunday). We always use Airbnb because it gives us the most flexibility. We rarely stay at a hotel anymore. Come to think of it…I can’t remember the last hotel we stayed in. Keep in mind, we were a little late to the game on booking our place to stay. We didn’t actually commit to a place to stay until 10 days prior to our stay, which increased our nightly rate. But this was the best deal in the area where we wanted to stay and was probably one of the most unique locations we’ve ever had the pleasure of staying in. The host also provided us with a pack n play for our son to sleep in! Can you say awesome! The cool thing about Airbnb is that you can rent a single room in someone’s house, share a space with someone or you can get an entire place to yourself. Many homes offer a single room located on the other side of the house, away from the people who live there, that has its own entry way from outside. The owners usually provide a small refrigerator and many times the rooms come with their own connected bathroom with shower. Pricing for private rooms is a lot cheaper than renting an entire home. Depending on the location and time of year, you could spend less than $100 per night for an entire place to your self and less than $60 a night for a single room. Thats only $180 for all 3 nights if you get a large private room with bath!! Here is the place we stayed at: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1205591?wl_source=list&wl_id=180981546&role=owner
FOOD & BEVERAGE: $160 for all food and beverage during our stay. We purchased $60 in groceries at target and used a $20 gift card we had. So in actuality we only forked out $40 to make breakfast, lunch and snacks for 4 days ($10 a day for 3 people). We went out to dinner 2 times and spent a total of $100 with tip. Cost Savings Tip: If you’re a family on a budget, pick 1 day that you can go out for dinner and splurge. Otherwise, don’t go out to eat! We learned that it is by far the most expensive part of your trip if you factor in the amount of time you actually spend eating.
Here are the two restaurants we ate at:
HopMonk Tavern: http://www.hopmonk.com/sebastopol/
Himalayan Tandoor and Curry House: https://www.yelp.com/biz/himalayan-tandoori-and-curry-house-sebastopol-3
WINE: Obviously we went to this part of the country for the wine, so I figured I would create its own category. Tania and I did 5 wine tastings at 4 different wineries. All of the wineries we visited were participating in a two for one wine tasting deal. So if you were just going to do wine tasting the average cost would have been $10 per tasting (for 2 people). Ultimately, all of the wine tastings were FREE when you purchased a bottle of wine. So, my wife ended up purchasing nearly 12 bottles during our trip. I’m not going to factor this cost into the total because honestly, I don’t know the total and probably don’t want to know the total. Our son was with us at every tasting. The employees welcomed us with open arms at every single location we went to. We even came back to Occidental Cellars again because we liked it so much. My wife even became a member of their wine club.
I’ve included the links to all of the wineries we visited:
Taft Street Winery: http://www.taftstreetwinery.com/
Occidental Road Cellars: http://www.occidentalroadcellars.com/
Hanna Winery: http://www.hannawinery.com/
Joseph Jewell Wines: http://josephjewell.com/
EXTRAS: FREE! We went on a hike in the Red Wood Forest and also drove out to Bodega Bay on the coast of California. Perfect locations for family time and for me to take some photos!
TOTAL EXPENSES: QUICK LOOK
BREAK DOWN FOR 4 DAY, 3 NIGHT VACATION NEAR NAPA VALLEY, TRAVELING FROM PHOENIX, AZ
Travel to and from Airport: FREE
Rental Car: $123
Lodging: $180 – $400
Food and Beverage: $110 – $160
Wine: $50 for tastings with coupons
Total: $615 – $880 for 4 days, 3 nights
If you enjoyed this information and thought it was helpful in any way, please feel free to leave a comment below. Also, do not hesitate to share with your friends and family so that they can learn how to make the most of their time and money.