In everything I do, I create a budget. I’m as far away as possible from the type of person who is typically deemed as “cheap,” because I enjoy nice things, but I find satisfaction in ensuring that I also find good value. When you want a good price, and also excellent quality, bargaining can be an essential tool.

My most recent example of applying this to real life was the recent trip I took to Napa Valley with my wife, Jessica. Napa Valley was on the list of places we have wanted to visit, as we have always been intrigued by wine country. Jessica and I are not big drinkers, but wine is our beverage of choice. Also, part of the attraction to Napa for us is that the area is truly an agriculture and rural area, but in California.

While we were initially discussing our trip to Napa, the more research I did, the more I found the potential bill for the trip to be expensive. But rather than becoming discouraged, I began to put together a few creative plans that quickly drove the overall cost down.

Our best bargain may have been the Priority Wine Pass (https://www.prioritywinepass.com/) we purchased, which grants the buyer 2-for-1 admission for wine tastings, among other things. The system is the equivalent to hiring a financial advisor, but for a trip. Every deal our advisor found for us was good and, for only $40, a wonderful lady planned our entire trip. After asking us a series of questions, and getting to know us a little bit, she told us which type of wineries we would like, based on our personality. Jessica and I didn’t want a party scene, seeing as our intention was to learn about wine and the culture, and to also enjoy the natural beauty that Northern California has to offer. Our guide listened to what we had to say, and created a perfect itinerary.

Out of all the wineries we visited, our two favorites ended up being Auburn James, and a separate place called Maroon Wines. I was worried that the atmosphere in Napa would be a bit snobby, but this was not the case at all. It may have helped that we scheduled our visits during the week, but we never found any place to be overcrowded. Also, being who I am, I enjoyed the fact that everything is negotiable out there. Could I have the tasting fee waived and a full private tour of the estate if I were to purchase a bottle of wine? You bet!

Another interesting note is that Napa is as much, if not more, of a food town, as it is a destination for wine. Our favorite meal was at an awesome establishment called Mustard’s Grill.  We enjoyed one of the best meals in our entire life and paid $90 for the whole bill, including tip, although we did not pay for drinks. I ordered the Mongolian Pork Chop, and I have to admit, it was better than any meal I have ever had in Nebraska. Furthermore, the food was as delightful as anything I have enjoyed in some of my favorite food cities, like Chicago and Atlanta, for a surprisingly fair price.

For our accommodations, we settled in a quaint town, in the valley, named Yountville. Choosing the right town ended up being the most important aspect of our trip. Jessica and I found this location to be friendly and relaxing. Considering that we were looking for a vacation that could serve as a recharge trip, it was the ideal spot for us. The place we stayed is called Vintage Inn. We absolutely loved it and felt that it lacked nothing. Jessica and I even walked around other resorts to compare, and would definitely go back to the exact same spot should we visit Napa again. Our stay was four nights long, but we could have probably stayed only three nights, and still came away with the same amount of happiness.

Throughout our stay, we stumbled upon satisfaction in a few unexpected places. For example, our jogs in the morning fog proved to be breathtaking and awe-inspiring. Another highlight was our decision to rent a car and cruise through the valley. We ended up on the road for four hours one day, and it proved to be the perfect setting to reconnect with my wife and have a rare, uninterrupted conversation, which has become elusive in our increasingly hectic and busy lives.

One final note for those that may venture out to Napa, I would advise flying through Sacramento, rather than San Francisco. Our airport experience was seamless, and we never had to deal with San Francisco traffic.

In the end, our vacation was made possible by digging a little bit deeper and finding some good deals. By the end we could even begin to smell and taste flavors in our wine, as we slowly felt ourselves morphing into the people we never could understand, or appreciate, until we lived in their world.

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