With so many up-and-coming wine destinations continuing to improve their tourism offerings, you’ve got plenty of choices for picking the perfect wine destination for a summer trip. Don’t break the budget while you’re there – here are my top 5 tips for making your wine vacation a success.
- If you want to buy a lot of wine, it’s better to drive (even if it’s far). Unless you’re planning a trans-continental journey, driving to your destination can add up to big savings – no shipping costs of the wine, and no need for a rental car for getting around. The shipping of wine really adds up, no matter if you check it on the plane or drop ship from the winery.
- If you prefer to fly, be flexible or prepared to pay. Airfares are high this year, particularly if you’re wanting to fly into smaller regional airports which are usually more convenient to get to the wine country. If you can be flexible and travel, say, during the week, you will have more choice on flights and less costs. Don’t miss out on earning those miles either. If you aren’t paying for the trip on credit cards with airline rewards, get on this trend so you can fly free the next time. And be sure to check regional tourism websites for airline tips – for example, in Washington state, Alaska Air doesn’t charge you for shipping a case of wine home. You have to know to ask for it, but it’s a really great option to utilize.
- Book hotels with wine packages that waive tasting fees or provide exclusive access. While many hotels have “wine weekend” packages, they’re often just a facade, such as a glass of wine on check-in. I suggest looking for packages that give you exclusive access as well as getting past the tasting fees – those can really add up over a trip. Discounts on food and tours as well is an extra bonus that’s always welcome – many wine region hotels also offer nightly happy hour, which I always suggest trying out!
- Learn the industry lingo: “loyalty marketing.” I first heard about this term in a Wall Street Journal article, but it’s alive and well in the wine industry. The most common loyalty program is the ubiquitous wine club, but you’ll now find all sorts of opportunities to be rewarded for loyalty to a winery: liking their Facebook page, checking-in on Foursquare, or providing an email address for a newsletter can often get you a free tasting. A few minutes of social media research on each winery you’re about to visit will usually highlight your options – Google is your friend in this instance.
- Use the tech tools to enhance your experience, not replace it. I’ve been to many wine regions and see people mostly engrossed in their phone, not enjoying the experience itself. Myself, I use apps like Catch or Evernote to take photos of the wine and add tasting notes, and of course Facebook/Instagram to share the view, but then I put the phone down and enjoy the conversation. Tech tools should help enhance the experience, not replace it. Those email messages and Facebook post will be waiting for you when you get home.