My last blog post detailed why traveling to a wine region is the best way to experience a European country. Over Thanksgiving, I was at a winery in the Santa Ynez Valley in California. While I was tasting the wine and soaking in the vineyard views, I was reminded of how many of my friends and family members visit Napa Valley in northern California, yet never travel to Europe’s wine regions. Don’t get me wrong – I would love to visit Napa! But every time I start planning a Napa trip, the same light bulb goes off.
It’s much cheaper to visit a wine region in Europe.
(And I would always rather go to Europe!)
That said, I don’t think many people realize that. Most people probably think that a domestic vacation must be cheaper than an international one.
But that's not the case.
Using the Rioja wine region in northern Spain as an example, this post will show you how the cost really breaks down. I hope this post will convince you that Europe isn’t as expensive as you think and that it’s absolutely worth the longer flight!
Keep in mind that the Euro is currently at 12-15-year low against the dollar, making Europe even more affordable than in the past (at the time of this post, 1 euro = 1.06 USD).
International flights are generally more expensive than domestic flights. However, there have been many sales in the past few months with fares under $400 roundtrip from various cities in the U.S. to Europe. From where I live in North Carolina, it is actually about the same cost to fly to Europe in the spring as it is to fly to Napa (San Francisco or Oakland).
If you don’t want to pay $400, you can fly free (just pay taxes and fees) to either region using airline miles from a credit card bonus. For example, in May my husband and I each redeemed 40,000 American Air miles for a roundtrip, direct flight from Charlotte to Madrid.
Total cost per person? $60 in taxes and fees.
While you can also use airlines miles to fly into the Napa Valley area, you generally get a better value redeeming your airline miles for an overseas trip.
Hotels are where European wine regions have a huge advantage over Napa Valley. Can you imagine staying in this hotel in the Rioja wine region in Spain for $93 a night?
And waking up to step out on your balcony and see this view?
While Napa Valley is beautiful too, a comparable hotel is hard to find, and impossible at that price point. The cheapest comparable hotel I could find is the Wine Country Inn at $360 per night for a vineyard view room.
So, you can pay approximately $651 for seven nights in the Rioja wine region in Spain, or pay approximately $2,520 for a seven night stay in Napa Valley.
That’s almost $2,000 cheaper!
Food & Wine Tastings
In a wine region, most of the rest of your trip budget will go towards food and wine. This is yet another area where European wine regions can be much cheaper than Napa Valley. For example, wine tastings in Rioja range from free to 15 euros. The average cost of a tasting when we went in May was about 10 euros. On the other hand, in Napa, a wine tasting usually costs $15-$20 but can cost up to $50. If you are going to multiple wineries each day, the wine tasting fees will add up quickly.
In addition to wine tastings, you’ll want to enjoy wine at your meals too. As with most of Europe, you can get a good glass of Rioja at a restaurant for about 3 euros, whereas in Napa that would cost you $15.
Lastly, many wine regions are known for amazing culinary scenes. In Rioja, we had a 5-course dinner (including wine) overlooking the vineyards for 30 euros per person. Can you imagine finding a meal at that price in Napa?!
All in all, European wine regions can be much cheaper than Napa Valley.
Hopefully this post convinced you that you can afford to go to Europe. If you need more persuading of why to visit European wine regions, check out my last blog post.