Wine tasting, hot air balloon, and husband-wife time

by Erika Torres

I surprised Eric with a trip to Temecula this past weekend. Temecula is like southern California’s Napa, except more of a budget-friendly version.

The whole trip spawned from my mother giving us two tickets for a hot air balloon ride for $125. She had paid $250 but my dad refused to go (something about being scared…) so she offered them to me at half price. $125 for a hot air balloon ride? How could I turn it down? Especially since it was on my baby bucket list!

Since we had to be at the balloon place at 5:30 in the morning (oh have mercy!), I decided to make it a little weekend getaway.Temecula has a special place in my heart because it’s where we spent our mini-honeymoon after we got married.

What a difference a year makes, right? Look how much younger and skinnier we looked back then…we were such babies.

Anyway, we spent all day Friday wine tasting, and visited three different vineyards.  I had printed out a bunch of 2 for 1 wine tasting coupons from the Chamber of Commerce or Visitor’s Bureau or something like that. I guess when you go wine tasting, you’re almost expected to buy a bottle. But we played dumb and didn’t buy anything.

The main reason being–I can’t tell the difference between a $30 bottle of wine and a $7 bottle of wine from Trader Joe’s. Why would I spend $30 on ONE bottle, when I can get 4 for the same price at TJ’s? And it all tastes the same to me. I’m just not much of a wine connesuir (sp?) I guess. One of the wine ladies kept trying to talk to me about talons and legs, and I’m like “uhhh yeah…can I have the sweetest wine you have, please?”

The great thing about wine tasting is that even though we spent only 24 hours in Temecula, it honestly felt like we had been there a few days. Something about being tipsy makes you feel really relaxed and leisurely. To save money on food–we are newlyweds on a budget, after all–I packed the perfect picnic dinner and we ate it at one of the wineries. Amazing views, delicious food–way better than spending $50 on a romantic meal.

homemade deli sandwiches, banana peppers, olives, Brie, Pretzel Crisps, Greek pasta salad, and blueberry bars for dessert!

Since all the wineries closed at 6 (we were able to hit three!), we ended up back at our hotel, ready to take a dip in the pool. Three and a half hours later, at 9:30,  we woke up after passing out as soon as we got back. So much for the pool…

We were wide awake at this point, and ended up meeting up with one of Eric’s co-workers and his wife, who just happened to be in Temecula also. A few beers later, we were back in bed by midnight, and had a 4:45 a.m. wake up call. Shoot me now.

However, a cup of coffee later, we were ready to take off in our balloon.

This is when they were inflating the balloon.

We had a FABULOUS time.

It wasn’t jerky at all, like I expected, and except for when the pilot had to use the fire, there was no noise. It was very peaceful.
We would go low, and then we would go high. Very high! It wasn’t scary though.

This photo is for Jolene, who thinks I look photogenic all the time. This is NOT a good photo of me, but I’ll post it anyway.
My defense is I had to wake up at 4:45. And I’ve obviously gained weight. Details, details.

So our goal was to spend less than $100 for the 24-hour trip, not including hotel and the actual balloon ride cost:

2.5 star hotel, including free breakfast: $107 (Priceline)
Hot Air Balloon Ride: $125 total

3 Wine Tastings: $32
Beers: $14
Picnic: $20
We only spent an additional $66 besides the balloon and hotel. Sweet!

Our money saving tips included eating lunch before we left on our trip, packing a picnic dinner, using 2 for 1 wine tasting coupons which easily saved us $32,
and taking advantage of the hotel’s free breakfast.

All in all, it was a fabulous trip on a budget that I absolutely loved!

And I got to cross off something on my baby bucket list!


City Girl August 7, 2011 - 7:19 pm

Jolene is right! You are incredibly photogenic!

I had never been to Temecula before my last trip out West. (My high school SoCal bestie moved there with her family.) So, so beautiful! Happy you guys had such a fabulous time! xoxo

nashe August 4, 2011 - 7:20 am

Wow I would love to go hot air ballooning! Besides planes the most I’ve been on is only a helicopter.

(Why must the hot air balloon thing be so darn early?? Is it to beat the midday sun or something?)

Lindy Mint August 3, 2011 - 12:28 pm

I’ve wanted to go on a balloon ride forever. Though I think I might need to do it over Temecula instead of my own boring town. It looks like it was a great budget-friendly trip, and much fun to read about.

I’ll take a picnic with brie over fancy dinner any day. Go you!

Margie August 2, 2011 - 8:44 pm

This is definitely on my list of things to do before I kick the bucket! Temecula is a short drive for us – we’ve done the winery thing and we keep saying we’ll go there one day for the annual Wine & Balloon Festival but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Also, you look fabulous!!

Brittney August 2, 2011 - 7:25 pm

I’ve been dying to go on a hot air balloon ride. Temecula isn’t too far for us. I think I’ve just added something to my California bucket list!

Ana F. August 1, 2011 - 4:13 pm

Sounds like so much fun, I can’t wait to try!

But where did you mom buy tickets for $250 for two people? I’ve been looking, but that’s the price I find for one only person 🙁

Teacher Girl August 1, 2011 - 2:27 pm

Silly girl, you do NOT take bad pictures, like ever. This one is totally cute! This mini-vacay sounds wonderful. I have always wanted to go in a hot air balloon too. Yay for vacays without spending too much! 😉

jobo August 1, 2011 - 12:39 pm

You DO look photogenic in ALL of the pics, including the last one (laughed at the shout out! thank you lol) and you do NOT look like you’ve gained wait, hot stuff! Just sayin! You both look fab. And I am so glad you loved the balloon ride, wasn’t it peaceful? It was so much quieter and NOT scary than I thought too. I want to do it again! Such a good price! Was 300 a person in Napa (but that included an all day tour after, breakfast AND mimosas).

HS @ Our Debt Blog August 1, 2011 - 12:29 pm

I love your sunglasses! First pair is RayBan’s what’s the other one??

The things I notice LOL


Mysti August 1, 2011 - 11:18 am

No hot air balloon ride for me! I had a recurring nightmare after I lost my twins that I took Bossy for a ride and he fell out of the basket and through the clouds.

Sounds like a really nice extended day trip! Yum…..your food looked scrumptious.

Paula @ Eat: Watch: Run August 1, 2011 - 10:53 am

My hubs got me a hot air balloon ride one year for my birthday. We had to wake up EARLY but it was so fun and surreal knowing you’re that high up but you don’t feel like you are. People would wave to us from the houses below…it was so fun!

They even gave us breakfast and champagne afterwards. The landing is interesting but other than that…soooo much fun!

Niki August 1, 2011 - 10:38 am

Totally jealous of your balloon ride. That is on my list. $125 is a great price.

Akirah August 1, 2011 - 10:19 am

You keep talking about gaining weight. Stop. You’re beautiful. Glad you had fun.


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