Vail is not cheap to visit or live in. In fact, it was named the No. 1 most expensive city in Colorado in 2018, using the Cost of Living Index. And that's saying something. Colorado has become a pretty pricey state.
A vacation in Vail can easily deplete your wallet, between lodging, skiing, dining, drinks and even gas. That is, unless you know when and where to go. Here's how to take a luxury vacation to Vail on a budget.
Know When to Go
The best time for a budget vacation in Vail is during the off-season, which Coloradans call the “mud season” (because the snow melts and creates an excess of mud on some of the trails). This is right after the ski season ends (typically late April or early May) and right before summer activities kick off (around mid-June).
During these months, hotel, restaurant and entertainment rates are majorly discounted, even at the pinnacle of luxury resorts, such as the Four Seasons. You can find lodging and food for more than half off. Because of a low demand, you are also more likely to be upgraded to a nicer room in your hotel. In the winter, you'd be lucky to find any room at all, but in the off-season, you pretty much have run of the place.
Stay in Ultimate Luxury for Cheap
The Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail is ideally located a short distance between both Vail villages and walking distance (or a free shuttle ride) to everything.
Beyond the pillows fit for a god (and a mattress firmness to fit your requests), top-notch service, the best heated outdoor pool in Vail and direct mountain views, staying at the Four Seasons can actually help save you money on your vacation.
Guests can borrow one of the Four Seasons’ Mercedez Benz cars for free. The eight-car fleet is first come, first served — but that’s not an issue in the springtime when occupancy is low. Take a car on a day trip to Glenwood Springs’ hot springs (about an hour away) or on a scenic drive to the Frisco Lake or historic, Victorian Leadville. Or take the complementary Benz SUV to a nearby trailhead for a free wildflower hike. Booth Falls is a short 10-minute drive that rewards hikers with a waterfall.
Spring can be muddy, so ask the concierge (also for free) for each day’s trail recommendations.
Spend a Free Day in the Spa
Here’s a luxury travel hack for you: If you stay in a spa resort, there’s a good chance you get free access to many of the spa amenities, even if you don’t book a treatment.
At the Four Seasons, guests can use the state-of-the-art fitness center, multiple outdoor hot tubs and spa's cozy relaxation rooms (complete with complimentary tea, snacks and spa water). Take your cup of strawberry-infused water and a handful of almonds and relax with a book by the fireplace in the private, outdoor terrace. The off-season means you may have the whole spa to yourself.
Best of all, this Forbes Five-Star spa also includes a water circuit that hotel guests can enjoy for free. Start in the dry sauna, then cool off in the cooler plunge pool, before warming up in the lengthy, grotto-style hot tub lined with waterfalls. Sit underneath the water and let it massage your scalp, before heading to the eucalyptus-infused steam room to clear out your sinuses and give your health a boost.
Take your time and get ready in the changing room, which is fully stocked with quality products that will leave you feeling like you spent a day at the spa — but with no extra money out of your pocket.
If you do want a treatment, ask about the spring deals. There are always plenty.
Other Spa Specials
If you want to splurge on one thing on your trip or are planning a special event, like a bachelorette party, friends' night out or bridal shower, ask about the unique Spa under the Stars feature. You can basically rent out the entire spa for your private event after hours and it stays open extra late (until 11 p.m.). You get your own spa butler to tend to your needs and can arrange special treatments and food.
Fill Up On Discounted Food
Vail has some of the state’s best restaurants. During the off-season, some of them close down, but the handful that stay open offer incredible discounts on abridged menus.
Terra Bistro is a hidden gem on the far east end of Vail, past the busy center of downtown. It’s not new; it’s been around for more than 20 years, yet many visitors miss it. This restaurant is a local favorite, because of the inventive dishes and ever-changing menus. As a bonus, it’s also ideal for people with dietary restrictions and has a strong gluten-free selection. It also offers one of the best mud season specials: Buy one entree, get the second half off.
For a healthy option (and if you’re on a real budget), the Vitality Salad is a staple and the soup of the day is always seasonally inspired. If it’s on your menu, try the pan-seared salmon with xo sauce and sugar snap pea and bell pepper stir-fry. The NY strip steak (served atop mushroom bread pudding) is one of the best steaks in Vail.
Save money by ordering your meal with a side for the table to share; the portions are monstrous. The crispy asparagus with basil aioli goes with any of the entrees and is a no fail.
Another popular off-season menu is at Flame, one of Vail’s most esteemed restaurants known for its Kobe beef. In past mud seasons, Flame has featured the $81.50 special: two entrees, a side, plus one appetizer to share for $81.50. You won’t believe you can get that much food for that price — and of such quality. We’re talking a high-end steak dinner for two in an elegant dining room with unparalleled service. With tip and taxes, if you skip the $25 glass of wine each, you can leave for around $100.
Until the last few years, Vail’s brunch scene was dead. But with the opening of an adorable French brasserie named Vintage, brunch has been revived. It can also save you money if you’re on a budget vacation.
Instead of getting both breakfast and lunch, sleep in, enjoy your in-room coffee on the balcony and opt for a late brunch that can hold the space of two meals, until dinner time. Vintage’s brunch is write-home-about-it-good, dished up in a location that’s just as sweet. Walls are lined with beautiful artwork in gold gilded frames. Cocktails are beautiful enough to deserve their own frames. Vintage is known for its benedicts and for good reason. Try them, and thank us later.
You can also look for a brunch menu at The Remedy Bar. Remedy’s Munchie Brunchie is 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and includes the likes of tater tot waffles topped with smoked salmon; a bottomless Bloody Mary bar; and an acai bowl topped with fresh fruit and granola. The Sebastian hotel also offers an amazing Sunday Funday Brunch with a Bloody Mary bar, "Rose All Day" specials and innovative, tapas-style dishes, like cornflake-encrusted French toast.
See a Movie For Lunch
Although the slopes are closed, Vail is far from asleep during the off-season. You can go bowling at the popular, high-end bowling alley, Bol, or see a movie at the Cinebistro at Solaris. Save money by attending a matinee movie.
Cinebistro is great during the spring days when the weather is overcast or rainy or if you need to duck indoors away from the hot mountain sun. It also serves food and has a full bar, including some great local beer. This is a relaxing and fun way to blend entertainment and dining (or drinking). The chairs are comfortable, the lounge is swanky and modern and the service is cheerful.
Know the Happy Hours
Vail celebrates its off-season with incredible happy hour specials. For example, there’s a deal every day at Remedy (like $7 prosecco on Wednesdays and $15 all-you-can-eat wings on Thursdays), and 4-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, you can get half off draft beer and wine.
Pro tip: While at Remedy, try the Haute Chocolate, which has been named one of the best hot chocolates in the world by USA Today, Daily Meal, Town & Country and Ski Magazine, to name a few. It's not cheap, but it's the price of a typical dessert or cocktail and rich enough to share with the whole table.
Another great way to save money on alcohol is to visit a local distillery or brewery and take a tour. You can often get free tasters during the free tours, or order a flight of samples for a great price. Try a flight at the 10th Mountain distillery, which is still open in the off-season.