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Depending on your interests, you could spend some or all of your time in Santa Barbara on the water, shore or inland doing anything from learning to sail, shopping and eating, hiking stunning vistas, to crushing wine grapes with your feet. Unfortunately, a lack of planning can often lead to wasted time, money, and opportunities.
So before you check into your vacation rental, review our tips below. Avoiding these common blunders that travelers make can help you make the most of your vacation.
Biggest Mistake to Avoid #1: Over packing when you can travel light. We can’t say this often enough, check the Santa Barbara weather forecast before you start packing. Our climate is thought by many to be ideal — temperate and mild. But while some visitors will feel comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt, others will prefer long pants and a sweater. Your best bet is to layer. Bring a handful of neutral pieces that you can mix and match. If you do need to add something, there are plenty of places to shop.
Many rental properties offer free amenities to those traveling with young ones – including portable playpens and high chairs. Some even feature a variety of outdoor supplies including beach gear and sports equipment. Let your concierge or rental agent know ahead of time, what you’ll need. Knowing you don’t have to haul everything from home will help you travel lighter.
Biggest Mistake to Avoid #2: Succumbing to tourist traps. You will never catch a New Yorker in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, nor will you ever find an Angeleno having their picture taken outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
Likewise there are touristy places in Santa Barbara that the locals avoid. Go there if you like. They can be fun. But if you want to see the real town, the places that only the natives know about and patronize, ask your hotel or vacation rental concierge to help you. He or she will point you toward the best food for the fairest prices, the freshest fish, the most original art, the latest in regional cuisine. Concierges are worth their weight in gold. They’ve got the inside scoop – from the best happy hours in town to unique ways to enjoy the local art scene – and are ready and waiting to craft a perfect personalized vacation for you.
Biggest Mistake to Avoid #3: Not doing your research. There’s nothing worse than coming home from vacation and having someone ask, “But of course you did/saw the XYZ.” What? No one told you! You would love to have done/seen that. If only you’d known about it ahead of time.
There are many special things that are unique to the Santa Barbara area, and your hotel or vacation rental concierge will be happy to point you to a local area guide with insider travel tips. Before you leave for your vacation, you will also want to know what’s available and if it’s seasonal. If you want to watch the baby gray whales migrate north in the summer, you’ll be disappointed (they start heading north in February). Make it a priority to plan at least two hours of serious online destination research (those piano-playing cats on YouTube will still be there when you get home).
Some good sites to get started are the Santa Barbara Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Santa Barbara Visitors Guide.
Biggest Mistake to Avoid #4: Missing out on local events and unique community offerings. Sometimes feeling footloose and fancy-free is part of being on vacation. But if you’re a fromage-phile, you don’t want to arrive at your destination and discover that you just missed the international cheese festival.
Always check a couple of different community calendars to discover what special (or regular) events are scheduled. If you love the arts, check an arts calendar. If you’re bringing the kids, check out a kid-oriented calendar. If you’re looking for the latest in family friendly goings-on check out a family’s calendar of events or parent’s magazine.
All three of the official city sites mentioned above in Tip #3 also have good event calendars.
Biggest Mistake to Avoid #5: Getting Caught Without a “Plan B.” As the Yiddish proverb says, “Man plans, God laughs.” Not everything always goes according to schedule. An al fresco market might get rained out, or a concert might have sold all their tickets.
If you’re spending the day away from your vacation rental, make sure you have a list of alternate activities. If the Mission is closed for repairs, then maybe the family historian might enjoy poking around an old cemetery or the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. If the children’s puppet show has been rescheduled, check out Kids World, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History or know the location of the movie theater nearest to your rental and if they’re showing any kid-friendly films.
Biggest Mistake to Avoid Tip #6: Missing spectacular sunsets. Santa Barbara has spectacular sunsets, but bear in mind that because of our funky geography, a lot of our beaches face south. One of the best places to watch the sun go down is Butterfly Beach. On the other hand, you may prefer the private deck of your vacation rental.
Before you check into your vacation house, you can do a little prep work to avoid common blunders that travelers make. A little planning can go a long way in helping you create and enjoy a memorable vacation. Anything is possible in Santa Barbara. Welcome!
write by Randolph