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Santa Barbara

You would think that Santa Barbara County would be really expensive since A-list celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Ellen, Oprah, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have homes nearby, but it’s not so bad.

Every year, many participating hotels and resorts run a promotion during the spring, where you get the third night free for travel through the early summer. Room rates are usually cheaper Sunday through Thursday, so you can save even more if you plan accordingly. Alternatively, nightly rates start to drop if you stay in areas such as North State, Carpinteria, or Goleta. Check out for more details.

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When it comes to attractions, you have a lot of variety. Polo matches run from spring through fall and cost as little as US$15 a game to watch. Double Dolphin Cruises offers various sailing tours, such as whale watching and sunset cruises, starting at US$35. If you prefer to stay grounded, Cal Coast Adventures offers bike tours starting at US$75 per person.

Other popular attractions in the city have relatively inexpensive admission fees. El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park charges just US$5 for a self-guided tour. This is a great way to learn about California’s Spanish roots. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art also charges just US$10 for adults and US$6 for kids under six and those aged 65+. While this isn’t a huge museum, there are still more than 25,000 works of art that span more than 5,000 years of human creativity.

There are also many free attractions for those who want to keep their costs down. The Red Tile Walking Tour is a self-guided tour that will take you to historic adobes dating from the 1700s. One particular point of interest is the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, where the bell tower provides free panoramic views of the city and ocean. To learn more about local history, head to the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, where there’s no admission charge. Then there are numerous beaches where you can get some much-needed rest and relaxation.

For cheap eats, you’ll want to head straight to a taqueria — such as Rudy’s, Mony’s, or La Super-Rica — where you can get a meal for US$10 to $16. Note that the meals could easily feed two people with some of the portion sizes. Over in the Funk Zone, you’ll find many wine tasting rooms, where tastings start at US$20. If you’re looking to splurge, consider Convivo. This local Italian restaurant serves some of the best seafood on the west coast.

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While airfare to Dubai won’t fluctuate much, you can be smart about your travel plans. Emirates allows free stopovers in Dubai, so it’s the perfect airline to choose if your journey takes you to other parts of the Middle East, Africa, or even Asia. What’s great about Emirates is that you get generous seat sizes, endless entertainment, and delicious meals across all fare classes.

The cheapest time to go is during the summer, but keep in mind that’s also the hottest time and the desert heat can be overwhelming. However, things start to cool down in September. September is still a cheaper season, so it’s a good time to aim for.

Even though Dubai claims to have seven-star hotels, there are more affordable options. It’s not hard to find hotels under $100 a night in Al Rigga, Al Jaddaf, and Deira. You’ll need to take rideshares or public transit to get to most places, but rides are relatively cheap. If you’re willing to spend a little more, hotels in Business Bay offer good value and you’re only a few minutes away from downtown Dubai.

You can enjoy the city at a low cost when it comes to attractions. Al Fahidi is the historical district of Dubai, where many older buildings have been converted into art galleries, museums, and coffee shops. While in the area, take an Abra water boat ride across the creek to enjoy the views; it’ll cost you less than $1. Marina dinner cruises give you an up-close look at Dubai’s architecture and will only set you back about $45. A daytime cruise without a meal is about half the price.

While heading to the "top" of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world, is tempting, it’ll cost you about $135 and you won’t even be at the top. The View Palm Jumeirah is a good alternative since the cost is closer to $35. There’s no better place to get a 360-degree panoramic view of Dubai’s iconic Palm Jumeirah.

Disney World

There’s no denying that families visiting Disney World can expect to spend a lot, but there are many ways to save. Consider staying off-site where hotels are cheaper. Off-site options may also have free shuttles available. Not only will you save on your accommodations, but you’ll also reduce your transportation costs.

Buying multiday tickets can save you a lot. One-day, one-park tickets start at US$109, but 10 days cost US$55 a day, which is close to half price. Obviously, this would only help people who would like to spend most of their holiday within the different Disney parks. Alternatively, Disney World has a “special offers” page on their website, where you can find all the latest deals and discounts.

Although Genie+ — a Disney app that helps you plan your itinerary — costs US$15 per person, it allows you to book the first Lightning Lane available at 40+ attractions. The Lighting Lane will allow you to bypass the standby line, saving you a ton of time. Some of the most popular rides have an additional charge for a reservation in the Lightning Lane, but it might be worth it if you have limited time. There is a free version of Disney Genie, but it doesn’t allow you to reserve any rides.

One other easy way to save money at Disney World is to bring in your own food and drinks. Non-alcoholic drinks and food are allowed. The only exception is that you can’t bring in containers that could be used as a projectile, such as a glass container. Coolers are permitted, but they must be small.

Saving money on travel should be a goal for everyone, but it shouldn’t be your top priority. Try your best to save money at home. With those savings, you can spend it on experiences abroad that will last you a lifetime.


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About the Author

Barry Choi

Barry Choi

Moneywise Contributor

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who makes frequent media appearances. When he's not educating people on how to be smarter with money, he's earning and burning miles and points for luxury travel.

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