POINT OF ORIGIN: Typically travel deals don't specify a particular direction. Oh, maybe a starting city, on occasion, but the discount has to do with where you're going, not where you begin from, and very, very infrequently the general direction of your origin. That's one reason the Amtrak Coast Starlight/Santa Barbara Car Free 15%-off ticket deal is something of a charmer: You have to be north of the city to nab. The other charming parts include the fact that this nice money-saved window lasts through the end of April 2015 and you save a chunk (15% is nothing to sniff at). So what exactly does "north" mean here? We know, we know, it is generally a fairly unwavering concept -- ask any compass. It means that if you start your Santa Barbara-ending journey north of the city, as far north as Seattle, you'll get the deal. Start-point cities include Washington State's largest metropolis, as mentioned, Portland and Eugene in Oregon, Redding, Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose, San Luis Obispo, and more stations along the way.
THE ASTERISKS: There are a few dates blocked out on the deal calendar -- yep, Thanksgiving is one, and the week leading up to New Year's Eve, as well as a few others -- so plan your getaway jaunt accordingly. You'll need to start somewhere north and return somewhere north. Aaaand there are a few other standard to-knows, so know them. But once you get that sorted and get your money-saving ticket? Picture Stearns Wharf and shopping along State Street and Old Spanish Days in early August. Pretty much any time is an excellent time to unwind in the American Riviera. Oh, we know, "unwind" is so brochure-y, but have you been to Hendry's Beach or Butterfly Beach? If unwinding isn't automatically done at either of those pretty places, then the whole idea of unwinding should be reconsidered.