We preferred not to rent a car due to the nature of our trip, and the effort to get to the train station plus the pricey ticket didn't add up for us. Then we investigated the Santa Barbara Airbus, a shuttle service that runs from LAX to Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, and Goleta multiple times per day. Advertising free Wifi and a travel time of about two hours from LAX to Santa Barbara, it seemed like a reasonable option for us. With a roundtrip ticket price of $88 when booking 24-hours in advance, we ended up saving around a $100 on our total transport costs. Given that the trip was last minute, we considered it a victory.
There's a few things to keep in mind, though. In actuality, we found the Airbus to be a service that benefits locals the most. The real benefit of the Santa Barbara Airbus is in its elimination of parking fees for Santa Barbara residents who are, for whatever reason, flying out of LAX. For tourists, eighty-eight dollars is not exactly cheap, and when you consider that on top of waiting for the bus and the two-hour drive each way, many might say that paying an extra $50 or $100 to fly directly into SBA is well worth it.
But, in the right situation, it can definitely be useful for tourists looking to save money in exchange for time. In our case of a last-minute trip, our savings were definitely on the higher end, which is why it worked out. In all, the ride was comfortable, with spacious seats and reasonable legroom. The Wifi worked, but not very well.
By the way, for those wondering, an Uber ride from Santa Barbara to LAX is a flat rate of $200.