There’s nothing quite like a vacation with your squad.
But sometimes planning a trip around other people can be a pain. Think of all the coordination: One weekend works for you, but not for two other people in your group. Someone has to cut the trip short to attend their cousin’s wedding. One friend wants a beach vacation while another wants to party in the city. Or traveling with family? Don’t get us started.
No — a trip all on your own is just what the doctor ordered.
Why travel solo?
A solo vacation, even for just a weekend, can be incredibly fulfilling. Solo travel is meditative — a way to reflect on your life and immerse yourself in the moment while experiencing new things. There is a lot you can learn about yourself when you’re exploring new destinations on your own that could help you treat yourself better and achieve the inner peace you strive for.
Even so, some might find it intimidating: Who do I talk to? What if my phone dies? Who will take an Instagram of me? 📸
Consider it an opportunity to push yourself. Being forced to meet new people and explore new places on your own can be rewarding. And sometimes, the best trip is the one you’ve planned exactly to your specifications.
How do you travel solo on a budget?
Costs can add up fast when you’re not splitting them with companions. To keep expenses low when traveling alone, here are three quick tips:
1. Find a grocery store. No, you don’t need a table-for-one at every top-rated restaurant on Yelp. Nor do you need to sample every cocktail on the rooftop of that city’s nicest hotel. Food is, undoubtedly, one of the most exciting aspects of travel — but it’s also OK to pack a simple lunch or cook pasta for a night or two before heading back out to explore.
2. Public transit is your friend. Uber is not! Surge pricing is the scourge of every solo traveler. Local buses, subway and light rail are much more affordable ways to explore a city. Look up your destination’s public transit system online before you go to get a feel for the general layout.
3. Budget! Carefully recording your expenses, even just in a note on your phone, may not be fun. However, allotting yourself a range to spend each day will really help to keep costs from ballooning on day-to-day purchases.
What are the best destinations for solo travelers?
Not every destination is ideally suited for solo travel. Across the U.S., these 10 locations are the perfect places to indulge in a little “you” time.
1. Asheville, NC
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Fall boasts gorgeous foliage, and even winter is appealing — it rarely dips below freezing in Asheville.
TOP ATTRACTIONS: Access to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Appalachian Trail; the Biltmore Estate, a historic house and museum (also the largest privately owned house in the country); the inspiring River Arts District.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Have a hankering for mountain vistas, but not looking to trek out west? Want to interact with various works of art, and actually meet the artists who created them? Asheville is a creative hub nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains (hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway is a must), with a buzzing arts scene highlighted by the River Arts District (made up of industrial-warehouses-turned-studios).
The small North Carolina town is known for having more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city, but we suggest a pint of local brew at SkyBar, a rooftop with spectacular sunset views over the mountains. To get up close and personal with the peaks, check out Asheville’s own hiking guide and lace up those boots.
To find your tribe, try participating in the drum circle that takes place every Friday night in Pritchard Park.
2. Carmel-by-the-sea, CA
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Known for its Mediterranean-style climate (Carmel ranges from high-50s to mid-60s year round), summer is shrouded in fog, while winter and spring can be rainy. Fall presents the clearest weather.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: The beach here is no Miami, nor does it have a SoCal vibe. Carmel-by-the-sea is cool and foggy, but with the charm of a sleepy village on the ocean. The Big Little Lies energy is real here: Carmel-by-the-sea is just 5 miles south of Monterey, and the iconic bridge in the opening credits of the HBO show is Bixby Bridge, about 25-minutes south of town.
Surfing is a popular pastime at Carmel Beach (you’ll want to rent a wetsuit), and a terrific activity to enjoy your time alone. If around in September, don’t miss the annual Sandcastle Contest for some eye-opening sand structures.
While the immaculate coastline is Carmel-by-the-sea’s main draw, there is also plenty of shopping, eating and drinking to be done in its less than 1-square-mile downtown.
3. Charleston, SC
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Spring, to beat the heat.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: A jewel of the South, Charleston — thick with horse-drawn carriages and old-world charisma — is another seaport, this one overlooking the Atlantic.
For history buffs, there’s no shortage of attractions to dig into in Charleston, whether it’s Civil War history at Fort Sumter, a meander through the city’s French Quarter or a visit to Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum (which offers access to three retired vessels and a whopping 28 aircraft).
A bonus for solo travelers on a budget: The best views in Charleston are free. Walk down The Battery promenade, a fortified seawall and the southernmost tip of the Charleston peninsula. With views of the harbor on one side, and rows of historic mansions on the other, you’ll need to clear some more photo space on your phone to take it all in.
If you visit is in the fall and are down for a spook, book a tour (in advance, it’s popular) to the Old City Jail — the most haunted building in Charleston. That characteristic Southern friendliness is real, though, and the nightlife here is buzzy and friendly.
And students, listen up: Charleston is also one of our top destinations for post-graduation travel!
4. Madison, WI
BEST TIME TO VISIT: May through November is a good range to target, with shoulder months (May/September) especially good for avoiding peak tourism.
TOP ATTRACTIONS: The Wisconsin State Capitol building, perched on an isthmus between its two beautiful lakes; the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Monona Terrace; the University of Wisconsin-Madison; the Henry Vilas Zoo; a thriving bar/food scene.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: A combination college town and independent urban center, Madison is loved for its gorgeous lakes Mendota and Monona, its young and vibrant energy, and as a delicious hotspot for beer and cheese. (In fact, Madison has the cheapest craft beer in the entire country.)
Luckily, you don’t need to wade into the Wisconsin countryside for access to mouth-watering local favorites like cheese curds (try Tipsy Cow or the Curd Girls truck), or a bevy of craft-brewed beers (Karben4 is fun — unicorns feature heavily in their branding).
As long as you’re not sporting Ohio State apparel, saddle up to the bar and strike up a conversation. Or insert yourself in a frisbee toss at one of the parks along the lake. Either way, that Midwest charm is sure to score you some new friends.
5. New Buffalo, MI
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Summer, summer, summer: New Buffalo is a beach town. Catch the last-minute bliss in September, the Sunday of summer months.
TOP ATTRACTIONS: Access to pristine Lake Michigan beaches and boating activities; Warren Dunes State Park; cozy diners, cafés and pubs on the lake.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: With waves lapping against soft sand, New Buffalo is situated across Lake Michigan from the Chicago metropolis.
Not many people think, ‘Michigan!’ when planning a beach vacation, but Midwesterners know that the rolling dunes and heavenly sunsets are hardly all that New Buffalo offers. Wake up with a friendly breakfast and mingling at Luisa’s Cafe or Harbert Swedish Bakery, explore the swooping Warren Dunes, splash in the lake (or go for a sail), and head out to local favorite The Stray Dog for dinner and drinks after taking in another stunning sunset.
6. New Orleans, LA
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Spring! Mardi Gras!
TOP ATTRACTIONS: The French Quarter; the boisterous Bourbon Street; an unending supply of Creole cuisine; a rich cultural landscape that melts into the food, music, art, nightlife, and the streets themselves. (For more extensive details on attractions, check out our guide.)
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: While it may be at its most fun during Mardi Gras, you certainly don’t have to come during Carnival to get a feel for the city.
Heavily influenced by French and African cultures, and marked by a turbulent history that includes the devastating Hurricane Katrina (one of many examples of why they have above-ground cemeteries, which you should definitely visit), NOLA feels otherworldly and alive. Intrepid solo travelers will have no trouble making friends here, especially if you can stay up with the late-night crowds on Bourbon Street.
There are quiet(er) pleasures, too, like the beignet-filled Café Du Monde, historic Jackson Square, or within the quiet cloisters of St. Louis Cathedral, a basilica that predates the United States.
7. Portland, ME
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Summer months are ideal, with temperatures rarely going much higher than the low 80s.
TOP ATTRACTIONS: Scenic fishing wharves and adjacent eateries (with plenty of lobster and chowder); the iconic Portland Head Light; the Victoria Mansion, the ostentatious summer home of a 19th-century luxury hotel magnate.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: There is no shortage of tasty bites in Portland: The city was named Bon Appetit magazine’s “Restaurant City of the Year” in 2018. A trip to Maine without eating a lobster roll is a sin. Try both traditional and new-age styles at Bite Into Maine, located inside of Allagash Brewing Company.
But there’s a lot to Portland beyond the lobster, like the Middle Eastern cuisine at Baharat, or several impressive sushi stops, including Yosaku. Sushi is the perfect meal for solo travelers — spot up at the counter and watch the itamae work his magic. For more local immersion, chat with the Mainers at Maps, or at neighborhood-favorite Ruski’s Tavern.
Portland also provides picture-perfect panoramic views of the Atlantic, and you can check out several lighthouses (Portland Head is believed to be the most-photographed lighthouse in the U.S.) or kayak with nearby Portland Paddle, which also offers a few multi-day expeditions — aka, built-in socializing.
8. Santa Fe, NM
BEST TIME TO VISIT: September to November. Autumn will keep you away from the blazing heat, and you can check out seasonal events like the Santa Fe Festival and Santa Fe Wine & Chile Festival in September, or the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival in October.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Mexican heritage ignites Santa Fe’s food and fascinating arts scene. While fall is true festival season, there are plenty of sights to see year-round, like the incomparable Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the adobe walls that hold up this city.
CrowBar is a friendly and busy bar, with tight quarters and an exquisite tequila selection, and affordable spots like El Parasol are great to sample Santa Fe’s trademark spicy cuisine. Prior to dinner, take a stroll down Canyon Road. The walk offers more than 100 galleries within a half-mile stretch, allowing plenty of opportunities for some artistic introspection.
9. St. George, UT
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Spring and fall bring hot temps, but summer can be scorching. Aim for April or October.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: For those who really want to embrace their time alone, this is the place. Come to St. George for the awe-inspiring scenery, whether that’s nearby at Snow Canyon Valley State Park, or up the road in world-renowned Zion National Park.
Beloved for its phenomenal views and incredible rock formations, Zion is about an hour away from St. George and has hiking trails geared for every level, from beginners to pros (many of its most popular trails are well-paved). To get there, just hop on the St. George Shuttle.
Back in town, St. George opened its first-ever brewery earlier this year — Silver Reef Brewing Company — so wind down with a pint after a long day of trekking.
10. Vancouver, BC
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Late June to September. (The rainy season, from October to June, spans a considerable amount of the year.)
TOP ATTRACTIONS: Biking in Stanley Park; lunch at Granville Island (which has a farmer’s market every Thursday in summer); hiking (or skiing) Grouse Mountain; teetering across the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Just over the U.S./Canadian border is Vancouver, essentially a denser, more walkable version of Seattle without the after-effects of Amazon HQ and with a more diverse population. (More than 50 percent of Vancouver’s residents have a first language other than English.)
The city is a seaport, with gorgeous views of the ocean and easy access to hikes and viewpoints. Stanley Park, a 1,001-square-acre stretch of green space pinched between the Burrard Inlet and English Bay, will take you days to explore on its own. For solo travelers looking for the speed of the city with a dash of peaceful nature, Vancouver is your spot. Getting lost among the pines is good for the soul.
The Amtrak route from Portland to Vancouver is actually one of the most scenic train rides in the U.S. So, in this case, it really is about both the journey and the destination.
Another awesome benefit of traveling by yourself: Vacation starts whenever you say it does! So why not start planning now? Or maybe you’d like to take your solo travel overseas. In that case, check out our rankings of the cheapest and most expensive European capitals, so you can budget your trip accordingly.
Whether you’re more comfortable in a bustling city center, on a quiet beach or alone among the trees, there are scores of options available on Wanderu. Compare routes, schedules and prices on bus and train fares across the United States (and Europe!), and book your tickets on a single platform without paying a premium. Just download the Wanderu app or visit Wanderu.com to start your search.