Budget-Friendly Getaways That Are Perfect for Solo Travel

margouillatphotos / Getty Images/iStockphoto

margouillatphotos / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Traveling solo shouldn’t be thought of as lonely or expensive. In fact, a vacation alone can be helpful for anyone on a budget, especially for those who like to vacation at their own pace. Exploring new locations by yourself also provides an opportunity for self-reflection, personal growth, and the chance to meet new people along the way. So, don’t let the misconception of solo travel being lonely or expensive deter you from embarking on an exciting adventure that fits your budget and allows you to create unforgettable memories.

Whether seeking out a trip that’s either relaxing or exciting — or maybe a bit of both — click through for some of the most affordable vacation spots in the U.S. that offer a wealth of options and won’t be too hard on your pocketbook, either.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Lodging: $540 for a three-night stay, or about $180 per night

Best time to visit: June through August

Myrtle Beach is a well-known destination for anyone looking for a beach vacation that’s both relaxing and eventful. While the beach is clearly the main draw, it also offers a 1.2-mile boardwalk boasting amusement park rides, a variety of shops and restaurants, and a plethora of local attractions. 

For those looking to see a little beyond the boardwalk, there are attractions like Brookgreen Gardens, Hopsewee Plantation and Myrtle Beach State Park. Another fun place for the budget-conscious solo-traveler to visit is Market Common, a vibrant community with shops, restaurants, and entertainment options. Enjoy window-shopping, browse local boutiques, or relax in the parks and green spaces. The Market Common often hosts free events, such as outdoor concerts and art festivals.

If you’re looking for more culture, the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum is a gem in Myrtle Beach. Admission is typically free, and you can explore a variety of art exhibitions featuring local and regional artists. The museum also offers educational programs and workshops for all ages.

Whatever you decide to do, Myrtle Beach is a great place to explore when traveling solo.

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Panama City Beach, Florida

Lodging: Between $450-$550 for a three-night stay, or about $160 per night at Boardwalk Beach Hotel

Best time to visit: May to October

Known for its long, glistening white-sand beaches and its popular amusement parks, Panama City Beach is a sought-after vacation spot located in Florida’s panhandle. Those traveling on their own will have plenty of opportunities to take in everything the beach has to offer.

Dolphins and sea turtles can often be seen from the shore, and nearby Shell Island is home to St. Andrews State Park, which offers even more beaches and nature trails to explore. 

The ideal way for a solo-traveler to get around Panama City Beach is on two wheels. Rent a bike and hit one of the several biking trails and paths, such as the Conservation Park Trail, that allow you to appreciate the coastal charm at your own pace. You can also explore the Panama City Beach Conservation Park, a sprawling nature reserve with miles of hiking and biking trails. Bonus: Admission to the park is typically free!

The historic St. Andrews district in Panama City right across the bay is also home to a bustling marina and top-notch seafood restaurants.

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Whistler, Canada

Lodging: $600 for a three-night stay, or $200 per night at Alpenglow Lodge

Best time to visit: June through September, December to March

Consistently ranked as home to the area’s top ski resort, Blackcomb Mountain boasts majestic mountain ranges that attract about 3 million visitors every year. While you can even ski in June, there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, camping, or just a day surrounded by nature. There’s also bungee jumping, biking and water sports to fill your day.

Take a trip to Lost Lake, a serene and picturesque area just outside the village. The lake offers a sandy beach, walking trails, picnic areas, and beautiful views. You can swim, sunbathe, or simply relax in nature’s tranquility. Access to Lost Lake is free, and there are bike rentals available if you’d like to explore the surrounding trails. Or wander through Whistler Village, the bustling heart of the town. Enjoy window shopping, people-watching, and soaking in the vibrant atmosphere. The village often hosts free events and festivals throughout the year, including live music performances and cultural celebrations.

In the fall, there are local events ranging from the Whistler Film Festival, Whistler Village Beer Festival and the Whistler 50 Relay and Ultra Marathon. Meaning there’s something for everyone in this charming town.

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Breckenridge, Colorado

Lodging: $570 for a three-night stay, or $190 per night at Der Steiermark Condominiums

Best time to visit: November through April, May to October

When the snow falls in winter, Breckinridge is a dream for anyone who likes skiing or snowboarding, and with more than 350 inches of snowfall a year, there’s no shortage of opportunities to head to the slopes.

If the slopes aren’t calling your name, take a stroll through the Breckenridge Historic District and admire the well-preserved Victorian architecture. Explore the shops, art galleries, and museums that showcase the town’s rich history. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture without spending money. The downtown area also has plenty of bars and restaurants to enjoy when you want to head back to civilization for a spell.

Come summer, the city boasts plenty of opportunities for hiking, ziplining, biking and even whitewater rafting. Spend time at Carter Park, a beautiful recreational area located in the heart of the city. It’s a fantastic spot to relax, have a picnic, or simply sun-bathe in one of the most picturesque places in the country. 

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Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Lodging: $635 for a three-night stay, or around $210 per night at First Tracks

Best time to visit: June and August, December to March

During the summer, the Yampa River Core Trail offers plenty of cycling and hiking for visitors. Come winter, it’s another great environment for skiers. If you’re on a budget, it’s best to visit right at the end of ski season in late March or early April.

Apart from the slopes, there’s plenty of fishing, kayaking and tubing during the summer. The winter offers ice climbing, dog sledding and snowmobiling. And the Strawberry Hot Springs offer a nice, relaxing dip at the end of an activity-filled day.

Orlando, Florida

Lodging: $420 for three nights, or around $140 per night at Bahama Bay Resort

Best time to visit: March to May

While Orlando might be home to several renowned theme parks, they’re not the only reason Orlando is the most-visited destination in the U.S. If theme parks are your thing, both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort are available, and traveling solo means you could splurge a little more to skip the lines with VIP access.

Along with the theme parks, there’s also the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the Mall at Millenia, and plenty of top-ranked golf courses across the city. Not to mention Orlando’s bustling downtown scene.

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Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Lodging: $750 for a three-night stay, or $250 per night at Arrowhead Resort

Best time to visit: May to October and February

Surrounded by The Island, Dollywood, Downtown Gatlinburg and the 800-square-mile Great Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge has quite a bit to offer anyone traveling on their own.

February offers the best month for skiing, while the summer months have plenty of hiking and cycling. There’s also fishing and rafting, and no shortage of fairs and festivals held throughout the year – including the annual Dollywood Rock the Smokies concert or Old Mill Heritage Day in September. It’s a great balance of quiet solitude or bustling excitement, depending on your mood.

Corolla, North Carolina

Lodging: $360 for three nights, or $120 per night at The Inn at Corolla

Best time to visit: March to May, September to November

Located in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Corolla is ideal for relaxation. Although that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of exciting adventures to be had. While those looking for a bit of tranquility can find it in the serene, idyllic beaches, there’s horseback riding, hang gliding and water sports for the activity-minded.

Nearby sightseeing includes the Kill Devil Hills’ Wright Brothers National Memorial, Corolla’s Currituck Beach Lighthouse or Jockey’s Ridge State Park, home of the tallest living sand dune on the Atlantic coast.

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Gulf Shores, Alabama

Lodging: $320 for a three-night stay, or about $105 per night at Gulf Shores Surf & Racquet Club

Best time to visit: Year-round, but November to December are ideal for those on a budget

Filled with some of the nation’s most pristine white-sand beaches, Gulf Shores is also a haven for shoppers, golfers, and anyone who likes being on the water. Visit the Gulf Shores Public Beach area, which offers more than just sand and water. Take a walk on the boardwalk, visit souvenir shops, and indulge in some delicious seafood from the local food vendors. It’s a vibrant area where you can enjoy the beach atmosphere without spending a fortune.

Fishing, diving and dolphin cruises are popular, as are exploring Gulf State Park via Segway, or going on a hike the old-fashioned way. Whether lounging on the beach or heading out into nature or on the town, this place has plenty to offer.

Bethany Beach, Delaware

Lodging: $1,000 for a three-night stay, or between $300-$400 per night at Mallard Lakes

Best time to visit: Summer

An under-the-radar gem, Bethany Beach is a perfect spot for a solitary stay. There’s also plenty of fresh crab, either at local restaurants or crabbing excursions.

Shoppers can keep busy browsing through the town’s many charming boutiques, and there’s plenty of leisurely bike riding, golfing and the nearby Funland theme park to do while here.

Sun Valley, Idaho

Lodging: $480 for a three-night stay, or $160 per night at Atelier Condominiums

Best time to visit: Year-round

A popular vacation spot in the winter and dubbed “America’s First Destination Ski Resort,” Sun Valley first opened in December of 1936, and has been attracting visitors year-round ever since.

The big draw is on the slopes, along with golfing, fly-fishing, whitewater rafting, hiking and biking. Just one mile south of the resort is the town of Ketchum, which features great restaurants and bars, and was a favorite haunt of novelist Ernest Hemingway.

Palm Springs, California

Lodging: $450 for a three-night stay, or $150 per night at the Skylark Hotel

Best time to visit: January to April

A favorite among the likes of The Rat Pack back in their heyday, this desert oasis in Southern California retains much of its mid-century charm. And with plenty of sunshine, it’s a great place to relax on a vacation by oneself.

When not poolside, there are spas, bars, restaurants and nightclubs to visit. There’s also Coachella Valley, which is home to the music festival of the same name, is worth visiting for The Living Desert, a conservation effort, and the Coachella Valley Preserve wildlife refuge.

Park City, Utah

Lodging: $720 for a three-night stay, or $240 per night at the Copperbottom Inn

Best time to visit: December to March, and the summer months

Home to the Sundance Film Festival held every January, this small mountain enclave is also known for its pristine ski conditions in the winter, thanks to its yearly snowfall of 95 inches. Though there’s plenty to offer for more than film and ski lovers.

The two big resorts, Deer Valley and Park City Mountain offer plenty to do, and there’s also the historic Main Street or the High West Distillery and Saloon. Those looking for an alternative to skiing can also check out the snow tubing, mountain biking, or parkour at Woodward City Park.

Destin, Florida

Lodging: $1,040 for a three-night stay, or about $340 a night at Tops’l Beach & Racquet Resort

Best time to visit: April and May

One of the Florida Panhandle’s most popular vacation spots, the once-sleepy fishing village is now known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.”

It’s the kind of place where people flock to for the beautiful beaches every summer — filled with white sand made of pure Appalachian quartz. Outside of the beach, there’s golfing, water parks, snorkeling and scuba diving to take up your time. Of course, you can always do a bit of fishing, as well.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Lodging: $465 for a three-night stay, or about $155 per night

Best time to visit: Year-round

Solo travelers looking to unwind in style will find what they’re looking for at Hilton Head. Surrounded by natural beauty and great food, this 42-square-mile island is all about laid-back living, where you can just relax and enjoy the beautiful 12 miles’ worth of sandy beaches. You can also play golf and tennis, or head to the spa.

Both the Coastal Discovery Museum and the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge offer plenty of natural beauty to discover, while foodies will enjoy the area’s unique, low-country cuisine.

Hatteras Island, North Carolina

Lodging: $600 for a three-night stay in October, or about $200 per night

Best time to visit: March to May, September to November

Formerly known as the Blue Marlin capital of the world, this outpost in the Outer Banks is a beautiful spot for solo travelers looking for a genuine laid-back vacation that’s a little off-the-grid.

Fishing, surfing, kite-boarding, windsurfing, paddling and scuba diving are all on deck for activities, as are bird watching and camping for those looking for something to do off the water. It’s also home to Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, as well as sand dunes, wide beaches, a maritime forest and marshlands. (And don’t forget to visit the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, one of the most iconic landmarks in the area. While there is a small fee to climb to the top, the panoramic views of the island and the Atlantic Ocean are worth it. Explore the visitor center and learn about the rich maritime history of the region.)

Telluride, Colorado

Lodging: $525-$600 for a three-night stay, or $175-$200 a night

Best time to visit: March to April; October to November; and winter months

Home to world-class ski slopes at the Telluride Ski Resort, Telluride is an incredible destination for skiers. If you happen to come outside the winter, it still offers beautiful hiking trails in the San Juan Mountains, including Bear Creek Falls and Blue Lakes Trail. A fun (and free!) activity is the free gondola ride that connects Telluride with Mountain Village. Enjoy panoramic views of the San Juan Mountains as you glide through the sky. Once in Mountain Village, you can explore the shops, restaurants, and beautiful alpine scenery.

If you’re into photography, Telluride is a picturesque town with stunning mountain vistas. Grab your camera and explore the town on foot, capturing the beauty of its architecture, landscapes, and scenic views.

Other must-see spots include Town Park, the Telluride Historical Museum and the Historic Sheridan Opera House. Altogether, a great place for a mix of adventure, nature and culture.

Ketchum, Idaho

Lodging: $450-600 for a three-night stay, or $150-200 per night

Best time to visit: Year-round

One mile south of the world-famous ski resort of Sun Valley, Ketchum offers an abundance of access to nature and plenty of wonderful bars, restaurants, nightlife and shopping. Those looking for some outdoor activities will love hiking, fishing, cycling and horseback riding. Take a scenic walk or bike ride on the Wood River Trail, which winds through picturesque landscapes. In the winter, enjoy snowshoeing or cross-country skiing on the trail system. You can also explore the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, which often hosts free exhibitions and events. You can also take advantage of the natural beauty surrounding Ketchum by hiking Bald Mountain.

Ketchum is also home to a vibrant art community. Spend some time exploring the local art galleries, which often showcase a diverse range of artwork, including paintings, sculptures, and photography. Some galleries even offer free or low-cost workshops or artist talks, providing an enriching and inexpensive cultural experience.

It’s the kind of quaint getaway that lets travelers get to know the locals that make the town their home.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Lodging: $450, or about $150 per night

Best time to visit: June to October

A beautiful mountain town is a great place for any type of adventure, Gatlinburg offers everything from hiking and biking to horseback riding and skiing and snow tubing. There are also moonshine tastings, contemporary art galleries and boutiques, and the majestic Great Smoky Mountains National Park — which is totally free. Enjoy hiking trails, scenic drives, and breathtaking viewpoints. Pack a picnic, immerse yourself in nature, and capture memorable moments without spending a dime.

It’s also home to the state-of-the-art Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and the historic Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre. As well as a number of local artists who are always busy creating at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.

If you’re visiting during the summer or fall months as recommended, don’t miss the Gatlinburg Farmers Market. Browse a variety of locally grown produce, homemade goods, and artisanal products. Enjoy the vibrant atmosphere, support local vendors, and maybe even sample some delicious treats.

Ocean View, Delaware

Lodging: $500-600 for a three-night stay, or $150-200 per night

Best time to visit: Late April to mid-May

Despite being Delaware’s most-visited city, Ocean View offers a relaxing beach and sightseeing at the boardwalk of Rehoboth Beach, both of which are big attractions.

There’s also the Funland amusement park, and summer nights have lively shows from the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand that keep audiences entertained. Shoppers will enjoy the outlets nearby, and nature lovers will love spending time at Cape Henlopen State Park. 

Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the Assawoman Wildlife Area, a serene natural haven offering ample opportunities for birdwatching, hiking, and wildlife spotting. Bring a pair of binoculars, pack a picnic, and immerse yourself in the tranquility of this coastal wildlife refuge. If watersports are your jam, the nearby Indian River Bay, you can indulge in various budget-friendly watersports. Rent a kayak, paddleboard, or even a small boat to explore the calm waters and take in the scenic views.

For solo travelers, there’s always something to do, see, drink and eat in Ocean View.

Alice Kingston and Laura Beck contributed to the reporting for this article.

All prices are accurate as of May 30, 2023. Prices are subject to change at any time.