Out of curiosity, a solo backpacker asked people on the Internet why is it more expensive to travel alone in the U.S. The traveler was met with a flurry of responses, ranging from the thrifty to the extravagant. Sifting through the noise, some opinions stood out. But it still seems that expenses can be really high when crossing the vast American landscapes on your own. And while some costs are obvious, others are more hidden, waiting to ambush the unsuspecting tourists.
1. The Holiday Craze
The secret is timing. High-traffic holidays like Christmas, and Fourth of July, or even local events like Mardi Gras often crowd places, meaning there are higher prices for almost everything. Traveling just a week later could save you some serious cash! And if adventure fun is what you’re after, consider hitting the ‘shoulder season’ which means the time between off and peak seasons.
This not only gifts you a fresh perspective but also emptier, more serene landscapes. As one wise traveler advised, “Keep an eye on big local events unless that is your goal.” Plan smart, and travel more cheaply.
2. The U.S. Has a Weak Travel Infrastructure
Unless you’re embarking on a hiking or camping trip suited for solo travel, the U.S. lacks the infrastructure to support traveling alone at a reasonable cost. One commenter decries the scarcity of hostels, inadequate public transit, and a shortage of budget airlines in the U.S.
3. High Cost of Living Areas = Higher Travel Expenses
Some regions of the country have a high cost of living that travelers can’t avoid. A user on the thread describes their experiences traveling in the Northeast U.S. by themselves, writing, “Just came back from Boston. I think I spent like 1-2k in a week, lol. My first meal cost $65 and was essentially a snack.”
4. A Tale of Two Trips
Someone compares two trips they went on, a two-week excursion to Spain and a ten-day trip to Michigan, and the cost differences were astonishing: “Back in 2019, we went to Spain for two weeks and Michigan for ten days…it cost us more to go to Michigan and stay in a not so nice hotel in Muskegon than it cost to go from L.A. to Spain.”
5. The Tourism Industry Is Designed for Groups
The tourism industry in the U.S. intentionally attracts couples, families, and groups of friends because they collectively spend more money than someone traveling alone. One person on the thread confirms this based on their own experience, describing a trip to New York City and seeing that most tourists at the popular attractions were groups of people.
6. Rental Car Prices Have Increased
Since the pandemic, the cost of car rentals has exponentially increased. One respondent states, “Since COVID, the rental car has been the big issue in my solo traveling in the U.S. Paying 3x-4x the rate of what it cost just a couple of years ago is such a bummer. I can find cheaper airfare through budget carriers. But there’s no way around the rental car.”
7. Lodging Is Expensive
Unlike European countries, the U.S. only partially supported youth hostels, which are highly affordable hotel alternatives, especially in bigger cities. Making matters worse, some American-based hostels shuttered their doors due to the pandemic shutdowns. Somebody on the thread indicates they avoid paying for lodging by camping in their car on a road trip.
8. Uneven Currency Exchange Rates
Even though the U.S. and other countries are experiencing inflation, the strength and value of the U.S. dollar remain high. For travelers from other countries, their currency is worth less in exchange. This uneven currency exchange can make trips to the U.S. out of reach for those traveling alone.
9. Profiteering Is Rampant
The travel industry took a big hit due to pandemic shutdowns. To recoup that lost revenue, service providers are raising rates. “The profiteering everywhere you turn is getting outrageous,” an individual responds.
10. Length of Stay and Destination Matters
Another user observes that a two-week vacation versus a weekend getaway affects how much a solo traveler spends, and the destination matters. Some cities, like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City, are notoriously expensive.
11. America Is Expensive, Period
Finally, this user acknowledges, “The U.S. is an expensive place to do anything.” Do you agree?
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Her articles have appeared in publications such as Wealth of Geeks, MSN (US), MSN Ireland, Flipboard, The Facts, The Cents of Money, A Dime Saved, The Times (Frankfort), Invested Wallet, Chronicle-Tribune, Mama of Five Blog, Lafourche Gazette, The Herald-Press, Kinda Frugal, Peru Tribune, and Financially Well Off. Stephanie Allen got her start in writing by teaching college writing and technical writing courses. She transitioned to working as a contract technical writer specializing in information technology. Her love for writing on various subjects led her to Wealth of Geeks.