Perhaps you’ve heard about “glamping,” but you aren’t quite sure what it’s all about. Short for glamorous camping, glamping is like traditional camping in many ways: You sleep surrounded by the great outdoors, typically with stunning views and natural wonders close by.
But it’s totally different in other key areas: Forget foraging for firewood, pitching a tent, resting in a sleeping bag on hard ground, or giving up creature comforts. Instead, you get your shut eye in a real bed, use a real bathroom, and flip on the lights and heat when you want. You might even have a butler.
Intrigued? This guide will answer all your questions and help you sort out whether your next vacation should be a glamping getaway.
What’s my “room” like?
Typically, glamping means sleeping in a tent, but a souped-up tent like none you’ve ever seen before, with a floor, rugs, beds, comforters, chairs, and in many cases heat, electricity, and running water. Your tent may have its own bathroom, but if it doesn’t, a shared facility will be a short walk away.
Tents, though, aren’t your only option. At the booking site glamping.com, you’ll find 16 types of luxury accommodations, from treehouses and yurts to campers and thatch-roofed huts. Utah’s Conestoga Ranch gives you the option to sleep in a covered wagon. AutoCamp lets you book an Airstream trailer at its three California locations.
Anything that’s in nature goes, says John Romfo, the chief operating officer of Glamping.com.
Do I have to cook?
Do you want to cook? At some glamping sites, that’s an option. At AutoCamp, for example, each trailer site has a fire pit with grilling grates (and a microwave inside).
Some of the yurts at Escalante Yurts in southern Utah include kitchens. And when you stay at Little Raccoon Key off the Georgia coast, you’re alone on your own private island, so you’ll have to grill.
But you don’t have to cook. Glamping is typically like staying at a full-service resort, with on-site restaurants, outdoor dining areas surrounding the campfire, packed picnic lunches, camp butlers, even breakfast delivered to your tent. The only cooking left for you is roasting s’mores over the fire.
Where can I go to glamp?
Glamping is a worldwide phenomenon (the signature luxury tents are inspired by high-end African safari set-ups). In the U.S., you’ll find options from Maine to Alaska, but many of the top glamping locales are out west.
In the South, you can glamp at the Under Canvas site outside of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Asheville Glamping in North Carolina, or Collective Retreats in the Texas Hill Country, to name a few.
Cities are getting into the act too. In New York City, Collective Retreats offers glamping on an island off Manhattan. Luxury hotels, from the Gwen Hotel in Chicago to Le Méridien Denver Downtown, have pitched tents on their rooftop terraces.
What kind of activities are offered?
You’ll find the stuff you’d expect at a resort in the wild—hiking, fishing, biking, kayaking, rock climbing, and so on—plus spa services in many cases. Or you can simply relax on the porch of your tent.
Your excursions don’t have to be rustic. You can also find glamping sites near wineries or charming towns. Firelight Camps in Ithaca, N.Y. is in the state’s Finger Lakes wine region, for example, and one of AutoCamp’s three locations is in California’s Sonoma wine region.
How much does glamping cost?
Prices vary widely, from a few hundred dollars a night to four figures. “You can go glamping for $200 a night, but it will be a different experience than if you spend $1,000 a night,” says Romfo.
At the low end, your experience might be more rustic (no ensuite bathroom or heat, electricity, or air conditioning) and DIY (directions to local parks and restaurants rather than a menu of activities and on-site dining).
The most expensive glamping options are true all-inclusive resorts. During the summer high season at The Resort at Paws Up in Montana, for example, a one-bedroom tent goes for $900 to $1,300 per person, per night.
That price includes WiFi, transportation from the airport, three meals a day (and beer or wine), and recreational activities, from cross-country skiing and mountain biking to pony rides and disc golf.
How do I find a glamping destination?
Get ideas from our recent round-up of 10 ten top glamping retreats.
You can throw a wider net at specialty website like glamping.com and GlampingHub.com, where you can search by destination and accommodation. Even at Airbnb.com, your can search categories like “tents,” “yurts,” and “treehouses”
Before you book, scour review sites like TripAdvisor.com for tips from past guests. Maybe one campground is too noisy for your liking, or other guests have recommended the tents with the best view.