If the words “vacation” and “camping” don’t go together in your mind, you’re not alone. Sleeping in the great outdoors has traditionally meant roughing it: battling mosquitoes by night in a sleeping bag wedged into a cramped tent, with only a tepid cup of instant coffee to look forward to in the morning.
Not so relaxing.
But if the last time you went camping was on that sophomore-class trip, you’re in for a surprise: Camping has gone way upscale, so much so that it’s earned a new moniker, glamping.
Across the country, there are places to sleep al fresco without giving up running water, a hot shower or even WiFi. Here are the essentials you need to commune with nature in comfort and style, no matter your budget, destination or even the time of year.
Choose Your Destination
Whether you’re looking for a hiking adventure; some sea, sand and salt; or a more exotic getaway, these locales are worth considering:
Texas Hill Country
From a collection of eco-cabins clustered around a yoga pavilion to lakeside rustic cottages complete with hot tubs, Texas Hill Country offers a wealth of options, says David Troya, founder of Glamping Hub. Plus, it’s a great destination for novice hikers, since the terrain is relatively flat (despite the name).
Who hasn’t dreamed of doing the iconic drive from San Francisco to L.A.? And with year-round good weather, many campsites along this route stay open 12 months a year. Outside of Big Sur, you can opt for a tricked-out vintage camper for a night or wend your way south to swanky Santa Barbara to sleep in the yurt of your choice.
Why spend big bucks at a hotel when you can take in the beauty of the islands from a more natural home base? In-the-know travelers recommend the variety of tree house hotels overlooking Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island.
Throw in a Few Eco-Chic Accommodations
The camping experience has changed dramatically in recent years, says Mike Gast, vice president of communications for Kampgrounds of America, Inc. (KOA). Most spots now offer WiFi, great recreational amenities and deluxe patios. But if you truly want to amp up the luxury factor, consider adding one of these options to your itinerary:
The Resort at Paws Up, Greenough, Mont.
Set on 37,000 acres that overlap part of the original Lewis & Clark trail, Paws Up spans rolling grasslands, icy rivers and deep green forests for strolling, river rafting, fly-fishing, even riding in a cattle drive. At night, you’ll bed down in classic safari tents with electricity, AC and heat; plus each guest has access to a personal butler who will bring fresh-baked cookies (or any other treat) in case you’re feeling peckish.
Dunton River Camp, Cresto Ranch, Colo.
The eight 640-square-foot tents nestled in the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado are luxe, it’s true; each comes with its own bathroom and a pair of mountain bikes, plus AC, heat and WiFi. But the unique setting—the resort is set in a former mining camp—means that guests also get a taste of the area’s authentic Wild West history.
Moose Meadow Lodge, Waterbury, Vt.
Choose to stay in a log cabin or step it up—in a two-story tree house with a wraparound deck that allows for a panoramic view of the Green Mountains. Besides miles of hiking trails, the 86-acre property also offers access to a trout pond, hot tub and hammocks, of course.
Add a Few Upscale Touches on Your Own
If shelling out big bucks on a resort isn’t your style, you can DIY with these high-end hacks:
Mix Up the Menu
Who says meals around the campfire must consist of 5-minute noodle dishes? Consider grilled chicken (bring a premixed marinade in a freezer bag to enhance the flavor quotient). For dessert, go with s’mores, but sub in chocolate with a little pizzazz (think dark chocolate spiced with chilies).
Sleep Like a Dream
Swap a boring bedroll for an inflatable lounge chair that doubles as a bed by night. Experts swear by the stylish Fatboy line of outdoor furniture, which includes a bed for your pooch.
See the Light
Flashlights are fine, but glamping mavens recommend the collapsible solar lights by Luci, which are lightweight and packable, and provide up to 12 hours of light.
Find the Stars
“Get a good ‘night sky’ app,” says Gast, “and one that helps kids learn to identify birds, bugs and leaves while they experience the outdoors.”
No matter your destination, before you take your RV on the road, get a fast, free quote on RV insurance through GEICO.
By Celia Shatzman
Read more: 5 unconventional (and epic) camping trips