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Not the camping type? Here's what you need to know about a glamping trip

The interior of a glamping tent.

The interior of a glamping tent.  Credit: Collective Retreats/Collective Retreats

On a damp night in Scotland a few years ago, I was standing around a fire pit keeping warm with Scotch and a few layers of clothing. Given the wind chill and drizzle, you wouldn't call it an ideal night for camping - but I was lucky to be "glamping" instead.

Glamping is camping's fancier offshoot. It's sleeping outdoors with upgrades that take the edge off of roughing it. My experience glamping involved a heated yurt with electrical outlets, sheepskin rug and a real bed (infinitely more comfortable than my recent bike camping trip), however experiences range in price and design. There are glamping pods, domes and tents. There are sites with swimming pools, restaurants and outdoor movie screenings.

Before the pandemic, glamping was already a travel trend on the rise, with experts predicting it would become a billion-dollar industry by 2024. Now with interest in outdoor vacations surging thanks to traditional summer travel plans canceled because of the pandemic, glamping companies are seeing an uptick in demand.

"We're seeing a lot of interest from small groups with everything that's gone on," said Josh Lesnick, president and COO of Collective Retreats, a luxury glamping company with locations in New York, Colorado, Texas and Montana. "We're seeing a tremendous pressure around weddings and elopements because the whole wedding market has been impacted."

At this time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still warning that "travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19," and case numbers are continuing to trend upward in the United States. Should you decide to take a glamping trip nonetheless, here's what to know before you go.

Find a glamping site that fits your budget

It's a common misconception that glamping has to be expensive. While it's true that glamping trips can cost as much as a 5-star vacation, you can also find options for about $100 a night.

That's because different companies cater to different glampers. The most expensive options come with luxury amenities (1,500 thread-count sheets, antler chandeliers) while ones on the low end cover just the basics (which still yield a more glam experience than your traditional camping setup).

Somewhere in between is Huttopia, a company founded in 1999 as an answer to high-end glamping.

"Glamping is a lot about luxury, it can have very high prices and may not be accessible for everyone," said Margaux Bossanne, the development and commercial manager for Huttopia, a glamping company with more than 50 sites worldwide. "[Huttopia is] not. It's for families and couples, we are very family friendly."

Keep in mind that if you don't already own camping gear, a glamping trip could ultimately be comparable in price to a standard camping trip by saving you money on expensive essentials.

For more budget glamping options, search sites such as Glamping.com, Hipcamp and Campspot, filtering for results lowest price first.

Pick a company taking pandemic precautions

While some glamping companies have decided to remain closed for the 2020 season to protect the safety and well-being of staff and guests during the pandemic, others have tweaked operations with coronavirus risks in mind.

For example, Hipcamp shows users if site owners have implemented the company's "COVID-19 Safety Standards" at their listing.

Collective Retreats consulted with health experts to create new cleaning procedures and implemented contactless check-in for guests, among other new pandemic efforts.

"We're even doing things such as six-foot long s'mores sticks," said Lesnick.

Huttopia developed its new coronavirus procedures with hygienists, doctors and consultants from SOCOTEC, a health and safety auditor. The company could reopen its pools by limiting the number of swimmers together at once. Specific rule changes depend on the Huttopia location, but guests are asked to wear masks when visiting common areas and restaurants.

Pack goodies, not gear

Glamping takes the grunt work out of camping. You're paying extra so you don't have to spend time untangling tent poles or rolling up sleeping bags.

Caleb Hartung, the CEO of Campspot, an online marketplace for glampsites and other outdoor accommodations, says glampers should pack like they would for a hotel stay. Hartung recommends bringing clothing suited for the outdoors, toiletries and groceries.

"The great thing about glamping is you will have a kitchen there, and you'll be able to bring your own food and make your own meals," Hartung said. "You'll have a fridge and all the comforts of home." Double check your glampsite's kitchen setup to plan your meals accordingly.

Outside of essentials like clothing and food, pack items to fill your downtime, like books, lawn games or sports gear.

Stay plugged in, if you'd like

If you're one of the many Americans who shifted to remote work during the pandemic, you may want to take that work on the road.

Glampsites have an advantage over camping if you're trying to stay connected while still enjoying nature, plus they have electricity so you can keep your devices charged throughout your stay.

Relying on your cellular data alone may be risky if you need internet access for work. Websites like GlampingHub and Campspot allow users to filter for accommodations with WiFi. Collective Retreats even has a work-from-tent package that features an internet connection worthy of Zoom calls and HD streaming.

Don't discount the elements

Nature is the same whether you're sleeping in a hand-me-down tent or a luxury canvas safari shelter.

"People need to remember that even if you're glamping, you're still outdoors," Bossanne said. "There's going to be some insects, there's going to be some small or large animals some days, and they have to be prepared for that."

Whether you're glamping or camping, pack the bare minimum of sunscreen, bug spray, closed toe shoes, plus pandemic safety staples including a cloth mask, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.

Lesnick warns that while a glampsite may be hot during the day, temperatures can drop in the evening. Pack layers, like wind and waterproof jackets, to protect against the unknown elements.

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