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Glamping Brings Comforts to Conventional Camping

Susan Johnston

Gretchen Marks, 50, of Seattle, grew up camping in her family's backyard and later in New Jersey's High Point State Park and the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. She's learned to love the stillness of the outdoors and sitting around a campfire. Nowadays, though, she says, "I'm not so keen to sleep on the hard ground, but I love hearing the sounds of nature, seeing the night sky and having the feel and peace of the outdoors without the rocks under my sleeping bag." In glamping, a portmanteau of glamorous camping, she's found a balance between creature comforts like plumbing and electricity and the traditional camping experience of communing with nature.

Several years ago, Marks and her husband visited Rockwater Secret Cove Resort in Halfmoon Bay, British Columbia, and stayed in a tent house equipped with heated tile floors and an indoor jetted tub. Later this year, Marks plans to stay in a yurt (a circular tent used by nomads in parts of Turkey and Mongolia) at Cave B Estate Winery & Resort in Washington state.

Glamping provides an alternative to traditional hotels or campgrounds and can take travelers halfway around the world or allow them to explore the outdoors a short drive from home. Jennifer Schwartz, vice president of marketing for the Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds, says glamping offers "a variety of experiences that you weren't really aware of and don't need to travel far to experience."

[Read: The Best Places to Glamp.]

Ruben Martinez, co-founder of GlampingHub.com, which lets travelers book tree houses, tepees and other glamped out spaces around the world, points to British explorers embarking on safaris as an early example of glamping, long before the concept became trendy. He says the trend has picked up steam in the past two or three years. "People are looking for a different type of vacation," he says. "People love being outside, but for a lot of people the traditional camping just isn't for them. They want to be able to be comfortable."

Schwartz says she's increasingly seeing campgrounds and parks throughout the U.S. incorporate glamping accommodations for those who wouldn't necessarily choose conventional camping but want proximity to outdoor activities such as hiking, horseback riding or canoeing. "We see a lot of girls' weekends and family reunions," she says. "It's an easy way to get outside." Glamping is also becoming popular for corporate retreats with some companies.

[See: 11 Easy Ways to Slash Travel Costs.]

The price for a night of glamping varies widely, but in some cases, it can cost just as much (or more) than a typical hotel room. For instance, Glamping Hub features options such as a safari tent retreat and spa in Lamington National Park in Queensland, Australia, for $495 per night, a refurbished 1965 Boeing plane in a Costa Rican rain forest for $250 per night, a yurt in Oklahoma's Elephant Rock Nature Park for $120 per night or a bed on a renovated, stationary train in Mossel Bay, South Africa, for $20 per night. (Obviously, you get a very different experience depending on where you go and how much you're willing to spend.)

For travelers like Marks, though, glamping is well worth the cost. "True glamping is as expensive as a hotel room but more fun," she says, adding that she appreciates having space between her and the other guests.

Martinez says the seclusion and quiet afforded by glamping appeals to many travelers. "You have your own room, but then you have the surrounding area," he says. "If you're in a yurt or a tree house or canvas wall tent, you have a level of privacy you can't get in a regular hotel."

[Read: 13 Tips for Sniffing Out the Best Deals on Hotel Rooms.]

Glamping also means you don't have to buy tents, sleeping bags or an RV. Schwartz says this aspect attracts those who "want to get out and go but don't want to make the investment" in camping equipment.

And for those who haven't earned scout badges in outdoor skills, glamping avoids the potential frustration of starting a fire or setting up camp. "Everything is taken care of," Martinez says. "You don't have to worry about setting up the tent or eating burnt hot dogs."

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