A Glamping Balancing Act

“What is this gramping about?” my father asks on our way to the Ridgeback Lodge on Kingston Peninsula in New Brunswick.

“Dad, it’s called glaaammping, “I pronounce loudly and slowly so that hopefully this time he’ll get it correct, “it’s luxury camping.”  I reply.

I’ve decided to take my parents on a road trip holiday in New Brunswick Canada. I booked us a night at Ridgeback Lodge, a glamping site on the scenic Kingston Peninsula.  My parents love the outdoors; they honeymooned camping on Pike’s Peak 55 year ago.  At 78 years old, I thought introducing them to glamping might be a good way for them to enjoy the outdoors and not have to put up a tent or sleep on the ground.  However, I hadn’t considered how hard it would be to add a new word to their vocabulary.

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Dad, This is Why it’s Called Glamping

It feels 5-star, complete with memory foam beds, 500 thread count sheets, a beautiful private view, comfortable chairs that you sink into, stacks of current magazines for your lazy viewing pleasure, and a personal hot tub.  Harpers Bazaar Singapore even includes it as one of their top 5-star travel experiences.  But look closely at the Ridgeback Lodge Dream Domes; you won’t find fancy soaps or shampoos, no room service, you’ll have to start your own fire to keep warm, and you’ll dine outside on a picnic table.  This isn’t a typical 5-star experience – it’s glamping.

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We arrived and met Christel and Robert, the architects of the Dream Domes, and immediately fell in love with their passion for these unique accommodations as well as their passion for the outdoors.  Christel explained that they tried to strike a balance between real camping and luxury.  The goal is to appreciate and intermix with nature, not view it from a distance.  They purposefully didn’t provide too much of a ‘hotel’ experience and wanted to keep it more like a true camping experience.  Therefore, you bring your own food with you to cook as there are no stores or restaurants nearby, and you eat outside on the picnic table. However, with all of the nice comfortable touches, it’s easy to get lulled into thinking this is a hotel experience – but it’s not.  There’s no WiFi and they don’t furnish a hair dryer or little shampoos – you must bring your own just as if you were camping.

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We reserved a dome (which only sleeps 2 people) and a cabin so that we all had a place to sleep.  Each dome is located in the forest away from the cabins and has it’s own private view surrounded by evergreen trees. The dome included a bathroom with shower, kitchenette, king sized bed, and a couple of lounge chairs.

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Dome Design

We settled into our new glamping surroundings and my mom and I decided to share the dome, while my dad was happy in the cabin.  The dome’s interior design was a modern twist to cabin living.  The décor of the ‘living area’ was designed in taupe and muted gray colors so that it didn’t overshadow the real décor – a giant spherical picture window looking out onto the green forest.  The window was a perfect way to showcase Mother Nature’s masterpiece.  The lamps and light fixtures were sleek stainless steel, which blended with the octagonal bars of the dome.  There were two Scandinavian looking chairs to sit back and relax with a stack of current magazines to suit anyone’s taste.  Big fuzzy blankets abound making the whole dome ooze comfort.

The one solid wall that created the divider for the bathroom, living area, and kitchen was a simple nod to rustic cabin life.  The wall, which also formed the ‘headboard’ for the bed, was made of unfinished wood planks.  The kind you would use for the walls of a cabin.  As perfect and impeccable as the rest of the dome was, the wood planks were uneven, rough, and raw.  I loved the juxtaposition of the unfinished cabin wall among the slick, sleek, modern dome.  The living area also contained a wood stove for cold winter days and nights.

The small, bright kitchen was simple yet modern – and it has everything you would need for basic cooking.  The colorful Tomodachi knife set was the only real splash of color in the whole dome.  The stove top was an induction unit providing energy efficient cooking without creating a lot of extra heat in the little dome.  However, if you prefer the real camping experience, a small outdoor grill was also provided with each dome. There was not a real dining area inside the dome, which encouraged you to sit outside at the picnic table mimicking a typical camping experience.

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A Hot Tub Fired by Nature

Christel took us out back to show us how to use our dome’s personal hot tub.  The little Japanese style wooden tub is not only really cool, but it’s also a giant science project!  As she explained how the wood fired hot tub worked it made me delve back into scientific principles that I had long shelved in the back of my brain.  Water temperatures, rising, falling, air flow – yikes!  The system is similar to a boiler system; the ‘furnace’ has a water jacket and heats up and forces out the hot water back into the tub.

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“You have one chance, don’t overshoot it, else you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to use it.” she instructed as she talked about how to get the temperature just right with the wood fire.

I looked at my dad and said, ”This is your job.”  My father is the fire starter and maintainer – not me.  My dad was never really a water person so he was much happier building the fire rather than sitting in the hot tub.  My mom and I instead enjoyed his fire building work while we soaked in our hot tub among the trees.  Sure, the hot tub required a little work, but it was totally worth it. And the wood fire stayed true to the camping theme.

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No Sleeping Bags Required

Normally camping means a poor nights sleep for me, but not in the dome.  We woke up the next morning to  “pitter patter, pitter patter”  – it was lightly raining outside.  Surprisingly there was not a feeling of dread that you normally have when you realize it’s raining and you are camping out in the forest.  Instead, I felt happy to be in a beautiful tented dome among the pine trees in New Brunswick Canada.  Rain while glamping is soothing.

My mother declared, “That was the nicest bed I’ve ever slept in!”   And I had to agree with her.  The sheets were like silk, and the mattress like a cloud you slowly sink into.  It’s such a good mattress you don’t even notice there’s another person in bed with you!  As the other person moves there is not a single reverberation of movement on my side of the mattress.  This was sleeping heaven.

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Celebrate The Outdoors

The Ridgeback Lodge property is full of options for the outdoor lover.  You can hike up to the pond and go swimming or have a picnic, rent a canoe on the Kingston Creek, hike the trails on the property or venture out onto the Kingston Peninsula for more hiking.  At night you can keep your camping experience going with a bonfire – don’t forget to bring your own marshmallows!

However I was pretty happy just watching the rain droplets roll down the dome’s window. I wrapped myself in a little blanket reading a magazine while my parents putzed around.  “I like this gramping, do you think they have this in the US?” my mom asked.

I sighed, rolled my eyes, and decided to give up with the vocabulary lessons.  “Yes mom, they have glamping in the US, you should try it there too!” I replied.

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So I clearly wasn’t the only one who fell in love with the domes, my parents are now gramping fans. And I have now decided that ‘gramping’ is the senior citizen version of glamping.  Maybe I should start a website I muse to myself.

Christel and Robert don’t care what you call it – glamping, gramping, or 5-star – the main thing is that you still get close to nature as if you were camping.  They managed to create an environment that was spot on – the right balance of camping to glamour.

Sherry Ott

Sherry Ott is a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer with one goal in mind – to make you wish you were somewhere else.  She seeks out epic adventures to intriguing places and writes about her around the world adventures on Ottsworld.com. You can also follow her live travels on Instagram and Twitter.

Sleeping in the Trees at Glacier Under Canvas

“Mom, can I sleep in the treehouse tonight?”

Remember building a treehouse in the backyard with your dad? Did you dream of spending the night up in the tree watching stars twinkle through the leafy canopy? Whether your parent’s said yes or no to that request, the dream can come true again at Glacier Under Canvas.

Located in West Glacier, Montana, about an eight-minute car ride from spectacular Glacier National Park, Glacier Under Canvas offers an assortment of glamping choices, including treehouse accommodations. It’s an especially good choice for those flying into the area who would like to experience camping but can’t bring outdoor gear with them on the plane.

But this treehouse is not like the one in the backyard of the family home. It’s more like a luxurious tent in the trees with lots of comfy touches. You did grow up with housekeeping service, right?

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A wide, wooden staircase provides easy (and safe) access into the trees where a wooden platform with canvas walls and roof is home to your Glacier National Park adventures. From the king size bed, you’ll watch those stars playing peak-a-boo through the leafy canopy. And, when nature calls, there’s no walking down a perilous ladder in the dark of the night, because a toilet is located behind a canvas door flap in the treehouse.

Is spending the night in a treehouse dark and cold? That might have been the case in your childhood backyard but at Glacier Under Canvas, the treehouse has a woodstove for warmth and lanterns for light. And rather than the “no girl’s allowed” sign, your motto is “no bears allowed,” so leave the food in the car.

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Wake up to the smell of coffee brewing in the concierge tent, there’s tea as well. After a shower in one of the bathhouse’s private bathrooms—hot running water, flushing toilets and spa products included—you’ll be saying, “Now this is camping as it should be.”

Although meal service isn’t available at Glacier Under Canvas, a hot breakfast is just a couple of miles away. But before leaving camp, don’t forget to pick up the devices that the concierge staff charged up for you overnight.

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After breakfast, get ready for the day of adventure that the concierge team arranged just for you. Perhaps you’ll spend the morning hiking one of 700 trails in Glacier National Park or driving Going to the Sun Road up to Logan Pass and beyond. Or maybe you’d rather go horseback riding or whitewater rafting. And then there’s biking and even golf.

When the day ends, share adventures around the communal firepit with guests from around the world. After saying goodnight, return to the treehouse along solar-lit paths. Once you’re under the covers, claim a personal view of the Milky Way before slipping into a restful sleep that only an active day in the outdoors provides.

And this time, you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to sleep in the trees.

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If you go:

Glacier Under Canvas is open from June 19 to September 25

Bedding can be provided for 2 extra people at an additional cost

Pets are allowed at $25 per pet

 

7 Safety Tips for Traveling Abroad

When planning our trip around the world, people often asked us, “Aren’t you concerned for your safety?” We’ll admit we had some trepidation but after traveling through 33 countries across six continents, we know the world is a pretty safe place when you take the right precautions. In 675 continuous days on the road we were never robbed or even threatened, and that’s not luck. While we don’t have the geopolitical status on every Glamping destination, we can tell you that these seven tips helped us stay safe in every country we visited.

 

1. Research and Register with Travel.State.Gov. Cross-reference your desired Glamping destinations on Travel.State.gov for warnings and a slew of useful travel info. For extra peace of mind, you can join their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to get safety updates and be on file at the nearest U.S. embassy in the event of an emergency.

2. Talk to Travelers. Talk to your Facebook community and visit country-specific travel forums like Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree or Fodor’s Travel Talks to get reviews and advice from people who have personally traveled to your future destination.

3. Get Adventure Travel Insurance. For around $50 a week you can pick up travel insurance that will cover emergency medical, missing baggage, trip cancellation costs, and nearly every possible Glamping activity—from ziplining to dog sledding. We recommend World Nomads for their extensive coverage and great customer service.

4. Pack and Dress Modestly. The fewer flashy items you wear or carry, the less of a target you’ll be. As for electronics, it’s fine to bring a smart phone or SLR camera, just be mindful about when you use them in public (ie. not in crowded areas, rougher neighborhoods, etc).

5. Create a Safe Wallet System. Carry a simple wallet or “throw-away wallet” with enough money for the day in local currency, one twenty dollar bill, and one credit card. When you need to make a big purchase or you are going to the ATM, wear a hidden wallet like Eagle Creek’s Undercover Hidden Pocket that attaches to your belt and flips inside your pants. In the rare event you are robbed, much less will be at stake with this system.

6. Learn a Few Words in the Local Language. Even though English will get you by in most places, speaking a bit of the local language will do wonders for good will. Key words to learn: Hello, Please, Thank you, No Thank You and Delicious (this one is sure to bring a smile to every meal on your trip!)

7. Get a Local SIM Card. A phone plan for making local calls is a useful tool and great piece of mind for independence, making last minute changes, or in the event of emergency.

Our overall take away from our HoneyTrek is be confident and, even more importantly, be friendly. If you go into a situation with a smile, people are more likely to be kind to you and there is nothing better than that for a safe and memorable journey.

 

Anne and Mike Howard are creators of the around-the-world honeymoon blog HoneyTrek.com and Trip Coaches for those looking to travel the world safely, affordably and off the beaten path. You can follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @HoneyTrek.

Anne & Mike Howard

Mike and Anne Howard left on their honeymoon in 2012 and have been traveling the world ever since. HoneyTrek.com chronicles their adventures across 7 continents, 44 countries, and counting! Their writing, photography, and the story of the “World’s Longest Honeymoon” can also be found on Condé Nast Traveler, BBC Travel, The Knot, Los Angeles Times, CBS, and dozens of other international publications. Connect with @HoneyTrek on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.