Love the rugged outdoor photos friends post from their camping trips, but hate the idea of camping with the family in the cold or rain or having to pitch your own tent? Here’s why glamping might just be the getaway you’ve been looking for:
This summer I went to a KOA in Western Pennsylvania (KOA has locations nationwide) including one in South Jersey) and the campground had a variety of camping options to suit your family’s needs. There are traditional campsites, RV sites (these were super full when I went), cabins and a few new glamping tents.
I was tempted to choose a cabin for my forest adventure as it was equipped with running water, electricity and indoor plumbing, but I personally wanted a bit of that real camping experience. I chose a glamping tent instead. Before this trip I had never really enjoyed my camping adventures, but this one was magical for so many reasons. While not every glamping tent is exactly the same (each KOA works slightly differently), the experience will be somewhat similar. Here are a few things you should know before booking your adventure.
You don’t have to own a tent. Glamping tents are permanent structures that are very sturdy. The one I stayed in had a large metal frame inside that supported the tent walls and was built on top of a raised platform.
There is no plumbing, but there is heating and air conditioning! Unless you’re very lucky, most glamping tents don’t have plumbing, but they often have air conditioners and space heaters, meaning in the middle of the hot summer, or the crisp early fall in November, and in the early spring, you can stay comfortably in your temperature-controlled oasis.
You don’t have to worry about sleeping on the floor or spending time fighting with an air mattress. Since these tents are built on elevated platforms, you don’t have to worry about a rock poking your back all night. And they have beds. Real beds inside. Some require you to bring your own bedding, and other locations will provide your bedding, but the bed and mattress are a nice and comfortable way to enjoy the outdoors. So leave that air mattress and pump at home. The tent I stayed in had one large bed, but the adjacent glamping site was a larger tent, almost twice the size with more sleeping space for a larger family.
You have electricity. You may have to walk a few yards to a communal bathroom (the KOA I stayed at was nice and had showers) but if the kids struggle with the idea of pulling the plug all the way, or you want to be able to watch a movie, there are sockets to charge your devices and the like. That means there are also lamps and lights inside and you don’t have to worry about flashlights in the dark.
You can still roast marshmallows. The glamp site I stayed at was stocked with almost everything I needed to prepare food without having to own a small portable Coleman stove and propane. I had an electric grill on site so I could make my own dinner, and I also had my own personal fire pit. Wood was available from reception so I didn’t have to worry about finding it myself. The camp store had pretty much everything I forgot, at reasonable prices. I found everything from food to lighters to other convenience items.
There are not many bugs. This is a game changer! If you go outside, into the woods, it’s fair game to the mosquitoes, but the glamping tent had a mesh screen that was sturdy and really kept the bugs out where they belong.
There is more to do than just sitting in the woods. The KOA I went to had a pool (and most have that too) and some games for the kids to play, a playground, and an area to watch movies on the weekends. Each KOA has different activities, but there are always entertainment options to choose from.
You don’t have to pack that much. All you need are clothes, bedding (if needed), food, a lighter or matches, bug spray (for when you’re outside), camping chairs for around the fire pit and toiletries and you’re set. This is a much shorter packing list than going on a traditional tent camping trip that requires all the gear.
There’s wifi… and sometimes even delivery. The KOA campgrounds pride themselves on having campgrounds that are accessible to many activities and things to do. So while you’re relaxing in the woods, you’re not that far from civilization. The place where I was was within driving distance of shops and restaurants meaning I could even have pizza delivered to reception (which was just a short walk from my tent). And it meant that while embracing the outdoors, I could still post beautiful photos to Instagram, be accessible if anyone wanted to contact me, and watch Netflix.
It looks like cheating. I definitely had some laughs from friends who decided this wasn’t real camping. But as I sat by my cozy fire pit under the full moon, enjoying the sounds of crickets and the smell of fire, before stepping back into my nice, dry tent when it started to rain, I didn’t really care what anyone thought. .
If you want to try glamping this fall, KOA will book trips in most locations in October and November. Or you can plan ahead for next year. The KOA I stayed at was not far from Pittsburgh, making it a great place to do some local fun. The camping shop staff will be happy to help you find things to do in the area where you want to stay. KOA also has several campgrounds in the Poconos. While not all locations have glamping tents, they do offer larger family cabins where you can still have some outdoor family fun without having to camp in tents.