Do you like to camp? Do you enjoy the great outdoors, or do you prefer a luxury hotel? If it’s too hard to choose, you can simply combine them. A sense of adventure awaits the intrepid glamper these days.
My idea of the perfect camping experience is for someone else to set up all the equipment, cook, serve, and clean up after the meals, have a nice warm bed in which to retreat and enjoy a nice bottle of wine or olive in my martini. If this sounds attractive to you, enter glamping for the mature traveler.
Before I get into my wholly unique recent glamping experience, I’ll answer a couple of questions.
Note: While I was hosted for some of my glamping experience in Williams, all opinions are mine.
Have You Ever Been Camping?
Purists say that you must rough it to get the whole camping experience. While I do enjoy a s’more roasted over an open fire now and then (actually, I like the chocolate bar inside), the thought of lying on the ground in a sleeping bag is not appealing to me. Not fond of tent set up, mats, or blow-up mattresses; I don’t own camping gear, per se. I do, however, want to be as close to the stars as possible. Hence, glamping.
What Is Glamping?
Glamping has been around for ages. A combination of “glamorous” and “camping,” luxury camping is a trend that has taken hold during the pandemic. Think African safaris with luxurious tents awaiting the explorers to return and workers to respond to every whim.
Comfort determines the level of glamping. How much comfort are you willing to live without on your outdoor adventure?
If you prefer a luxury hotel and resort amenities yet want to experience the great outdoors, glamping might be the best blend of camping and lux for you. Separate space, yet the comforts of home with your alfresco dining makes for a great combination.
Where Can I Glamp?
During the pandemic, road trips became even more attractive to travelers. RV ownership and camping are luring more participants, and our national parks offer appealing destinations. With 63 national parks, 85 national monuments, and 18 national recreation areas in the United States, the National Park Service is a great place to start your search.
You can find places to glamp throughout the world at GlampingHub, where you input your destination and see what is available. You’ll get some great destination ideas here at TravelAwaits, too.
Now, onto glamping … in a covered wagon.
Reason 1: It’s Why I Glamp
When I go solo camping (or, really, a watered-down version of glamping) to Joshua Tree National Park, I have a cushy mattress pad and body pillow for sleeping in the back of my SUV. A cooler full of healthy food, a gallon or two of water, and my camera gear for night photography accompany me. I want to be close and accessible to the night sky and night photography for the Milky Way and create star trails. I want to feel the profound connection with nature that camping delivers like no other experience.
In the fall of 2021, I decided to step it up a notch and discovered glamping in a covered wagon. I was ready to try something new and be challenged.
Reason 2: A Unique Choice
Select from houses made of canvas, luxury treehouses, luxury tents, yurts, tipis, pods, safari tents, domes, cabooses, floating homes, and many other types of accommodations. Some are dedicated glamping-only destinations, and others offer compounds within their larger resorts. Most are pet friendly.
Because I like to stay in unique lodgings, I recently chose a covered wagon at the Williams / Exit 167 / Circle Pines KOA Holiday campground in Williams, Arizona. The wagons and tipis are in a group, yet not far from cabins and the restroom.
The Circle Pines KOA is an excellent place for multi-generation glamping travel. You can rent cabins, covered wagons, tipis, tent sites, pull-throughs, RVs big and small. The whole family can be comfortable here, or solo female travelers, such as myself.
Camping ambiance is accessible to novice campers or the inexperienced outdoor person when glamping at this KOA campground. Because of my lack of experience, I was at ease with the accommodations.
The covered wagon held a king-size bed and two sets of bunk beds. Sheets and blankets are provided, but be sure to bring your own towels.
The living is expected to be outdoors on the dining platform, in the Adirondack chairs, bench, and around the barbeque. Open floor space at the foot of the bed held a small refrigerator on one side of the bunk beds and fan, heater, and power supply on the other. There was just enough space for me to set up my swing camping chair.
Mother Nature can be chancy. I arrived at my covered wagon just as a thunderstorm was approaching and was protected for two hours as thunder crashed and lightning seared overhead. It was exciting because I was comfortable and dry inside the wagon.
An air conditioner over the wagon entry door would be welcome in the heat of summer.
- Select the wagon if you have the choice between a tipi or covered wagon. It sits high off the ground, which you will appreciate if it rains. Water makes its way inside the bottom of a tipi.
- You’ll still need bug repellant, sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses for the summer months.
Reason 3: Proximity To Attractions
Local adventures include horseback riding, hiking, biking, and ATV rental. The Deer Farm Petting Zoo is just down the road and is a memorable experience for adults and children.
After an entertaining cowboy show complete with bandits and western musicians, board the historic Grand Canyon Railway in Williams to visit the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon. The ever-changing view out your window from restored railcars is spellbinding.
Bearizona is another attraction close to this glamping destination. The drive-through and walk-through wildlife experiences are unique and educational.
- Trains run through Williams frequently, day and night. Be prepared for the train horn through the night.
- Covered wagons and tipis are not insulated. Bring warm clothing to layer.
- The outdoor dining area is unusable in inclement weather. Bring a folding chair to set up inside the wagon.
Reason 4: Amenities
My first experience with glamping in a covered wagon made me aware of the essential amenities for future glamping.
Weather is an important consideration. The time of year has a strong bearing on your comfort. Late September would be a great time to glamp at sea level. However, if you are at 7,000 feet of elevation, it’s colder than you might expect.
Keep in mind that a covered wagon is not insulated. It is simply canvas stretched over rods. While it was watertight, it was cold, and the nighttime temps were in the 40s. As I was sitting inside the covered wagon for two hours, waiting for the storm to abate, I was very thankful that it was dry.
Think of where you will sit in your lodging. Is the bed the only option? I always bring my small camping swing chair, suitable for watching the sky and stars. There was just enough space inside on the floor to set it up near the tiny heater.
Are there end tables or other surfaces on which to place your things? In the covered wagon, bedside shelves built into the side of the wagon are handy for glasses, reading materials, and alarm clock.
Stairs, outside and inside, are part of glamping in a covered wagon. It was nice to be five steps high off the ground. However, anyone without the ability to climb stairs would find it difficult to stay in a covered wagon.
The outdoor space had dedicated Adirondack chairs, a BBQ, and a large platform with a dining table and chairs. Seating is comfortably spaced between other wagons, allowing one to experience the outdoors in comfort.
My covered wagon was close to the well-maintained bathroom and shower facilities. The facilities were well-lit, clean, warm, and considerate of guest privacy.
Depending on your level of glamping, there may be no room service. In that case, be sure to bring your must-haves for comfort. For me, that would include coffee or tea for the morning and a healthy selection of adult beverages.
- The office where you check-in and out is co-located in the general store and is easy to find. They provide a guide in a golf cart to lead you to your assigned space and answer on-site questions. Security staff is on duty throughout the day and night and monitors the grounds.
- If you don’t bring your caffeine for your morning wake-up, you’ve got to go into town. There’s a great drive-through Brewed Awakenings Coffee Co. in downtown Williams. Office hours are from 9 a.m to 6 p.m.
Reason 5: On-Site Activities
Some of the complimentary camp activities at the Circle Pines KOA in Williams include Wi-Fi, go-carts, indoor pool, hot tubs, bike rentals, miniature golf, a game room, two playgrounds, and a gift shop with groceries and RV supplies, laundry facilities, and a pet playground.