When it comes to campers, it’s hard to imagine a more iconic option than an Airstream. After all, the aerodynamic, polished aluminum caravans produced by America’s oldest travel trailer manufacturer have been crisscrossing the continent for nearly a century.
But did you know that Wally Byam, the founder of Airstream, also essentially established the glamping industry? Wally and his wife, Marion, were outdoorsy people who loved camping. But while she enjoyed going for hikes and cooking over a campfire, Mrs. Byam wasn’t fond of sleeping on the ground in a tent. Knowing that a happy wife makes for a happy life, Wally put on his thinking cap.
After scrapping a tent contraption constructed over a Model T chassis, Mr. Byam designed a towable teardrop-shaped shelter. Then he added a stove and ice chest for good measure. Not only did he delight the missus, but I consider him to be the Henry Ford of the recreational vehicle industry.
Fun Fact: When the Apollo 11 astronauts returned to Earth after their historic trip to the moon, they were quarantined in an Airstream aboard the USS Hornet.
Note: A big thank you to the Treetopia Airstream Hotel in Catskill, New York, for hosting my stay in their amazing RV resort. All opinions are my own.
What Is Glamping?
Glamping pairs all of the creature comforts of home — like indoor plumbing, hot water, electricity, air conditioning, and even cable television — with the peace and quiet of camping. Instead of using pit toilets, boiling drinking water, pitching a tent, and trying to get a good night’s sleep on the hard ground, glampers travel like sophisticated snails, pulling or driving their RVs where the wind blows them, enjoying indoor plumbing and sleeping soundly in a real bed while surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature.
If you’re like me (and Marion Byam) and love the great outdoors but aren’t keen on sleeping on the floor of a tent, then glamping might be perfect for you. And here’s why glamping at an Airstream hotel is the perfect experience for first-timers.
1. Try Before You Buy
With an all-time-high production of more than 600,000 new RV units in 2021 and more than 65 million Americans planning an RV vacation this year, RV travel experiences are certainly popular. But while many people crave the opportunity to unplug from their everyday lives and connect with nature (without giving up creature comforts like Wi-Fi, television, and flush toilets), RV travel is not for everyone.
One advantage of glamping at an Airstream hotel is that it can help prevent buyer’s remorse. Before you drop $50,000 to $165,000 on a rig and another $30,000 to $50,000 on a vehicle big enough to haul it, stay at an Airstream resort. This trial will help you determine if glamping in an RV is right for you.
Pro Tip: Here are five reasons you should rent an RV before buying one.
2. There Is Little Preparation Needed
The typical glamping experience requires you to fill the water and gas tanks, cool the fridge, and make the bed with fresh linens. But when you spend the night at an Airstream resort, it’s not much different than staying at a hotel. You simply check in as you would at any traditional hotel, get your key, and head to your “room.” There’s no additional preparation needed, but you’re spending the night at a super cool hotel surrounded by nature!
3. No Towing Required
Whether you own or rent an Airstream, you typically have to haul it to your destination. That means your Airstream adventure requires owning or renting a vehicle large enough to pull your home away from home behind you. Most glampers choose a full-size SUV, a crossover SUV, or a pickup truck.
If you’ve spent most of your adult life driving a sedan, minivan, or SUV, pulling a 30-foot-long trailer might take a bit of practice. You’ll have to master highway lane changes like a professional semi-truck driver and make turns in town without clipping the curb. You’ll also need to navigate your rig in and out of gas stations without taking out a pump. And you’ll need to perfect backing the beast into a campsite close enough to the utility boxes and sewer drain so that your cables and hoses reach the hookups.
But when you rent a “room” at an Airstream resort, everything is in place and ready to go!
4. Save On Gas
With traditional Airstream glamping, you’ll also need to consider the cost of gas. At $4/gallon, it costs about $100 to fill the tank of a Ford F-150 pickup truck. And at approximately 10 miles per gallon when towing an Airstream, each tank will only get you about 250 miles toward your glamping destination.
When you glamp at an Airstream resort, the only gas you are responsible for is your personal vehicle. (And if you already drive a Ford F-150 pickup, you’ll get much better gas mileage not towing a trailer!)
5. You Don’t Have To Set Anything Up
If you glamp with your own Airstream, you have to set up camp. After you properly position your Airstream in a camping slot, ensuring it is level, you have to connect it to electric, water, and sewer hookups.
But when you glamp at an Airstream resort, you’re ready to go. The electricity, potable water, and toilet are already set up and ready for you. Simply park your regular vehicle next to your “room” at the Airstream hotel, and start enjoying the comfortable “glamp” surrounded by nature.
Pro Tip: Be sure to ask about bedding, blankets, pillows, and towels when you book your accommodations at an Airstream resort. Some will provide all of those items for you while others will expect you to bring all or some of them with you.
6. …Or Tear Anything Down
And when it’s time to leave your comfortable “tent” and head home, there’s nothing to pack up, empty, or tear down. Leave the outdoor kitchen and sitting area as you found them. Don’t worry about emptying the black and grey tanks, securely storing everything, or hooking the rig back up to your vehicle before heading to your next destination. With this glamping experience, simply pack up your personal belongings and drive away with amazing memories.
7. Airstream Hotels Often Come With Amazing Extras
When you purchase an Airstream, you drive off with an amazing silver bullet of a portable home away from home. But when you stay at an Airstream hotel, your rental often comes with additional modern amenities.
The beautiful Airstream Bambi I stayed in at the Treetopia Airstream Hotel in Upstate New York was more than an adorable camper. It was connected to a deck that was divided into three sections. At the far end was an outdoor grill station with a propane-powered grill that was all ready to go. In the middle was a long, rectangular high-top table with bar stools. And toward the front end of the Airstream, near the tow hitch, was a comfortable outdoor seating area and fire pit.
8. There Are Lots Of Options From Coast To Coast
My inaugural Airstream resort experience was at Treetopia Campground in Catskill, New York. Located on the left bank of the Hudson River, about 15 minutes from the Olana State Historic Site and about 25 minutes from the scenic hiking trails of the Kaaterskill Wild Forest, Treetopia is one of the best glamping spots in Upstate New York.
The standard Airstream hotel experience is 200 square feet of space with a full bathroom and kitchen. And the unit is anchored to a wooden deck that includes an outdoor grill, high-top picnic table, seating area, and fire pit.
Want a larger rig? You can super-size your experience at Treetopia by booking the jumbo Airstream accommodation that features a separate master bedroom with a comfortable queen-size bed at the front of the rig.
You can also find other Airstream trailer hotels across the United States, including resorts that feature vintage Airstream rigs, from the sunny Atlantic beaches of Cape Cod to the iconic scenery of Yosemite National Park.
If you dream of the type of adventure offered only by a trip in a recreational vehicle, glamping at an Airstream resort is the perfect first experience for newbies.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about Airstream’s heritage, referenced in the first paragraph of this article, here.