Travel Tips

Luxury Camping With Kids: Family Glamping

Locations in this article:  Santa Barbara, CA

Glamping: Glamorous Camping For The Whole FamilyIf you want to “rough it” in the woods but can’t tolerate being away from a comfortable bed, clean bathroom and civilization, then consider glamping, a popular mash-up for glamorous camping. Margot Black shares her glamping experience, top destinations, and important tips to remember.

What’s the difference between glamping and camping? Indoor plumbing, that’s what. Glamping takes your hotel room and puts it in the middle of the woods. It’s a fantastic compromise for two adults who can’t agree on how to introduce their children to the delights of nature. Put it this way, my husband would love to disappear up a mountain and go all Grizzly Adams for a weekend, whereas I’m rather partial to mattresses, room service and personal hygiene.

Before setting off, our three-year-old son told his toddler class that he was going “Glamping, glamping, glamping.” At which point my macho husband corrected him, and said, ‘It’s camping!” before shooting me the evil eye.

First-Time Glampers

Located 20 miles north of Santa Barbara, El Capitan Canyon Resort, is one of the original glamping resorts.

First impressions of the lush woodlands are offset by warnings of rattlesnakes and poison oak, which is everywhere. Even on a visit to the restroom it’s impossible to avoid scary warning posters about poison oak.

Unfortunately, El Capitan Canyon’s Web site only mentions poison oak on bottom of the “The Nature of the Canyon” page.

Fortunately, the resort has treatment available everywhere. To be on the safe side, pack your own antihistamine and calamine lotion.

Like many glamping sites, the resort features a mix of safari tents, cabins and yurts.

Cabin at El Capitan ResortOn average, there’s around $100 difference between the safari tents and the cabins. Prices ranges from $155 to $295 a night. Translation: For non-outdoorsy types, it’s worth it to splurge on a bathroom, a mini-fridge and private hot shower.

With a drink in hand, we investigated all the activities designed for campers and non-campers alike. The camp store was ideal for planning a barbecue, complete with S’mores kits and firewood delivered by the resort staff.

There are many activities. El Capitan holds summer concerts, provides a shuttle service to the beach and there’s also a heated swimming pool and a playground, which is kiddie nirvana.

Short, docent-led trail hikes allow kids to pet the resort’s llama and goat population, while campers of all ages will enjoy spotting blue-jays, quail, deer, rabbits, poppies and wild mustard growing in the hills. Although, they don’t have kids’ bikes to lend, just adults – so make sure to bring your own.

Glamping Resorts

Glamping options range from the mid-range to the very high end.

For those with exceptionally deep pockets, two options are: The Clayoquot Wilderness Resort on Vancouver Island in the picturesque Clayoquot Sounds Biosphere, where cedar boardwalks connect the tents which boast antique dressers and composting toilet; and the Resort at Paws Up in Montana, which offers luxury canvas-walled tent camps complete with butler service and art on the walls, plus a spa, hot-air ballooning, horseback riding, fly-fishing, and a fine-dining pavilion.

Family Glamping Experiences Can Include Feeding GoatsThe Beach Haven Resort in Washington’s San Juan Islands would probably not label itself as a “glamp-site” but its accommodations are spectacular, with wooden cabins that overlook the beautiful northwest shore of the Orcas Islands. All the cabins are reasonably priced and are furnished with wood-burning stoves, central heating, full bathrooms and kitchens, while the glorious front decks have picnic tables and a BBQ. There’s a playground for kids, fishing, canoeing and nature trails, where you may be lucky enough to spot eagles, otters, deer, and racoons.

The high altitude and steep inclines of the Sequoia High Sierra Camp means that the views of this Californian national park, are memorable, but totally unsuitable for tiny children. However, adults and older teenagers can enjoy one of the 30 spacious canvas bungalows that feature oversized windows, daily maid service, plush-top beds and feather pillows, while the camp’s healthy cuisine is served al fresco in the relaxing dining pavilion.

Hiking is spectacular here, and you can order picnic lunch for your hike and consult one of the camp’s experts about the best trail for you and your family.

Glamping Tips

Building A Fire With Pa - photo by Margo BlackFind out how well-stocked the on-site store is and then bring what you need. Don’t overload the car, but you also don’t want to pay $20 for Cheerios and coffee. (In my case, the basics also include your own liquor, although El Capitan carries its own brand of wine called “Happy Camper”).

All the extra running around in nature is a beautiful thing to watch, but it also means an extra hungry kid. Bring extra snacks.

Remember to pack additional warm layers for the evening as well as hats for the days, as you will be outside a LOT. This may seem remedial but being from Southern California I wish we’d brought some warm hats as the nights can get chilly. Also, bug spray is a must.

Nicks and scuffs do occur in nature. Make it fun: Bring Spiderman Band-Aids so that you kids can wear their scrapes and bruises like a badge of honor.

Stock up on nature-loving toys such as telescopes, a magnifying glass, fishing rods and binoculars. Many places only hire out adult bikes, so if you’re going to go cycling as a family, bring your kids’ bikes, too.

You must toast marshmallows over an open fire. This is compulsory. Don’t skip it or you’ll fail Parenting 101.

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By Margot Black for Visit Margot on the Web at