Glamping 101: What is “glamorous camping,” exactly?

For some, travel is about the adventure – the thrill of seeing new places, the draw of different foods, cultures and activities. Accommodations are simply a place to sleep – budgets are best spent on experiences. I am not one of those travelers.

While all travel experiences have a purpose – business, pleasure, relaxation, a show or specific attraction – all travel, at least for this writer, has the draw of a new home away from home.

Not every hotel or lodging experience can be, or should be expected to be, five-star. But if you’re going to get this writer out into the wilderness, there had better at least be hot water and a functional bathroom.

This explains how I first heard about the term “glamping,” or “glamorous camping.” It turns out, there was such a thing, and it didn’t involve an RV or high heels, Paris Hilton in The Simple Life-style.

Simply put, glamping is a term coined that encompasses outdoor wilderness experiences that are somewhere between a hotel and a traditional campsite. Sure, you’ll sleep in tents, tipis or yurts, but they often have real beds with plush mattresses and en-suite running water.

Although glamping has been derided by hardcore campers and snubbed by some luxury travelers who say they’d “never camp,” the idea has been embraced by many who see the eco-friendly benefits of camping and the budgetary advantages to mixing a traditionally free activity with a more luxe vacation.

Glamping can take place anywhere in the world – usually the more picturesque, the better. Campsites and lodges have opened around the world, usually in locations that have natural attractions to recommend them, including Africa, Australia, and my own recent experience, on the edge of Montana’s Blackfoot River in the newly-opened Pinnacle Camp at Paws Up Resort (shown above).
%Gallery-129797%Here, tents came complete with heated slate floors, towel and sheet warmers, Wi-Fi and a camping butler who served dishes like seared sirloin in Romanesco sauce and huckleberry French Toast. The only cooking I was doing involved roasting some s’mores over a fire (built by our handy butler) … but getting closer to the wilds of nature might not have been possible.

Just feet outside the tent, birds chattered, gophers and marmots frolicked, and fawns sprang around the pasture like overeager rabbits. An eagle soared overhead, trout jumped in the river below, and the air took on a crisp, still quality sweetened with meadow grasses and the fresh, clean smell of unpolluted air.

It may be luxe but it was still nature in its purest, finest form, respected by guests who spent evenings bonding around a campfire, swapping stories while their children ran and played below.

What does one do while glamping? The same thing they’d do while camping or at summer camp. In Africa, the activity of choice is often a safari, but at Paws Up, guests can choose from activities like cattle drives, clay shooting, nature hikes and fly fishing. The emphasis is on family togetherness (most all activities can be done by children 12 and over, and nearly all guests were families) and on learning experiences that take place in the outdoors. Guides for all activities focused equally on fun and education.

Despite the glamorous title, I still felt like I was camping … albeit a lot more comfortably. There wasn’t anything cheap about it – rates for camps start at $820 per night in peak season at Paws Up – but that rate did include airport transfers and three gourmet, multi-course meals for two adults daily.

Stay tuned … I’ll be bringing dispatches in the coming days about cattle driving, the best places for you to get your “glamp” on and more.

The author’s stay was provided courtesy of Paws Up Resort, but her opinions are solely her own.

Paws Up Resort Deal: Celebrate Glamping

The Resort at Paws Up has reason to celebrate. It’s celebrating its fifth birthday and the opening of its third luxury tented camp, and these milestones, of course, come with a reason for you to head out to Montana to check the place out for yourself. There’s a five-night, all-inclusive package for $2,413 a night that can’t be missed.

In addition to staying in a two-bedroom tent at the new Creekside Camp (for a family of four), you’ll have your choice of five wilderness activities, with a half-day activity per person per day for four days. The hot air balloon ride will take you high enough to see the entire 37,000 acre resort, and back on the ground, you’ll get to take one sporting clays lesson at the five-stand Shooting Club at Paws Up.

Logistically, there’s no reason to sweat: airport transportation and airport transfers are included. And, for $3,100 a night, you can upgrade to a 1,900-square foot Big Timber Home. This deal is available from July 1, 2010 through September 30, 2010.

Put your Paws Up for the holidays this year

While the rest of the world is trekking out to Rockefeller Center to see the tree or hanging around Times Square while waiting for the ball’s big drop, head the other way. “The Last Best Christmas Vacation” package from the Paws Up resort in Montana pulls together everything you’d want in a traditional winter holiday celebration … along with the luxurious touch that you’d expect at a remote, upscale and high-touch destination.

From December 22 – 29, 2009, you can hole up in one of the Paws Up villas, dash off on snowmobiles or push yourself along on cross-country skis, while the world continues its rush without dragging you along. As part of this six-day/five-night package, you’ll also be able to enjoy sleigh rides and an old-fashioned tree-trimming party. The basics are covered, too, such as breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, a half-day winter adventure, a decorated Christmas tree (and some egg nog, of course!), nightly ice skating and an open fire nearby. If you have some talent, take part in the Gingerbread house building contest … while wearing the Paws Up wrangler stockings you’ll be given.

Christmas Eve, of course, is when the magic will happen. A special menu will be put together in Pomp, the Paws Up restaurant, and the highlight of the party for the kids will be a special visit from Santa Claus.

So, put civilization behind you this December, and create a vacation experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Enjoy nature, and frolic in the snow … and eat, sleep and relax at a resort that will positively blow your mind.