FALMOUTH, Mass. ‒ Retro-futuristic silver bullet Airstream campers are neatly lined up in small groves on a green hillock above Little Sippewissett Marsh in Cape Cod’s southwestern corner.
This is AutoCamp Cape Cod, opened in April in partnership with Boston-based developers Blue Flag Partners and the latest from California-based AutoCamp, a luxury Airstream glamping company, which began in 2013 in Santa Barbara, just before the glamping – that is, glamorous camping – trend took off.
“It was kind of an Airstream motel,” AutoCamp’s co-founder Ryan Miller says of the original camp. “The goal was to revolutionize outdoor lodging and have guests experience stylish modern Airstreams. Our business model is ‘great design meets the great outdoors’,” he announces.
In 2016, came a California wine country outpost, AutoCamp Russian River. Then, in 2019 the larger AutoCamp Yosemite opened, featuring a swimming pool and other expanded infrastructure. AutoCamp Joshua Tree will open by the end of the year.
The expansion will continue in 2022 with a site in New York’s Catskill Mountains and another near Zion National Park in Utah.
Glamping has never been so popular, benefiting from 2020’s pandemic shutdown as vacationers sought social-distancing-friendly accommodations.
► Need a social distancing-friendly vacation? This is the summer to try glamping
“We saw a huge uptick in demand and reservations following last year’s COVID reopening,” says Miller. “2020 was record-breaking in terms of revenue and we are on track to break records again this summer.”
Campsites across the US ramping up glamping
AutoCamp isn’t the only glamping company expanding across the U.S.
Bozeman, Montana-based Under Canvas has nine glamp tent sites across the country, each located near national parks and monuments, including new locations close to Maine’s Acadia National Forest and Utah’s Lake Powell and Grand Staircase.
One of the oldest glamping companies, French-founded Huttopia has four North American properties in addition to over three dozen European ones: the latest, Huttopia Adirondacks opened this spring and a Southern California camp near the Angeles National Forest is due to open in August.
Many traditional camp and RV sites are adding glamp tents and cabins and small family-run glamp sites are proliferating on the nationwide camping platform Tentrr.
While amenities and luxuries vary, the main attraction of glamping is sleeping in a real bed – and a very comfy one at that. And for the casual camper who doesn’t want to pack freeze-dried food, start a fire or cook on camp stove, the main lodge will usually offer a shop and/or a cafe. Some have local food trucks, too. And towns are never far away. Most glamp companies are dog-friendly and offer ADA compliant accommodations, too.
What sets AutoCamp apart are the Airstreams, which cause a lot of visual buzz, especially en masse in a camp site. Besides design, there is an added benefit: Most glamp tent sites are seasonal, but Airstreams are bookable year-round.
AutoCamp, which also offers luxury tents, cabins and add-on tents with two extra beds at some locations, calls their Airstreams “suites.”
Each custom-designed Airstream has a separate bedroom, sitting area and kitchenette and a bathroom with a large shower stall where a rain shower delivers piping hot water.
AutoCamp prefers to utilize local companies for food and beverages and Cape Cod’s decidedly non-camping-like bathrooms are stocked with Vermont’s fabulous, sustainable Ursa Major toiletries in large refillable containers, adding boutique hotel-level cosseting.
“The intention is to give a sense of luxury,” says Miller. “We have beautiful marble walk-in showers and Tempur-Pedic mattresses. But they’re still inspired by the spirit of vintage Airstreams.”
Each includes TV, A/C, heat, fridges and microwaves. Like all AutoCamp camps, each has a fire pit and outdoor seating.
AutoCamp Cape Cod’s mid-century modern-style Clubhouse’s lounge looks like that of a posh hotel, with plush couches stand on rugs on polished concrete flooring. Sliding floor-to-ceiling windows open up onto a patio and lawn and on to views over mature woodland to the marsh and Buzzard’s Bay.
The shop is stocked with everything from s’mores kits to all-natural sunscreen. For serious supplies though, you’ll need to pack it in yourself.
Because it’s still camping – glam or not.