Camping or glamping? You can do both, but lifelong camper Carolyn Wilkinson recommends glamping. And all it took to convince her was a first glamping (glamorous camping) experience with her three grandchildren last July.
"It's so luxurious; so comfortable," the 72-year-old Calgary woman said of the backyard experience, which came courtesy of Natalie Gomersall of Lavish Canvas Glamping. The setup included a canvas tent with carpet, whimsical chandelier, furniture, and a real bed, so there was no frustration trying to find a comfortable spot to sleep on the hard ground. "The only downside was the grandchildren were so excited it was still 'party time' at bedtime."
Wilkinson is one of a growing number of people enjoying the fun part of camping without all the work.
Living in a pandemic is hard enough, Gomersall says, so getting away from it all in nature should be easy. She says millennials--25-to 40-year-olds--are driving the demand for luxury camping vacations which include everything from fancy tents to quaint cottages.
But RV rentals are up too. Sheldon Melenius, service parts manager at CanaDream RV Rentals & Sales in Acheson, says the most popular RVs sleep six and rent for about $2,100 a week in high season. "Most of our customers come from Europe, but because of COVID-19 restrictions, a lot more locals are renting," he said. "They're happy to get out of the house."
Vacation spot all over the world often include glamping options, according to Olivia Grafton, public relations executive with glampinghub.com. The European company specializes in outdoor luxury accommodations in 121 different countries, including Canada. The appeal is a "perfect blend of hotel quality comfort in nature. This year, people are falling in love with treehouses, geodomes and tiny homes. Glamping has grown to encompass everything unique and outdoors," she said.
But it's not cheap. Nightly rentals can range from $100 for a tent to $1,000 or more for a villa or private island. "At the moment, people are looking for an escape from reality."
Edmonton's Marion Pilz, 38, and her three-year-old daughter Leni recently "escaped" to a remote island on the North Saskatchewan River, not far from home. The $150 per person cost includes a jet boat ride to and from the site, a night in a geodome (with queen-sized bed), a chef-created campfire dinner and breakfast, a s'mores snack and coffee.
"It's perfect. You don't have to pack anything--no tent or sleeping bag--it's just easy-peasy," she said. "And it's more remote than some campgrounds where you're almost on top of your neighbors. This was really magical."
Steve Capp, founder of Urban River Adventures, is offering this glamping experience for the first time. While paddling from Devon to Hawrelak Park several years ago, Capp said he found a series of islands and "ever since, I thought we need to get people out there; to realize the beautiful river valley system we have in our own backyard."
Capp's five domes or yurts are booked until September, with some availability that month and in October. There are also three tree tents for rent for those that want another type of adventure.
"People want to celebrate a birthday or anniversary in a unique way and do something cool," said Capp, adding glamping gives those who've never camped, or who don't like 'roughing it' an easy, comfortable way to experience the great outdoors. "Grandparents are buying experiences for themselves, their children and their grandchildren."
"You don't have to go to an exotic locale to glamp. As long as you're enjoying some downtime outside the city, it's the perfect staycation."
Glamping around Alberta
Alberta Parks (albertaparks.ca) offers comfort camping in eight provincial parks including Miquelon Lake and Pigeon Lake. Options include huts, cabins, walled tents, yurts and tipis.
Visit Travel Alberta (travelalberta.com) for more about glamping at national parks including Waterton Lakes and Elk Island.