Happy Glampers

Luxury adventure travel: more options for the pampered camper

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Tuck Fauntleroy

Urbanite Julie Heiner, from Atlanta, married a guy who loved rural Jackson Hole, Wyo., and dreamed of a family camping trip out West. "He's kind of this outdoorsy fellow who's definitely married to a city girl, and I think our three kids are citified too," she says. So instead of camping, they went glamping.

Glamping is short for glamorous camping. Why sleep on the ground with the snakes when you can opt for a real bed in your deluxe tent, yurt or treehouse? Glamping has been a feature of African safaris since Britain's colonial era. In modern times, hotels like Treetops in Kenya and tour companies like Abercrombie & Kent have brought increasing levels of luxe to the bush. But in a sort of reverse migration, glamping returned to England and then traveled to the great national parks of the U.S. in the past five years.

At Yorkshire's Swinton Park castle, for instance, guests can opt for pampering at the manse ($500 a night) or glamping in the estate's 20,000-acre woodlands. There are three bivouac options: a dormlike bunk ($29 a night), a four-person yurt ($174) or a "shack" that very comfortably sleeps seven ($242). "People want their children to enjoy the great outdoors--but in a secure place," says Felicity Cunliffe-Lister, whose family runs Swinton Park.

In the U.S., the trend is exemplified by Montana's Paws Up, one of the first and most luxurious glamping sites. It offers guests a butler and even a personal chef to attend their tents, which are kitted with plush beds, electricity, jet bathtubs, robes and slippers. When nature calls, nature won't be necessary: luxury bathrooms are provided. The cost for a four-person tent begins at $1,530 per day in peak season. Other hot glamps include Yellowstone Under Canvas, Sinya on Lone Man Creek in Texas and Normandy Farms in Massachusetts.

Heiner chose Yellowstone Under Canvas for her family's glamping adventure. It costs $89 to $289 for a four-person tent that is spacious enough to fit a king-size bed and a wood-burning stove. You won't have to hunt for food. "I felt kind of guilty with the amping in the word because it's hardly camping," says Heiner, laughing. "But it was great."