I stayed in an Airstream converted for 'glamping' at a luxury campground near Yosemite, and it was better than any hotel I've stayed in

·11 min read
Selfie of Brittany Chang outside of the Airstream
Outside the Airstream.Brittany Chang/Insider
  • RVing and camping have become two big travel trends during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • AutoCamp — a luxury campground with converted Airstreams as suites — is the perfect mix of both.

  • I stayed at the AutoCamp Yosemite site in August and saw why the campground chain has boomed in popularity.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

It seems as if almost everyone I follow on social media decided to go camping or road-tripping during our COVID-plagued summer.

Autocamp Yosemite's Airstream suites by trees and walkways
AutoCamp Yosemite's Airstream suites.Brittany Chang/Insider

I was feeling a bit left out, so I decided to multitask and do both at the same time.

a light on top of books
The living room inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

At the height of the summer travel boom in August, I visited AutoCamp, a luxury campground chain, at its location near Yosemite National Park in California.

Autocamp Yosemite's Airstream suites by a walkway.
AutoCamp Yosemite's Airstream suites.Brittany Chang/Insider

But unlike most "glamping" sites that offer the conventional canvas tents or cute cabins, I stayed inside one of AutoCamp's Airstream trailers that had been converted into a hotel room.

a look down the hall with the kitchen, living room, and bathroom
The kitchen, living room, and bathroom inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

The experience was so enjoyable that I've recommended the chain's plush glamping quarters to all of my friends, including the avid campers who prefer slumbers in sleeping bags over mattresses.

The bedroom looking out into the kitchen
The bedroom looking out into the kitchen.Brittany Chang

Think of AutoCamp as the halfway point between RVing and camping.

Autocamp Yosemite's Airstream suites under shade and trees
AutoCamp Yosemite's Airstream suites.Brittany Chang/Insider

AutoCamp specializes in the accommodation I stayed in: Airstream trailers that have been converted into hotel suites with a bedroom, kitchenette, living room, and bathroom.

the exterior of the Airstream with a wagon of my bags
Outside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

The company used to convert old trailers. Now it uses custom trailers directly from Airstream, which also doubles as an AutoCamp investor, Tim McKeough reported for The New York Times.

a row of Autocamp Yosemite's Airstream suites
AutoCamp Yosemite's Airstream suites.Brittany Chang/Insider

Source: The New York Times

But if you're more interested in traditional glamping accommodations, the chain also has other options like tents and cabins.

a row of Autocamp Yosemite's tents
AutoCamp Yosemite's tents.Brittany Chang/Insider

AutoCamp has two locations in California — Yosemite National Park and the Russian River — and one on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

a row of Autocamp Yosemite's cabins
AutoCamp Yosemite's cabins.Brittany Chang/Insider

It has already announced plans to open three more locations: in the Catskill Mountains in New York and Zion National Park in Utah and Joshua Tree National Park in California.

close up of clubhouse near bushes and a walkway
AutoCamp Yosemite's clubhouse.Brittany Chang/Insider

Despite this planned expansion, the COVID-19 era has proved to be difficult for the AutoCamp business.

A seating area by one of the cabins under the shade
A seating area by one of the cabins.Brittany Chang/Insider

Last year, the Yosemite location had to close three times: twice because of COVID-19 and once because of an encroaching forest fire, Jason Brannan, a general manager at AutoCamp, told Insider.

Autocamp Yosemite's Airstream suites by trees and walkways
AutoCamp Yosemite's Airstream suites.Brittany Chang/Insider

But as RV sales and camping both continued to boom throughout the pandemic, so did the public's interest in AutoCamp.

Autocamp Yosemite's clubhouse with table decor
AutoCamp Yosemite's clubhouse.Brittany Chang/Insider

This year, the Yosemite site was closed in January and didn't reopen until February 1.

the refrigerator with drinks at Autocamp Yosemite's general store
AutoCamp Yosemite's general store.Brittany Chang/Insider

But by the end of the first quarter, AutoCamp had been "doing well enough as if it had been open the whole year, bouncing back even better than budgeted for," Brannan said.

Autocamp Yosemite's clubhouse with communal seating, stairs, and an indoor fire pit
AutoCamp Yosemite's clubhouse.Brittany Chang/Insider

During the months the Yosemite location has been able to stay open, the company has "exceeded expectations" despite challenges with staffing and lack of corporate group bookings, Brannan said.

a sink with toiletries and windows
The bathroom inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

"Now we're trying to keep up with how many guests there are," Brannan said. "We don't have enough suites to keep up with the pace of the reservations at some point."

outdoor seating under the sun
AutoCamp Yosemite's clubhouse.Brittany Chang/Insider

The Airstream trailer is AutoCamp's most iconic accommodation, but its cabins and tents are also often booked up.

parked Airstreams in a park
Outside the Airstreams.Brittany Chang

"People book AutoCamp because they want to come to AutoCamp, not because they need a place to stay," he said.

a pan of food cooking over a fire next to outdoor seats in front of the Airstream
Cooking outside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

Now let's take a tour around the Yosemite site and my Airstream suite to see how the chain has appealed to hordes of visitors.

the refrigerator with small meals at Autocamp Yosemite's general store
AutoCamp Yosemite's general store.Brittany Chang/Insider

Upon arrival, visitors can park their car and pick up their room key and a wagon. The latter replaces the need for a bellhop.

A wagon with my overnight bags besides stairs
A wagon with my overnight bags.Brittany Chang

I stayed in Airstream suite 49, just up a short hill that was only moderately inconvenient for my little wagon.

a sign that says 9 on the floor
Outside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

The outdoor space of my Airstream suite had a dining set, lounge chairs, and a grill-lined fire pit, perfect for sunset dinners and quiet morning breakfasts.

Exterior of the Airstream and outdoor seating
Outside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

Heading inside, the trailer includes more than enough amenities for a stay in the woods.

an entryway next to the bathroom
The entryway to the Airstream.Brittany Chang

I was immediately taken aback by the number of windows, which provided plenty of natural sunlight during the day.

windows in the ceiling
The bedroom inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

The natural light helped make the 31-foot trailer seem spacious and bright, more than any hotel I've ever stayed in.

windows in the ceiling
The bedroom inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

Now let's take a look around the amenities.

a sink with a dish drying rack cover
The kitchen inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

The air conditioning kept my trailer cool throughout the beating afternoon sun despite the lack of overhead tree coverage.

a couch below windows besides the bathroom
The living room inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

Moving on, the suite's bathroom sits just past a sliding door and came with the typical vanity, toilet, and glass-panel-lined shower.

a light by windows and a mirror
The bathroom inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

All of the Ursa Major bathroom products are stored in matching amber bottles, a visually satisfying and clean touch.

the shower with shower products and a window
The bathroom inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

And unlike most hotel bathrooms I've been in, the one inside my trailer suite was lined with windows.

a sink with toiletries and windows
The bathroom inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

This, combined with the clean black, gray, and white color scheme, made the bathroom feel modern and luxurious.

a toilet next to a sink and some windows
The bathroom inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

The living "room" is just outside the bathroom. The space is simple and comes with a couch (which also folds out into a bed), blankets, pillows, and two side tables.

the couch in the living room besides the bathroom
The living room inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

Nothing too glamorous, but it was more than I was expecting from a trailer hotel room.

a couch below windows besides the bedroom
The living room inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

This living room space flows directly into the kitchenette.

a kitchen with a sink under cabinets
The kitchen inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the kitchen space, which proved large enough for me to prepare a full meal without running out of counter space.

food chopped on a chopping board
The kitchen inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

The trailers all come with the basic necessities to prepare a meal over a campfire. This includes a cutting board, cast-iron skillet, and knife.

cooking utensils on an outdoor table
Cooking outside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

All I had to do was bring some of my own fresh produce and tortillas to create a plate of perfectly mediocre breakfast tacos.

tortilla with lime on a plate
My mediocre breakfast taco.Brittany Chang

The trailers also come with dishes, utensils, and glassware, so I didn't have to bring any single-use cups or plates, saving both money and waste.

a pan of food cooking over a fire
Cooking outside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

The dishware and glasses are stored in the same cabinet as the microwave and mini refrigerator.

microwave, dishes, and fridge in a storage unit
The kitchen inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

One of the cabinets over the kitchenette holds a full coffee station with a water kettle, French press, and ground coffee beans.

goods needed to make coffee inside of a shelf
The kitchen inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

Now onto the bedroom, which is just past the kitchen. It's simple but, like the living room, it gets the job done.

a bed surrounded by white walls and blinds
The bedroom inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

The space has a queen bed, nightstands with charging ports, and plenty of lights to brighten up the curtain-lined space.

a bed in front of closed blinds and lights besides open windows
The bedroom inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

There's even a television for a movie night in the woods.

The bedroom looking out into the kitchen.
The bedroom looking out into the kitchen.Brittany Chang

A night's stay at the AutoCamp Yosemite property includes access to any on-site amenities, such as the swimming pool …

an empty pool next to the clubhouse
AutoCamp Yosemite's pool and clubhouse.Brittany Chang/Insider

… a shaded outdoor lounge area ...

a bike with storage and a corn hole game
AutoCamp Yosemite's shaded outdoor seating area.Brittany Chang/Insider

… a small pond …

an outdoor seating area by a small lake
AutoCamp Yosemite's small pond.Brittany Chang/Insider

… a large hammock between other Airstream suites (although the hammock was generally overrun with children during my visit) ...

a large hammock between three trees under the shade
AutoCamp Yosemite's hammock.Brittany Chang/Insider

… and an air-conditioned clubhouse with communal seating and tables, a fire pit, and the general store.

Autocamp Yosemite's clubhouse with an indoor firepit
AutoCamp Yosemite's clubhouse.Brittany Chang/Insider

The general store is fully stocked with basic ingredients, premade meals, beverages, and other glamping necessities.

Autocamp Yosemite's general store with food, gear
AutoCamp Yosemite's clubhouse.Brittany Chang/Insider

The clubhouse also has a small cafe that sells coffee, meals, beer, and wine for happy hours in the woods.

Autocamp Yosemite's clubhouse's cafe with a menu of drinks on tap
AutoCamp Yosemite's clubhouse.Brittany Chang/Insider

The property even has a few electric-vehicle charging stations.

electric vehicle charging stations in front of cabins and trees
AutoCamp Yosemite's electric-vehicle charging stations.Brittany Chang/Insider

I stayed at the AutoCamp Yosemite for only one night, but I enjoyed my solo glamping experience more than any hotel room I've ever stayed in.

Outside the Airstream
Outside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

The Airstream trailer is a comfortable living experience, and it felt as if I was staying in my own downsized apartment ...

a toilet next to a window and shower
The bathroom inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

… with the added benefit of having my own outdoor fire pit, which is the best part about camping.

a pan of food cooking over a fire next to outdoor seats
Cooking outside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

Staying in a trailer also felt private and quiet: The only time I ran into other people was when I was in the clubhouse.

a fire pit next to outdoor seats
Outside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

But I can't compare my fond memories of camping and sleeping on dirt to my stay at AutoCamp Yosemite.

packets of room keys hanging on the wall
AutoCamp Yosemite's clubhouse.Brittany Chang/Insider

In terms of amenities, AutoCamp felt more like staying at a hotel than any sort of camping I've done.

a map of the Autocamp site with my keys in a brown bag that says "Mariposa Lily"
AutoCamp Yosemite's map and my room keys.Brittany Chang/Insider

Instead of flimsy tents, I stayed in a fully enclosed and air-conditioned tiny home.

Outside the Airstream next to picnic tables
Outside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

And instead of a cooler full of melting ice, I had a mini refrigerator.

Yosemite branded gear at Autocamp Yosemite's general store
AutoCamp Yosemite's clubhouse.Brittany Chang/Insider

I opted to cook over the fire, but I could have purchased a microwaveable meal instead.

a pan of food cooking over a fire next to outdoor seats and the Airstream
Cooking outside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

But cooking outside my trailer was more convenient than cooking at a traditional camping site.

Exterior of the Airstream
Outside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

Instead of tediously starting and tending to a fire, I was able to purchase firewood at the general store. All I had to do was light it using some complimentary matches, and I was ready to make my meals.

firewood in a bag
The kitchen inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

And having a good-sized kitchen countertop made preparing my mise en place easy and bug-free.

kitchen, living room, and bathroom
The kitchen, living room, and bathroom inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

But be prepared to pay more for a stay at AutoCamp Yosemite than you might ever need to for a campground reservation or hotel.

Autocamp Yosemite's lake with Airstreams and a cabin in the back
AutoCamp Yosemite's lake.Brittany Chang/Insider

The Yosemite site ranges from $175 to $475 per night depending on the season and day.

a wagon and another Airstream as seen from the entry door
The view from my entry.Brittany Chang

Source: AutoCamp

Yes, it might seem ridiculous to pay almost $500 to sleep in a trailer.

an alarm clock
The bedroom inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

But AutoCamp combines the experience of being outdoors with the convenience and comfort of being in a hotel. Plus it's as private and quiet as your typical campground.

Outside the Airstream.
Outside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

I didn't have to worry about setting up a tent or bringing cookware and camping gear. It's like paying for the luxury and convenience of an all-inclusive glamping experience.

air conditioning unit with a remote
The air conditioning unit.Brittany Chang

In my opinion, it's a great way for city people to get outdoors while still enjoying the benefits of modern luxury like Wi-Fi and mattresses.

a tray full of matches, a towel, water, and other essentials
The kitchen inside the Airstream.Brittany Chang

Do I still prefer camping over glamping? Yes.

Autocamp Yosemite's clubhouse on a sunny afternoon
AutoCamp Yosemite's clubhouse.Brittany Chang/Insider

But will I treat myself to another AutoCamp stay in the future, maybe at a different location? Well, when I have the money to do so, also yes.

neon sign lit up at night
AutoCamp Yosemite's clubhouse.Brittany Chang/Insider

Read the original article on Business Insider

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