Eco-Travel Trend: Glamping is Groovy

800px-tent_in_tamboti_campGlamping, or glamour camping, is one of the latest green travel trends. Think about it: a vacation close to the outdoors, but with a few ounces of luxury. A shower. A comfy bed. Eco-outhouses. Not only is it cushier and comfier than roughing it, glamping is less expensive than standard lodging and it's greener.

And the best part? Location. You can get to places you wouldn't normally go, like the 4 Rivers Floating Lodge, in Koh Kong, a line of floating tents on the Cambodian-Thai Border. You can go to the west coast of Scotland, and stay at the Ecopod Boutique Retreat, an eco-dome tucking into a forest of birch trees and overlooking the Kingairloch Mountains.  At Canvas Moon, in Portugal,  you can take a bamboo shower with solar-heated water from the local mountain spring. They also have compost toilets (which they proudly declare are smell free, due the the pine sawdust).

Thanks to the growth of this travel trend, you can now go glamping across the globe. Uruguay just opened their first (well-advertised) glamping location, Pueblo Barrancas, which is complete with an organic farm full of fresh veggies served at their restaurant, and of course, all kinds of seafood, right from the backyard ocean. You can even go glamping in the city of Cape Town: there are seven iconic Airstream trailers on the rooftop of a hotel. It's called The Grand Daddy. The trailers have been painted quite creatively by local artists: you have your choice, for example, of the Dorothy (blue with white dots), GoldiLocks and the Three Bears (theme-decor), or Afro-Funk (use your imagination).

On the sites and you can browse by for glamping locales by location or type (safari tents, eco-domes, yurts, tipis and so forth). You cannot yet search by price, which is a shame, because some of these glamping sites come with a ridiculous price tag. Take, for example, the Montana resort: Paws Up, where you can "become two with nature." The price: $775 for one tent. That does include three meals and, next to your finely furnished tent, you get a private master bathroom with a heated floor (because no one wants to get cold feet in in there), and a "Montana-sized" shower.  With the exception of the solar-lights on the paths and the organic spa products, Paws Up isn't exactly going with the eco-friendly travel trend. Of course, the tent is probably more green than their other lodging options, such as the Morris Ranch House, which starts at $2,935 per night.

Luxury stays (even at dude ranches) are less popular these days, and it's no surprise that the popularity of camping has grown alongside with that other travel trend: "staycations." No one wanted to spend money as the markets crashed (and many of us didn't have any money to spend). Plus, the swine flu warnings told people to stay out of Mexico and China. For Americans, European travel decreased by 8%, and Asia and Mexico travel dropped more than 10%. Travel to less expensive countries like South America and Africa (a great country for safari glamping!) did not decrease--but, unfortunately, those countries were not popular North American destinations in the first place. In 2009, Yellowstone Park had 900,000 visitors in July--a record number--as compared to 800,000 the year before. The sale of fishing licenses went up 7%, and REI reported a 20% increase in the sales of tents in the United States. And it's not just Americans who are staying at home to camp: the UK reported a 20% increase in camping and caravanning trips.

So why glamping and not just camping? Camping hasn't lost its cool, and depending on your camping habits (hopefully RV-free?), it's probably still the greenest and the cheapest. However, sleeping on pine needles becomes more difficult as the body grows rusty, and glamping reminds us that eco-tourism doesn't have to be uncomfortable. Glamping is just a baby travel trend right now, but more and more glamping sites are showing up on the map--you don't have to lay a foundation to start one up--and vacationers are paying attention. There's something magic about being in the outdoors, and being warm, clean and comfy can be kind of nice too.

Photo Credit: Michael