Business

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

My 31-foot long Airstream trailer hotel suite was the perfect mix between RV travel and camping, two booming COVID-19 travel trends; ...
Selfie of Brittany Chang outside of the Airstream
Outside the Airstream.

  • RVing and camping have become two big travel trends during COVID-19.
  • Autocamp – a luxury campground with converted Airstream trailers as suites – is the perfect mix of both.
  • I stayed at the Autocamp Yosemite site and saw why the campground chain has boomed in popularity.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.
It seems like 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.

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

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

During the peak of the 2021 summer travel season, I visited Autocamp, a luxury campground chain, at its Yosemite location.

Autocamp Yosemite's Airstream suites by a walkway.
Autocamp Yosemite's Airstream suites.

But unlike most “glamping” sites that offer the conventional canvas tents or cute cabins, I stayed inside one of Autocamp’s Airstream trailers that was 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.

The experience was so enjoyable, 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.

Think of luxury campground chain Autocamp as the halfway point between RVing and camping.

Autocamp Yosemite's Airstream suites under shade and trees
Autocamp Yosemite's Airstream suites.

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.

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.

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.

Autocamp currently 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.

… and has already announced plans to open three more locations in the Catskills, New York and Zion and Joshua Tree National Park.

close up of clubhouse near bushes and a walkway
Autocamp Yosemite's clubhouse.

Despite this planned expansion, like any other hotel or hospitality business, 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.

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, the general manager at Autocamp, told Insider.

Autocamp Yosemite's Airstream suites by trees and walkways
Autocamp Yosemite's Airstream suites.

But as RV sales and camping both continued to boom in popularity throughout COVID-19, so did the public’s interest in Autocamp.

Autocamp Yosemite's clubhouse with table decor
Autocamp Yosemite's clubhouse.

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.

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 [it] budgeted for,” according to Brannan.

Autocamp Yosemite's clubhouse with communal seating, stairs, and an indoor fire pit
Autocamp Yosemite's clubhouse.

During the months the Yosemite location has been able to stay open during COVID-19, the company has “exceeded expectations” despite challenges with staffing and lack of corporate group bookings.

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

“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.

The Airstream trailer is Autocamp’s most iconic accommodations, but its cabins and tents are also often booked up.

parked Airstreams in a park
Outside the Airstream.

“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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

an entryway next to the bathroom
The entryway inside the Airstream.

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.

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

windows in the ceiling
The bedroom inside the Airstream.

Now let’s take a look around the amenities.

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

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.

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.

All of the Ursa Major bathrooms 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.

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.

This, combined with the clean black, grey, 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.

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.

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.

This living room space flows directly into the kitchenette.

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

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.

The trailers all come with the basic necessities needed 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

… a shaded outdoor lounge area …

a bike with storage and a corn hole game
Autocamp Yosemite's shaded outdoor seating area.

… a small lake …

an outdoor seating area by a small lake
Autocamp Yosemite's small lake.

… a large hammock in-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.

… 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.

The later is fully stocked with basic ingredients, pre-made meals, beverages, and other glamping necessities.

Autocamp Yosemite's general store with food, gear
Autocamp Yosemite's clubhouse.

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.

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.

I only stayed at the Autocamp Yosemite site for 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.

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

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

… 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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

Yosemite branded gear at Autocamp Yosemite's general store
Autocamp Yosemite's clubhouse.

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

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

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

Exterior of the Airstream
Outside the Airstream.

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 set the bag of logs on fire using some complimentary matches, and I was ready to make my meals.

firewood in a bag
The kitchen inside the Airstream.

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.

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.

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 door.

Source: Autocamp

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

an alarm clock
The bedroom inside the Airstream.

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.

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.

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

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

Do I still prefer camping over glamping? Yes.

Autocamp Yosemite's clubhouse on a sunny afternoon
Autocamp Yosemite's clubhouse.

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

neon sign lit up at night
Autocamp Yosemite's clubhouse.

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