Missy Bricking has loved camping since she was a child. Unfortunately, her 8-year-old son, Caden, doesn't feel the same passion. At all.
"He doesn't share my love for the outdoors," Bricking said.
So when this real estate agent mom recently booked a night for the two of them in a treehouse, Caden "freaked out."
"'Mom, what have you done,'" Caden said.
But then they took the drive to EarthJoy Tree Adventures in the hills of northern Kentucky, and Caden's world changed.
They were glamping, the hottest new outdoor trend, where you stay in high-end campsites, yurts, horse ranches, or in this case: treehouses.
The website HipCamp.com lists hundreds of them all around the country.
Glamping in treehouses
Caden couldn't believe what he was seeing.
"Look, there’s two beds," he said, surveying the inside of the treehouse, which is built 10 feet above the ground. It was an honest-to-goodness treehouse, not just a cabin on stilts. A tree even grew through it.
"This is like a living room and kitchen area," Bricking said
The roughly 15-by-15 foot tree house had a countertop, small cooking stove, a master bedroom and a loft bedroom upstairs.
Out on the deck, it had a slide down to a fire pit and outhouse. And best of all, it came with a locking door for their safety and a window air conditioner for comfort.
"This is really nice. A lot more luxurious than I thought it was going to be," Bricking said.
They were staying in one of three tree houses at EarthJoy. Pete Nelson, an internationally-known tree house builder, designed and built one of the treehouses. It was even featured in his show on Animal Planet.
Owners Bill and Shelly Byrne had dreamed of doing this for years. Their kids now grown, they turned their love of tree climbing (they also teach tree climbing classes) into a glamping site.
"People love the tree climbing so much, we said, 'Why don’t we help them live in the trees and be even more with the trees,'" Shelly said.
Now, they feel like children themselves.
"We had actually wanted this since we were kids," Bill said.
Glamping in yurts, cabooses, and vintage campers
Face it -- rustic camping is not for everyone. So would-be campers might want to check out the newest ways to get away from the heat, the humidity and the bugs.
And its not just treehouses, especially if you have a fear of heights.
How about a yurt?
These are designed after the leather-lined large tents that popped up around Asia and the Mideast hundreds of years ago. They are large enough for a full bathroom, queen sized bed and furniture.
You can find yurts, and other luxurious tents, at campgrounds in almost every state, according to a blog on Hipcamp.com.
Prefer a train to a tent? You can sleep inside a vintage railroad caboose.
After all, what kid who watches The Polar Express every Christmas doesn't love old trains?
You can do that in caboose campgrounds in Georgia, Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, and a half dozen other states, according to a report in MyFrugalHome.com.
And in Florida, you can rent a classic Volkswagen microbus (just remember to bring your Grateful Dead music).
All of them will create a camping experience kids will remember their whole lives.
We found Alex Siska glamping with her 3-year-old daughter in a double treehouse connected by a bridge.
"There’s the outhouse, you have a little cabana tent here, a lot of people set up hammocks here," Siska said, surveying her campsite.
Bricking agreed that Earthjoy's treehouses were "something unique and different" for the kids.
One downside of glamping: it's not exactly cheap. Owners pay tens of thousands of dollars to build yurts and treehouses, so don't expect KOA-style prices. Many sites are in the $150 to $200 a night range.
But for families like the Brickings and Siskas, it's well worth the extra cost. This is a memory that will stay with them forever.
"Just to get away from technology, get off the grid and connect to your heart is an incredible experience," Earth Joy owner Shelly Byrne said. "We always say people come in their minds, but always leave in their hearts."
Want to learn more? Go to Hipcamp.com.
And as always, don't waste your money.
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