Getaway’s tiny cabins are the ultimate glamping escape

This story is a part of The Highway Forward, a sequence that examines the way forward for journey and the way we’ll expertise the world after the pandemic.

Six months into the COVID-19 lockdown, I acquired a horrible case of cabin fever. I had stared at the 4 partitions of my home so lengthy, it felt like they had been caving in on me. In a panic, I looked for locations to trip safely in the midst of a pandemic.

That’s how I stumbled throughout Getaway, an upstart lodge firm that builds tiny-house-style cabins on rustic websites exterior main cities, together with New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Every trendy guesthouse comes with a kitchenette, full toilet, gallery window, out of doors fireplace pit, and picnic desk—and no Wi-Fi connectivity. There was a location in New Hampshire, an hour from my home in Boston; I booked on the spot. Days later, I used to be greeted by the odor of pine as I stepped into my cabin and plopped into a comfortable mattress, the place I may stare out a floor-to-ceiling window with a view of a forest and a babbling brook. For a quick second, my pandemic angst melted away.

It seems, my expertise was enjoying out throughout the nation. Most Individuals stopped flying and staying at inns throughout the pandemic, however they had been nonetheless wanting to get out of their properties. Many took highway journeys and looked for socially distant lodgings in the nice outside. That led to a run on tenting tools final summer time, with gross sales rising by 31% in comparison with the earlier yr. However it additionally meant that a whole lot of out of doors neophytes had been discovering how one can have a extra tempered wilderness expertise: In response to a 2020 survey by Kampgrounds of America, a group of privately held campsites in North America, 28% of people that had by no means gone tenting earlier than had been open to “glamping”—holidays that mix staying in nature with deluxe lodging. 

Hospitality corporations specializing in creating snug lodgings in idyllic places answered the name. AutoCamp, which launched in 2016 by organising Instagrammable Airstreams on campsites in Yosemite and Sonoma, opened 4 new places in 2020: in Cape Cod, the Catskills, in addition to the Zion and Joshua Tree nationwide parks, because of an inflow of $115 million in VC funding. Cabana, a self-described “cell lodge” firm that rents out high-end camper vans, raised $3.5 million throughout the pandemic; Kibbo, one other van startup, launched final yr. All indicators level to continued curiosity in glamping. Outdoorsy, which dubs itself the Airbnb of RVs, has seen its gross sales climb to greater than $1 billion in income. And Hipcamp, which pairs vacationers with campsites in state parks, in addition to on wineries, orchards, farms, and extra, landed $57 million in funding in January 2021 to proceed its blockbuster development. 

Getaway was amongst these winners: Throughout COVID-19, bookings grew 150% from the yr earlier than and the firm’s cabins reached an unheard-of occupancy price of 99%. The startup, which launched in 2015 with a single location (the one I visited in New Hampshire), had grown to 9 outposts with 40 cabins apiece by 2019. Throughout 2020, it constructed six new places and expects to achieve a complete of 17—with 800 whole cabins—by the finish of 2021, because of the $41.7 million Collection C that it raised in February, led by the hospitality-focused VC agency Cetares. “From the second we launched the enterprise, the extent of the demand was a shock to me,” says Jon Employees, Getaway’s founder and CEO. “I believe it’s as a result of as a society, we’re discovering that being in nature—away out of your day-to-day grind—is now an vital wellness ritual.”

Nonetheless, questions stay about Getaway’s future. Can it convert its success over the previous yr into long-term development, or will curiosity in its tiny cabins diminish as soon as vaccinated vacationers really feel protected hopping on planes and staying in inns? Specialists are optimistic. “The world has all the time been open to millennials and Gen Zers, however the pandemic allowed them to find that road-tripping, glamping, and tenting may be actually fulfilling methods to journey,” says Erin Francis-Cummings, CEO of journey analytics agency Vacation spot Analysts. “When folks are accustomed to a method of touring, they’re very prone to return to it. We predict glamping goes to proceed to do properly.”

For a technology that’s trying to disconnect, Getaway and its ilk are packaging the fundamental attraction of the nice outside with simply sufficient creature comforts to make it really feel extra accessible. In doing so, they seem to have stumble on a gold mine. 

[Photo: courtesy of Getaway]

How do you place the genie again in the bottle?

My first journey to the New Hampshire Getaway was so rejuvenating that I made a decision to return. Getaway has dynamic pricing that goes up with demand; one evening in the Catskills outpost as of late can run you upwards of $350. However to make issues extra reasonably priced for regulars, the firm additionally gives Getaway Often memberships, which permit vacationers to pay up entrance for a number of nights at a time, reducing the worth to only over $100 per evening. And for each 9 nights you keep, you’ll get the tenth free.

Employees says Getaway will proceed to supply these packages after the pandemic is over, to encourage guests to make common journeys. There are additionally reductions for college kids, artists, healthcare professionals, veterans, and first responders. “We’ve tried to create many again doorways to make Getaway extra accessible to extra folks,” Employees says.  

I bought a six-pack so I may head out each month. The 140-to-200-square-foot cabins grew to become like a second dwelling. They’re no-frills, however have all the creature comforts you want: a two-burner range and dishware, a scorching bathe, and my favourite half: a hearth pit surrounded by Adirondack chairs. Getaway offers visitors a complimentary bundle of s’mores fixins’, and you may order extra provisions prematurely should you don’t need to deliver your personal meals. Earlier than you arrive, Getaway texts you a customized key code and the location of your cabin, which have charming names like Ethel, Maurice, Marguerite, or Gladys. “We intentionally picked names that had been fashionable in the Fifties,” says Employees. “We wish visitors to really feel like they’re going to their grandparents’ cabin in the woods.”

One in every of the finest components of Getaway, for me, was the capacity to chop myself off from the annoying 2020 information cycle. There isn’t a Wi-Fi sign on the campgrounds and every cabin has a cellphone lockbox to encourage you to maintain your smartphone out of sight. I booked a visit for the evening of the presidential election in order that I wouldn’t spend the night watching the outcomes are available. As an alternative, I made my free s’mores and went to sleep early. “We’ve been seeing an elevated demand for out of doors experiences for a number of years, notably amongst millennials,” says Chantal Haldorsen, VC lead at Certares, which invested in Getaway. “However we had been notably intrigued by Getaway’s distinctive but snug expertise, with contemporary linens, a stocked kitchen, warmth, and air-conditioning. All that you must do is present up and disconnect from the stresses of your life.”

Employees says the concept of disconnecting from expertise is what impressed him to launch Getaway. Earlier than beginning his MBA at Harvard in 2014, he took a West Coast highway journey the place he stumbled throughout tiny homes. The straightforward, prefabricated properties weren’t a lot larger than a room, however folks had constructed them in idyllic places to get away from the stresses of on a regular basis life. All through enterprise faculty, Employees continued to ponder their attract. In his twenties, he had felt perpetually burnt out, partly as a result of his iPhone saved him tethered to his work. “Expertise is so highly effective, however it has additionally taken over our lives,” says Employees. “How do you place the genie again in the bottle? To me, a tiny home represents a sacred place with out Wi-Fi, the place you don’t do any work and no one bothers you.”

At the time, a broader motion was rising that requested folks to consciously disconnect from their gadgets, an idea that pc science professor Cal Newport describes as “digital minimalism.” Millennials had been occurring digital detox retreats to get away from their expertise. Employees believed there can be a marketplace for locations that folks may go to commonly to recharge their batteries in nature. He partnered with Pete Davis, who was finding out at Harvard Regulation College, to pilot the Getaway idea by constructing an outpost of three tiny homes in Southern New Hampshire for family and friends to hire. However first, that they had to determine how one can construct a tiny home.

i 3 how getawayand8217s stylish cabins in the woods became the ultimate the pandemic hotel
[Photo: courtesy of Getaway]

Jerry Rigging a Tiny Home

Not like conventional hospitality corporations, which associate with builders to construct inns, Employees discovered himself in the place of placing up the cabins himself. It was attainable to purchase pre-fabricated tiny homes, however he nonetheless needed to adapt them to fulfill the wants of visitors coming for an in a single day keep. That’s how Employees discovered himself jerry-rigging cabins together with his personal fingers underneath the Tobin Bridge in Boston, which is successfully a scrap yard underneath a freeway. His father, together with the Cambridge-based carpenter Patrick Mulroy helped him out. “My lack of expertise in the hospitality enterprise is each a blessing and a curse,” Employees says. 

Collectively, they put in one in all the most noticeable elements of the Getaway cabin: the floor-to-ceiling window subsequent to the beds. Every cabin is fastidiously positioned in order that the mattress has an unobstructed view onto nature, which lets visitors really feel like they are sleeping in the center of the forest. Employees spent hours considering larger facilities, like the bathe and kitchen, in addition to smaller particulars, akin to the place folks may retailer their baggage and cling their coats. When he lastly had three prototypes that felt proper, the Getaway group hooked up the tiny homes to a trailer and transported them to New Hampshire, the place that they had leased a small campground. One in every of the most complex elements of setting them up was connecting them to water and electrical energy sources in the center of nowhere. As soon as that they had these logistics sorted out, they had been prepared for visitors.

The pilot, which happened in the summer time of 2015, was a hit. Guests reported that they liked the expertise. So Employees and Davis determined to formally launch Getaway in 2016. With an preliminary spherical of seed funding, they recognized and bought campsites exterior Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C., the place they might construct 30 to 40 cabins apiece. To scale manufacturing, they outsourced the work to builders who specialise in prefabricated tiny properties. 

Throughout the pandemic, Getaway has given these builders a whole lot of work: In 2020, the firm opened places near Austin, Houston, and the Analysis Triangle in North Carolina. And extra Getaways are in the works. With its new Collection C funding, the firm plans to launch a web site exterior of Chicago, plus extra outposts in New York and Boston, to accommodate the excessive demand from these cities. “There’s a false impression that these cabins are simply in the center of nowhere,” Employees says. “However it’s extra sophisticated than you may suppose to discover a good place that’s two hours from the metropolis and that’s additionally serene, quiet, and delightful. One in every of my jobs is to face on a potential plot of land and take heed to see if I may hear the freeway.”

To Getaway’s buyers, the model’s easy-to-build tiny homes, coupled with its trendy, extremely curated in-cabin expertise, will enable the firm to scale rapidly. “Getaway has sorted out the kinks of the enterprise mannequin and might now replicate the expertise round the nation comparatively rapidly,” says Haldorsen. “Even earlier than the pandemic, we knew that millennials had been anticipating out of doors journey experiences. Getaway can meet this uptick in demand rapidly.”

i 2 how getawayand8217s stylish cabins in the woods became the ultimate the pandemic hotel
[Photo: courtesy of Getaway]

Getaway’s Future

However as the COVID-19 disaster involves an finish, what’s subsequent for Getaway? So many individuals—like myself—got here to Getaway out of desperation, trying to find a workable trip in the pandemic. After we’re vaccinated and in a position to journey once more, will these tiny cabins in the woods nonetheless be as attractive? 

Francis-Cummings of Vacation spot Analysts believes the new wave of glamping startups will proceed to thrive. In the fast aftermath of COVID-19, customers who’ve disposable earnings will spend their journey budgets on flying, since they’ve been denied the possibility for thus lengthy. However others could not have the cash to take action, notably in the event that they skilled monetary strife throughout the pandemic. Close by tenting or glamping journeys could also be extra interesting to them. Many younger folks are additionally extra acutely aware about sustainability in terms of journey. “Amongst millennial and Gen Z vacationers, glamping is not only simpler on the price range, it has much less of a damaging affect on the planet,” says Francis-Cummings. 

Employees acknowledges that a few of his prospects will start spending journey {dollars} on other forms of holidays; certainly, he has his personal want record of journeys he’d wish to take as soon as the risk of COVID-19 recedes. However he additionally believes that he’s created an idea that may dwell on in the post-pandemic world. For one factor, he’s tried to border Getaways not as one-off adventures, however as common escapes from the high-stress, fast-paced world of metropolis life: The group has fastidiously picked places that are simply far sufficient that they provide a change of surroundings, however shut sufficient that they make for a straightforward weekend journey. The Getaway Usually packs, which can proceed after the pandemic, are priced to make these common journeys reasonably priced. If working from dwelling continues to be a norm, as many predict it should, Employees believes that the worth proposition of Getaway will stay compelling.

This aligns with Vacation spot Analysts’ analysis. “Folks now contemplate journey a part of their well being and wellness routine,” says Francis-Cummings. KOA’s survey discovered that 40% of people that tried glamping for the first time throughout the pandemic plan to proceed doing so into 2021. 

I’m amongst them. This yr, I’ve visited the New Hampshire Getaway about as soon as a month. It’s a method for me to recharge after a draining week and get an up-close view of the timber altering with the seasons. At this level, it’s turn out to be one thing of a routine—one which I intend to carry onto.