Glamping: Luxury Under Canvas
This article appeared in Beach Happy Magazine and 30A.com by Martin Liptrot
Luxury Camping. Yes, you read that right.
Luxury. Camping. For those for whom the word Camping conjures up memories of damp socks, hard floors, unwelcomed critters and rummaging through a rucksack on all fours in the dim glow of a rapidly failing flashlight, adding the prefix of luxury may create an oxymoron of huge proportions.
But for Megan Langan and her husband Josh, this is the business for them.
Perhaps it was always meant to be this way, Megan and her brother Micah were the children of a Florida State Park Ranger and, it would be fair to say, camping and the great outdoors is in their blood.
“As kids we were always off on camping adventures” said Megan, “we’ve been and stayed in all the great national parks and would often take month long trips to visit the sites. We wanted more people to share and enjoy that experience.”
Luxury Camping - or “glamping’ as it is nicknamed - comes in many different forms. Uber-VIP tents, yurts and cabins with chandeliers and massage tables have welcomed Hollywood’s A-list at festivals and concerts for some time, allowing them to ‘get with the people’, without having to actually ‘get with the people’.
But Fancy Camps is much more real than that.
It is about providing you with the uplifting and exhilarating thrill of a night outdoors and under the stars, but gently, and with some of the comforts which will make the occasion even more memorable.
Accommodation is provided in 16-foot bell tents – tall enough to stand up in - with a queen-sized bed with fitted linens, electricity to charge your cell-phone and other small devices, and the all-important cooling and heating system to make being outdoors in the height of a Floridian summer bearable. Kids pallets are also provided with mattresses and comforters for the little ones to enjoy too.
“Fancy Camps was my brother’s idea originally. He started looking into the business opportunity and we were immediately along for the ride.” Megan recalls.
“We took the idea to an entrepreneurship conference called ONE SPARK in Jacksonville and got really great feedback and enough encouragement to give it a go.
“Micah reached out to contacts in the Florida State Park Service to share his ideas and before too long the first sites were identified in Grayton Beach State Park, St Andrews State Park and Topsail State Park along Florida’s Northwest Gulf Coast.
“Our sites were pretty much booked up from the first moment we advertised them. People loved that they could have the adventure and outdoors experiences they remembered from when they were kids, but with those creature comforts.”
Fancy Camps pitches provide the luxury Bell tent, lawn chairs and tables, a fire pit and romantic outdoor lighting all set up and ready to use as visitors arrive – no searching for guy ropes, pegs or mallets.
And the expectations and requirements for Fancy Camps guests are exactly the same as for any other camper or visitor to Florida’s State Parks – “Take Out What You Take In”.
“We are passionate about maintaining the pure nature of the camping experience and just because you have a more comfortable bed and a little bit of luxury, that doesn’t absolve you from the responsibilities of environmental stewardship and good behaviour. But our guests know and appreciate that - Its why they want to come camping in the first place!” Megan gleefully adds.
With COVID 19 having changed the tourism and hospitality industry nationwide, I wondered if that had impacted luxury camping too.
“Yes, both negatively and positively” says Megan. “Travel restrictions have impacted everyone in hospitality. We have invested heavily in cleaning and sanitising too. But with the usual vacation trips and destination out of bounds, many families were looking for something different, a bit unique, and we have seen a lot of interest in our services and experiences.”
From Spring Break to Labour Day, Fancy Camps sites have been fully booked and reservations for Fall breaks and weekends away are filling up fast.
Megan says the future looks bright too:
“For next year, we are focussing on expanding our TopSail Park site. We are working with the state to expand the number of permanent glamping sites. We are looking to create a village feel, with shared experiences and interactions which are all part of the joy of camp life.”
Guests who prefer a more independent vacation can also book their own camping pitches with the State Parks and separately work with Fancy Camps to set up the tent and equipment for their arrival.
Fancy Camps is looking to expand the range of services they offer guests too:
“We have opened an equipment rental service at the camp store where bikes, kayaks, paddleboards and the like are available to guests so they can enjoy the full majesty of these natural treasures. Getting out on the water, exploring the Coastal Dune Lakes, or walking and riding the miles of trails is something guests really appreciate.
“At TopSail, we recently added a coffee shop ‘Kith + Kin’ available to campground guests as well as 30A locals because we know how important coming together over cups of hot coffee to plan the day’s adventures has always been!”
So, Luxury Camping may not be such an unfathomable concept after all.
In this age when we are looking for more authentic experiences, trying to find ways to bring friends and families back together and create long lasting memories, Fancy Camps may provide exactly that.
“I still get a thrill when I see the faces of people when they first arrive at the campsites” Megan proudly beams. “You know they are nervous, but when they see the beauty of the Park and the campsite, and then pull open the tent doors and see the luxury inside, their faces light up. It’s a great moment to share!”
To learn more about Fancy Camps visit http://fancycamps.com/ or call 850 628-9696. Information about Florida’s State Parks is available at https://www.floridastateparks.org/