7 reasons tiny homes are the hottest vacation trend of the year
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If you had to name the hottest travel trends of 2020, you’d probably describe a close-to-home road trip where you can easily maintain a safe distance from everyone else. You’d be driving to a nearby destination you can reach in one shot without stopping. When you arrived, there’d be no formal check-in process or busy lobby. It would be a trip to the outdoors that’s easy on the budget.
Even if you’ve never given a single thought to the idea of downsizing, it turns out tiny homes — small houses considered both an architectural movement and social phenomena inspired by simple living — scattered around the country in picturesque but accessible locations near big cities may be the perfect embodiment of all these travel fads into one Instagram-friendly package.
Last week, I decided to try one of these pintsized properties through Getaway, which specializes in tiny vacation rental cabins. And there’s no question they may check all the top-priority boxes for a vacation this year. Here’s why tiny homes may well be the travel trend we didn’t know we needed.
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They’re easy to reach
Maybe you decided now is the time to escape your coronavirus “bunker” but you aren’t ready to commit to a cross-country road trip. Or heck, maybe travel restrictions still prevent you from even leaving your immediate area.
Getaway cabins pepper the country and are all an easy drive from major metropolitan areas such as New York City, Boston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas and Washington, D.C., among others. The one we visited in the Brazos Valley is about a 60- to 90-minute drive from Houston. It’s short a short enough journey you don’t even need to map out a bathroom break along the way.
No human contact is required
When you stay at a Getaway cabin, you don’t actually have to interact with another human, besides whoever you bring with you.
We received text messages and emails from Getaway with a map and check-in instructions on the day of arrival. This included a four-digit code that was used to unlock the door, meaning no human interaction was necessary from the beginning to the end of this trip.
Sure, we saw other families and couples at various campsites in the area when we would go for a walk, but we didn’t come within 30 feet of other travelers during our stay.
You have a self-contained getaway
Inside our tiny cabin, there was a small kitchen with a mini-fridge, small sink and basic cooking and serving essentials. You have everything you need right there, so no need to branch out beyond your small space.
If you forgot to pack something to eat, Getaway has you covered with a basket of pay-as-you-use snacks and staples (think: bowtie pasta and tomato sauce) available in your cabin. So, you never need to run to the store or even call room service (since, you know, there isn’t any).
The cabin also comes with its campfire, complete with a grilling rack, so you can make your own dinner. These days, that’s not just a budget-friendly decision, but also one of the safest dining choices you can make.
There was a s’mores kit in the cabin, too, but I recommend you pack some hot dogs or burgers in a cooler to cook for dinner.
Trust me, cooking and eating outdoors is a much better plan than doing so in the tiny kitchen.
You’ve even got your own private outdoor dining table at the ready, too.
Not only can you save cash by making your own burgers and s’mores, but the price to book a Getaway cabin is relatively easy on the wallet, especially when compared to larger cabins available for rent on Airbnb or similar.
We paid $99 for our own one-night stay in East Texas in the tiny cabin, plus another $40 to bring along the dog. Rates around the country do vary, but often start between $99 and $119 per night, as long as you avoid peak nights, which can skyrocket to several hundred dollars per night.
But, there were no parking fees, resort fees, amenity fees or other such added nonsense to contend with.
You can bring the whole family…
I’m a big fan of the occasional couples getaway where the kids stay behind with grandparents while the parents recharge. But this summer, leaving kids with grandparents won’t be realistic for many families trying to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 to the older generation.
While the tiny cabins are indeed tiny (think: 150 to 200 square feet) they have an Ikea-meets-Instagram modern cabin vibe, and they’re also family-friendly as long as you’re all OK sharing the same space.
Travelers can choose from a one- or two-bed layout, the latter of which features stacked queen beds that are shockingly comfortable.
Getaway uses all-white linens and provides ample pillows that make the space feel very high-end, even if it is just a tiny cabin in the woods.
If you’re relying on the air conditioner to keep you cool in the summer, know the bottom bunk is significantly cooler than the top bunk. (Though the views from the top bunk do make you feel like you’re living amongst the trees.)
… Even the dog
Traveling with pets is hardly a new travel trend, but it’s one that hasn’t let up steam in 2020, either.
Getaway is a pet-friendly company, so you can bring your own pup. It cost $40 extra to bring a pet, but it probably tripled the fun to have her with us. Since we traditionally traveled by air in a pre-pandemic world, we usually left our dog behind on family adventures. This means that traveling with the dog is still a fun novelty for the kids.
Getaway has an outdoor dog lead secured to the picnic table, and the big picture windows in the cabin are just as enjoyable for dogs as people. So, you can skip the pricey house sitter or boarding facility and simply bring the dog along for the journey.
It’s (almost) like camping
While we were grilling burgers on the campfire, our eldest daughter spontaneously said she loves camping.
Now, camping enthusiasts will be quick to say staying in a tiny cabin is not camping. And that’s a fair statement: There are no tents, sleeping bags or camp stoves in sight. But, I’d argue this is all the good parts of camping, without any of the bad. You get a bed, running water, a private shower and toilet and air conditioning while retaining the time-honored tradition of an evening campfire and being surrounded by nature all around you.
I mean, I’m sure sleeping on the ground and bathing in a stream is great, but for now, I’m happy enough branching out into the wilderness one step at a time.
But back to the part where the tween said that this is fun: What I think she meant, with the burgers grilling on the open campfire in the evening summertime heat, was that some classic camping experiences really are crowd-pleasers.
The ritual of tending a campfire, sharing funny stories that emerge when you let your guard down and indulging on camp treats like soda and brownies can beguile even the most cynical critics, like tweens.
You can be as active as you want — or not
2020 has been, well, a lot.
Maybe your way of coping is staying super active and busy. Or maybe you’re ready for a book, a glass of wine and a campfire with no other distractions. If you’re getting away to a tiny cabin, you can choose to do as much or little as you want and not feel bad about it.
During our tiny cabin stay, there was no Wi-Fi, no television, no community center, no pool, no waterslides, no shows, nothing but us, a small library of books and the aforementioned campfire. Getaway even had a box with a suggestion to lock up your phone. (I totally didn’t do that.)
On the other hand, there were trails you could explore, and some tiny cabins are near natural wonders you can visit during the day before you retreat to watch the sun set from your picture window at night.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, I really enjoyed using points to stay at high-end hotels, getting pampered at all-inclusive resorts and visiting far-flung destinations. Given that paradigm, it makes sense that driving an hour or so from home to sleep in a tiny cabin in the woods wasn’t really on my personal getaway wish list.
But again, that was before the pandemic.
Now, what may be most important — balancing a fun getaway with staying as safe as possible — may be encapsulated in a tiny cabin. The simple, socially distant, affordable nearcation can be a satisfying respite from the monotony of home, without sacrificing too much of your budget or taking too many risks. Oh, and the view is pretty great, too.
I hope we can get back to a broader range of travel activities in the years to come, but for 2020, the hottest travel trend of the year may well be booking that tiny cabin the woods that’s not too far from home.
If you want to try out a Getaway stay for yourself, the code TPG25 will save $25 off your first booking. You can add the discount code during the check-out process, just before entering your credit card number.
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