Our favorite eco-friendly camping gear

By Eleanor Stanesby

A camping adventure is the best way to disconnect from day-to-day life and connect with the great outdoors on your vacation. While camping is a more sustainable choice of adventure travel, the impact on the environment is still ever-present if you haven't invested in the right gear to help lower your carbon footprint even further.

A cheaper price tag often influences our decision on which product to choose, but that low ticket price typically is for camping gear that isn't sustainable for the environment nor your wallet. No matter the season, camping products are prone to damage and wear after battling against inclement weather, which means cheaper gear will likely send you back to the store in no time.

If you've dug out all your camping gear and realized it might be time for an upgrade, become a more eco-friendly consumer with this selection of gear that will allow you to enjoy some conscious camping this year.

Camping stove

CampStove 2 by BioLite

If your heading off-grid, the BioLite CampStove 2 is the perfect way to toxic fumes while cooking your favorite camp meal. This wood-burning stove is a great alternative to gas stoves and will allow you to cook with cleaner air—producing 95% less smoke than a normal wood-burning fire. In just minutes, you can boil water with any renewable biomass found in the campground, and the excess energy can be used to charge any electrical devices, stored in an internal battery and used for later!

Camping utensils

RePEaT Utensil Set by To-Go Ware.

Avoiding buying and using plastic for a camping trip is a great step towards sustainability. In doing so, you're both cutting down on your plastic usage and protecting any wild animals from plastic waste being left behind on accident. The RePEaT Utensil Set by To-Go Ware is the perfect substitute for all of your cooking needs. Made from responsibly sourced bamboo, this set includes a knife, a fork, a spoon, and chopsticks, and it comes with a handy carabiner, so they can be easily clipped onto your backpack.

2-in-1 lantern and phone charger

PackLite Hero 2-in-1 Supercharger by LuminAid.

If you're out in nature, lack of light can be a problem, and finding a product that will last for the duration of your trip is vital. The PackLite Hero 2-in-1 Supercharger from LuminAid is the ultimate solar-powered lantern—both illuminating your campground, with its 300 lumens, and charging your smartphone simultaneously.

Before you leave, you can charge it via USB in just two to four hours via USB, and while on the road, all it needs are 16 hours of direct sunlight. This may seem like a long period of time, but never fear! The lantern can be clipped onto your backpack during the day to soak up all the solar power you'll need come nightfall. It's also water- and dust-proof, so no matter what type of adventure you're planning, lighting your tent or campsite will never be a problem again.

Fire starters

Sweetfire Tinder Matches by UCO Gear

Starting a fire with chemical-filled, toxic fire starters can have a big impact on the environment, releasing unnecessary and harmful chemicals into the atmosphere and contributing to global warming. These Sweetfire Tinder Matches by UCO Gear are strikeable fire starters made from a sugarcane byproduct—an ingredient used worldwide as a form of renewable biofuel—and are biodegradable. The matches have a burn time of seven minutes, which is more than enough time to get a campfire started no matter where you're camping. This no-chemical product means you're also avoiding adding any toxicity to the food you're eating, making them an all-around win-win.

Sleeping bag

Trestles 15° Sleeping Bag by Marmot

A sleeping bag is a true essential of a camping trip, and choosing the right one is crucial to guarantee a comfortable night's sleep and prepare you for the next day's adventures. This Trestles 15° Sleeping Bag by Marmot is designed for sub-par temperatures with synthetic insulation, has moisture resistance, and is lightweight for portability, but it is also made from 100% recycled materials. You are sure to sleep soundly knowing all of this!


Curious to know more about ecotourism and supporting our environment while you travel? Check out these incredible upcycled accommodations around the globe for inspiration for your next vacation!

5 ways to have the ultimate end-of-summer getaway on a budget

By Jessica Armstrong

Editor's note: This guest post was written by Ashley Rossi of SmarterTravel.

The end of summer, particularly in August and September, is often referred to as the "sweet spot" for travel. Summer crowds disperse, as families get ready to head back to school, meaning there is less demand at popular summer vacation spots. If your schedule allows, this is actually one of the best times to plan a long-weekend escape! Here are five budget-friendly tips from SmarterTravel that’ll make your end-of-summer getaway the best one yet.

Stay local

The best part about planning a staycation or a getaway to a nearby destination is that you'll save on transportation costs and time by staying local. Here are some suggestions for a number of major cities across the U.S.!

From New York City, we recommend a trip to Dutchess County in New York.

This quirky tiny house is located on a charming farm nearby in Sullivan County, New York.

From Atlanta, Georgia, head to Asheville, North Carolina.

Couples will love this romantic tree house cabin near Asheville, North Carolina.

From Houston, Texas, head to San Antonio.

A unique getaway awaits at these traditional tipis in nearby New Braunfels, Texas.

From Seattle, Washington, head to Bellingham or Whidbey Island.

A trip for two never looked so good than at this glamping tent on Whidbey Island in Washington.

From Los Angeles, head to San Diego, California.

This bell tent rental comes with its own mini-tennis court in nearby Carlsbad, California.

For even more exciting escapes near nine major U.S. cities, check out these top, cheap weekend getaways!

Hit the road

You can cut costs on transportation by driving to your weekend getaway. Even if you don't own a car, renting a car or using a service, like Zipcar, gives you freedom and flexibility to make a road trip a viable option. What's more? Zipcar has a partnership with state and provincial parks across the U.S. to give you free parking at select locations.

Make sure you're using an app, like GasBuddy, which is a crowd-sourcing app that tells you where the cheapest gas is nearby. Since you already have your smartphone out, take a second to download these nine other essential road trip apps, too!

Ditch the hotel

Try looking into different types of accommodations when planning an end-of-summer getaway—with glamping being a top choice. Not only are you staying in Instagram-worthy properties, but you'll likely be saving on nightly rates since these are usually a non-traditional form of shelter. You'll also be able to cut costs on dining out if you book a place with a kitchen or cooking area and avoid the potential high costs of hotel parking lots.

Embrace the off season

Significant savings can be found in destinations that are in their off season, as these locales are less popular this time of year and typically have lower prices to attract guests. This is especially true in summertime in mountain towns, like Stowe, Park City, Vail, and many more. Other popular destinations where summer is considered to be the off season include Arizona, Florida, and New Orleans.

Get outdoors

It's time to get outside! Most hikes and beaches are free to enjoy, and the great outdoors provides a naturally relaxing backdrop to celebrate the end of summer. Be sure to check out free National Park entry days—one is coming up on August 25!—and look at passes for state and national parks if you're looking to visit often. Don't know which park to visit? We've got some suggestions for you that come recommended by the park rangers themselves here.


Check out Glamping Hub and SmarterTravel's Weekend Road Trip Giveaway on Instagram! You and three friends have the chance to win the perfect end-of-summer getaway.

Travel Guide: Maine

By Fred Jéquier

Maine, New England, is the most northeastern state in America, known for its rocky coastline, role in maritime history, and stunning areas of natural beauty, like the granite and spruce islands of Acadia National Park. Baxter State Park, one of 42 state parks in Maine, is a prime example of why "The Pine Tree State" is the perfect place to visit in any season—featuring the endpoint of the Appalachian Trail, Mount Katahdin, herds of moose, and a coastline dotted with candy-striped lighthouses, like the one at West Quoddy Head.

Getting there

Traveling to this part of New England, you'll have 18 different airports to choose, but there are five Maine airports in the state that are well connected to areas of interest. For those traveling from overseas, there are two international airports. Portland International Jetport is on the outskirts of the southern, coastal city of Portland—getting you to the coast in no time. Bangor International Airport is more centrally located, but it's still only 40 minutes by car, approximately, from the coast. It's also just 90 minutes from Baxter State Park!

The three remaining major airports are regional, with Bar Harbor Airport giving you easy access to Mount Desert Island, while Knox County Regional Airport is perched on the coast about an hour from Augusta, the state capital—where you'll also find the third regional airport, Augusta Airport. Be sure to double check the state if you plan on flying to Augusta; you don't want to end up in Georgia when you've been planning to get in some whale watching for your spring vacation!

Things to know before you go

When and where?

Maine is perfect for a visit all year round. Depending on what tickles your fancy, however, will help you determine the best time of year to go and where to base yourself for your getaway.

1. Summer fun

This is the only time of year with date-specific times to visit. The summer season kicks off on the 4th of July. This is when seasonal businesses are open and ready for the influx of visitors, which typically ends for the year on Labor Day.

Summer is the perfect time to head to one of Maine's astoundingly beautiful beaches. It's hard to believe, but Maine has more coastline than California—3,478 miles compared to California's 3,427—but its rugged, rocky, and pine covered coast only has 70 miles worth of sandy beaches, all of which are undeniably beautiful.

2. Fall foliage

When fall comes, New England is one of the best places to go and see the stunning autumnal colors, and Maine, is no exception. In fact, whether you head inland to Baxter State Park or stick to the shoreline around Rockford, you are guaranteed a beautiful stay during the fall.

The peak time to see the red, auburn, and golden leaves decorate the trees falls into a relatively small window. Typically, you have from the last week of September through the first couple of weeks in October, so be sure to make all of your travel arrangements sooner rather than later.

Photo taken by Vincent Mistretta Photography.

3. Winter wonderland

When the winds of winter come to Maine, they bring a mountain of snow, so now is the time to head inland and find a spot to ski and snowboard. With the ski season starting in mid-November and great ski resorts, such as Sunday River, Mt. Abram Ski Resort, Sugarloaf, and more, you'll have your pick of places to enjoy Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. In fact, Maine boasts a long ski season, some years not ending until May!

Photo from Visit Maine.

4. Whale watching

Around mid-April each year, Maine plays host to some seasonal residents. This is the preferred time of year for pods of whales and dolphins to visit the state, as the abundance of local waters are rich in sand eels, copepods, plankton, and fish—meaning you can head out on a whale-watching tour. Overlapping with the summer-fun crowd, both whales and dolphins tend to stay in residence until mid-October, when they start their migration south to warmer waters for the winter.

Photo from Dockside Guest Quarters & Restaurant.

Culture

1. Eating and drinking in Maine

Eating in Maine is a veritable treat. With the ocean playing such a big part in the state's tourism, it's hardly surprising that seafood is on most menus, especially fresh lobster. Maine is also famous for its blueberry pies, though, which have become so synonymous with Maine cuisine that, in 2011, the State Legislature designated blueberry pie as the official state dessert.

Maine also has its fair share of beverages to boast. In addition to a plethora of tasty New England IPAs that are brewed in the local breweries, other local specialties include a variety of apple ciders and Allen's Coffee Flavored Brandy, which is sure to give you a lift!

2. Festivals

Maine isn't just a destination for foliage followers, ski enthusiasts, or people wild about wildlife! When you're planning your trip, you should consider timing it to fit in one of the festivals held here. Whether you want to celebrate food and drink—and let's be honest, who could blame you?—, music and movies, or even the great outdoors, Maine has got you covered.

Maine Lobster Festival

Sadly, we've all missed this one for 2019, but as fate would have it, it'll be ready and raring to go again in 2020. Held in the coastal city of Rockland during the first weekend of August each year, this is the perfect opportunity for visitors to indulge in fresh lobster over a long weekend. After all, you can't go to Maine and not try one of its most famous exports!

Maine International Film Festival

Held over a 10-day period, the Maine International Film Festival will be returning to big screens from July 10-19, 2020. Boasting the best in American independent and international cinema, the festival also features work from up-and-coming filmmakers. If you're a real film buff, you'll love the chance to get involved in informal Q&As, as well as meet-and-greets with the directors, actors, and composers involved in making the movies.

Photo from Maine Insights.

Maine Lakes Winter Carnival

This annual winter carnival, which takes place each year in February in the idyllic Highland Lakes, is the perfect opportunity for you to enjoy a whole range of winter-based activities. Dog sledding, horse-drawn wagon rides, snow sculpting, and an ice fishing competition are all big parts of the festival, and there are also kid-friendly activities and events, as well. If you're feeling particularly brave, or you fancy yourself as the next Wim Hof, you can get involved in the charity polar dip, too!

Photo from Portland Press Herald.

Learn more about glamping in Maine in this interview with one of our hosts in White Mountain National Park, and continue your New England adventure with tips and advice in our blog about a fall-foliage road trip.

Host Spotlight: Diane and Raul

By Jackie Dreyer

Editor's note: Each month, we'd like to introduce you to one of our wonderful Glamping Hub hosts and what inspired them to create a glamping site. This month, we have Diane and Raul and their stunning safari tent near Pismo Beach in Arroyo Grande, California.

1. What is the story behind you starting your glamping site?

We were invited to our niece's wedding in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. We went online to make hotel reservations and found that the site of her wedding offered many different accommodations, i.e. a lodge, cabins, tents, Airstream trailers, and...GLAMPING!

We had never heard of "glamping" before, but when I saw what they offered, we knew immediately that it was something we wanted to try. We own 10 acres full of oak trees—plus a beautiful tropical pool area behind our home. It didn't take too much discussion, and we decided to build a glamping site that was unique, totally private, and like a classy resort, with every amenity possible.

2. What did you do before becoming a glamping host? What drew you to glamping?

Raul is a federal contractor, who provides hospital housekeeping services to military medical treatment facilities (Army, Air Force, and Navy), and I enjoy trading stocks along with being Raul's executive assistant and "girl Friday." We were drawn to the glamping idea to help generate some additional income, since retirement is quickly approaching. We loved the thought of sharing our beautiful, resort-like property with others.

3. In your opinion, how does your accommodation fit the definition of glamping?

We own 10 picturesque, oak-filled acres of land, so nestled in the woods, we built a large, sturdy deck and erected a huge safari tent, or canvas cabin, on it. It is located 180 feet from the patio area, where you'll find the bathroom, a BBQ area, a Jacuzzi, a koi pond, and a tropical pool.

The tent itself is furnished with a rustic, woodsy theme and offers many comforts, such as beds with memory-foam mattresses, a couch, a table, and chairs, as well as a TV with a VCR and a selection of 40 movies. There is also a mini-fridge and a Keurig coffeemaker. Guests enjoy cold waters or their choice of Starbucks coffees, STASH teas, or various hot chocolates. This is luxury camping at its finest!

4. What is the most special thing about your property?

Not only do our guests enjoy the seclusion of a cozy "cabin in the woods," but we provide more private amenities than any expensive hotel or resort. Where can people go to find such luxurious surroundings and not have to share it with strangers? You don't have shared walls or have to share the exotic pool area, as you would at any hotel.

Everything is here for our guests' own personal use—their own private tropical resort that is surrounded by stunning landscaping; a bridge crossing over a koi pond filled with fish, rockery, and waterfalls; fire pits; and beautiful lighting. Once we give our guests the initial welcome and tour, we are scarce (unless they need something, or simply want to chat). We have put shades on all the windows and doors around the back of our house, so our guests have total privacy.

5. What do you love the most about running a glamping site? What are some of the challenges you face?

We love sharing our piece of paradise with others. Our glamping site has given us the opportunity to meet wonderful people from all over the world. We have had guests from Tibet, England, and Canada, as well as people from across America. People from all over California also come for staycations, since it's just a few hours away by car, and they arrive to a completely different world!

So far, we haven't had many challenges, and we feel blessed to have found this great opportunity to provide a service, as well as supplement our retirement. The only tough thing we face at times is the short turn-around time when we have back-to-back reservations. Since it's just the two of us, it's not always easy stripping beds, cleaning, laundering towels and linens, tidying up, and re-stocking in just three hours—especially when we have six guests who need three beds made up, instead of just one.

Carrying down and inflating the queen-size air mattress and hauling the additional memory-foam mattress to add to the sofa bed down the long path from the house to the safari tent is cumbersome. We haven't come up with an easier method yet, but who knows? Things are getting easier as times goes by. We are still pretty new to this, and practice makes perfect, right?

6. Tell us about your most memorable guest experience to date.

Wow, it's hard to pick just one! We had a wonderful family from England stay with us, and they were lovely; we ended up becoming very good friends and will be keeping in touch. There was a pre-bachelorette party of five gals, who absolutely fell in love with our place. They had a blast and are now walking advertisements for us—they are definitely planning to return.

We had a very sweet couple from San Francisco, who we wouldn't hesitate to adopt! Lastly, we had a very special Tibetan family, who upon their departure, honored us with a special gift for being their host: a gorgeous scarf/runner, made of white silk, for good luck. It made me cry!

7. Which three words are most commonly used in guest feedback about your accommodation?

Welcoming, comfortable, and amazing!

8. Tell us about the experience you provide for guests visiting your glamping site.

We provide the perfect place for our guests to relax, unplug, and enjoy nature. They get the best of both worlds:

  1. A comfortable camping experience, with memory-foam mattresses, in a spacious safari tent nestled in a countryside that is filled with oak trees, where you can fall asleep to the sound of owls, crickets, and frogs, and wake up to the birds' songs. You're surrounded by nature and wildlife and can enjoy sitting on the deck with a cup of coffee, watching wild turkeys and deer roam about the property. You can also go hiking on our nearby trail, which has stunning views of both the mountains and valley vineyards, in addition to breathtaking views of the ocean, from Avila Beach to the Guadalupe Dunes.

  2. The private use of our tropical pool area, Jacuzzi, and a large, modern, indoor bathroom with a shower and every amenity you could possibly need. You can spend your days lounging in the private pool area, with lush landscaping and waterfalls, or sitting on our little bridge over the covered pond, as you watch our beautiful koi and goldfish. There is a BBQ area, with plenty of patio tables, chairs, and loungers, as well as a gas fire pit to sit around while sipping on your favorite beverage.

There is literally something for everyone!

9. If you could have anybody stay at your accommodation, who would it be and why?

We would have to say my mom and Raul's dad. Sadly, they both have passed away, but they both loved our property—especially the exotic, tropical backyard, with the pool, lush plants, and waterfalls. They both would have been thrilled to see how we found a way to share our piece of paradise with others. (I also wouldn't mind a visit from Elvis; I was always his biggest fan!)

10. Are there any upcoming additions/changes to your glamping site you would like to share with us?

We have just ordered a two-burner electric combination kitchen—with a sink, counter space, cupboard space, and a compact refrigerator and freezer—for the covered patio area near the barbecue. Now, instead of just barbecuing, folks can actually cook, clean, and enjoy the use of an actual mini-kitchen. Plus, the additional refrigerator will accommodate more food and will be easier than using the provided ice chest and the mini-fridge down in the tent.

We also hope to pave the long path from the tent to the pool area, which will prevent everyone from tracking bark into the tent and bathroom and make everything much cleaner.


To book an unforgettable stay at Diane and Raul's safari tent in California, click here!

Host Spotlight: Robert and Emma

By Jackie Dreyer

Editor's note: Each month, we'd like to introduce you to one of our wonderful Glamping Hub hosts and what inspired them to create a glamping site. This month, we have Robert and Emma and their glamping property—with everything from pods and tiny houses to cabins and cottages!—in Essex, England.

1. What is the story behind you starting your glamping site?

Emma:

After converting two redundant farm buildings on the farm into cottages, our road into the accommodation sector began. A friend later suggested we offer a small field for touring caravans. Later, a Sunday supplement feature about MegaPods resulted in a conversation with Ian Bone of The Pod Company, and a few weeks later, our first MegaPod arrived.

Rob was a little skeptical, but a simple addition of a photograph of the MegaPod at the bottom of the cottages website resulted in lots of bookings. Two more MegaPods were quickly bought and installed.

Robert:

Shortly after this, Emma suggested we convert shipping containers into more glamping pods. Why not? We ship potatoes from the farm in shipping containers! This was way before George Clarke got in on the act.

Not long after a visit to a trade show resulted in a conversation with Archie Hunter at Armadilla, and a deal was struck to buy three, which our younger guests love, as they have mood lighting, TVs, DVD players, and Bluetooth connectivity.

The business rolled on but we were regularly turning folks away. We needed to expand, but carefully, without losing our ethos of providing luxury accommodation in large separate private spaces. We looked around the farm and decided on the next location—a little way from the original location, but with fantastic views across the fields to the estuary of the joining rivers: Colne, Crouch, and Blackwater.

After much debate and a trip to Slovenia, we installed 12 fabulous Lushna cabins. There are four different designs—each one in its own huge 25-meter by 15-meter plot—and they're already proving to be extremely popular with our guests.

2. What did you do before becoming a glamping host? What drew you to glamping?

Emma:

Before setting up the glamping business, Rob was a potato merchant, buying and selling potatoes from across the U.K., mostly for export. He also helped out with the family farm, where the glamping business is based.

Robert:

Emma had a successful career in TV working for various companies in London, as well as for a time in Singapore, before moving back to her original home turf in Essex. After meeting Rob, she got involved with the glamping business and uses her marketing and branding qualifications and skills to guide the business on its way.

3. In your opinion, how does your accommodation fit the definition of glamping?

Robert:

Our pods are what glamping is all about, "like a hotel room in a field." It's all the pleasure of camping, but with the luxury and comfort to make the stay as pleasurable as it can be.

4. What is the most special thing about your property?

Emma:

Our location is the best thing about our glamping site. Just a short drive of an hour and 25 minutes from London, the property is on a quiet, peaceful lane, where, except for the odd tractor, the noisiest thing you'll hear are the birds and bees in the hedges and trees. The views across the fields to the estuary beyond are fantastic, and the nature reserve, beach, and marshes at the end of the lane are a place of natural wonder.

5. What do you love the most about running a glamping site? What are some of the challenges you face?

Emma:

Rob loves developing new things, so his mind is currently scheming his tree house! He's already got a design worked up for a two-story, luxury, circular cabin, which will float in the branches of the fabulous holm oak tree in the farm's yard.

Robert:

Emma says my personal challenge is keeping our guests happy and wanting to return here. Coming up with new ideas for the business is important, too, so it evolves for our guests and inspires us and our team here at the farm.

6. Tell us about your most memorable guest experience to date.

Emma:

For Rob, I think it is some of the funny emails we get from guests. Perhaps the gem, "can you quote me happy," still makes him chuckle. I love the marriage proposals at our properties, as well as guests returning over the years to make further memories with their children.

Emma:

And who can forget finding fish swimming about in one of the hot tubs?! That was rather memorable. Some of our younger guests had caught some fish and were not allowed to take them home, so thinking quickly, they popped them in a hot tub for safe keeping. Thankfully, the hot tub had cooled down by that point. When found, the fish were safely returned to the river after their morning spa treatment.

7. Which three words are most commonly used in guest feedback about your accommodation?

Emma:

Relaxing, peaceful, and wonderful.

8. Tell us about the experience you provide for guests visiting your glamping site.

Robert:

What we provide is an opportunity for guests to switch off. We don't need guests to check in, as they receive all the information they need to arrive at their accommodation in advance by email and text message—leaving them with nothing left to do but get on with relaxing.

Emma:

As Rob says, we run the business how we would like to be treated. No check-in means you're not worrying about arriving at 3 p.m. because the owner needs to show you around—all while the kids are driving you nuts in the car and you just want to arrive, relax, and have a cup of tea or a glass of wine.

Reducing stress to start with, so the holiday begins the minute you set off, is important. We encourage our guests to relax or go and explore the local area, including the beautiful stretch of coastline at our doorstep.

9. If you could have anybody stay at your accommodation, who would it be and why?

Robert:

Barack Obama—the only person of renown that I have ever really felt that I would like to meet.

Emma:

Aside from celebrities, I would like to look at charities for next year, perhaps offering a couple of weekends for families that are facing or have faced challenges, perhaps a bereavement, for example. Children caring for a sick parent really resonate with me, and I would like to offer a family some time to relax and get away from the strains of home life for a couple of days, if possible. As much as we are running a business, for both of us, it is important to add an ethical purpose, too.

10. Are there any upcoming additions/changes to your glamping site you would like to share with us?

Robert

My tree house and our hope and dream to add three cabins to a lovely area of grass between our wooded area and our reservoir. It is a beautiful location on the other side of the village—perfect for glamping!

Emma:

We have a few ideas. Another site would be good, with some variation. It's been a challenging year for us in a few different ways, and we have been talking recently about how, despite this, we are getting ready to move forward and create something new and different.


To book an unforgettable stay at Robert and Emma's property in Essex, click here for the cottage, some tiny houses, another tiny house, pods, one more tiny house, another pod, a few more pods, and a cabin!

Costa Vicentina: A hidden surfers' paradise in Portugal

By Fred Jéquier

Photo from cEkonomista.

Every year, surfers across Europe flock to some of the most popular surf spots in the continent. Usual suspects include Biarritz in France; San Sebastian in northern Spain, Sennen Cove in Cornwall, England, and Peniche in Portugal. If you're looking for somewhere new to ride some waves this summer, look no further. The stunning Costa Vicentina is where you should be looking. This incredible coastline—rich in history, culture, and, of course, waves—has numerous beaches that are perfect for a summer surfing adventure.

Where is Costa Vicentina?

Costa Vicentina is set in the incredible Alentejo and Algarve regions of Portugal. Part of a natural park that starts further north and runs from the fishing village of Burgau in the south to Odeceixe Beach, Costa Vicentina is the longest stretch of protected Portuguese coast, with beaches as far as the eye can see.

This area of preserved nature has breathtaking, rugged character that is different to other parts of southwestern and southern Portugal. Heading west from Lagos, you'll leave the picturesque caves and coves behind you and will soon find yourself amid vast, empty swathes of sand or tiny, inaccessible beaches—perfect for the more adventurous surfer, as they are continually hammered by the full force of the Atlantic Ocean.

History of the region

Costa Vicentina has a rich history that precedes its current role as a surfers' paradise. Cape St. Vincent, the most south-western point in Europe, has religious traditions that stretch as far back as the Ancient Greeks, who called it the Land of the Serpents, and the Romans, who considered the horizon beyond which the sun set sacred, referred to it as Promontorium Sacrum, which means Holy Promontory, and is the Latin origin of the coastal town of Sagres.

The Romans saw the cape as the end of the world, where the sun would be submerged each day into the endless ocean—a belief that some still clung to during the medieval period. Skip forward to the 15th century, and Costa Vicentina became an increasingly important area during the European age of discovery.

Photo from Lisbon Tourism.

Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460), the fourth child of King John I of Portugal, and the Governor of the Algarve, dedicated his life to furthering Portugal's early voyages of discovery and founded the School of Navigation in Sagres. He also oversaw the creation of caravels—ships that were faster and lighter than their predecessors, as well as highly maneuverable, which was perfect for exploring the African coast line and going into the Atlantic.

The Fortaleza, or fortress on the headland above Sagres, located on a dramatic, narrow headland that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, may well have been where Henry's School of Navigation was based, he certainly spent a good amount of time there planning his voyages. Nowadays, it's a must-see for tourists. This windswept spot overlooks the ocean, with incredible coastal views.

Top surfing spots

The Costa Vicentina has a plethora of beaches for you to choose from, each different to the last. Whether you're a beginner, or an advanced surfer used to charging waves as tall as houses, you are bound to find a beach that suits your needs when you head to this unique coastline. Here are just a few of our favorites!

1. Arrifana Beach

Half way between Praia de Odeceixe and Sagres, this crescent-shaped beach is perfect for surfers of any level. Beginners can make the most of the slightly slower waves at high tide, and those with more experience can head out at low tide for the faster waves. On days with a good swell, the beach can have a lot of visitors, but this is a great spot for both surfing, and relaxing. The town has a variety of restaurants and bars for when you've built up an appetite carving the waves.

2. Amado Beach

A 25-minute drive from Sagres, the waves that roll into Amado Beach are not reliant on the tides, making it the perfect spot for surfers all year round. One of the most consistent surfing spots in the area, it is open to all Atlantic swells, and as a protected area, it's not built-up, allowing you to enjoy a secluded, peaceful beach. If you're planning on visiting this stunning bit of coastline, you'll be able to find a place to stay in Sagres, or even Lagos, which is just 40 minutes away.

3. Castelejo Beach

Just 12 kilometers from Sagres, Castelejo Beach can be affected by westerly winds, meaning that in the summer months, the waves are conducive to anyone who wants to learn how to surf from scratch. Meanwhile, in autumn, the beach can come into contact with some fairly strong Atlantic swells that create world-class waves—perfect if you're a seasoned surfer.

4. Beliche Beach

Even closer to Sagres than Castelejo Beach⁠—a 10-minute drive in fact⁠—Beliche Beach is surrounded by large cliffs, creating a stunning spot to get in some surfing. The waves are at their best here either side of the main summer months, and they are perfect for intermediate to advanced surfers to enjoy.

5. Zavial Beach

Just east of Sagres, Zavial Beach is one of the first major surfing beaches when you enter the Costa Vicentina—and one of the best-known. With fast waves that are enhanced by strong winds, it gets good swells that are great for beginner and intermediate surfers. On days when there is a lull and the waves are not at their best, the beach itself is a stunning spot to relax or swim.

Surf schools

If you've never been surfing before, but fancy having a go at it while visiting the Costa Vicentina, we've got some suggestions of surfing schools that'll help you on your way to becoming the next Kelly Slater.

1. Boa Onda Surf School

The Boa Onda Surf School has a great reputation. Set just a 10-minute drive from the town of Aljezur, Boa Onda Surf School has classes throughout the year, with prices ranging from 35€ for half a day or a five-day course that costs 225€ in high season. They also have options for a residential course, and you can rent all the necessary equipment from the school, so you don't need to invest in a pricey new board and wetsuit.

2. Odeceixe Surf School

Founded in 2008, the Odeceixe Surf School is set close to the beach and has a small team of experienced instructors. For a day's class in high season, it'll set you back 60€, and up to five days will cost 250€. Typically, one class will get you between three and four hours in the water with an instructor.

The price doesn't just cover your lesson, though. You will get the use of a board and wetsuit, transport to beaches only locals know about, and even sports insurance—along with a comprehensive guide in dangers, such as rips, currents, and how to safely paddle in and out of the surf.

3. Mission To Surf

With more than 20 years experience, Mission To Surf will make the impossible possible. Set in Palmeirinha, and with surf classes for beginners to advanced surfers, Mission To Surf has something for everyone. A beginner course will place you in a class of no more than eight students, so you can be sure of maximum supervision from your instructor. A week-long course costs 250€ in high season and 200€ in the low season, with classes typically lasting four hours. You can also opt for one-on-one classes for an hour, which 55€ for the first hour, with the option of a second hour for an additional 28€.


Keep exploring the incredible beauty of Portugal with a stay at one of our amazing accommodations!

Easy-to-make summer recipes while at home or away

By Eleanor Stanesby

Photo from The Gateway.

When temperatures are high, the thought of spending hours in the kitchen is dreaded by most. The already-warm nights are exacerbated by the oven and stove heating up the entire home, creating a flustered cook and sometimes a failed meal. Imagine when you throw in the additional pressure of cooking on vacation for a large group and in an unfamiliar kitchen, too!

Good food can be difficult to get right if you don't have a plan, so we've sourced some summer recipes that are easy, quick, refreshing, and something that the whole group will love, whether you're at home or away on vacation. They'll even leave time for you to ensure that you can achieve your sunbathing, reading, and afternoon napping goals this summer, too!

Dinner

No-cook zucchini noodles

A delicious zucchini recipe from Healthy Seasonal Recipes.

This no-cook zucchini noodle recipe is the perfect summer meal. With nothing but prep time, this meal is ready in just 15 minutes, and no cooking means no extra heat from the stove top or ovens. These noodles can be prepared multiple ways, no matter where you are or what kitchen equipment may be on hand, so you can even serve this meal on vacation. It's also a low-carb, low-cost recipe, with only three main ingredients: zucchini, pesto, and tomato—and seasoning, of course—all of which are easy to find, cheap to buy, and healthy! What could be better?

Fish tacos

A fish taco recipe from Foodie Crush.

This blackened fish tacos recipe offers the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the warm summer evenings and cook outside. The fish can be prepared on an outdoor grill, and after that, all you have to do is add fresh vegetables and seasoning. If you want to add a salsa, too, this recipe has the steps to an awesome, homemade creamy avocado topping. All these ingredients can be served separately, allowing the group to make their own tacos to taste at the table and take some pressure off of the cook. It's the perfect excuse to call up your friends and invite them over for a summer dinner!

Sweet treats

Chocolate peanut butter cookies

A no-bake chocolate peanut butter cookie recipe from House of Nash Eats.

Oats, peanut butter, and chocolate—what could be a better cookie combination than these three mouthwatering ingredients? Even better, these cookies are no-bake and can be created in just 15 to 20 minutes. If you're looking for a quick, no hassle dessert, this is the recipe for you, and if you're going on vacation, you don't even need an oven to whip up this heavenly creation. They're sure to be a hit with both kids and adults—the perfect way to end a hot summer's day.

Chocolate-covered watermelon

A chocolate covered watermelon recipe from Delish.

These tasty slices of chocolate-covered watermelon have got you covered when on the hunt for something refreshing to eat while in the heat. This delicious dessert needs only four ingredients: watermelon, chocolate, coconut oil, and flaky sea salt. Coconut oil may be hard to come by if on vacation, so this ingredient can be left out; however it does speed up the process from prep time to indulging. In a mere 10 minutes, you can have the ideal after-dinner snack for the whole group.

Frozen coconut s'mores

A frozen coconut s'mores recipe from Womans Day.

This recipe requires a little more work, but it'll be so worth it in the end. A summer s'more without the hassle and heat of a campfire? Sounds too good to be true! All you need is a freezer to achieve the ultimate frozen dessert. Made in batches, these frozen delights can be served to a large group, with the recipe designed to provide 32 servings, ensuring you won't need s'more once you've polished off this desert! If you love this combination of flavors, making this recipe is the ideal alternative in the summer heat.

Bonus recipe

Pink grapefruit gin slush

A summer drink recipe from David Lebovitz.

No summer vacation is complete without a delicious, chilled drink. This pink grapefruit gin slush is the perfect recipe for that lip-smacking, delicious summer drink. Ice cold, gin-infused, and sweet, there's no better homemade concoction to keep you cool. All you need to do is pour the ingredients together and put it in the freezer⁠! And now you don't have to worry whether your guests prefer their cocktails shaken or stirred.


Still trying to find the perfect spot for your summer vacation? Keep reading to find the perfect accommodation to complete your summer!

Top 10 luxury tents in Victoria, Australia

By Alexis Vega

Despite being the second smallest state in Australia, Victoria is huge when it comes to diversity of regions, outdoor recreation, attractions, and landscapes you have to see to believe. From great nature displays, such as The Twelve Apostles, Yarra Valley, and aboriginal landmarks, to iconic events, like the Australian Grand Prix, Victoria appeals to even the most demanding travelers and makes the perfect destination for an outdoor holiday.

Not just any holiday, though! We are talking luxury, glamour, and style in the great outdoors. Victoria plays host to some great glamping sites, like our top 10 favorite luxury tents, for you to experience nature without giving up any creature comforts. Just imagine sleeping under the stars, watching the sunset, or relaxing in the hot tub at one of these first-class properties! Keep reading to find out the best way to add some luxury to your next outdoor holiday in Victoria.

1. Eco-Friendly Tent in Phillip Island, Victoria

Located in a secluded setting on Phillip Island, this eco-friendly tent boasts off-grid solar power and energy-efficient utilities. Whether you're looking for a couple's getaway, or hoping to enjoy some peace and quiet with a small group of friends, this adorable rental is perfect. It is just 600 meters from one of the best surf breaks and secluded beaches on the island, and what’s more, if you stay here, you'll have the chance to see some of the unique wildlife that calls the area home.

2. Romantic Bell Tent near Stunning Beaches in Ventnor, Victoria

Offering extreme comfort and high-quality bedding, this bell tent is the perfect option for couples who wish to relax in style in one of the most beautiful locations in Australia. By picking this rental, you'll be able to enjoy long hikes exploring the incredible surrounding natural beauty, or visit one of the many wonderful wineries Victoria boasts for a day of tours and tastings.

3. Bell Tent with Breathtaking Views on Phillip Island, Victoria

Another great option for couples looking to enjoy a quiet holiday together is this bell tent in Ventnor on Phillip Island. An eco-friendly option, the hosts have ensured that you'll be comfy and cozy with a queen-size bed and plenty of high-quality bedding. In the surrounding nature, you will be able to try out a whole range of great outdoor adventures or spend days relaxing in your own private haven.

4. Bell Tent on the Ovens River in Porepunkah near Bright, Victoria

This brilliantly appointed bell tent is tucked away along the Oven River, just a short drive away from downtown Bright. With a solar-heated swimming pool and plenty of amenities, you will find it hard to leave the glamping site, but since it's ideally placed to enjoy both the great outdoors and some small-town recreation, you won't want to miss out on all this area has to offer!

5. Bell Tent near Daylesford in Victoria, Australia

With a charming interior boasting armchairs, a luxurious queen-size bed, as well as quality blankets, pillows, and throw rugs, this lovely bell tent near Daylesford is in the perfect spot to explore some truly stunning areas of natural beauty in Victoria. While the surrounding area is best known for its mineral springs, there are also several amazing parks and gardens to be explored. You can also enjoy a day in the city with a visit to Melbourne, which is under an hour's drive away.

6. Tent with a Private Chimenea in Inverloch, Victoria

This tent is set in the coastal town of Inverloch and offers an exceptional location for a beach getaway. The tent offers plush bedding and a seven-meter dock with a chimenea, as well as an outdoor campfire. Local attractions include Anderson Inlet, Bunurong Marine National Park, Eagles Nest, and Twin Reefs.

7. Beachfront Tent near Wilsons Promontory National Park in Yanakie, Victoria

Tucked away near the beach in Yanakie and just a 5-minute walk from the entrance to Wilsons Promontory National Park, this bell tent sleeps two guests and it’s tastefully decorated, making you feel comfy and cozy in a stylish setting. This rental is perfect if you want to spend your holiday sunbathing and swimming, as you'll be just a short stroll from the nearest beach.

8. Stylish Bell Tent for Two near Hepburn Springs in Victoria, Australia

This gorgeous property with a sleek interior is located near the town of Daylesford and can accommodate two guests. Daylesford is settled in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range of Victoria, so anyone staying here will have quick and easy access to some great areas of natural beauty. Hepburn Mineral Springs is just a stone's throw away and is well worth a visit during a stay at this spot.

9. Romantic Tent with Waterfront Views in Yanakie, Victoria

With views of the ocean on one side and stunning countryside on the other, this romantic glamping tent is located in Yanakie, and includes all the essentials for an unforgettable glamping adventure. Stay here, and you will find yourself within easy walking distance of the Yanakie boat ramp at Duck Point, and close to Wilsons Promontory National Park.

10. Romantic Bell Tents near Rosebud, Victoria

These stunning bell tent rentals can be found just outside of Rosebud, Victoria, in a beautiful rural setting. Each one of them comfortably sleeps two guests. The property lies on the Blue Ranges Estate, a vineyard sitting 200 meters above sea level that offers incredible panoramic views of Port Phillip Bay and the Bass Strait. These stunning vistas create the perfect backdrop for a romantic getaway.


Book one of these deluxe tents in Victoria, and and start planning your Australian glamping adventure today!

The importance of reviews: How to naturally encourage your guests to leave one

By Eric Wright

Guests reviews about your unique accommodation are absolutely crucial in encouraging more intrepid travelers to choose your retreat as their next vacation getaway. Reviews give potential guests an honest insight into what to expect when they arrive, and they give your accommodation a more personal, individual character—creating a real bond between guests, hosts, and the property itself. They also offer a precious way to receive invaluable feedback that will help future guests have that once in a lifetime experience they have been dreaming of.

With these handy tips on how to naturally encourage your guests to leave a review, you'll be receiving better reviews—and more of them!—in no time.

1. Leave a welcome gift and basic necessities

The phrase, "A little goes a long way," couldn't be truer when it comes to providing some simple, affordable items for your guests upon arrival. Nobody likes to arrive at a secluded getaway in the forest only to have to head back out on those winding country roads to stock up on basic items, like salt, pepper, and oil for the kitchen. A few cold beers on the table, a modest bottle of wine, or a small platter of local food will make a world of difference when it comes to guests leaving a glowing report about their vacation rental.

2. Have a chat as guests check in

Our stellar hosts typically handle the check-in of their newly arrived glampers themselves, and this is the ideal time to both thank guests for choosing your accommodation, while also kindly asking them to leave a review at the end of their stay with both highlights and any potential improvements you could make. Guests always want to know about the best things on offer in the area, too, and with your keen local knowledge, you can help point them in the right direction to make their stay an unforgettable one.

3. Leave a thank you note

Right before your guests check out, leave them a personalized thank you note. Cute, affordable stationary and cards are readily available at stores like Target and Walgreen's, and it won't take more then a minute or two to leave a quick, yet heartfelt, message to thank them for choosing your rental. If they do end up leaving you a winning review online, be sure to respond to their comments expressing your gratitude and welcoming them back for their next vacation!

4. Make sure your accommodation is spotless

A high level of cleanliness is at the top of almost every guest's list when it comes to things that help them view an accommodation favorably and want to leave a glowing review. Guests look for everything to be spick and span throughout the entire rental, but pay extra special attention to the bathroom, as well as smaller details, like the bed linens and the first glass or mug a guest will grab to pour themselves a glass of water or a cup of coffee. If everything is sparkling, your guests are definitely going to want to rave about it afterwards.

5. Get to know your guests

Whether your guests are planning an outdoorsy vacation filled with activities and adventures or celebrating a special occasion, like an engagement or birthday, you'll want to find out right from the start so you can make their stay even more special. Ask your guests what else you can provide, no matter how small it may seem, as we all know it's the little things that often make the biggest difference.


Have you seen the rest of our GH Tips blog series? Check out the rest of our advice on how to create the best listing, accommodation, and experience possible for your guests!

Best pet-friendly places to stay to celebrate your pooch on National Mutt Day

By Arran Wallace

National Mutt Day, also known as National Mixed Breed Dog Day, is celebrated on both July 31 and December 2, because why have just one party in honor of dogs when you can have two? The day was created to raise awareness of mixed breed dogs in shelters that are constantly overlooked in favor of purebred dogs, despite mixed breeds making up almost 80% of the dogs in shelters.

While mixed breeds may not conform to neither Western society's nor the media's standards of beauty, they tend to be healthier, better behaved, and just as intelligent as, if not more than, pure breeds. And we, for one, think they're very cute—just have a look at two of our office dogs below!

Winston (L), whose breeds are unknown, and Croqueta (R), a Husky and German Shepherd mix.

To celebrate this fantastic day, we've put together a list of some of our favorite pet-friendly places across the U.S. so you and your dog can celebrate in glamping style.

Romantic and Pet-Friendly Safari Tent Rental in Woodlands of Olympia

This simply stunning safari tent for two in the woodlands of Olympia, Washington, is perfect for a romantic getaway—as long as that romantic getaway involves a third wheel with four legs. Located in the woods, but with the feel of a hotel suite, you'll never want to leave!

Pet-Friendly Cabin Rental near Eldora Mountain Ski Resort in Nederland, Colorado

This cute, little cabin for two is located just outside of Denver, Colorado, making it an easy-to-get-to option for a city break. Surrounded by the woodlands of the lower Rocky Mountains, your pooch will absolutely adore running around here, and afterwards, you can both snuggle up together to warm up after a full day of snowy activities.

Pet-Friendly Dome Rental near San Antonio, Texas

Located just outside San Antonio, Texas, this unique property can sleep up to four guests in an interesting dome structure, while offering an incredible location with many features to explore with Rover, such as the Guadalupe River State Park and City Lake. Both you and your dog are sure to have the time of your life!

Spacious Pet-Friendly Yurt in Smith River National Recreation Area, Northern California

This gorgeous yurt in California doesn't just look fantastic—it has so many great amenities, too! There's room for six guests to enjoy a wonderful vacation together, with a spacious lounge, fully-equipped kitchen, and a barbecue. There's even a private hot tub to sink into after a busy day. Unfortunately, the dog can't join you in the tub, but there's plenty of space for him or her to run around while you soak!

Pet-Friendly Cabin Rental in the Woods near Nauvoo, Illinois

This classic, all-American cabin in the woods is great for a getaway at any time of the year. It really comes into its own, though, when it's snowing outside, and there's a fire roaring away in the fireplace. Picture this—sitting in the armchair with a cup of cocoa, snowflakes falling outside, and your dog spread out in front of the fire, tired from a day of hiking. Pure bliss!

Authentic Pet-Friendly Tipi Rental with Gorgeous Nearby Pond in Bellevue, Idaho

This classic glamping accommodation in Idaho has a simply stunning interior and a wood-burning stove to keep things cozy. Not only are you able to explore Lookout Mountain and the Big Wood River while in the area, but your dog will also love meeting the farm animals on site, which include chickens, horses, goats, dogs, and cats.

Pet-Friendly Tiny House Getaway with an On-Site Dog Park near Waldport, Oregon

Although small, this tiny house in Oregon has everything that two guests need to enjoy a getaway together, but the best part of this rental are the social areas. There's a games room with a ping-pong table, a pool table, a dartboard, and various board games. In the evening, there's a barbecue and fire pit area to socialize around. Oh, there's also a dog park on-site and pristine beaches for morning walks at just five minutes away!

Pet-Friendly A-Frame Cabin in Arapaho National Forest in Breckenridge, Colorado

Surrounded on all sides by the Arapaho National Forest in Colorado, your dog will definitely feel at home bounding through the trees and up and down the hills. At the end of the day, everyone will love returning to the creature comforts of this A-frame cabin. Outside, there's a deck where you can enjoy the views with a drink, while inside, there is a large sofa with a TV for chilling out in the evening. There's even a dog bed, so Rover won't feel left out!

Pet-Friendly Camping Tent for a Getaway near Woodstock, Vermont

Located in a secluded spot in the woods of Vermont, this safari tent is perfect for those wanting to get back into nature. While furnished inside with a queen-size bed and a wood-burning stove, guests will surely be spending most of their time outside, either on the deck, at the picnic table, by the fire pit, or hiking with the furry one through the forest.

Pet-Friendly Cabin Rental with a Private Pond near Aspen Lake in Innsbrook, Missouri

With all the fantastic features on offer at this cabin just outside St. Louis, Missouri, you may never want to go outside! Rest assured, though, if you do—and let's be honest, there's no way your dog is letting you stay inside all day—you'll find plenty of places to explore, including Aspen Lake and the surrounding woodland, streams, and ponds. As the movie title says, "All dogs go to heaven," and given the location, your dog might just think that they have!

Pet-Friendly Safari Tent Getaway on a Small Farm near Pine Plains, New York

Located in Upstate New York, this secluded safari tent is perfect for a break from the city. Imagine waking up, pulling the tent doors open, inhaling the fresh country air, and watching your dog bound off into the greenery. Beats sleepily stumbling down flights of stairs to be greeted by a busy, traffic-filled street, doesn't it? There's even a hammock for you to chill out in while you watch your best friend explore the grassy space in front of the tent.


Can't adopt a mutt? No problem! You can still support them by donating to or volunteering at your local animal shelter! You can find the one nearest you on Pet Finder, ASPCA, or Adopt A Pet.