15 of the best campsites in California, whether you want easy car camping or to hit backcountry trails

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Yosemite National Park
  • From the Sierra Nevada mountains to the beaches, California is loaded with stunning landscapes.
  • Pitching a tent at a unique campsite is one of the best ways to enjoy the state’s outdoor offerings.
  • We rounded up the best California campsites, whether you want easy car camping or backcountry fun.
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I’ve lived in northern California for the last eight years, and hands down, my favorite aspect of living here is access to outdoor recreation. From the Sierra Nevada mountains where I live to the deserts of Southern California to the coastal beaches along the Oregon border, California is loaded with stunning outdoor landscapes. And what’s the best way to immerse yourself in those unique destinations? By camping, of course.

There’s a lot of variety between the best campsites in California, but what they all have in common is that you won’t find sites like these anywhere else. And you don’t have to be a wilderness expert to find the perfect place to pitch your tent: many of California’s best campsites have amenities like hot showers, cell service and Wi-Fi, and even coffee shops and restaurants.

The list below covers some of the best public campsites in California bound to create happy campers, whether you want to car camp (drive right to your campsite) or backpack (carry everything on foot into a more remote campsite.) Remember that reservations may be required, and you may or may not be allowed to make campfires based on wildfire and drought conditions.

Browse all of the best campsites in California below, or jump to a specific area here:

Here are the best campsites in California, sorted by price from low to high.

Joshua Tree National Park Indian Cove Campground

Joshua Tree National Park Indian Cove Campground
Pitching a tent against dramatic rock formations at the Indian Cove campground.

Book the Joshua Tree National Park Indian Cove Campground

For an otherworldly, desert experience, camp in Joshua Tree National Park for a long weekend. The national park has several campgrounds, and while the Jumbo Rocks Campground is the closest to the park’s most popular hikes, I prefer pitching a tent against the dramatic rock formations at the Indian Cove campground.

Locations 75 to 95 are the primo spots. There’s no running water in any of Joshua Tree’s campgrounds, so bring in plenty before you park – you are in the desert, after all.

Reds Meadow Campground

Reds Meadow waterfall
From this campground, you can walk to the trailheads for Devil’s Postpile, rainbow falls, hot springs, and more.

View Reds Meadow Campground

Mammoth Lakes is an undoubtedly awesome city for summer fun, filled with epic hiking trails through the eastern sierra, breweries and distilleries, and the year-round Mammoth Mountain resort. If you can get to town early, try to snag a spot at Reds Meadow Campground, which doesn’t take reservations. But because it’s about 20 minutes outside of the city limits, it tends to not get as crowded as downtown campgrounds (though it still gets crowded.)

Red’s Meadow has a campground lake, a general store and cafe within walking distance, indoor bathrooms and showers, and best of all, access to amazing hikes. Campers can walk to the trailheads for Devil’s Postpile, rainbow falls, hot springs, and much more. 

Yosemite National Park Pines Campgrounds

Yosemite National Park Pines Campgrounds
Nothing will make you feel more in awe than standing under a 1,000-year-old sequoia or looking up at El Capitan.

Book the Yosemite National Park Pines Campgrounds

Yes, Yosemite gets crowded: but there’s a reason for that. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the U.S. and nothing will make you feel more in awe of our amazing planet than standing under a 1,000-year-old sequoia tree or straining your neck to look up at the rocky cliff of world-famous El Capitan. Yosemite has more than a dozen campgrounds, but the most convenient are the three campgrounds on the west end of the Yosemite Valley: North Pines Campground, Lower Pines Campground, and Upper Pines Campground (they’re all in the same area.)  Lower Pines sites probably have the best views, but they’re all winners. 

All sites have a picnic table and fire pit, plus potable water and clean restrooms, and hot showers. But the best part is the location: many sites have views of Half Dome, and you can walk to the Mist Trail and stops for the free Yosemite Valley shuttle, which stops at all the Yosemite Valley’s best sites and trailheads.

Lassen National Park Manzanita Lake Campground

Manzanita Lake Area in Lassen Volcanic National Park
Ditch the crowds at this lesser-visited campsite.

Book the Lassen National Park Manzanita Lake Campground

Love national parks but hate the crowds? Then head north to Lassen National Park, one of the country’s least-visited national parks. That makes it one of the best campgrounds in California if you want to snag a lakefront campground at the last minute.

While reservations are usually the best bet, the park’s Manzanita Lake Campground is walk-in only from early October to the park’s closing. Get there early (before 9 a.m.) to snag spot at the southern end of the campground for the best views of 10,463-foot-high Lassen Peak.

Prairie Creek State Redwoods State Park

Prairie Creek State Redwoods State Park
Some scenes from the “Jurassic Park” movies were filmed at this spot.

Book the Prairie Creek State Redwoods State Park

One of the coolest places to camp in California (both literally and figuratively) is Prairie Creek State Redwoods State Park. There are more than two dozen trails in the park, including the famous “Fern Canyon” trail, where scenes from the “Jurassic Park” movies were filmed. Through the park and its campsites are hundreds of coastal redwoods – the tallest trees on earth. 

I prefer sleeping in the shade and seclusion of the redwood trees at the park’s Elk Prairie Campground, but guests who prefer coastal views will like the sites built on the dunes at the park’s Gold Bluffs campground, which look out over a stunning stretch of Pacific coastline.

Limekiln State Park

Limekiln Creek and Redwood Grove, Big Sur, California
Choose from the Coast campground or the Redwood camp. They both have restrooms and hot showers.

Book the Limekiln State Park

Big Sur is one of the most stunning stretches of coastline in the United States, but the hotels in towns to the north like Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey get very, very busy. That’s why I usually recommend campers head south instead to Limekiln State Park.

Campers can pitch their tent in the Coast campground or the Redwood camp, each with running water, restrooms, and hot showers. It’s an easy drive north to the popular parks in Big Sur, and on your way home, you can swing by Esalen Hot Springs, where you can reserve a sunset soak in their oceanview hot springs.

Morro Bay State Park

Morro Bay State Park
Campers here have ocean views to the west and access to paddling, boating, and kayaking to the east.

Book the Morro Bay State Park

One of central California’s most recognizable features is Morro Rock, a monolith rising from the surf near the cool surfer town of San Luis Obispo. While most private campsites are on the inland side of Morro Bay, Morro Bay State Park is on the ocean side, giving campers ocean views to the west and access to paddling, boating, and kayaking on Morro Bay to the east.

Campgrounds have all the amenities you’d expect, but you can also walk to the Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History, Morro Rock Natural Preserve, and a waterfront cafe in case you get sick or roasting hot dogs.

San Elijo State Beach Campground

San Elijo State Beach Campground
Sleep perched on a bluff above the sand at this California beach campsite.

Book the San Elijo State Beach Campground

The campground at San Elijo State Beach Campground is beach camping at its finest. Campsites are perched on a bluff above the sand to make sure you have epic sunset views, but it’s just a few stairs to get down to the shoreline when it’s time to surf or go for a swim.

Encinitas is one of the coolest surf towns in California, and San Elijo Beach is squarely in the center of it all. Sites 1 through 39 are closest to the beach.

Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake
Big Bear is just a short drive from LA, making it easily accessible for city dwellers.

Book the Big Bear Lake

Big Bear is the closest mountain town to Los Angeles and camping in its hills is one of the best ways to beat the heat and relax in cooler climates for a long weekend. One of the best campsites in California is the Serrano Campground on the north shore of Big Bear Lake.

Wake up in the morning and grab a coffee from the marina store before swimming out to one of the lake’s boulder piles, perfect for cliff jumping.

Emerald Bay State Park

Emerald Bay State Park
In terms of pure beauty, it’s tough to beat Lower Eagle Point at Lake Tahoe.

Book the Emerald Bay State Park

Lake Tahoe is just as gorgeous as any national park on the West Coast, and fortunately, there are more than a dozen campgrounds around the lake’s 72 miles of shoreline. But in terms of pure beauty, it’s hard to find a campground more epic than Lower Eagle Point.

Perched on a peninsula overlooking Emerald Bay, it’s ideal if your idea of the perfect day is lazing away the hours at a sandy alpine beach with turquoise-blue waters. And you’ll be near plenty of great restaurants and breweries in the town of South Lake Tahoe.

Pianetta Ranch & Winery Camp

Pianetta Ranch and Winery
You’ll be right in the middle of a working ranch and winery at this campsite.

Book the Pianetta Ranch & Winery Camp

You don’t have to be an avid hiker to love camping, as evidenced by Pianetta Ranch & Winery Camp. Tucked under a large oak tree are a few sites for tent camping, square in the middle of a working ranch and winery.

Guests can cruise around the more than 300 wineries in Paso Robles, then return to camp for an afternoon wine-tasting and campfire under the stars.

The Presidio

Rob Hill Campground at the Presidio
This is the only campsite in California that’s actually in San Francisco.

Book The Presidio

If you care more about gourmet cuisine, sightseeing, and sea lions than you breaking in your hiking boots, book the only campsite in California actually in San Francisco: the Rob Hill Campground at the Presidio. Once a military complex, the Presidio is now a sprawling park with nature walks, scenic overlooks, beaches, museums, and more.

Campers get a fire ring, indoor bathrooms, bike racks, and BBQ grills. Unfortunately, there are no showers, so plan to jump in the ocean at Baker’s Beach when you need to cool off. 

The best backcountry campsites in California

Sometimes, the best thing about camping isn’t camping itself – it’s getting to wake up in beautiful and remote destinations miles away from traffic, people, and the stress of civilization. 

These California campsites below aren’t accessible by car. Instead, you’ll need to hike your way in, carrying everything you need on your back, including your food, tent and sleeping bag, and water or water filter. You’ll need to have basic backcountry knowledge, some extra first-aid and emergency skills, and the fitness for hiking long distances with an additional 30 pounds on your back. Backcountry campsites have no amenities, no bathrooms, no potable water – if you didn’t carry it in, it isn’t there. 

But if you’re ready to head into the backcountry, these are three of the most exceptional California campsites tucked away in the mountains across the state:

Cathedral Lakes

Cathedral Lakes in Yosemite National Park
The high-altitude weather makes for a pleasant stay here even in the middle of July and August.

Book the Cathedral Lakes

Another campsite in Yosemite? You bet – Tuolumne (rhymes with “follow me”) Meadows is high above the Yosemite Valley on the park’s eastern side. Though it’s snow-covered and inaccessible in winter, it’s simply stunning in the summer, and the high-altitude weather makes it far more pleasant for hiking in the middle of July and August. If it’s your first backpacking trip, head to Cathedral Lakes, which is also part of the beautiful John Muir Trail.

You’ll be able to camp near the shore of the still, bright-blue lakes that perfectly reflect the nearby giant rock formations and mountain peaks. You can go to Lower or Upper Cathedral Lake; I recommend Upper for fewer crowds (though campsites at Lower Cathedral Lake are closer to the water.) It’s about a 3.5-mile trek to the upper lake and gains only around 1,000 feet, so it’s a good route for beginner backcountry campers.

Evolution Lake in Kings Canyon National Park

Evolution Lake in Kings Canyon National Park
This lush valley surrounded by towering Sierra peaks is a jaw-dropping place to sleep.

Book the Evolution Lake in Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park sits squarely in the middle of the Sierras, north of Sequoia National Park and south of Yosemite. The Evolution Valley is the most beautiful place to camp in the park, but it’s a trek – it’s nearly 16 miles from the nearest trailhead (the Florence Lake Trailhead.)

You’ll need to be very bear aware, and be sure to bring extra layers for the evening as forest fires are forbidden year-round. But if you put in the work to get there, you’ll find campsites along a lake in a verdant valley surrounded by towering Sierra peaks – an alpine paradise for sure. The trailhead is outside the park, so you’ll need a Sierra National Forest Backcountry Permit; it’ll be honored once you’ve hiked into the park boundary.

The Lost Coast

Little Black Sands Beach at King Range Lost Coast
You can camp anywhere along this coastal trail, making it a more secluded option.

Book The Lost Coast

There aren’t too many places in the country where you can hike along the coast the whole time and still be in undeveloped wilderness. Fortunately, you’ll find that in northern California in an area appropriately called “The Lost Coast.” As you hike, the mist and fog from the ocean crash up against steep mountain peaks, creating an otherworldly (if sometimes damp) experience. You can camp anywhere along the trail, so consult the map to decide where you want to base yourself.

Spanish Flat and Shipman Creek are two of the most beautiful areas along the trail. If you start at the Black Sands Beach trailhead, you can easily do a quick overnight trip to camp near Shipman Creek.

FAQs

What should I pack on a camping trip?

A solid camping checklist is imperative for a good camping trip. It’s always best to overprepare since many campsites are remote and you can’t just run down to the local store to pick up items you forget.  Not to worry, start here for our essential camping packing list

And if you’re not quite ready to invest in buying all your own gear, consider renting camping gear from companies like Arrive Outdoors.

What should I look for in a campsite?

Always consider what kind of camping you want to do and who you’ll be camping with. If you’re going with kids, you may want a campsite full of amenities, whether that’s a pool or just hot showers. 

If you’re a more seasoned camper and want to explore more remote areas, consider booking dispersed camping sites. They’re available for free on most Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or United States Forest Service (USFS) land.

For those who want to bring their dog along, check out our tips for camping with dogs, plus the best pet-friendly campsites

Where can I find a last-minute camping reservation?

Due to increased demand, many campgrounds are booking up fast, especially for summer weekends. Try to book a campsite as far in advance as you can.

However, if you’re seeking last-minute reservations, consider alternative sites to book camping reservations that go beyond the usual federal campgrounds, such as Airbnb campsites or Tentrr, which connects private landowners with campers for more secluded stays.

More camping vacation ideas

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The 6 best car rental companies based on important factors including pricing, locations, and cancellation policies

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best car rental companies
  • As travel picks up but social distancing remains a priority, travelers are prioritizing road trips.
  • If you don’t own a car, car rentals are trusted options with competitive pricing and many locations.
  • Here are the best rental car companies based on pricing, locations, cancellation policies, and more.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

As travel in the US picks back up, people continue to prioritize safety and social distancing by choosing road trips and renting cars in droves. As a result, there is currently a national car rental shortage and high prices. If you need to book a rental, your best bet is to book as far in advance as possible.

In addition to being tough and expensive to rent a car right now, in some worst-case scenarios, travelers are showing up for their rental reservations only to find out there’s no car available, even if you reserved one and paid in advance.

As such, it’s more important than ever to choose a trusted rental car company to ensure you get where you need to be safely and economically. Our top picks range from traditional agencies to peer-to-peer car rentals, such as Turo, Getaround, or Avail, and were selected based on current prices, procedures, and policies in 2021. If you’re really locked out, we’ve also compiled a guide to the best alternatives to traditional rental car companies.

For more information on how we chose top rental car companies, as well as helpful info to consider when booking a car rental, jump to the bottom of this guide.

Here are the best car rental companies in 2021

The best overall car rental company

Enterprise

Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Enterprise Rent-A-Car is a trusted name that performs impressively well across all categories, including customer satisfaction, online booking, and price. According to the 2019 survey by trusted market research company JD Power, Enterprise scored highly for their website and app (placing second and third respectively), as well as placing second for overall customer satisfaction, with 855 points out of a possible 1,000 possible points and just one point behind leaders Hertz.

Typical quote: One-week rental comes in at $705 including taxes and fees.

Current COVID-19 cleaning policy: Enterprise Rent-A-Car has a new Complete Clean pledge, which includes, “washing, vacuuming, general wipe down, and sanitizing with a disinfectant that meets leading health authority requirements, with particular attention to more than 20-plus high-touch points.” They are also offering curbside pickup options.

Current cancellation policy: If you have not already paid, there is a no-fee cancellation policy. If you have a pre-paid rental, you may cancel up to 24 hours before your pick-up for a fee of $50. Cancellations made less than 24 hours before your reservation will incur a fee of $100. 

Look out for: Enterprise’s daily rate can be slightly higher than the average car rental rate, but the company reports that it has reduced other additional charges, such as those for drivers under the age of 25.

The best car rental company for customer satisfaction

Hertz car rental

Hertz

Hertz has one of the top-regarded, best long-term reputations, with a decades-long presence. The company has more than 1,600 locations at airports in the United States alone, with a varied fleet and an impressive rewards program. Hertz’s pick-up and drop-off processes at airports are particularly efficient, which was one of the main factors behind their high score of 856 out of 1,000 by respondents to JD Power’s 2019 survey. 

Typical quote: One-week rental comes in at $862 including taxes and fees.

Current COVID-19 cleaning policy: The company’s new cleaning policy is quoted as, “A 15-point cleaning checklist, and all cars that have been sanitized are being marked with a “Hertz Gold Standard Clean” sticker, which will only be broken when the car’s driver accesses the rental for the first time, meaning that the driver’s area is disinfected as a last step when the car is moved to its final location.

Current cancellation and fees policies: Young renter (under 25) fees are being waived and the minimum renter age lowered from 20 to 18 years old to help college students and young drivers return home. The company has also lowered rates for one-way trips. Customers with pre-paid Hertz rentals booked prior to March 13 can cancel their reservation for no fee and transfer their balance for use toward a future booking within 24 months. Otherwise, regular cancellation fees apply: full price for a no-show, $100 if canceled more than 24 hours before pick-up, $200 if canceled less than 24 hours before pick-up. 

Look out for: The quotes for short term rentals with Hertz are slightly higher than some of the company’s competitors, especially when renting for just a day or two. Longer-term rentals are more competitive. 

Best car rental company website and app

National Car Rental

National Car Rental

National Car Rental is particularly proud of its services and loyalty program for business travelers, and this focus on customer service bleeds over into its leisure customer service as well. This is most apparent in its website and app, both of which are highly regarded, with the company placing first and second place respectively in those categories in the 2019 JD Power survey of travel industry online portals.  

Typical quote: A one-week rental comes in at $796 including taxes and fees.

Current COVID-19 cleaning policy: National shares sister company Enterprise’s Complete Clean Pledge, which includes, “washing, vacuuming, general wipe down, and sanitizing with a disinfectant that meets leading health authority requirements, with particular attention to more than 20-plus high-touch points.” 

Current cancellation policy: The company is extending its existing no-fee cancellation policy to include customers with pre-paid rentals booked directly through them. Previously, pre-paid rentals that were canceled would incur a fee. Cancellations must be made 24 hours or more before the pick-up, otherwise, a no-show fee of $100 will be assessed.

Look out for: National is somewhat focused on business travelers and does not currently offer drop-off or pick-up services.

The best cheap car rental company

Alamo Rent A Car

Alamo Rent-A-Car

Alamo Rent-A-Car is a well-established, well-trusted name in the car rental market. Alamo’s prices were regularly among the cheapest prices we found when gathering quotes both through the various companies’ own websites and third-party comparison sites. Though the company has relatively fewer locations, Alamo’s prices are always very competitive.

Typical quote: A one-week rental comes in at $695 including taxes and fees.

Current COVID-19 cleaning policy: Alamo shares the Complete Clean Pledge offered by National and Enterprise, which includes, “washing, vacuuming, general wipe down, and sanitizing with a disinfectant that meets leading health authority requirements, with particular attention to more than 20-plus high-touch points.” 

Current cancellation policy: The company is extending its existing no-fee cancellation policy to include customers with pre-paid rentals booked directly through them. Previously, pre-paid rentals that were canceled would incur a fee. Cancellations must be made 24 hours or more before the pick-up, otherwise, a no-show fee of $100 will be assessed.

Look out for: Alamo Rent-A-Car has slightly fewer locations than many of its competitors, and the locations it does have are very concentrated on airports. 

Best peer-to-peer car rental

Turo car rental

Turo

Peer-to-peer car rentals are still making inroads into the market, but Turo is a consistently favorite, allowing people to both rent out their private cars and rent from private car owners. Set-up is relatively straightforward and the renting process is nearly identical to that of any traditional rental vehicle. The company also offers well-defined insurance options. Pick-up and drop-off locations depend on individual owners and will change for each booking. Turo also offers their own roadside 24/7 assistance policy and prices are very attractive. 

Typical quote: A one-week rental comes in at about $200 including taxes and fees. However, just like when comparing Airbnb to standard hotel rooms, Turo varies more than typical car rentals and has a wide range of price points available.

Current COVID-19 cleaning policy: The company asks hosts to “clean and disinfect the car after each trip with disinfectant wipes or spray. Wipe down the steering wheel, door handles, trunk latch, keys, and any other surfaces that are touched frequently.”  

Current cancellation policy: Guests may cancel free of charge up to 24 hours before their trip starts. Guests who book within 24 hours of their trip have one hour after booking to cancel for free. For canceled trips longer than two days, a guest is charged one day’s trip cost. For canceled trips two days or shorter, a guest is charged 50% of one day’s trip cost. The trip cost includes the trip price and trip fee.

Look out for: Obviously the variety of cars on offer varies considerably and customer service levels and actual cleanliness practices depend on individual hosts, though they do receive a public rating, which can help inform your experience.

Read our full review of Turo

Other reputable car rental companies

Hertz

These additional car rental services are reputable options that we strongly considered, but didn’t quite make the cut.

Dollar: The company has average pricing for the industry but locations are not quite as widespread and offers fewer benefits, for example, there’s no at-home customer drop-off or pick-up. 

Sixt: A big name in Europe that is making strides in the American market, however, some car sizes might seem ungenerous to American companies.  

Thrifty: Attractive, competitive prices but fewer locations than many of its peers and a less expansive loyalty scheme. 

Budget: A good number of locations but it also has a less attractive loyalty program and their airport pick-ups can be subject to additional fees. 

Avis: Good, affordable quotes for weekly rates and a great app, but the loyalty program makes it challenging to earn points, and airport pick-ups can be subject to fees. 

How we made our decisions

What to consider when booking a rental car

How far in advance should I book a car rental for the best price? 

The received wisdom is that it’s better to book as early as possible to book a rental car, between three to six months is optimal. This has become even more important recently with last-minute reservations being nearly impossible to find and car shortages happening nationwide. 

Are some days cheaper than others for picking up a vehicle? 

Weekend pick-ups tend to be slightly cheaper, with Monday and Tuesday pick-ups usually slightly more expensive. Compare airport pick-ups versus locations in the city, even factoring a taxi to these locations. Some cities will always be cheaper at the airport, while others will see the complete opposite. 

Is it worth paying for rental car insurance? 

First of all, you may already be covered, so check with your car insurance policy, or call your insurance company to find out if your existing coverage extends to a rental car. Car rental companies typically offer the following coverage options at the counter as you sign the lease agreement, and it’s really down to individual circumstances as to whether you take these out (though some kind of liability insurance is usually compulsory):

Loss-damage/collision damage waiver: This typically waives financial responsibility if the car is damaged or stolen, towed or incurs similar fees. Typical cost: $9–$19 a day. 

Liability coverage: This is usually required coverage, protects you from potential lawsuits and typically costs around $7–$14 a day.

Personal accident insurance covers medical costs that might be incurred after an accident. Typical cost: $1–$5 a day. 

Personal effects coverage insures against theft any possessions that you might keep in the rental car and typically costs $1–4 a day.

Should I  join rental car loyalty programs?

Most loyalty programs are free to join, and sometimes there are immediate benefits or offers, so, there’s really no downside to signing up. As with airline frequent flyer programs, the more you can build up by using the same company, the more benefits you will accrue, so frequent renters should look at their travel plans and the companies that will offer the most attractive benefits to members. 

Joining a loyalty program is even more attractive right now since they often come with perks like getting to jump the line or getting priority. With longer-than-ever wait times and lines at many locations, those special lines might come in extra handy.

Where can I get a rental quote? 

Most car rental companies will happily supply quotes on their websites without too much information being required. Third-party comparison sites are also very popular and can list dozens of options after entering personal information just once. 

What if I arrive for my reservation and no car is available?

Unfortunately, this is turning into a real possibility amidst ongoing rental car shortages. Always try to call ahead to confirm you’re reservation and check to see if there are currently cars on-site at your rental location. However, if you show up and your car isn’t available you have a few options.

First, ask if there’s another car available in a different class than you originally booked. Ideally, you may be able to upgrade to a better car than you originally booked at no extra cost if the company is at fault for your car being unavailable. However, if they only have cars available in a downgraded class, this may still be a better option for you than no car at all. Just be sure to get a credit or, at the very least, a voucher for the difference in price.

You can also ask if the company has another nearby location where a car may be available. If you do have to go to an alternative location, ask if the company will cover your taxi or Uber. If it’s late in the day, you may also want to consider coming back earlier the next day to see if any cars have been returned.

If no car with your original company is available at all, unfortunately, your only option may be to hunt around yourself at other rental companies or on a peer-to-peer site. You should always ask for a refund if this becomes the case, but be prepared for the fact that if you had a pre-paid reservation, you may need to hound the company and wait several weeks to get your money back.  

Are car rentals safe?

The CDC has noted that travel in the US is safe for those who are fully vaccinated. 

Additionally, like hotels, rental car companies such as Enterprise, Alamo, National, Avis, and Budget have all announced new measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, and are stepping up their cleaning and sanitization procedures.

Our experts weighed in on the overall safety of such rental car policies and agreed that a well-sanitized vehicle is much less of a danger than being around infected humans. Strict checklists, new cleaning products, curbside and contactless pick-up, and the thorough cleaning and disinfecting of each vehicle when returned by a customer or transported by employees are all part of new levels of service designed to assuage concerns regarding COVID-19.

More road trip tips and ideas

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Marriott Bonvoy lists private vacation home to rent and the homes are spectacular – here’s what to know about how it works plus our favorite rentals

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Marriott Homes and Villas

  • Vacation rentals continue to be a popular choice for socially distant travel.
  • Marriott Bonvoy’s Homes & Villas has 24/7 support, professional cleaning, and top amenities.
  • Marriott members earn and redeem points in 100 destinations; here are some of the best U.S. homes.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Marriott Bonvoy is renowned for its robust portfolio of hotels that includes breathtaking properties around the world from luxury brands such as St. Regis and The Ritz-Carlton, and trusted names like Renaissance, Westin, Sheraton, Courtyard, and many others.

However, you may be less familiar with their vacation home rental platform, Homes & Villas by Marriott International, which operates thousands of homes in over 100 destinations around the world.

I tried Homes & Villas by Marriott International for the first time during the pandemic and found it was not only as comfortable as a Marriott hotel, but offered exceptional value as well. Here’s everything you need to know before you book.

What is Homes & Villas by Marriott International?

Homes & Villas by Marriott started in 2018 as a pilot program in Europe under the brand name Tribute Portfolio Homes, intended to speak to the evolving needs of travelers that like to travel together and prefer to stay in a home with multiple bedrooms for more than three nights. Today, it operates in over 100 destinations worldwide. The portfolio focuses on premium and luxury tier homes that are generally owned by a frequent traveler, and primarily used as a vacation home.

Marriott’s home rentals blend the comfort of a traditional hotel stay with all the amenities of a private home, unlike other rental platforms such as Vrbo or Airbnb, which are traditionally someone’s personal home or guest house that is rented out from time to time.

All Marriott homes are professionally managed to ensure they meet Marriott’s standards of quality, design, and service. Expect design-forward and impeccable lodgings like waterfront bungalows, luxury villas, cozy cabins, and sleek penthouses. Homes are thoughtfully curated with amenities such as games, a wood-fire pizza oven, a private pool, or a children’s playroom and are well-suited for group gatherings.

Homes are vetted by Marriott’s property management partners, which work directly with homeowners to ensure the homes are up to Marriott’s standards of quality, design, and service. Some of these property management companies well-regarded brands like AvantStay, Turnkey Vacation Rentals, LaCure, London Residents Club, as well as existing hotel operators like Mainsail Lodging, CPG, and Reserva Conchal.

How do I book and use Marriott Bonvoy points?

A terrace at a Marriott vacation rental
Many Marriott Homes & Villas offer beach access.

Anyone can book a Homes Villas by Marriott International directly from their website, however, reservations can’t be made through Marriott.com, which is still primarily for hotel bookings.

Marriott Bonvoy members can earn and redeem points at all of the properties within Homes & Villas by Marriott International, which is a nice perk that most other home rental sites don’t offer. Bonvoy members earn five points for every qualifying $1 USD spent. You can filter listings by Bonvoy points, price, number of guests or bedrooms, and home features like a pool, building elevator, and pet policy.

Once you book a property, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Homes & Villas by Marriott International with the assigned property management company and contact information, payment details, and the cancellation policy. You’ll receive a separate email with home details and the property address.

How does check-in work?

Check-in is usually contactless and done through a lockbox code, which is provided in an email after you’ve booked your reservation. The email will also include a house manual to help navigate home amenities and features like lighting, washer and dryer, and Wi-Fi.

What comes with the house?

A large home for rent on Marriott
Homes are located all over the world.

Every listing on Homes & Villas by Marriott International is guaranteed to include the following:

  • 24/7 support and 24-hour check-in, either in-person or through a touch key-pad
  • High-speed Wi-Fi
  • Television
  • Kitchen essentials (cookware, utensils, microwave)
  • In-unit washer
  • Premium linens and towels, all expertly laundered
  • Bathroom amenities (toilet paper, shampoo, conditioner, soap)
  • Hair dryer
  • Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors where fuel-burning appliances are present
  • Professional cleaning pre- and post-stay
  • Child-friendly items upon request, such as high chairs and travel cribs

Where is Homes & Villas by Marriott International available?

Homes & Villas by Marriott International currently has 2,000 highly-curated, luxury homes and villas and operates in over 100 destinations in the United States, Europe, Caribbean, Middle East, and Latin America.

Locations have been selected to represent areas where Marriott Hotels doesn’t have a major presence, such as small ski towns like Big Bear and Aspen, remote islands like Anguilla and Turks and Caicos, and European regions that aren’t heavily commercialized, like Lake Como or the Amalfi Coast.

Over one-third of the markets are new destinations to Marriott’s portfolio, so if a Marriott hotel is not present in the area, a private home rental under the Marriott brand may soon be available.

According to Marriott, the most popular homes in the US to book right now are located in the Hamptons, Florida, Carolina beaches, mountain escapes in Tennessee and North Carolina, and coastal hideaways in California.

What is the average cost of a private home rental?

The average cost for booking a vacation home on Homes & Villas by Marriott International depends on the location and specific property. However, all homes listed require a three-night minimum and the average length of stay is five nights for an average price of about $2,000 per reservation.

Because these homes tend to be large, upscale, and luxury-leaning, with multiple bedrooms, the price reflects that type of accommodation. Therefore, it might prove costly for couples or solo travelers.

Drawbacks of Homes & Villas by Marriott International compared to other vacation rental sites

A home with a pool
Many Marriott homes have beautiful pools.

There are many different home rental options available to travelers looking to book a vacation home Homes & Villas by Marriott International is backed by a well-known, global hotel brand, which is one of the main differentiating factors for travelers who might otherwise be hesitant to stay in a private home.

Unlike other vacation rental platforms such as Vrbo, HomeAway, and Airbnb, Homes & Villas by Marriott International does not allow guests to write or read past reviews and rate homes. The luxury lean of the collection also means that most homes are quite large therefore more expensive than other home rentals. Some budget picks exist, but they are fewer to come by.

Compare other leading vacation rental sites here

Is it safe?

Medical and hospitality experts generally consider private home rentals to be a safe bet (safer than hotels, in fact) because there is generally less direct person-to-person contact.

Additionally, each property listing shares details of cleaning protocols, and additional updates regarding the Homes and Villas by Marriott International COVID-19 policies have been shared on the website, which include increased sanitization between reservations using hospital-grade solutions.

Marriott also created a Marriott Cleanliness Council to redefine cleaning standards across Marriott hotels and homes. However, since each home is managed by a separate property management company, there is no real way to ensure consistency.

What are the cancellation policies?

Homes & Villas by Marriott announced updated cancellation policies to offer additional flexibility in response to COVID-19.

For most new reservations, guests may change or cancel at no charge within a specified period. Some high-demand homes, however, do not have a cancellation period. Guests must contact the property management company listed on their confirmation email to initiate the cancellation.

Policies are determined by individual properties and management companies.

My experience with Homes & Villas by Marriott International

A home with views
I stayed in a Marriott home in Malibu, pictured here.

As someone who normally prefers a hotel over a home rental for the convenience of on-site customer support, amenities, and higher cleaning standards, I really enjoyed my stay with Homes & Villas by Marriott International and would definitely book another home in the future.

My friends and I shared a Los Angeles home I found on the Homes & Villas by Marriott website that was a 3,615 square foot, 5-bedroom, 3-bathroom property near Point Dume in Malibu. The reservation was comped for review, however, the rate for our weekend dates was $930 per night. While expensive, when split between multiple people, it offered strong value.

The home looked just like it did in the photos and any issue or question I had was immediately resolved, and management was quick to respond.

While Homes & Villas by Marriott International does require a minimum stay and rates are on the higher end compared to other rental sites like Airbnb, I still prefer Homes & Villas by Marriott because I can earn Marriott Bonvoy points, which is a huge benefit.

I also like that I didn’t have to coordinate a meet-up with the host to check in as a lockbox code was provided. While some travelers like a personal interaction provided by an Airbnb host, I prefer a more discreet experience where I don’t see the owner’s personal belongings in sight and still feel like I’m staying at a hotel.

I found check-in to be super easy and convenient. When I couldn’t access the Wi-Fi network, management was quick to reply and replace it with a new password. I also recommend checking with the property manager for certain kitchen utensils you might anticipate needing. For example, tea bags were available in the home I stayed in, but there was no kettle to boil hot water. I contacted management and they delivered one the next morning. Listings only mention kitchen essentials, which can be subjective, so it’s best to confirm with the property manager if you have specific requests.

These are some of the best Homes & Villas by Marriott International in the U.S.

Remodeled South Carolina home with a beach club

Hilton Head Marriott Homes and Villas

Book this Hilton Head, SC home

A newly remodeled home with vaulted ceilings, brand new appliances, and a chic living area, this laidback, snug home is part of the Sea Pines Resort, which grants guests access to the beach and the Sea Pines Beach Club. The resort also has three golf courses less than 5 miles away. Though, there’s plenty within the confines of the home itself such as a lovely pool, hot tub, and secluded backyard with outdoor dining, a hammock, and chaise lounges.

Hamptons home with a private pool

Montauk Marriott Homes and Spaces

Book this Montauk, NY home

This tranquil oasis in Montauk is the quintessential beach house in the Hamptons with ocean views from every room and a stunning pool area. The two-story, Nantucket-style home boasts high ceilings and tons of windows for natural sunlight flanked by a 2,200 square-foot deck. Dip in the pool, make a meal in the chef’s kitchen, or simply read a book on the hammock at this rustic, casual home that offers a ton of privacy. 

A massive log cabin-style lodge in Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg Marriott Home and Villas

Book this Gatlinburg, TN home

This magnificent three-story estate is comprised of over 6,000 square feet with seven bedrooms (six master suites), two full kitchens, five balconies, three decks, a pool table, and three fireplaces. High wood-beamed soaring ceilings and plush furnishings can comfortably fit up to 25 guests. 

Tucked into the mountainside, it’s like staying in a dreamy log cabin, if your idea of a cabin includes top-tier luxury. The home is certainly sprawling but the lush grounds are spread across a generous 1.61 acres and include a pond, gazebo, and fire pit with views of Mount Le Conte.

 

Florida beach home with a private pool

Santa Rosa Marriott Homes and Villas

Book this Santa Rosa Beach, FL home 

This cozy home is surrounded by nature and features a private pool, outdoor kitchen, and fireplace, and is within walking distance to white-sand beaches.

With four bedrooms, the home can sleep 12 guests, and also provides access to the nearby WaterColor Beach Club, which includes a family swimming pool, kids’ pool, sun deck, and open-air bar. 

Large beach home in San Diego

San Diego Marriott Home and Villas

Book this San Diego, CA home

While expensive, this stunning waterfront home includes standout features such as retractable windows for indoor-outdoor living and alfresco dining.

The beach and boardwalk are both a short walk, and the home provides beach goodies such as boogie boards and a kayak in addition to indoor games and activities like a foosball and ping-pong table, outdoor bar, barbecue grill, and fire pit.

Beach home fit for groups in Malibu

Malibu Marriott Homes and Villas

Book this Malibu, CA home

This is the five-bedroom home I booked, which was a quaint hideaway with ample room for a large group or family. The home was made for entertaining with an open-kitchen design, and plenty of outdoor seating areas to enjoy the lush surroundings.

I was drawn to this particular house because of the location, outdoor terrace, and fire pit that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. I also appreciated the open kitchen since I knew we would spend a lot of time cooking. 

Quirky home in California wine country

Paso Robles Marriott Homes and Villas

Book this Paso Robles, CA home

The best part of this home might just be the massive backyard filled with games like a sand volleyball court, shuffleboard, bocce ball, and a swim-up bar. Though, the views of the nearby vineyards are pretty spectacular, too. Be sure to try some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon that Paso Robles is known for.  

Dubbed “The Mermaid,” inside, this quirky home includes five bedrooms under high ceilings, a full bar area, statement lighting fixtures, arcade games, and a centerpiece fish tank designed by the team behind the HGTV show, “Tanked.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

From Houston to Upstate New York, here are 7 US destinations to visit to learn about Black history

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Baltimore experience african american billie holiday mural

  • One of the first steps to combating racial injustice is learning and understanding Black history.
  • We’re highlighting great US destinations to learn about the contributions of Black Americans.
  • From museums and cultural sites to Black-owned hotels, here’s what to see and where to stay.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring all persons held as slaves are henceforth free.

But it wasn’t until a full two and half years after this that all slaves in the United States were considered free in the eyes of the federal government, as this proclamation depended on the advancement of the Union troops.

The holiday Juneteenth, short for June 19, is a celebration of that freedom marking June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger read a Proclamation to the people of Galveston, Texas, announcing their freedom. Commemorative celebrations date back to 1866 and, as of 2019, 47 states and DC have recognized Juneteenth.

This Juneteenth is a great opportunity to kick off your summer travels and learn about Black Americans’ contributions to the United States while celebrating a fun holiday.

We’re rounding out our recommendations for places to visit to learn about Black history with Black-owned hotels, shops, and eateries not to miss.

Here are some of the best destinations in the US to learn about Black history

Houston, Texas

best us destinations black history houston

Begin your summer tour at Houston’s Emancipation Park for Juneteenth. The park was established in 1872 when former slaves formed the Colored People’s Festival and Emancipation Park Association for 10 acres in Houston.

Houston, Texas is one of the country’s most diverse cities and has included a large Black population of freemen and majority slaves since its founding in the 1830s. Post slavery, African Americans from other Southern cities migrated to Houston for job opportunities. Houston also attracted Buffalo Soldiers (Black cavalry during the Indian Wars and American Civil War). They protected mail, escorted stagecoaches, and even guarded the Mexican-American border. Learn more about them and Black cowboys at Houston’s Buffalo Soldiers National Museum and Taylor-Stevenson Ranch.

While spending time in Third Ward, the Black heart of Houston, know that you’re in the home of some of Houston’s most important hometown heroes, including Beyonce, Solange, Phylicia Rashad, and Debbie Allen. Though currently still closed due to COVID-19, during non-pandemic times a visit to Project Row Houses is well worth it. The shotgun houses of newly freed slaves have been converted into art installations primarily designed by African American artists.

Nicknamed Space City, check out the recent movie “Hidden Figures” before visiting the Houston Space Center for historical context on Black contributions to the US space program. After, sink your teeth into some of that famed Texas barbecue at Black-owned Ray’s BBQ. Co-owner and official pitmaster Ray Busch is a native Houstonian who started his own barbecue food truck in 1985 before eventually joining forces with his longtime friend Maxine Davis and opening Ray’s BBQ Shack, the brick and mortar location specializing in hickory-smoked meats and plenty of soul food with Cajun influences.

Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts

best destinations for black history oak bluffs

If you’re planning a visit to Massachusetts’ beautiful island of Martha’s Vineyard, be sure to explore the well-known summer destination’s deep African American roots. Photos of the Obamas vacationing there may have announced Martha’s Vineyard as a playground for the country’s Black elite to those who weren’t already in the know. But long before that, Martin Luther King Jr. vacationed in Oak Bluffs, as did Joe Louis, Harry Belafonte, and Dorothy West. Maya Angelou also once described Oak Bluffs as “a safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

Located on the north shore of the island, the town of Oak Bluffs and its eye-catching gingerbread houses have been attracting tourists for generations. Since the 1920s, it’s been a safe haven for Black Americans in search of sea, sun, and respite from beaches that were historically deemed “Whites Only.”

The first Black Americans on Martha’s Vineyard came before that though. They were freemen whalers, indentured slaves, and runaways that sought a livelihood in Martha’s Vineyard whale oil economy. By the 1950s, Oak Bluffs was attracting Black doctors, lawyers, and executives, along with storied figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Places like Shearer Cottage, founded by Charles and Henrietta Shearer in 1912 as a summer inn, were one of the first of these establishments that catered specifically to African Americans.

Visit beautiful and lively Inkwell Beach, the Oak Bluffs town beach. Origin stories of the name differ on if it was a pejorative by nearby segregated white beachgoers in reference to the Black population or — the story I like to go with — it was a reference to the Harlem Renaissance writers and poets that found inspiration and camaraderie in the Oak Bluffs community. Washington DC’s National Museum of African American History includes Oak Bluffs in their permanent exhibition, “Power of Place,” such is its place of importance to the Black American community. Enjoy film festivals, book clubs, historical Black churches, and The African-American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard for more in-depth history during your visit.

Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore experience african american billie holiday mural

The port city of Baltimore is in the middle of a rebirth. And with colorful row houses, murals depicting legends, and historical sites like the Royal Theatre, Baltimore’s nickname of Charm City is quite fitting.

With a population that is 60% Black, Baltimore’s African American history runs deep. Famed sons and daughters of Baltimore include Jazz great Billie Holiday, the first Black Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and US Congressman and Civil Rights activist Elijah E. Cummings.

The city was also once home to abolitionist and adviser to President Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, who spent his youth an enslaved young man in the shipyards of Baltimore. Later, he returned to Baltimore, now as a free man and the highest-ranking Black man in the US, and built five homes on Strawberry Alley (now known as Dallas Street).

You can learn more about his legacy at Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum, and there are several sites throughout the city of Baltimore that pay homage to Douglass’ journey. Stop by the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, a Smithsonian affiliate, to see an autographed photograph of Frederick Douglass and a first edition of his autobiography. 

It would not be a trip to Baltimore without trying crabs or crab cakes, and checking out Baltimore’s Black culinary scene is a must. Head to Ida B’s Table for a culinary trip through Black history. Ida B. Wells was an activist and journalist in the south covering Southern issues of race and politics in the reconstruction period. As forward-thinking and boundary-pushing as its namesake, Ida B’s Table serves modern, farm-to-table soul food. Chef Thomas even sources from one of the few African American farms remaining in the country: Gaithers Gardens, which dates back 138 years and is family run.

Richmond, Virginia

Richmond Black History Museum

If you’ve already been on the classic historical family trip to Williamsburg, Virginia, consider a visit to the state’s capital. Richmond is a destination deeply important to Black American history as it was once the center of the domestic slave trade in North America. One of America’s oldest cities, this spot on the James River has a history that is at times painful. However, that only cements the vital importance of a visit here.

The Richmond Slave Trail is a walking trail that chronicles the history of the trade of enslaved Africans from Africa to Virginia until 1775, and away from Virginia to other locations in the Americas until 1865. The route begins at the Manchester Docks and goes through sites like the slave market of Richmond and the First African Baptist Church, a center of African American life in pre-Civil War Richmond.

Richmond also served as the home of Jefferson Davis’ Confederacy and Richmond’s American Civil War Museum & The Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia explores the Black Virginian experience from the Emancipation to the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s.

In more recent times, you may have seen Richmond and the captivating photos of the Black Lives Matter Movement in the city, as well as the reclaiming of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Activists have transformed the base of the sculpture, covering it with names of victims of police violence, calls for peace, as well as light projections, murals, and other artworks, transforming it into an influential work of art. Additionally, many public spaces, including the Marcus-David Peters Circle, are dedicated to art that highlights Black history and culture in Richmond.

Don’t miss the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia in Richmond’s historic African American Jackson Ward. While you’re there, have a taste of diverse Richmond at the Black-owned Soul Taco, a restaurant blending traditional Latin American flavors with soul food.

Charleston, South Carolina

McLeod Plantation historic site, Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina is another old American city that is rich with Black history. African heritage helped shape the low country culture. In 2018, the city of Charleston finally passed a resolution acknowledging that the city profited greatly from slave labor and extended an apology.

Start your day with a delicious Lowcountry breakfast from Hannibal’s Kitchen, which has been serving Charleston unique dishes like shark and grits for over 40 years. The Africans brought to the Carolina Colony used the similarities between the agricultural environments of the Lowcountry and Africa’s West Coast, and you will see this same tasty tradition in Gullah cuisine.

The Gullah/Geechees have been said to have preserved their history more than any African American community in the United States. They are descendants of Central and West Africans and were enslaved together on the isolated islands which stretch along the US coastline from North Carolina down to St. Johns, Florida. To learn more about this history, book a tour of the Black history of Charleston with native Gullah Charlestonian Alphonso Brown of Gullah Tours.

A visit to the McLeod Plantation Historic site is also in order. The plantation is a 37-acre Gullah-Geechee heritage site that pays tribute to the enslaved Africans who lived and worked on the sea-island cotton plantation from the 1800s. Guests can learn about daily plantation life and tour the preserved dwellings of both the owners and enslaved families. The grounds include a riverside outdoor pavilion, a sweeping oak allée, and the McLeod Oak, which is thought to be more than 600 years old.

An equally important place to spend an afternoon is the Slave Mart Museum. At one point, 40% of the slaves in the United States came through the port of Charleston and this museum stands on the site of one of the last existing slave “showrooms” in the city in Charleston’s French Quarter. Many of the museum’s docents can trace their family history to slaves from the area.

Opera fan? Head over to Cabbage Row on Charleston’s Church Street where you’ll find Revolutionary War-era houses once home to the families of freed slaves. Black residents would sell cabbages from their window at one point, giving the area its name. Charleston native Dubose Heyward used Cabbage Row as his setting for his 1925 novel “Porgy” which was the basis of George Gershwin’s opera “Porgy & Bess.”

Round out the day with a stop at the Mother Emanuel AME Church, the oldest African Methodist Episcopal Church in the South, founded in 1816. This is the church’s third incarnation. The first was burned by local whites in 1822 and the second was destroyed in an earthquake. The church has hosted notable Civil Rights figures like Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Booker T. Washington. Pay your respects and acknowledge recent turbulent history at the Emanuel 9 Memorial, which was constructed following the devastating murders of Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Reverand Celementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Reverand Daniel Simmons, Reverand Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson on June 17, 2015.

Coastal Mississippi

exterior front view of The Almanett Hotel & Bistro, mississippi

To many, Mississippi conjures up ideas of the deep South at its worst and most racist (see the recent debacle over Martin Luther King Day just a few years ago in Biloxi, Mississippi). But it would be wrong to ignore the great influence and continued presence of Black Americans in the state.

Explore the Biloxi Visitors Center to learn about the African American cultural influence in the state, but more importantly, venture across the street to the beach. A commemorative plaque will tell you that this was the site of the Biloxi wade-ins, which were conducted by local African Americans from 1959 to 1963 to desegregate the beaches of coastal Mississippi. Following what The New York Times described as the worst racial riot in Mississippi history and protests following the assassination of the NAACP field secretary of Mississippi Medgar Evers, the 26-mile long beachfront was finally opened to all races.

For blues fans, a visit to The 100 Men Hall is a must. A longtime center of African American social life and entertainment since it was built in 1922, it has brought in countless blues, rhythm & blues, and jazz acts. Local residents have been treated to performances by Etta James, Big Joe Turner, Guitar Slim, Irma Thomas, Professor Longhair, Ernie K-Doe, Deacon John, Earl King, and numerous others here.

Upstate New York

John Brown Farm State Historic Site

With a renewed interest in the wine scene and thriving arts community, the Hudson River Valley and upstate New York have attracted major tourism in the last few years. During vineyard crawls and fall foliage getaways, take some time to learn about the Black history of the region. New York state played an important role in the Underground Railroad, which helped tens of thousands of freedom seekers escape enslavement.

Opened in 2018, the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center tells the stories of freedom seekers who risked their lives to escape slavery and oppression by journeying north to Niagara Falls as one of their final stops and border crossing to Canada. Virtual Freedom Conversation Tours are also available twice a week. John Brown, known for his raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859, maintained a home near Lake Placid that was a key stop on the Underground Railroad, which is now also a site you can visit. You can also stop at the home of Harriet Tubman in the Finger Lakes region of Auburn, New York.

Honor the role Black soldiers played in the Revolutionary war with a visit to Saratoga National Historical Park. At the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, 400 Black soldiers fought along white soldiers in a pivotal battle during the Revolutionary war that resulted in the British Army’s first surrender.

The history of Black people in this area can be traced pre-Revolutionary War though. The two biggest slave markets in the country before the American Revolution were in New York City and Albany. Fans of Hamilton can visit the St. Agnes Cemetery, an African burial site discovered on the grounds of Schuyler Mansion, where they’ll learn that yes, Eliiiiiiiiiza’s father was a slaveholder.

In Buffalo, grab a drink and listen to live music at The Colored Musicians Club. Formed in 1917 due to discrimination from an all-white club, the Colored Musicians Club was the only operating African American jazz club in the United States and was a place where Black musicians were welcomed to socialize, play music, and rehearse. Famous musicians who have performed here include Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Duke Ellington. The first floor of the building serves as a multimedia museum where guests can interact and listen to jazz and enjoy historic memorabilia.  

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Disney theme parks are notoriously pricey, but these proven tips and tricks can help you save hundreds

how to save tips on disney vacations

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  • Disneyland and Walt Disney World have reopened to all visitors.
  • The parks are notoriously expensive, but you can save hundreds with some creative planning.
  • Here are our top 14 expert tips for saving money on your next Disney Parks vacation.
  • Head to Insider Reviews for more travel recommendations

There are no two ways about it: Planning a family vacation to the Walt Disney World or Disneyland resorts can be an expensive proposition.

The cost for tickets, food, and souvenirs alone can rapidly add up; it skyrockets when you factor in airfare, hotel, car rental, parking, and other incidentals. For a family of four, for a five-night stay, the average price of the trip is approximately $4,500 and can quickly increase by the hundreds, if not thousands.

While there are few discounts on admission, there are proven ways to save significant money elsewhere that won’t hinder the enjoyment or limit the experiences. After all, not having to stress about money makes for a far more enjoyable time – the key is to plan ahead and know what to expect.

As a travel writer who has covered Disney vacations extensively for over a decade, I have figured out the best ways to maximize the fun while keeping costs down. These top tips, based on what I’ve learned over the years, can help ease the damage a Disney vacation could have on your bank account.

In addition to money-saving tips for both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, I’ve also included a few that are unique to each property. Here are the best tips for saving money on a Disney parks vacation.

disney carousel

Top tips to save money on Disney vacations

Pick the right time to go

As with any popular destination, prices for resort stays tend to rise during peak season, especially during school breaks in the summer, Thanksgiving week, and the days around Christmas and New Year. Weekends are always more expensive as well. Traveling during non-peak dates may be a challenge, but you can save an average of $400 a night.

Forgo the Park Hopper

Disneyland and Disney World are comprised of multiple parks, each with its own entrance fees. As the name suggests, Park Hopper is an option that lets you visit multiple parks per day, but you will pay significantly more for this privilege. The difference between a single park ticket and one with Park Hopper can be up to about $85 per day; for a family of four, that’s a savings of $300 to $350.

Another reason to skip the Park Hopper concerns logistics. There’s plenty to do at each of Disney’s parks, so I recommend dedicating an entire day to one park, instead of stressing to rush to another. You can take it slow and enjoy all the amenities of a single park. This is especially true for Walt Disney World, where the parks are located far apart and you would waste time shuttling from one to another.

Explore your ticket discount options

While Disney doesn’t generally offer discounts on park tickets, there are a few money-saving options to explore before paying full price. First, nail down how many days you plan to be in the parks; there is a price break depending on how many days you visit. For example, if you go to Disney World for just one day, it would be about $109 per day. If you opt to go for five, the price drops to $88 a day. Keep in mind that the standard tickets don’t include water parks, golf courses, and other non-theme park areas.

Know a friend or relative in Florida? State residents can save 40% off a four-day ticket in addition to other discounts. The catch is that the resident must be present and show verification at the time of entry, so they will need to be included in your group. If it’s a close family friend or grandparent, that may not be an issue. From time to time, Southern California residents may also receive a similar offer.

Make wise restaurant choices

There is a large selection of dining options at either resort and prices range from budget to premium. For example, a New York Strip at the upscale Steakhouse 55 in the Disneyland Hotel costs $58 (that is just for the steak, sides not included). But at the casual Bengal Barbeque eatery inside Disneyland, you can enjoy a delicious Bengal Beef Skewer for $5.49.

The key is to research the various food outlets available at the park you will be visiting, basing it on your budget and family’s eating habits. If you don’t care about sit-down meals and can run on hot dogs and churros from a street cart, you can cut down on food expenses.

Note that some restaurants, such as the aforementioned Steakhouse 55, are still temporarily closed.

Get food delivered

Another option for cutting down on food costs is to have groceries delivered to a hotel, as many rooms have mini-fridges and microwaves – great for stocking up on water, sodas, snacks, and even quick-heat and pre-made meals and alcohol. If your room has a full-sized kitchen, consider cooking some meals “at home” or for bringing inside the park (see our tip above). Amazon Prime delivers to hotels, while Garden Grocer specializes in Disney World deliveries.

Bring a refillable water bottle

With all the walking you will do, it’s important to stay hydrated, especially during the hotter months in Florida and California. Skip the bottled water the park sells (a bottle of Dasani costs around $4) and opt for a money-saving and environmentally friendly refillable water bottle instead.

You can fill water bottles at restaurants or one of the refill stations. But keep in mind, refill stations are few and far between, and due to COVID-19 cleanliness protocols, it is harder to fill your own water bottle.

Insider Reviews recommends the Vapur Element and Hydaway Collapsible Water Bottle because they are lightweight when empty and easy to pack.

Collapsible Water Bottle (small)Collapsible Water Bottle (small)

Stick to a souvenir budget

Disney is skilled at dividing guests from their money, especially when it comes to keepsakes. In most areas of the parks, you won’t be able to go more than 20 feet without being lured by the siren song of souvenirs. It can be very tempting to walk away with a droid from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge ($99) or a replica of the Enchanted Tiki Room Sign ($150), but try to keep those temptations at bay.

Instead, spend your money on less expensive, classic park items that will hold their value (in sentimental ways), such as a pair of Mickey Mouse ears with a name embroidered on them (about $23) or, my favorite, a hand-cut silhouette from one of the artists on Main Street ($10).

Walt Disney World

Tips to save money at Walt Disney World

Stay at a value resort

While Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa are lovely, they are also expensive – the Grand Floridian starts at around $400 per night. If a hotel is purely a place to sleep, Disney’s Art of Animation or Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort are two of the more inexpensive options inside the Disney bubble, starting at around $179 a night.

Check out all our choices for the best Disney World hotels here. If you’re willing to stay at a non-Disney resort, there are also many excellent hotels in Orlando and Kissimmee from as low as $66 per night, depending on the season.

If you want to go deluxe, consider renting DVC points

Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is Disney’s popular timeshare program that lets you rent studios, villas, and suites at one of the deluxe resorts. Membership is a big investment, but my friends who joined have been pleased with the program. Here’s a secret: You can take advantage of the program without being a member, by renting DVC points.

When you rent DVC points, you are essentially booking through a DVC member, not Disney. For a negotiated fee, you get access to their points and preferred rates (a member has a set number of deductible points that must be applied in order to get those rates), which can make those deluxe resorts drop down drastically in price.

For example, the price for a deluxe studio at Disney’s Riviera – depending on the date – is $559 a night, but you can rent points and pay about $275 for the same night. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, a studio is $616 a night, but with DVC points you pay $380. You are basically getting the same room for almost half the price. And, it’s not just for Florida: DVC also includes California properties.

Companies such as David’s Vacation Club Rental and the DVC Rental Store can facilitate the points rental from DVC members, and the booking process is similar to a regular hotel reservation. There are plenty of caveats with this system, so make sure to go over all the restrictions and conditions from the broker or DVC member.

Schedule a non-park day

Save on park tickets by scheduling a non-park day. There are many ways to get a Disney resort experience, including spending hours by the pool, checking out the lobbies and restaurants at hotels, and heading to the Disney Springs shopping and entertainment center. Keep reading for our suggestions on free stuff to do at Disney World.

disneyland reopening

Tips to save money at Disneyland

Stay at a Good Neighbor hotel

There are only three Disney-owned hotels within Disneyland – the Grand Californian, the Disneyland Hotel, and Paradise Pier. While the hotels are fantastic and convenient, they are also expensive. For example, rates at the Grand Californian start at $586 a night. Thankfully, there are lots of affordable options surrounding the park. Read our roundup of nearby hotels ranging from the budget-friendly Hampton Inn & Suites to the new JW Marriott, which, even though it is a four-star property, is about half the price of the Grand Californian or the Disneyland Hotel.

Splurge on the MaxPass (when it’s back)

While the MaxPass program is currently on hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions, the MaxPass is well worth the extra $20 per ticket and will enhance the experience by saving you time. The MaxPass allows you to make FastPass selections from your phone and eliminates the need to trek over to the attraction to manually pick up a FastPass from a kiosk. A FastPass, for those unfamiliar, allows you to join a much shorter line for a ride (the feature is also paused).

Get the Disney experience for free

Admission to Disney’s parks is expensive, but there are several fun attractions you can check out that don’t cost a penny. They add to the overall Disney vacation experience while keeping the cost down. (Some of these places and activities may be temporarily closed or unavailable.)

Walt Disney World

Disneyland

Consider waiting until next year

While Disneyland and Walt Disney World are open for business, to get the most bang for your buck, it might be best to wait. There’s a case for going now: reservations are required and capacity is controlled to promote distancing, so it’s less crowded than normal. But parades, fireworks, most live entertainment, the ease of the FastPass system, and close-up character encounters have yet to return. Dining options are also limited, and some hotels haven’t reopened.

Instead, take this time to plan and save up for the trip. When all of the parks’ amenities return, you and your family will have a more memorable experience.

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16 of the best glamping vacations in the US, from budget covered wagons to indulgent hotel-like tents

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

best glamping destinations in the US

  • If you want to camp without actually sleeping on the ground, glamping offers an ideal compromise.
  • These US glamping destinations promise comfy beds, stunning views, and easy access to nature.
  • From luxury canvas tents to tree houses, we found glamping vacations to suit a range of budgets.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

With summer and warm weather here, many people are also itching to get outside.

Camping became an especially appealing option amidst the pandemic, but according to Kampgrounds of America, it’s a popular trend that will continue this summer. But let’s face it ⁠- camping isn’t for everyone. If backpacking with all your food, pitching a tent, and sleeping on the ground while fighting off bugs just doesn’t sound appealing, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an unplugged vacation while connecting with nature.

Glamping offers the ideal compromise since it infuses a strong dose of, you guessed it, glam factor into camping accommodations. Glamping enables guests to sleep in comfy beds while still enjoying a taste of the great outdoors. However, if more traditional camping does sound preferable, these are some of our favorite campsites across the US.

Glamping has grown in popularity with available accommodations now going far beyond a simple tent with an actual bed. Choose from singular accommodations like airstreams, vintage trailers, tree houses, star gazing domes, and more. Even the more traditional tent experiences often come with perks like air conditioning, stylish hotel-like decor, or roomy one- and two-bedroom options with private ensuite bathrooms.

You can browse all of the best glamping destinations or jump directly to glamping destinations based on the price here:

Here are the best glamping destinations in the US for 2021

Best Resorts sub banners Budget Friendly

These glamping options are a step well above pitching your own tent and rolling out a sleeping bag. But they’re still wallet-friendly options for your next outdoor escape, all coming in under $200 per night.

Capitol Reef Resort

Captial Reef Resort

Book Capitol Reef Resort

Found in Utah, this resort gets its name from Capitol Reef National Park, which is right on your doorstep. That means you’ll wake up to epic views of red rock mesas, and hiking trails are in abundance. 

Though the resort also has standard rooms and suites, more adventurous guests can opt to sleep in standalone cabins or covered wagons. The Conestoga Wagons can sleep up to six guests, with one King bed and two bunk beds. They are perched around a communal fire pit with red Adirondack chairs sprinkled throughout. Though it’s a short walk away, you’ll still have access to a private bathroom and the wagons are equipped with air conditioners.

Mendocino Grove

Mendocino Grove

Book Mendocino Grove

Nestled on 37 forested acres, Mendocino Grove breaks up its Safari-style tents into “neighborhoods” of eight to 10 tents spread across the property, for a communal but still intimate experience. Tents range from sleeping two to six guests, and feature heated beds with down comforters, lanterns, nightstands, and more. Guests can also hang out on private redwood decks furnished with leather butterfly-chairs and picnic tables. You won’t be totally cut off here since there are USB charging ports in each tent and Wi-Fi available on the property.

While you won’t have a private bathroom, the communal bathhouses offer a nice place to take a hot shower (inside or outside) and are stocked with high-end bath products. The camp is pet-friendly and there’s even a special dog washing station. Other shared amenities include a coffee station, firepits, hammocks, grills, and lawn games. 

COVID-19 cleaning procedures can be found here.

Asheville Glamping

best glamping us ashville glamping

Book Asheville Glamping

Sleep under the stars in a dome with Asheville Glamping. The plastic domes come in different sizes and offer different amenities, but for a roomier option, try Dome 4, also called the Star Gazing Dome. It includes a Queen-sized memory foam bed with a constellation identification book to watch for shooting stars. The dome also comes with a private outdoor hot tub.

Asheville Glamping also offers bell tents, safari tents, Airstreams, treehouses, and the Nest, an adults-only cabin perched in the trees and accessible only via two suspension bridges. 

COVID-19 policies and procedures can be found here.

Ithaca by Firelight Camps

Firelight Camps

Book Ithaca by Firelight Camps

Billowing canvas tents flanked by large, tilted logs that create an idyllic A-frame shape welcome guests at Fireflight Camps. Inside the tent flaps, you’ll find hardwood floors with colorful area rugs, one King or two Queen beds, battery-powered lanterns for soft lighting at night, and a writer’s desk and chair. A private porch furnished with rocking chairs completes the scene. For those who prefer an even higher level of comfort, four of the tents include electric heaters, fans, floor lamps, and outlets and are available for a slightly higher fee.

A locally-sourced continental breakfast is included in your stay and a shared lobby/lounge space also features a coffee and tea station. Other shared amenities include firepits, a bathhouse with hot showers and flushing toilets, outdoor lounge areas, and lawn games like bocce ball and corn hole. The camp is also dog-friendly, so feel free to bring your four-legged friends with you.  

COVID-19 cleaning procedures can be found here.

Shash Dine Eco-Retreat

Shash Dine' EcoRetreat

Book Shash Dine Eco-Retreat

Located on Navajo land close to the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon, it’s worth getting outside of your canvas tent to explore the deep history of the area. The family roots here can be traced back fifteen generations to the Long Walk, when Navajo hid in the canyons to escape being forcibly removed and marched from the land by the US Army. On walks throughout the area, eagle-eyed visitors can spot petroglyphs, arrowheads, and pottery shards.  

During warmer months, guests can sleep in bell tents decked out with plush bedding, candle lanterns, solar lights, snacks, and games. Or, you can opt to curl up in a restored covered sheepherders wagon. During the winter, there are also small cabins with wood-burning stoves to keep warm, as well as two hogans, traditional dome-shaped dwellings of the Navajo. Don’t miss visiting the on-site ranch, with sheep, goats, horses, cows, and more.

AutoCamp Cape Cod

best glamping us autocamp tripadvisor

Book AutoCamp Cape Cod

Take car camping to a whole new level on your next beach trip at this brand new spot that just opened in April. As the name implies, AutoCamp offers stylishly-outfitted Airstreams as accommodations. The luxurious airstreams pull out all the stops when it comes to amenities, from Queen-sized Tempur-Pedic mattresses with plush linens and flat-screen TVs, to spa-inspired private bathrooms and small kitchens. Each one includes a private deck with an outdoor dining area and a fire pit with a grill.

While AutoCamps are currently open at Yosemite and Russian River, you can get a head start on booking the soon-to-open Cape Cod location. The newest spot will offer luxury tents, as well as cabin-like X Suites that are fully ADA accessible. No matter which option you choose, the chic interiors, curated food and beverage offerings, complimentary coffee and tea, and weekly activities like yoga and beer tastings are sure to elevate your experience. 

COVID-19 cleaning procedures can be found here. 

Read our guide to the best hotels in Cape Cod 

The Trailer Pond

best glamping us trailer pond

Book The Trailer Pond

Make your next wine-fueled getaway in one of these cute, colorful vintage trailers. Ideal for a girls’ getaway or a bachelor or bachelorette party, these Tinker Tin trailers are found on 130-acres of organically farmed vineyards in Paso Robles, California. Book the trailers individually or reserve the entire area and all five trailers for a private group stay.

The funky trailers are from the 1950s and come in canary yellow, turquoise, hot pink, and lime green. Many feature original touches from flooring to countertops for an authentic vintage vibe. All come with just one double bed, so even a couple might find it a bit snug. However, booth-style dining tables and mini kitchens make for a fun stay.

In addition to taking in the scenic vineyard views and lounging by the pond with a glass of wine, for an additional fee you can book yoga, wine tasting tours, massages, or private tasting classes. 

Under Canvas Mount Rushmore

best glamping us under canvas mount rushmore

Book Under Canvas Mount Rushmore

Imagine waking up to the smell of Ponderosa pines and juniper in the Black Hills of South Dakota, after a night spent cozied up in sumptuous sheets, and pulling back your tent flap to stunning views of Mount Rushmore. You can do just that at one of Under Canvas’s newest locations.  

All of the Under Canvas tent options feature King-size beds, private bathrooms that include upscale bath amenities, private decks, and wood-burning stoves. Deluxe and Stargazer tents are ideal for couples, while the Suites sleep up to four people and are a great choice for families.

Additional camp amenities include complimentary activities, guided nature walks, and communal fire pits. Food costs are additional, but well worth the extra spend since offerings go far beyond the usual camp burritos. The menu features homemade seasonal fare using locally-sourced ingredients, like pan-roasted trout and mini pulled pork tacos.   

COVID-19 cleaning procedures can be found here.

Best Destinations Good Value banner

These destinations offer upscale perks and amenities, whether it’s stylish hotel-like interiors, air-conditioned tents, or a private hot tub to enjoy under the stars. Those little extras can make all the difference in a stay, making these accommodations an excellent value for the price.   

The Mohicans Treehouse

The Mohicans

Book The Mohicans Treehouse

If sleeping in a tree house is your dream, The Mohicans has nine unique options for you to choose from, including a little red barn tree house with stained glass windows and a two-tiered house perched on stilts. The property also has a few cabins and one airstream for those who prefer to stay below the treetops.

All of the treehouses have cozy beds, full bathrooms with toilets and showers, heating, and air conditioning. Some also have outdoor showers you can take advantage of during the warmer months. Most also have small porch areas for enjoying the fresh air. Guests can fill their days ziplining on a canopy tour, canoeing, hiking, swimming, or water skiing.

COVID-19 cleaning procedures can be found here.

Terramor Outdoor Resort

Terramore Outdoor Resort

Book Terramor Outdoor Resort

Found on Mount Desert Island, guests at Terramor have easy access to the stunning beauty of coastal Maine and Acadia National Park. Choose from five different types of luxury tents that can sleep two to five guests. 

Alder tents are ideal for families, with Queen beds and three Twin beds, though they are on the more rustic side with no in-tent washrooms (guests use a communal bathroom right nearby instead). Meanwhile, for those who want more glam and less camp, Birch Tents feature top-of-the-line linens, King beds, private porches, connected private bathrooms, and outdoor furniture around a private firepit. 

The on-site Lodge offers a restaurant with seasonally-inspired meals, a bar, and an outdoor grilling experience. Guests can spend their days mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, or strolling through the shops of Bar Harbor.  

COVID-19 cleaning procedures can be found here.

Fireside Resort

Fireside Resort

Book Fireside Resort

For those who want a stay that’s a step up even from a luxury tent, Fireside Resort is entirely made up of charming tiny cabins. The decked-out interiors include kitchenettes, sumptuous beds, oversized windows, leather sofas, flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi, and large private decks. Some cabins also include firepits and hot tubs.

With the majestic Teton wilderness as your backdrop, wake up to glorious mountain views before heading out to enjoy hiking, skiing, white-water rafting, snowmobiling, and more. In the summer months, you can also enjoy special events from Old West Days to marathons.  

COVID-19 cleaning procedures can be found here.

Eastwind Hotel & Bar

best glamping us eastwind

Book Eastwind Hotel & Bar 

While this peaceful spot tucked in the Catskills is a standard hotel with regular rooms, they also offer a glamping option. Lushna cabins are based on Scandinavian notions, embracing the popular idea of hygge with simple but cozy aesthetics. Snuggle up in a small A-frame cabin and take in the mountain scenery without ever leaving the Queen-sized beds pushed right up against the scenery, outfitted with luxurious Frette linens and Faribault wool blankets.

The cabins are small at just 220 square feet, but they do come with private bathrooms and nearby circular wooden saunas. Barbeque kits are provided upon request to complete the camping experience. If you get tired of hanging out in your A-frame, wander over to High Spirit, the hotel’s chic cocktail lounge, for a smoky ginger Mezcal Paloma and light bites.   

COVID-19 cleaning procedures can be found here.

Read our full review of Eastwind’s Lushna Cabin Suites here

Collective Governors Island

best glamping us collective governors island tripadvisor

Book Collective Governors Island

When you think of camping or glamping, overlooking skyscrapers probably isn’t what comes to mind. But at this Governors Island luxury camping retreat, the iconic New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty are both backdrops. A short private water taxi ride from downtown Manhattan or Brooklyn drops guests off at a pastoral haven. 

Journey Tents feature Queen or Twin-sized beds with 1,000 thread-count linens, down comforters, and designer blankets. There’s air conditioning in every tent so muggy New York nights won’t prevent you from getting a great night’s sleep. While the standard Journey Tents come with shared bathrooms, you can upgrade to a Summit Tent for a private en-suite bathroom, along with an exclusive minibar curated by The Goods Mart. 

In the morning, wake up to a complimentary in-tent continental breakfast before opting to tackle the many activities offered from a harbor tour to lawn games to a massage. You can also explore the island by renting bikes at an additional fee.       

COVID-19 cleaning procedures can be found here.

Best Resorts sub banners Luxury

These camps put the glam in glamping. You’ll feel more like you’re at a five-star hotel than out in the backwoods. While they come with a hefty price tag, no detail is overlooked, from large tents with sumptuous bedding to unrivaled activities and cuisine, ensuring a splurge-worthy vacation. Plus, both spots include all meals, drinks, and many of the offered activities included in the nightly price.   

Little Raccoon Key Glamping

Little Racoon Key Glamping

Book Little Racoon Key Glamping

If glamping on your own private island sounds like your idea of paradise, then Little Raccoon Key Glamping is for you. Part of Georgia’s picturesque Golden Isles, this glamping destination is found on a reef island teeming with wildlife both on land and underwater just off the shore. In fact, you may even be lucky enough to spot pods of dolphins on the boat trip from Jekyll Island to the glampsite island. 

The accommodations are luxury canvas tents that are weather-proof and feature all you need to be plenty comfortable, including memory foam mattresses and luxe linens, a wood-burning stove, dishes and pans for meals, as well as board games and books. An outdoor shower, gas grill, hammocks, and Adirondack chairs make relaxing in the outdoors easy.   

Dunton Hot Springs

best glamping us dunton river camp

Book Dunton Hot Springs

Dunton Hot Springs is an adventure haven located just across the mountain from Telluride. This outdoor getaway offers an array of exciting outdoor adventures, wellness-focused activities, fine dining, and unique events. In the summer, enjoy a scenic horseback ride, try fly fishing on an exclusive nine-mile stretch of the West Fork of the Dolores, or head out on hiking or mountain biking trails that range from easy to heart pounding. Dunton can also provide expert guides to help you summit nearby 14,000-foot peaks or take guests rock climbing.

Choose between traditional indoor cabins or glamping tents at the Dunton River Camp, located four miles down the road from the main property. The eight opulent tents offer modern amenities in the midst of nature, complete with en-suite bathrooms with six-foot soaking tubs. Each tent comes with two complimentary mountain bikes for exploring the grounds and trails.

COVID-19 cleaning procedures can be found here.

The Resort at Paws Up

best glamping us paws up

Book The Resort at Paws Up

Nowhere does glamping quite like the famed Resort at Paws Up, as evidenced by the fact that a stay here includes a camping butler. The 37,000-acre ranch features untamed Montana wilderness steeped in Lewis & Clark history, situated along 10 miles of the idyllic Blackfoot River. There are more than 100 miles of designated hiking, mountain biking, horse, and ATV trails. 

There are 28 cabin homes open year-round, and 36 glamping tents open seasonally in warmer months. Each cabin or tent is individually decorated in Western-chic style with furnishings and artwork hand-curated by the owners. The tents are no ordinary, snug stay. Many feature one or two bedrooms, ensuite bathrooms, and clawfoot soaking tubs. Guests choose their camp based on their tastes, opting for river views, cliffside stays, or more secluded areas. 

COVID-19 cleaning procedures can be found here.

What is glamping vs camping?

Glamping is elevated camping. Rather than pitch your own tent at a campsite, glampsites have accommodations already set up with beds as opposed to sleeping bags. Many glamping destinations also have upscale amenities from pools and saunas to on-site restaurants. Others are basic canvas tents with beds where you’ll still need to bring all your own toiletries and food.

How much does it cost to go glamping?

Glamping costs range considerably depending on the resort and the time of year. Summer sees prices soar, but keep in mind that many glampsites are only open seasonally during the warmer months. Budget options often start around $100 to $150 per night, but often will be extremely bare bones with little to no amenities.

For those seeking serious luxury, hotel-like tents with ensuite bathrooms and all-inclusive dining are available. However, they can cost $1,000 or more per night.

Do glamping tents have bathrooms?

It depends on the accommodation. Budget options typically won’t have attached bathrooms, but many sites have communal bathrooms and showers available for use. Higher-end options and cabins will generally have ensuite bathrooms. 

More outdoor vacation ideas

Arches National Park
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9 US destinations where you can celebrate Pride this year, plus LGBTQ-friendly hotels for each

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

New York City Pride

  • June is Pride month in the US to celebrate the impact of the LGBTQ community.
  • Pride events, celebrations, and parades are happening across the country throughout June and beyond.
  • Here are some of the best places to celebrate Pride this year, plus LGBTQ-friendly hotels for each.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

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Pride’s back! In truth Pride never went away. We’ve been marching for half a century in the face of arrest, harassment and worse, through nearly four decades of an epidemic that devastated yet ultimately galvanized our community, and now through a global pandemic.

We will always exercise our right to be visible and celebrate our magnificent diversity. While we did it mostly virtually in 2020, the trend in 2021 is to meet in person. For now, we’ll skip crowded and sweaty parades and parties (alas!), but in order for us to join safely together in person, many Prides have been restructured as celebratory hybrid events. A few will be drive-through; others will postpone large gatherings till later in the year. Most importantly, we’ll gather in 2021 to celebrate the many reasons to be proud while mourning those we’ve lost.

From California wine country to the streets of New York, there’s a US Pride celebration ready for you to join, with many launching this coming week and sashaying all the way through September.

Here are some of the best US pride celebrations in 2021, plus hotels for each.

Sonoma County Pride – June 5

Sonoma County Pride/Facebook

Discover the white, red, rosé, and rainbow-hued wines of gay-popular Sonoma County, an hours’ drive north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Sonoma’s beautiful rolling hills lack the star power of nearby Napa with its haute cuisine and celebrity-driven vineyards, but it more than compensates in seasonal-focused produce, a wider variety of wines, and a large concentration of LGBTQ residents, including many in the wine industry.

The theme of Sonoma County’s homey Pride celebration, “Beyond the Rainbow: Surviving, Reviving, and Thriving,” draws inspiration from the Wizard of Oz to offer renewal and support. The marquee event has been redesigned as the Drive-Thru Parade on Saturday, June 5, but there are 16 other official events scheduled throughout the month of June. If you can’t join for Pride month, consider visiting for one of the summer’s smaller Gay Wine Weekends.

Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride Parade and Street Festival – June 19

Stonewall Parade & Street Festival

The tiny island city of Wilton Manors — entirely bordered by waterways — is the beating gay heart of LGBTQ-popular Fort Lauderdale. This is where you’ll find the most queer-owned businesses, the majority of which are conveniently located adjacent to one another in nearby shopping centers allowing for fun, boozy walks among the various bars, restaurants, and novelty stores.

Pride is a folksy affair here. As you’ll find in many communities, there are official events throughout the month, but the parade and festival take place on Saturday, June 19. Be sure to get vaccinated before your visit. It’s Florida so expect a crowded gathering with a somewhat lax attitude towards social distancing and mask-wearing. 

 

Pride in the Park Chicago – June 26-27

Pride in the Park Chicago

Chicago is known for outstanding architecture, a vibrant cultural and art scene, a gorgeous (and gay!) beach, and that Magnificent Mile. But it has also long been an underappreciated locus for LGBTQ culture, from literary icons like Jane Addams to gay rights activists such as Henry Gerber.

Their stories can be discovered on a self-guided LGBTQ Legacy Walk providing context for what has become a robust LGBTQ community. This year’s Pride in the Park live-music celebration (featuring Tiësto, Chaka Kahn, and more) returns as an in-person event although the Chicago Pride Parade will be delayed until Sunday, October 3rd and Chicago Pride Fest remains postponed with a possible return in September or October. Expect a laidback but joyous reunion.

New York City Pride – June 27

New York City Pride

It’s a thrilling time to visit New York. This resilient city is rapidly picking up pace as increasing numbers of visitors people-watch, museum-hop, and pose for selfies in Times Square. Outdoor restaurants are (safely) packed adding a European-style plein-air dining scene. NYC has long been a beacon to queers escaping oppressive, narrow-minded, or just plain vanilla hometowns. Riled by continuous assaults on their dignity, queers, led by young transgender people of color, revolted on June 28, 1969. Marking this spontaneous uprising a year later, the first Prides were born in NYC and elsewhere.

Fifty years later World Pride welcomed over 5 million visitors representing all the colors of the queer rainbow. This year, with vaccination rates among the highest in the land, NYC boasts a huge lineup of official in-person and hybrid Pride celebrations. You’ll also find several other non-commercial alternative protest-oriented marches including the in-your-face queer Reclaim Pride march also on June 27 and the Dyke March on Saturday, June 26.

San Francisco Dyke March – June 27

San Francisco Dyke March/Facebook

Many who visit San Francisco harbor deep down a desire to stay. This was equally true for Mary Ann Singleton from “Tales of the City,” and the legions of homosexual G.I.s returning from World War II who remained, thus establishing the roots of a robust queer culture still thriving today.

Pride is a city-wide, month-long celebration with corporate headquarters and City Hall bedecked in rainbow colors and rainbow flags flapping everywhere. A highlight is the nation’s largest Dyke March, a non-commercial, protest-oriented but nonetheless joyous celebration of all things queer.

San Juan, Puerto Rico Pride – June 27

San Juan Pride

Generally speaking, the Caribbean is not LGBTQ-friendly. Many of the region’s islands criminalize homosexuality, and at best they tolerate openly queer visitors for their much-needed tourism money. A glittering exception is San Juan, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean’s true queer capital. It’s not only that the laws of the US, like marriage equality, apply here, but the locals, even those in the more conservative rural parts of the island, are truly hospitable. They want you to enjoy yourself. And you will.

Even at this year’s lowkey, socially distant car-based Pride, you’ll find fun all-welcome outdoor party scenes like La Placita de Santurce, a hub for convivial alfresco dining and drinking and all-night salsa dancing making a weekend here an attractive option whether for Pride or another time of the year.

Twin Cities Pride Festival – July 17-18

Twin Cities Pride

Separated by the Mississippi River, Twin Cities Minneapolis and St. Paul are more fraternal than identical. Locals in both are similarly welcoming to visitors, but St. Paul is the epicenter of old money and political power represented by glorious marble municipal buildings and stately old homes. Minneapolis has an edgier feel, with a vibrant art scene: Check out the world-class Walker Art Center and the popular Theatre District.

Warmer weather entices denizens of both sides of the river to flock outside enjoying outdoor cafes, abundant parks and the annual Twin Cities Pride Festival. After a virtual edition in 2020, this year’s festival will welcome in-person participants at a number of mostly free events from now into July (culminating with the Festival), including a nighttime party, two 5K runs, and a family fun day. Note that there will be no pride march as an extra COVID-era precaution.

Atlanta Black Pride Weekend – September 1-7

Pride Festival photo by Mixmike/Getty Images

In addition to a sizzling restaurant scene and sparkling new tourist attractions (Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca Cola and more), visitors find important traces and celebrations of African American history like the King Center and perhaps surprisingly abundant natural attractions including miles of hiking trails and swaths of gorgeous flowering green spaces.

Expect a warm welcome: Atlanta is a liberal blue island in an otherwise mostly red conservative state. There is also a vibrant, approachable gay scene here filled with queer refugees from the entire region. You’ll find lots of LGBTQ venues to enjoy, with the only drawback being the driving distances between hotspots.

Atlanta proudly boasts three annual Pride celebrations. National Pride Month in June, Black Pride during Labor Day Weekend, and Atlanta Pride Festival and Parade in October. Atlanta Black Pride is the largest Black gay Pride festivity in the world and celebrates the important impacts Black queer Atlantans have had on the community, city, and state.

Miami Beach Pride Festival and Parade Weekend – September 18-19

Miami Beach Pride/Facebook

Miami continues to draw LGBTQ visitors to its sun-drenched, palm-studded shores, best known for the neon-limned boutique Deco hotels and outdoor dining scene. Of course, in recent years Miami’s appeal has widened considerably to include buzzy mainland neighborhoods like Brickell and the Wynwood Arts District.

The local queer population has likewise spread out and integrated along with the nightlife and dining scene. If you come for Pride, center your visit in South Beach which will throng with queer locals and visitors. The annual Pride Festival and Parade Weekend promises to be better than ever with far more in-person events scheduled than last year. 

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Is it safe to fly? Experts share risks to consider, precautions to take, and how vaccines may affect air travel.

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Is it safe to fly right now 4x3

  • While some aren’t yet considering air travel amidst the pandemic, others are eager to resume flying.
  • Before booking any cheap ticket, it’s important to be aware of the risks of flying during COVID-19.
  • We talked to doctors, pilots, and other industry experts about whether it is safe to fly right now.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Vaccine rollouts are underway and to date, 1 in 6 Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The CDC has also issued new guidelines saying that domestic travel is safe for vaccinated individuals. As such, it may finally be reasonable to feel optimistic about a return to travel.

Some will start small, with safe vacation alternatives during COVID such as renting a car to take regional road trips, and booking private Airbnbs, or hotels with new cleaning policies.

Others may now feel ready to board a plane again given the latest news. But just how safe is air travel during the pandemic? Is it safe to fly right now during COVID-19?

To break down the answers, we reached out to an array of experts, including an infectious disease doctor, an ER doctor, a pilot, a medical advisor for an aviation trade association, and frequent flyer founders of popular flight deal platforms.

Here’s what they have to say about the risks of flying during COVID-19, encountering airplanes and airports, the precautions you should take to mitigate risk if you decide to fly, and whether or not they consider it safe to fly at all in this stage of the pandemic.

What are the risks of flying during COVID-19?

Remember that most air travel – with the exception of private flights, or public charters like JSX that fly through private terminals – requires not just the airplane flight itself, but also the full airport experience. As we all know, that means lots of lines and crowds.

We also know that the virus is generally transmitted directly between people. Therefore, people-to-people interactions pose the greatest risk among the factors present in airports.

“Airports have constant traffic going through them with travelers coming to and from various locations around the globe,” said Dr. Neil Brown, an emergency medicine physician and K Health‘s chief diagnosis officer. “We cannot be sure everyone is using the same precautions as we are, nor if they have been advised to.”

But you might be able to reasonably manage your risk of exposure to people in an airport. Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo, said, “I would think that you could control spacing and time that you might be exposed to individuals who might be infectious unbeknownst to you more easily as you’re entering the airport and during the boarding process, than when you’re on the flight.”

Airports are also trying various tactics to minimize contact between people and promote social distancing. For instance, Seattle-Tacoma International removed many of the seats at its gates. At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, passengers can use facial recognition technology to bypass various points of human contact prior to boarding.

What are the risks of getting COVID-19 on an airplane?

Airplanes are known to filter air quickly and effectively.

In fact, airplane travel has many built-in safety features that are well suited to the age of the novel coronavirus, explains Dr. David Powell, a medical advisor for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade group that represents most of the world’s major passenger airlines and cargo carriers.

“Customers sit facing forward and not toward each other, seat backs provide a barrier, and the limited movement of passengers once seated adds to the onboard protection,” he said. “Moreover, airflow is less conducive to droplet spread than other indoor environments: flow rates are high, directed in a controlled manner (from ceiling to floor), to limit mixing, and the use of High Efficiency Particulate Air filters ensures that the air supply is pure.”

Pilot and aviation author Brett Manders explains that these filters are able to capture 99.9 percent of virus particles. “The other thing to note is aircraft air is replaced at a rapid rate,” he says. “If you filled the aircraft with green smoke for demonstration purposes, it would be all 100-percent clear within two minutes.”

But while these features may help reduce risk, they do not change the fact that commercial airplane travel means flying in a confined space with other people, and for more than a fleeting period of time.

Manders notes that while planes’ airflow and filtration systems are effective, they can’t do everything to prevent spread between passengers, even those who may be asymptomatic.

“COVID-19 transmits by droplets in the air and whilst the systems refresh cabin air at a rate of about 90 seconds, it isn’t a linear flow from ceiling to floor,” he said. “Unfortunately, air will mix and tumble and it only takes a droplet in the air from a passenger’s cough, speech, or sneeze to your personal space.”

travel during the coronavirus

Indeed, Dr. Russo underscores that airplanes’ airflow systems may be good – but they’re not magical. “The air handling in a plane is pretty good, but it’s still a closed space. And depending on how long your flight is, you’re going to be in proximity of a fixed number of people for a prolonged period,” he says. “Once you’re on the flight, you’ve been dealt a hand. Hopefully, everyone around you isn’t infected, but you just don’t know for sure. A longer flight is going to be a greater risk even though the air is handled pretty well because it’s a close space, exposed to other individuals, and the time of exposure is longer.”

Russo puts the risk of infection coming mainly from other passengers next to you or within a couple of rows. It’s “a lot less likely [from passengers] 10 or 15 rows back.”

What are tips to follow for flying during COVID-19?

As it is known that the virus spreads primarily through direct person-to-person contact, inanimate objects are much less of a concern, according to CDC guidance.

“It’s really proximity to people,” Dr. Russo said. “This would be a time to use your best masks. If you have an N95 mask, that’s ideal,” he says.”Bring your own wipes if you want to be sure, and wipe down your tray tables, all your audio, TV remote knobs, and all that sort of stuff.”

Dr. Brown also suggested sanitizing the seat, armrests, headrests, and sidewalls if you have a window seat. “If you are flying or planning to, I highly recommend everyone to take certain precautions to lower your risk of being exposed to the coronavirus such as making sure you are up to date with your routine vaccinations, wash your hands often or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, steer clear from people who are visibly sick, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth,” he said.

Dr. Brown considers it “generally safe” to use the airplane’s lavatory as long as you socially distance as much as possible from other passengers if waiting in line. “I would advise travelers to avoid directly touching the door, bathroom faucet, the slider to lock the lavatory, and the handle to flush the toilet.”

Also, consider that eating and drinking on planes may be another possible transmission trigger. As airlines reintroduce food and drink service, proceed with caution and limit the amount of time your mask is off.

How are airlines dealing with COVID-19?

Airlines previously announced a patchwork of new policies designed to reduce the risk of virus transmission and reassure would-be travelers. The government also issued a national mask mandate earlier this year requiring face masks in airports and on planes.

Dr. Powell noted changes within airports that include airport staff and passengers wearing masks, provision of hand sanitizer dispensers, frequent and thorough disinfection of premises, and physical distancing measures where practicable.

Some airports, including London Heathrow and Puerto Rico’s San Juan airport, also conducted passenger temperature checks using thermal cameras. Of course, much has been made of the novel coronavirus’ ability to transmit through asymptomatic passengers, who would not be detected in such a screening.

On the planes themselves, airline policies vary widely. Delta was among those announcing it would cap seating capacity to guarantee distancing and block middle seats, but recently ended those policies, and was one of the last airlines to do so.

Additionally, Dr. Powell said, “We are seeing measures being introduced such as wearing of face masks and coverings by passengers and crew, simplified catering that reduces interactions between passenger and crew, reduced mobility on board, more frequent and deeper cabin cleaning, and new boarding procedures to eliminate crowding on the air bridge and in the cabin.”

However, the policies are constantly changing. “There’s been a bit of confusion,” says Scott’s Cheap Flights founder and flight expert Scott Keyes. “Some airlines are blocking middle seats, some are limiting the number of passengers on board, some are warning passengers ahead of time if it’ll be a full flight, and some are doing none of that. It’s difficult to keep straight which airline is taking which step, if any. Generally speaking, airlines are adhering to their stated policies, but those policies vary widely.”

And not everyone is as convinced the airlines are faithfully doing what they promise. Alex Miller, the founder and CEO of UpgradedPoints.com, says they can only “sort of” be trusted. “Many airlines promised blocked seats, but later revealed that if flight loads dictated, they would release these seats for passengers. So, blocked seats really weren’t blocked after all. This said, most airlines are implementing rigid cleaning procedures and most airlines are abiding by these new, strict standards.”

Our own reporter found that United was choosing not to block middle seats and instead was offering free flight changes for passengers on crowded flights. Similarly, American also stopped blocking middle seats.

Most airlines have already abandoned the policy entirely and opted to fill aircraft to capacity, citing US Department of Defense and Harvard School of Public Health studies that show the effectiveness of mask-wearing and high-efficiency particulate air filters in limiting the onboard spread of COVID-19.

coronavirus face mask

For his part, Dr. Russo is not convinced that seat-blocking policies are necessarily adequate to fully mitigate risk in all situations anyway. After all, a window seat is hardly six feet from the seat on the aisle, even if the middle seat is vacant.

Is flying safe if I’ve been vaccinated?

The first important factor here is that you’ve been fully vaccinated. Whether you receive one dose or two depends on which vaccine you get, but according to the CDC, you need to wait at least two weeks after receiving your final dose to be considered fully vaccinated.

If you are indeed fully vaccinated, the CDC says it is safe to travel within the US. The European Union also announced it will be open to fully vaccinated travelers from the US this summer.

Dr. Russo also agrees with the recommendation. “Though we’re still learning about the vaccine, it offers an extraordinary degree of protection against developing symptomatic disease, and if it does develop, it will likely be a very mild case,” he said. “Although the vaccines are very good at preventing transmission to others, there is still a small but finite chance you could be infectious even if vaccinated. If you had COVID-19, that offers a degree of protection, but it’s even more robust protection if you’ve been vaccinated.”

However, he also notes that you still need to wear a mask on planes and when in public areas like airports, even after getting vaccinated. “The vaccines are very good, but they’re not perfect. While you’re much less likely to transmit the disease or get it, there is still a chance,” says Dr. Russo.

As for when we can all feel safe hopping on planes without masks again like pre-pandemic times, Dr. Russo says we are still at least a few months away, if not more, and notes that many areas still have high infection rates. “We would need to reach herd immunity levels and have cases be at, or very close to, zero,” he says.

Bottom line: is it safe to fly?

The IATA’s Powell reports encouraging data about the risk of virus transmission on flights. “The risk of transmission of COVID-19 from passenger-to-passenger onboard an aircraft appears already to be very low, based on our communications with a large number of major airlines during January through March 2020, and a more detailed IATA examination of contact tracing of 1,100 passengers [during the same period] who were confirmed for COVID-19 after air travel.” He attributes this to the seating configuration, airflow and filtration systems, and those other traits unique to flying.

But according to medical experts unaffiliated with aviation, there continues to be an inherent risk in flying. “Safe is a relative term,” Dr. Russo said. “Particularly for longer flights, even with good mask usage, you’re getting into the more moderate risk zone as opposed to low risk” environments you might find with grocery store outings or jaunts to a local beach with social distancing.

“On a plane, all bets are off as far as likelihood of who could be infected,” he said. “It could be different people from different parts of the world, and different prevalence of disease. So even if you’re flying out of an area where everything looks good, you just don’t quite know who’s on that plane, where they’ve been, and what their state is. The mask affords a certain degree of protection, but there’s no question there’s going to be some risk with this situation, particularly the longer the flight is and the more crowded it is.”

Dr. Brown puts it simply: “It is best to avoid any unnecessary travel at the moment.”

Whether or not to fly remains an individual choice, best undertaken after serious considerations of the risk-versus-reward ratio until there is a vaccine. For his part, Dr. Russo said he would fly for a significant family event he deemed worthy of exposure to some amount of risk.

Keyes agreed. “I think it’s safe enough that if I had an important trip like visiting a sick family member, I’d feel confident getting on board.”

A sample of airlines’ current COVID-19 policies

  • Air Canada: Mandatory masks for passengers. Issuing contact-free infrared temperature screenings. Passengers with elevated temperatures will be denied boarding.
  • Air France: Mandatory masks for passengers. Issuing contact-free infrared temperature screenings on some flights.
  • American Airlines: Seats are no longer blocked and flights may be filled to capacity. Mandatory masks, and reduced food and beverage service is continuing. If a flight is booking up, American may notify passengers and offer the option to change flights free of charge. No change to boarding process.
  • Allegiant: Flights may be filled to capacity and masks are mandatory.
  • Delta: Mandatory face masks, reduced food and beverage offerings, and new boarding by row procedure from back to front. Reducing the total number of passengers per flight depending on aircraft type.
  • Emirates: Mandatory masks, food offerings reimagined in bento-box style to reduce contact during service, and option to buy extra seats when at the airport for onboard distancing.
  • Frontier: First US airline to announce screening all passengers with temperature checks and denying boarding if found to be elevated. Mandatory masks, plexiglass partitions are being installed at ticket counters, all passengers checking in must accept a health acknowledgment. No food and drink service and no change to boarding process.
  • Hawaiian: Seats are no longer blocked and flights may be filled to capacity and masks are mandatory.
  • JetBlue: First airline to make masks mandatory for passengers and crew. Mandatory masks, plexiglass partitions are being installed at ticket counters, all passengers checking in must accept a health acknowledgment. Seats are no longer blocked and flights may be filled to capacity. Limited food and beverage service and back to front boarding.
  • Southwest: Mandatory masks for the crew, and airline-provided masks for passengers without them, limited food and beverage service of ice water and a snack mix. Seats are no longer blocked and flights may be filled to capacity. No change to boarding process.
  • Spirit: Flights may be filled to capacity and masks are mandatory. Food and drinks, including alcoholic beverages, are available for purchase.
  • Sun Country: Flights may be filled to capacity and masks are mandatory.
  • United: Seats are no longer blocked and flights may be filled to capacity, but United will allow passengers with full flights to make a change free of charge. Masks are mandatory and boarding is from back to front. Service is suspended on short flights, but on flights longer than 2 hours and 20 minutes, United will distribute amenity bags with a sanitizing wipe, water bottle, and snacks, and offer soft drinks.

Tom Pallini, Hannah Freedman, and David Slotnick contributed reporting to this article.

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Which is safer: Airbnb or hotels during COVID-19? Here’s what doctors and the CDC say.

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Travel Generic Graphics Hotel Key 4x3

  • Summer travel is poised to make a big comeback in 2021.
  • Both Airbnbs and hotels are open and welcoming travelers with stringent new cleaning protocols.
  • So which is safer: Airbnb vs. hotels? We asked doctors about the lodging they’d book themselves.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Travel is shaping up to have a major comeback this summer as more Americans become vaccinated, and in response to new CDC guidelines that say fully vaccinated individuals can now safely travel in the US.

As a result, many will likely book that long-postponed family vacation, romantic getaway, or bucket list trip. Of course, the novel coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon, and safety in travel will still be top of mind.

Fortunately, when it comes to safe lodging, travelers have many choices, and all of them are actively courting business with sweeping new policies and protocols.

Many large hotel chains have announced big changes to cleaning policies, and Airbnb requires that all hosts and guests commit to their Enhanced Clean program, which includes wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and abiding by a five-step enhanced cleaning process.

However, there is still an element of risk. After all, travelers who preferred hotels for on-demand housekeeping, room service, and impressive on-site amenities may now view those same person-to-person interactions as liabilities. Similarly, in an Airbnb, everything from bedsheets to a fork was previously used by another person.

To help determine the safest lodging for travelers during COVID-19, we spoke with doctors, whose conclusions represented a consensus.

Are hotels and Airbnb safe during COVID-19 in 2021?

When making arrangements for overnight lodging – as with any other decision you make when leaving your house during the pandemic – consider that the most significant risk you can encounter is direct contact with other people.

And when you’re traveling, you’re likely to encounter not only other humans but those who come from backgrounds and locations unfamiliar to you.

“The first thing that potentially opens up risk is running into other people that you have no idea what their infectious status is,” explains Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo. “We know now that there’s a lot of people who get the coronavirus who have no symptoms at all who could potentially transmit it. Therefore, you have to assume that anyone you encounter that you don’t know could be potentially infectious.”

Are pools safe during COVID?

When it comes to pools, beach chairs, and other amenities found at Airbnbs and hotels, “other bodies are the main concern,” Dr. Russo says, as opposed to the water in the pool.

So, your safest leisure-time bet would be a chaise completely away from the crowd, a bike for a solo ride, or a swim in the chlorinated pool of a private Airbnb with no other guests present. To help with that, we rounded up some of the best Airbnbs in the US with private pools.

CNT Hotel Hot List 1HotelWestHollywood

Is it safe to eat in a restaurant?

In hotels, unless you have a suite with a kitchen, all dining will be done either in a restaurant or through takeout. Our experts said the safest option in a hotel would be no-contact room service or other delivery.

In an Airbnb, you can prepare your own food, which is both safer and cost-saving, although remember with this style of lodging you can expect an additional cleaning fee. Increased fees post-pandemic have been in the range of $250, and that’s just for cleaning, in addition to service fees and the like.

Again, no matter what lodging you pick, the main thing you’ll want to consider is the likelihood you’ll encounter other people and the number and length of such encounters. Plus, factor in the location, and if possible, avoid regions with high rates of infection.

“When booking any type of lodging, consider how many people you’ll be surrounded by, when was the last time someone stayed in that accommodation, and how is the state or city doing in regards to flattening the curve,” said Dr. Neil Brown, K Health‘s chief diagnosis officer.

What can I do to minimize the risk of COVID-19 while staying at a hotel or Airbnb?

Whether you choose an Airbnb or a hotel, be aware of high-touch areas that might facilitate virus transmission.

In both Airbnbs and hotels, these might include light switches, phones, TV remotes, doorknobs, sinks, bathroom faucets, and toilet handles. Additionally, look out for flat surfaces like bedside tables. “If someone was sick in the room and coughing, [those are among] flat surfaces it could settle onto,” Dr. Russo notes.

If you’re going to use kitchen items in Airbnbs, Dr. Russo suggests running them through the dishwasher just in case, an action that would neutralize the virus.

The virus is likely to settle out of the air quickly – about one to three hours under experimental conditions, and possibly much less in the real world – Dr. Russo notes. So that means the air quality is not likely to be a major concern in either a hotel room or an Airbnb if you are the only one in it. Nevertheless, you can mitigate your risk in both by insisting upon a margin of time passing since the last guest was in the space.

With Airbnb, look to book homes that have an Enhanced Cleaning badge, indicating they have committed to following Airbnb’s COVID-19 safety practices. This includes wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and, for hosts and their teams, abiding by a five-step enhanced cleaning process.

Disinfecting doorknob

Similarly, look for hotels with impressive new cleaning protocols and policies such as keeping rooms empty between guests, or specifically request a room that’s been vacant for a day or more.

Without explicitly stated buffers, hotels may indeed turn guest rooms around faster than Airbnb. But if you were to check into a room in which an infected person stayed right before you arrived, and the housekeeping crew did clean and sanitize everything according to guidelines, you would “probably” escape risk, Dr. Russo said, “but that’s not an ideal scenario.”

“I think it’s great that hotels are taking initiative and hiring these experts to help them implement better cleaning protocols,” he said. “But my biggest concern is the amount of traffic going through these hotels.”

Plus, there is the matter that stated policies ideally will be executed in good faith by every member of the hotel staff, and every Airbnb host or cleaner, in every instance. But that cannot be guaranteed by each individual arriving guest.

What do CDC guidelines say about hotels vs. Airbnbs?

According to the CDC’s current guidelines for lodging options, the lowest risk option is, of course, staying at home.

However, the guidelines list “staying in a house or cabin (for example, a vacation rental) with people from your household or fully vaccinated people” as “Safer.” However, it’s important to note that this is specifically for booking vacation rentals and Airbnbs only with people from your household.

Both hotels and vacation rentals that you share with people who are not vaccinated or are outside of your household are in the “Less Safe” category.

Bottom line, which is safer: hotels or Airbnbs?

The doctors we spoke with agreed that one lodging option is safer than the other as a general rule, because the main risk in coronavirus transmission is directly from person to person. And you are more likely to have person-to-person encounters in hotels compared with private Airbnbs. So the experts we spoke to agree with the CDC guidelines that the safer option is Airbnbs.

“While there is no question hotels are working diligently to keep their hotels clean and sanitized, Airbnb has a huge advantage given that the renter is generally the only one occupying the property,” said Dr. Brown. “With Airbnb’s new Enhanced Cleaning Initiative, the company provides a better option than public hotel spaces. Airbnb homes are more private, so there is a lesser chance of being exposed to the coronavirus.”

Dr. Brown does suggest confirming your listing meets Airbnb’s new cleaning protocol even though it is now a requirement for all hosts. “I would double-check to see if the host is participating in the policies,” he said.

Dr. Russo “absolutely agree[s]” that staying in a private Airbnb, especially one that allows no-contact check-in, such as through a lockbox, is the safer option now, given the probability of fewer person-to-person encounters.

Whatever lodging option you choose – if you choose to travel – both doctors recommend undertaking a serious consideration of the risks versus rewards.

Dr. Russo said he would stay in an Airbnb, and as for a hotel, said, “I think so.” But if he had the potential to encounter anybody in person at any point in his travels, he’d definitely wear a mask and would weigh the importance of the trip to his quality of life before deciding to undertake it.

“If it’s a trip that is important and necessary, I feel relatively safe using the proper protective measures like wearing a mask, distancing, disinfecting, and hand hygiene,” he said, noting that individuals will have to weigh their own individual risk tolerance, risk factors, and risk-reward potential.

Dr. Brown voiced a somewhat more conservative view. “Personally, I would do my best to avoid traveling altogether, but if it is necessary, I would feel more comfortable staying at an Airbnb after doing my own disinfecting upon arrival,” he said. “At the end of the day, the only people we can trust to protect us are ourselves. So if there is no need to travel at the moment, I would recommend everyone to continue staying home.”

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The 5 best car rental companies of 2021, based on key factors like pricing, locations, and cancellation policies

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best car rental companies
  • As travel picks up but social distancing remains a priority, travelers are turning to road trips.
  • For those who don’t own a car, car rentals are trusted options with competitive pricing.
  • Here are the best rental car companies based on pricing, locations, cancellation policies, and more.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

As travel in the US picks back up thanks to COVID vaccine rollouts, people continue to prioritize safety and social distancing. Travelers are turning to road trips and renting cars in droves, which has created a national car rental shortage and seen prices in the most popular locations skyrocket. In some places, rental prices have surged to as high as $700 per day, so you may need to rethink your road trip if you were hoping it would be a wallet-friendly vacation.

In addition to it being tough and pricey to rent a car right now, in some worst-case scenarios, travelers are showing up for their rental reservations only to find out there’s no car available for them. In addition to needing to book cars well in advance right now, be prepared for the possibility that you could end up not getting a car for a day or two or potentially for your entire trip, even if you’ve reserved a car well ahead of time and paid in advance.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan in place just in case. Additionally, if all the cars in your area are booked up or you’re seeking a last-minute car rental, you may want to consider non-traditional options and peer-to-peer car rentals, such as Turo, Getaround, or Avail.

That said, we’ve compared the current prices, procedures, and policies of top companies to find the best car rental companies for 2021. For more information on how we chose top rental car companies, as well as helpful info to consider when booking a car rental jump to the bottom of this guide.

Here are the best car rental companies in 2021

The best overall car rental company

Enterprise

Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Enterprise Rent-A-Car is a trusted name that performs impressively well across all categories, including customer satisfaction, online booking, and price. According to the 2019 survey by trusted market research company JD Power, Enterprise scored highly for their website and app (placing second and third respectively), as well as placing second for overall customer satisfaction, with 855 points out of a possible 1,000 possible points and just one point behind leaders Hertz.

Typical quote: One-week rental comes in at $705 including taxes and fees.

Current COVID-19 cleaning policy: Enterprise Rent-A-Car has a new Complete Clean pledge, which includes, “washing, vacuuming, general wipe down, and sanitizing with a disinfectant that meets leading health authority requirements, with particular attention to more than 20-plus high-touch points.” They are also offering curbside pickup options.

Current cancellation policy: If you have not already paid, there is a no-fee cancellation policy. If you have a pre-paid rental, you may cancel up to 24 hours before your pick-up for a fee of $50. Cancellations made less than 24 hours before your reservation will incur a fee of $100. 

Look out for: Enterprise’s daily rate can be slightly higher than the average car rental rate, but the company reports that it has reduced other additional charges, such as those for drivers under the age of 25.

The best car rental company for customer satisfaction

Hertz car rental

Hertz

Hertz has one of the top-regarded, best long-term reputations, with a decades-long presence. The company has more than 1,600 locations at airports in the United States alone, with a varied fleet and an impressive rewards program. Hertz’s pick-up and drop-off processes at airports are particularly efficient, which was one of the main factors behind their high score of 856 out of 1,000 by respondents to JD Power’s 2019 survey. 

Typical quote: One-week rental comes in at $862 including taxes and fees.

Current COVID-19 cleaning policy: The company’s new cleaning policy is quoted as, “A 15-point cleaning checklist, and all cars that have been sanitized are being marked with a “Hertz Gold Standard Clean” sticker, which will only be broken when the car’s driver accesses the rental for the first time, meaning that the driver’s area is disinfected as a last step when the car is moved to its final location.

Current cancellation and fees policies: Young renter (under 25) fees are being waived and the minimum renter age lowered from 20 to 18 years old to help college students and young drivers return home. The company has also lowered rates for one-way trips. Customers with pre-paid Hertz rentals booked prior to March 13 can cancel their reservation for no fee and transfer their balance for use toward a future booking within 24 months. Otherwise, regular cancellation fees apply: full price for a no-show, $100 if canceled more than 24 hours before pick-up, $200 if canceled less than 24 hours before pick-up. 

Look out for: The quotes for short term rentals with Hertz are slightly higher than some of the company’s competitors, especially when renting for just a day or two. Longer-term rentals are more competitive. 

Best car rental company website and app

National Car Rental

National Car Rental

National Car Rental is particularly proud of its services and loyalty program for business travelers, and this focus on customer service bleeds over into its leisure customer service as well. This is most apparent in its website and app, both of which are highly regarded, with the company placing first and second place respectively in those categories in the 2019 JD Power survey of travel industry online portals.  

Typical quote: A one-week rental comes in at $796 including taxes and fees.

Current COVID-19 cleaning policy: National shares sister company Enterprise’s Complete Clean Pledge, which includes, “washing, vacuuming, general wipe down, and sanitizing with a disinfectant that meets leading health authority requirements, with particular attention to more than 20-plus high-touch points.” 

Current cancellation policy: The company is extending its existing no-fee cancellation policy to include customers with pre-paid rentals booked directly through them. Previously, pre-paid rentals that were canceled would incur a fee. Cancellations must be made 24 hours or more before the pick-up, otherwise, a no-show fee of $100 will be assessed.

Look out for: National is somewhat focused on business travelers and does not currently offer drop-off or pick-up services.

The best cheap car rental company

Alamo Rent A Car

Alamo Rent-A-Car

Alamo Rent-A-Car is a well-established, well-trusted name in the car rental market. Alamo’s prices were regularly among the cheapest prices we found when gathering quotes both through the various companies’ own websites and third-party comparison sites. Though the company has relatively fewer locations, Alamo’s prices are always very competitive.

Typical quote: A one-week rental comes in at $695 including taxes and fees.

Current COVID-19 cleaning policy: Alamo shares the Complete Clean Pledge offered by National and Enterprise, which includes, “washing, vacuuming, general wipe down, and sanitizing with a disinfectant that meets leading health authority requirements, with particular attention to more than 20-plus high-touch points.” 

Current cancellation policy: The company is extending its existing no-fee cancellation policy to include customers with pre-paid rentals booked directly through them. Previously, pre-paid rentals that were canceled would incur a fee. Cancellations must be made 24 hours or more before the pick-up, otherwise, a no-show fee of $100 will be assessed.

Look out for: Alamo Rent-A-Car has slightly fewer locations than many of its competitors, and the locations it does have are very concentrated on airports. 

Best peer-to-peer car rental

Turo car rental

Turo

Peer-to-peer car rentals are still making inroads into the market, but Turo is a consistently favorite, allowing people to both rent out their private cars and rent from private car owners. Set-up is relatively straightforward and the renting process is nearly identical to that of any traditional rental vehicle. The company also offers well-defined insurance options. Pick-up and drop-off locations depend on individual owners and will change for each booking. Turo also offers their own roadside 24/7 assistance policy and prices are very attractive. 

Typical quote: A one-week rental comes in at about $200 including taxes and fees. However, just like when comparing Airbnb to standard hotel rooms, Turo varies more than typical car rentals and has a wide range of price points available.

Current COVID-19 cleaning policy: The company asks hosts to “clean and disinfect the car after each trip with disinfectant wipes or spray. Wipe down the steering wheel, door handles, trunk latch, keys, and any other surfaces that are touched frequently.”  

Current cancellation policy: Guests may cancel free of charge up to 24 hours before their trip starts. Guests who book within 24 hours of their trip have one hour after booking to cancel for free. For canceled trips longer than two days, a guest is charged one day’s trip cost. For canceled trips two days or shorter, a guest is charged 50% of one day’s trip cost. The trip cost includes the trip price and trip fee.

Look out for: Obviously the variety of cars on offer varies considerably and customer service levels and actual cleanliness practices depend on individual hosts, though they do receive a public rating, which can help inform your experience.

Read our full review of Turo

Other reputable car rental companies

Hertz

These additional car rental services are reputable options that we strongly considered, but didn’t quite make the cut.

Dollar: The company has average pricing for the industry but locations are not quite as widespread and offers fewer benefits, for example, there’s no at-home customer drop-off or pick-up. 

Sixt: A big name in Europe that is making strides in the American market, however, some car sizes might seem ungenerous to American companies.  

Thrifty: Attractive, competitive prices but fewer locations than many of its peers and a less expansive loyalty scheme. 

Budget: A good number of locations but it also has a less attractive loyalty program and their airport pick-ups can be subject to additional fees. 

Avis: Good, affordable quotes for weekly rates and a great app, but the loyalty program makes it challenging to earn points, and airport pick-ups can be subject to fees. 

How we made our decisions

How did we choose the best car rentals?

Insider Reviews combed through the online specifications and customer reviews of car rental offers on the market. The research included car rental quotes from many companies and considered factors such as what is included in the rental agreement, the number of locations, the satisfaction levels of their customer service and the value for money on offer.

We also researched dozens of car rental companies across categories and consulted reviews on third-party sites such as Priceline.com, Kayak.com, Expedia.com, and Rentalcars.com. We considered price points, the number of nationwide locations (airport and otherwise), and impressive customer service satisfaction levels based on the 2019 customer satisfaction report by survey company JD Power, which gathered responses from over 12,000 business and leisure travelers who rented a vehicle.

Price quotes were taken from the company’s own websites and are based on a one-week rental of a medium-sized vehicle (or ‘standard’ car, for example, a Volkswagen Jetta or similar) by a driver over 25, picking up midweek from a regional airport, with unlimited mileage. All quotes were for bookings made two months in advance without any extras.

What to consider when booking a rental car

How far in advance should I book a car rental for the best price? 

The received wisdom is that it’s better to book as early as possible to book a rental car, between three to six months is optimal. This has become even more important recently with last-minute reservations being nearly impossible to find and car shortages happening nationwide. 

Are some days cheaper than others for picking up a vehicle? 

Weekend pick-ups tend to be slightly cheaper, with Monday and Tuesday pick-ups usually slightly more expensive. Compare airport pick-ups versus locations in the city, even factoring a taxi to these locations. Some cities will always be cheaper at the airport, while others will see the complete opposite. 

Is it worth paying for insurance? 

First of all, you may already be covered, so check with your car insurance policy, or call your insurance company to find out if your existing coverage extends to a rental car. Car rental companies typically offer the following coverage options at the counter as you sign the lease agreement, and it’s really down to individual circumstances as to whether you take these out (though some kind of liability insurance is usually compulsory):

Loss-damage/collision damage waiver: This typically waives financial responsibility if the car is damaged or stolen, towed or incurs similar fees. Typical cost: $9–$19 a day. 

Liability coverage: This is usually required coverage, protects you from potential lawsuits and typically costs around $7–$14 a day.

Personal accident insurance covers medical costs that might be incurred after an accident. Typical cost: $1–$5 a day. 

Personal effects coverage insures against theft any possessions that you might keep in the rental car and typically costs $1–4 a day.

Is it worth joining loyalty programs?

Most loyalty programs are free to join, and sometimes there are immediate benefits or offers, so, there’s really no downside to signing up. As with airline frequent flyer programs, the more you can build up by using the same company, the more benefits you will accrue, so frequent renters should look at their travel plans and the companies that will offer the most attractive benefits to members. 

Joining a loyalty program is even more attractive right now since they often come with perks like getting to jump the line or getting priority. With longer-than-ever wait times and lines at many locations, those special lines might come in extra handy.

Where can I get a rental quote? 

Most car rental companies will happily supply quotes on their websites without too much information being required. Third-party comparison sites are also very popular and can list dozens of options after entering personal information just once. 

What if I arrive for my reservation and no car is available?

Unfortunately, this is turning into a real possibility amidst ongoing rental car shortages. Always try to call ahead to confirm you’re reservation and check to see if there are currently cars on-site at your rental location. However, if you show up and your car isn’t available you have a few options.

First, ask if there’s another car available in a different class than you originally booked. Ideally, you may be able to upgrade to a better car than you originally booked at no extra cost if the company is at fault for your car being unavailable. However, if they only have cars available in a downgraded class, this may still be a better option for you than no car at all. Just be sure to get a credit or, at the very least, a voucher for the difference in price.

You can also ask if the company has another nearby location where a car may be available. If you do have to go to an alternative location, ask if the company will cover your taxi or Uber. If it’s late in the day, you may also want to consider coming back earlier the next day to see if any cars have been returned.

If no car with your original company is available at all, unfortunately, your only option may be to hunt around yourself at other rental companies or on a peer-to-peer site. You should always ask for a refund if this becomes the case, but be prepared for the fact that if you had a pre-paid reservation, you may need to hound the company and wait several weeks to get your money back.  

Are car rentals safe?

The CDC has noted that travel in the US is safe for those who are fully vaccinated. 

Additionally, like hotels, rental car companies such as Enterprise, Alamo, National, Avis, and Budget have all announced new measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, and are stepping up their cleaning and sanitization procedures.

Our experts weighed in on the overall safety of such rental car policies and agreed that a well-sanitized vehicle is much less of a danger than being around infected humans. Strict checklists, new cleaning products, curbside and contactless pick-up, and the thorough cleaning and disinfecting of each vehicle when returned by a customer or transported by employees are all part of new levels of service designed to assuage concerns regarding COVID-19.

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