Photo: Olivia Harden

I'm Not Outdoorsy, but This Tinyhouse Hotel Made Me Feel Like I Could Be

California Outdoor Camping
by Olivia Harden Sep 9, 2022

When I typically travel, I err on the side of comfort. I usually opt for luxury hotel rooms in pretty beach destinations or spend my days exploring modern cities. While my coworkers boast hiking 500 miles a year in a beloved pair of hiking boots and enjoying camping in the dead of winter, I question how anyone can find getting bit by mosquitos, sleeping on the ground, or going to the bathroom in the woods to be enjoyable activities.

But with camping becoming more and more popular among millennials and zoomers, there is one aspect of camping that has serious appeal — a lack of cell service.

While I’m attached to my beloved iPhone, I’m that person whose almost always has it on”do not disturb.” Still, a quick peek at my screen time showed that I spend an average of about four hours a day looking at my phone. So when I decided to take two days off to explore Getaway House Big Bear, an upscale cabin experience, I was a bit nervous. Still, knowing that the comfortable resort didn’t require guests to sleep on the ground made me decide to take a chance on a nature experience.

While the trip required a bit more planning than is normal for me — and a big step outside my comfort zone — I found the Getaway House experience to be enriching, especially as someone less inclined than many to spend time in the Great Outdoors.

What is Getaway House?

Getaway House, inside of Tiny Cabin with big bed over giant indow

Photo: Olivia Harden

Getaway House is a modern, tiny cabin hotel experience in a few locations around the US, usually no more than two hours or so away from major cities. There are a few locations (which they call Outposts) in the western half of the US, but most outposts are in the Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast. Getaway House also recently opened a few traditional campground locations, complete with private bathrooms and kitchenettes, so guests aren’t completely roughing it.

The classic Getaway cabins offer around 140 to 200 square feet of floorspace, decked out with almost everything you need for the perfect escape into the woods. The company promotes complete immersion in the outdoors, meaning the cabins have limited-to-no cell service — and cell phone lockboxes to reduce the temptation to use them.

I decided to bring my partner along for the ride to spend some quality time together. Before our arrival, the company emailed us information about the property and a map of the grounds to download before arrival. We also received a pin code to open our assigned cabin. The property is entirely contactless, so if you’re wary about the pandemic, you can easily avoid people.

Getaway House, cellphone lockbox with welcome letter

Photo: Olivia Harden

While Getaway Big Bear (elevation: 6,000 feet) is a bit of a misnomer considering it’s in Running Springs, California, about 30 minutes from Big Bear Lake (usually just called Big Bear). But the outpost is actually closer to Los Angeles, so that was fine with me. The drive up the mountain wasn’t tough, and when we arrived, I first noticed how cool it was. California was having one of the hottest summers on record during my visit, yet the temperature in Running Springs was about 30 degrees cooler than where I live near Palm Springs.

The cabins have enough space between them to give you a sense of privacy and parking in front, making it easy to bring in our things.

Getaway House, kitchenette

Photo: Olivia Harden

Outside each cabin are picnic table and firepits with firewood and firestarters available for purchase. Inside are kitchenettes with two-burner stoves, sinks, cookware, cutting boards, tea kettles, cooking and eating utensils, and plates, cups, and bowls. In each cabin is the option to buy a s’mores kit, coffee and tea, and insect wipes.

If you don’t want to grocery shop, you can pre-order a sustenance box that includes oatmeal, soups, pasta, pasta sauce, jerky, candies, and cookies. And there’s a table if you’d rather eat inside. There’s also a bathroom with running hot water in the shower, a toilet, and an air conditioner and heating unit.

But the best part of our room was the comfortable queen-sized bed next to a giant window with stunning views. We opted for the forest view since other guests booked the mountain view rooms, but I was still in awe. Staring out into the forest and watching the sunset every evening made the trip alone worth it. We ended up keeping our phones in the lockboxes for most of the trip. However, one thing I didn’t notice in the room that may have made me less inclined to pull my phone out was a clock to keep track of time.

What to pack for Getaway House

Getaway House, picnic table with breakfast of chips, salsa, eggs, and bacon

Photo: Olivia Harden

Getaway House recommends traveling light since the cabins are so small. My partner and I each brought a small weekender bag with comfortable lounge clothing and some athletic wear for outdoor activities. I packed a small toiletry bag, including sunscreen and bug spray, and brought my laptop with some downloaded movies to watch when the sun went down, along with a deck of cards.

One of my hidden talents is being a pretty decent cook, so rather than heading into town, I wanted to see how well I would do utilizing a small kitchen. I made a grocery store run to pack fixings for easy-to-assemble meals with versatile ingredients like items for tacos, chips, salsa, and guacamole for snacks, and eggs, bacon, and potatoes for breakfast. And, of course, lots of water. The fridge was pretty spacious, so there was more than enough room for the groceries and leftovers. I did have to bring some spices as the kitchen only has salt and pepper, but I knew that ahead of time so it was easy to plan.

What to do

Getaway House, path with creek

Photo: Olivia Harden

One of the more intimidating parts of this getaway was figuring out what to do with all that free time without my phone. But Getaway House offered quite a few ideas on their website for how to spend your days. The property has a 24-hour quiet hour policy, making it truly an oasis for relaxation. Inside the room was a set of cards and dice, plus a book explaining more than 100 card games. I decided to brush up on my solitaire skills, fascinated by all the different ways you can play.

There were also other books for guests to peruse and even sets of Mad Libs. We spent a lot of time chatting and catching up, even though we see each other daily. We also used the fancy vintage-looking Bluetooth speaker while cooking and took advantage of the peacefully quiet surrounds by investing in a few naps.

There are quite a few hiking trails not too far from the property, all of varying difficulties to accommodate hikers looking for easier or more challenging trails. But once we settled in, the atmosphere was so cozy that we opted for the walking trail just off the property. There was no pressure to get to the top of a mountain or cover any set distance — it was just a relaxing way to get close to nature. We also walked around the outpost’s stunning grounds, including epic mountain viewpoints, lush green trees, and even a small creek.

Getaway House, firepit with smores

Photo: Olivia Harden

I’ve always assumed that a camping trip wouldn’t be complete without s’mores. Fortunately, s’mores kits were readily available inside the cabin. The intimidating part was figuring out how to create a bonfire. There were directions inside, apparently, which I missed — but we made do by making the tiniest fire ever. It may not have been up to the standards of a s’moresologist, but marshmallows got roasted, and we crushed a few s’mores. Which is, ultimately, I think all that matters.

At the end of our trip, the Getaway House team texted me instructions on how to check out, and I grew increasingly sad to leave. I wish I could’ve snuck in one more day, but it was time to get back to the noise of everyday life. I would definitely recommend Getaway House to anyone who’s ever been nervous about camping in the great outdoors. And while I’ll never give up trips to fancy hotels on the beach, I can now understand what the glamping hype is all about.

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