Sometimes it can seem impossible to disconnect for even a moment. Our phones are constantly buzzing and ringing, and our fingers tremble with the urge to Instagram our morning lattes. And we can’t always make time in our day-to-day lives to escape all the noise. We live in a time when you just have to take it upon yourself to schedule some much-needed relaxation time. And I have just the way to do it.
It’s called a Getaway house. The concept of Getaway houses (or cabins, really) is to disconnect and become one with nature. The company was founded in 2015 at the Harvard Innovation Lab by two Harvard students, Jon Staff and Pete Davis, who wanted to find a solution to the constant stress of city life. (They even took the idea to Shark Tank—and said ‘no thanks’ to billionaire Chris Sacca’s offer of $500,000 in order to go it alone!) If you’re like me and are completely useless when it comes to the great outdoors, Getaway houses offer an idiot-proof way of becoming one with nature. It’s more like glamping, if I’m being totally honest, but you’re surrounded by trees nonetheless.
What is a Getaway house?
A Getaway house is a tiny cabin that is situated in a rural area not too far from the city, whether it be in the woods or on a mountainside. As I mentioned before, the point of these houses is to disconnect, so they only come with the bare essentials to encourage you to use less technology, get outside more, and build your relationships with your fellow travelers in the process. There’s no WiFi (I repeat: No WiFi) and they provide you with a cell phone lockbox (don’t worry, it’s optional) to assist you in your digital detox. I know you’re probably thinking, Do you at least get toilet paper? The answer is yes. But I’ll get more into that later.
The cabins come with the bare essentials to encourage you to use less technology, get outside more, and build your relationships with your fellow travelers in the process.
I heard about Getaway houses for the first time when one of my friends said she wanted to book one for her birthday weekend, and I’ve booked two more since, for long weekends with my boyfriend. My homebase is Boston, so the closest Getaway campsite is a little over an hour away in New Hampshire. Other cities that have nearby Getaway houses are Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Pittsburgh/Cleveland, Portland, OR, and Washington D.C., with more on the way.
How does a Getaway house work?
Signing up for a Getaway house is as easy as booking a hotel. You visit the Getaway website, select your homebase, and indicate the number of people in your party and how many beds you’ll require, and a calendar will appear with dates available for booking. If you’re looking to book around a specific holiday, you’ll want to book ahead of time because the cabins can fill up pretty quickly. Prices range from $99 and up per night, depending on the time of year or days of the week you want to book (summer and weekends are usually the priciest times). Upon booking, you’ll be emailed the exact address of the campsite. It isn’t until the morning of your stay that the company will email you the name of your cabin and a keycode that unlocks the door. You can check into your house at 3 P.M. the day of your stay.
The cabins come with one queen bed or two queen-sized bunk beds. When my girlfriends planned that birthday trip, we had eight people, so we opted for two cabins with the queen-sized bunk beds so we could comfortably sleep four people in each cabin. Because we booked as one party, Getaway selected two cabins close in proximity to make it more convenient for us—half of us were going to be staying in a cabin called “Rose” and the other half in “Antoinette.” According to the website, each one is uniquely named after grandparents of staff or guests. (Cue the “Aw!”)
The Boston-area campsite has dozens of cabins, which took me by surprise the first time we drove up, because I thought each house was going to be more private. You’re not in complete isolation, but it doesn’t take away from the experience. I was pleased that Getaway strategically places the cabins at angles facing away from each other so you have a feeling of solitude and privacy, despite all of the cabins being rather close together. It gives you space to play music or eat outside without feeling like all of your neighbors are joining you (but quiet hours start at 10 P.M. so the whole campsite can enjoy some peace). This was a great feature especially when I started booking Getaway houses with my boyfriend.
Checking out of your house is even easier than checking in. They provide some written directions to tidy up your trash, turn the lights off, and lock up behind you on your way out. Easy-peasy.
What comes with the Getaway house?
The houses, while minimalist, have most things you might need during your stay. They each have a bed or bunk bed, a little kitchenette, and a bathroom with running water (yes, you can take a hot shower and there’s a flushable toilet, so you don’t need to use the great outdoors as your bathroom). In the bathroom, there’s even shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and towels. It’s basically a spa.
The houses, while minimalist, have most things you might need during your stay.
It should go without saying that, yes, there is electricity. That being said, I wouldn’t bring any high-voltage electronics because 1) you’re in a tiny wooden cabin 2) you’ll probably blow a fuse and 3) you’re supposed to be disconnecting.
The sleeping arrangements are incredibly cozy. The beds I’ve slept on at Getaway houses are surprisingly plush. I don’t know what kind of mattress they use, but it’s like sleeping on a cloud. They have great pillows and blankets, too. There’s also AC and heat so you can sleep comfortably no matter what season you book a stay. And next to the bed, there’s a beautiful, show-stopping picture window. If you follow Getaway on Instagram, you’ve probably seen the iconic window. It is huge and gives you an unobstructed view of the surroundings from inside your cabin. It makes you feel like you’re in nature from the comfort of your bed. But don’t worry, there are also room-darkening, privacy blinds, should you prefer not to awaken with the sunrise or allow passersby to peer in.
In the kitchenette, there’s a small table, mini fridge, a two-burner stove, dishware, and cookware—even grilling utensils for the outdoor fire pit. There’s no need to bring a bottle opener or corkscrew, can opener, knives and scissors, a cutting board or a mixing bowl, either. Getaway offers provisions available for purchase (with a few dollars’ markup per item, like a hotel minibar) in the pantry—you’ll find pasta, cookies, oatmeal, and some candy. If you bring your own food, keep in mind that the mini fridge is exactly that: mini. You shouldn’t bring tons of groceries with you, but it is fun to cook in the kitchenette or outside over the fire, if you’re feeling ambitious. During my first trip with the girls, we picked up pizza on the way because we didn’t know exactly what the kitchen setup would be. I wouldn’t recommend food delivery because the layout of the campsite would be too complicated for a delivery driver, but bringing takeout like we did is always a good option if you don’t feel like cooking. Getaway provides free olive oil, salt, pepper, sugar, coffee creamer, as well as foil, paper towels and dish soap. Another perk of Getaway houses is the complementary supplies to make s’mores. After all, what is a campfire without s’mores?
Outside, there are two Adirondack chairs in the firepit area to relax on while you’re cooking or just enjoying the warmth of the flames. For you campfire noobs (like me), there’s a “campfire kit” that includes a lighter, a bundle of wood, a poker and a fire starter log to keep your fire going. The first bundle of wood is included in your stay. The firepit has a grilling grate to simplify cooking over the fire. There’s a picnic table, too, for dining al fresco.
Besides the essentials, Getaway houses come with a mini library to get lost in literature or photography, a radio with an aux cord (for playing your own tunes, as long as they work without WiFi), and a cell phone lockbox so you can enjoy your stay without distractions from the world.
The cabins are also dog-friendly. Yep, you read that correctly. They offer a dog bowl, treats, waste bags, and an outdoor lead for your pup to spend quality time outside with you without fear of them running off into the woods. It’s actually, er, required for them to be on a leash when you’re outside together, so keep that in mind. According to the website, there is a $40 pet fee per stay and you won’t receive the dog amenities unless you specify that you have a dog with you. I can’t speak to this from a personal standpoint, but some reviewers said the space is too small for a larger dog, so proceed with caution.
What’s missing in a Getaway house?
As I mentioned, Getaway provides some free basics and some food that you can purchase. However, if you want fresh (or less expensive) groceries, you’ll have to shop for your own. I like to bring some meat and veggies for grilling, eggs for breakfast, and some snacks, as well as a variety of spices and butter for preparing the food.
On my most recent visit, I brought my Lodge cast iron and it makes cooking so much easier. The cabin has a pot and pan for the two-burner stovetop inside, but you can’t use them on an open fire like you can with a cast iron.
Getaway provides instant coffee for purchase, which is thoughtful—but I detest instant coffee. There’s no coffee maker, so don’t bother bringing your own grinds unless you also want to tote your own pour-over or French press, too. If you’re a tea drinker like me, there’s a kettle you can use. They have some tea and hot cocoa available for purchase in the pantry, but I prefer to bring my own because it’s cheaper. It makes for a super-cozy nightcap.
The only drinkware provided are metal camp mugs. If you don’t want to burn your mouth and hands from hot beverages or don’t enjoy a metallic taste in your wine, I suggest bringing other ceramic-, glass- or plasticware to drink from.
You should also keep in mind that these Getaway houses lack space. Don’t bring a huge suitcase—you simply won’t have a place to put it. For what it’s worth, you’re supposed to be stripping down to the essentials for your stay, anyway.
Lastly, I strongly urge you to check the weather before you hit the road. I have been camping in the peak of summer when bug spray and sunscreen were imperative. On the other hand, I’ve done a Getaway house in the middle of winter, when I was really happy that I had snow gear (like my own shovel) with me. Getaway does not provide these, so it’s something you’ll want to be mindful of.
What can you do in a Getaway house?
Near me, there are lakes and hiking trails that you can drive to. It’s worth checking out the happenings in the surrounding area before you go. If you don’t feel like leaving the cabin or grounds once you get there, there are plenty of activities to do, inside and out. Walking around the campsite is nice for people-watching and because other campers might have sweet dogs with them (a perk for me, anyway!). Inside, you can read books, listen to music, or check out the little pamphlet of games and conversation starters. The Getaway website encourages artists and authors to use the digital detox to get their creative juices flowing. I also found that cooking over the grill and drinking wine by the fire took up a decent chunk of my time during each stay.
I do have a deep, dark secret. Each time I’ve done a Getaway house with my boyfriend, I’ve downloaded shows and movies onto my Kindle Fire for us to watch before bed (eep!). I’m not going to let the lack of WiFi stop me from enjoying that part of my bedtime routine.
Are Getaway houses worth it?
From my repeat visits alone, you can tell I’m a fan. It makes a great gift or an easy vacation. They’re not too far away from the metro area of the cities they serve, so you don’t need to do extensive planning or spend a lot of money. Getaway houses are an absolute treat, no matter what season, weather, or people you go with. I had so much fun when I went for the first time on my girls’ trip, and every Getaway house since with my boyfriend has been the ultimate relaxation experience. I find it rejuvenating to recharge in the woods, look at the stars, and make memories. If that sounds appealing to you, you’ll love Getaway houses.