Glamping at Autocamp Santa Barbara

by Julie Cohn
Santa Barbara Auto Camp

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Beautiful Santa Barbara, the California central coast city known as the “American Riviera” welcomes thousands of travelers every year drawn to the great weather, beautiful beaches, unique architecture, and vibrant culture.  Santa Barbara offers a variety of lodging options for travelers, something for every taste and budget, but nothing quite as unique as glamping at Autocamp Santa Barbara.  Autocamp Santa Barbara, with its shiny vintage Airstream campers, is the ultimate family glamping experience in the heart of California’s coast, just off historic Rt. 1.

Glamping at Autocamp Santa Barbara

My family just completed its third California coast road trip  along on Rt. 1, from Los Angeles to San Francisco, with several stops along the way.  We’d been to Santa Barbara many times, but never overnight, and with two teenagers in tow, I was looking for something a little “different” from the typical hotel stay.  Glamping is a great way to experience a destination, and I thought the kids would enjoy an overnight stay in an authentic vintage Airstream camper.  What an amazing experience we had!


I was able to make reservations online and promptly received a confirmation number with a code to get into our assigned camper. Our assigned camper was the San Miguel, a 1959 Airstream Overlander, lovingly restored to its original splendor.  The Santa Barbara Auto Camp has several Airstream campers available in varying sizes, to accommodate families.  Some of the larger Airsteam campers even have bathtubs! Rates average about $235 per night during low season and $325 per night during high season.

The Camper

Each Airstream at Autocamp Santa Barbara is parked in its own spot, so when we arrived, I was able to pull right up next to our camper.  The San Miguel was colorful and casual, with fun camp-themed art prints on the walls.  The front area has a large couch/sitting area, a two-person dinette table, and kitchenette.  A narrow hallway led past the bathroom to a small room in the back of the camper with a queen-sized bed, television, and DVD player.

The camper had beautiful polished hardwood floors, and although it was over 60 years old, everything looked brand new.  Outside, the Airstream had a wooden deck, a concrete patio area, roll-away shade awning, and a small grassy area for the kids to play.  Colorful bike cruisers are locked on the front of the camper, ready to cruise around the neighborhood, with bike combination provided on the final reservation confirmation.

Glamping at Santa Barbara Auto Camp 2

The kitchenette was fully equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, stove top burner, counter top area for kitchen prep, sink, and cabinets with cookware and dish supplies.  We planned to eat at our favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara, so did not make use of the kitchen supplies, but had we stayed at the Santa Barbara Auto camp longer, we would have picked up groceries and made meals in the camper.

The bathroom, though small, was large enough to move around in.  The colorful blue tiled shower, upgraded fixtures, plush towels and bathrobes, and luxury toiletries from Malin & Goetz added a touch of posh to the camper.

The Area

The Santa Barbara Auto camp is located in a quiet, residential area, but the traffic on the road outside the auto camp (De La Vina Street) can get busy during the day..  We awoke to the Air Stream rocking and thought we were having an earthquake, but it was only the morning traffic rocking the camper slightly.  At night, there is a bar located down the street with a few rowdy patrons, but no one seemed to bother anyone at the camp.  There is a laundromat down the street, a few bakeries and restaurants within walking distance. State Street, the main shopping and restaurant hub of Santa Barbara is five minutes away, and Rt 101 is 10 minutes.  A wonderful ice cream shop, McConnell’s, is a lovely ten minutes walk to Mission Street, and a great local coffee shop, The Daily Grind, is a 15 minute walk.

Glamping at Santa Barbara Auto Camp


  • The airstream doorways are lower than typical doorways.  My 6′ 2″ husband would have hit his head on the door frame, so taller folks need to duck!
  • Larger people and pregnant women may have trouble maneuvering around the bathroom, kitchenette, and back bedroom areas.  The areas are narrow, and the bed is entered from the side, so the person closest to the wall is locked into the space at night.
  • The per person limits for each Air Stream are pretty accurate.  Our camper, the San Miguel, sleeps four snugly, but no more than four.
  • The campers can get stuffy and warm while locked up, especially in the summer.  There is central air, but it is slow to cool, especially in the back bedroom area.  Open the windows as soon as you arrive to allow the air to circulate.
  • Request a camper away from the street to minimize street noise.
  • Bring your own groceries to cut costs, or at least bring s’mores supplies, as each camper is equipped with a grill.
  • The camp has wi-fi but it can be unreliable. so be prepared to disconnect the electronics and connect with your family instead.
  • The beach is a 10 minute bike ride.
  • Bring board games to play at the kitchenette table or in the back bedroom.
  • Reservations book up quickly, so secure your spot at least three months in advance, especially during high (summer) season.

Contact Information

For more information about the Santa Barbara Auto Camp visit their website.  You can also find them on Twitter and Facebook.

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