Portable Hotels Pop Up in the Travel World

The San Vicente Bungalows in Los Angeles is currently considered a pop-up hotel.
The San Vicente Bungalows in Los Angeles is currently considered a pop-up hotel. –TripAdvisor

Portable lodging. It sounds like a crazy concept. But it’s actually a thing, and it’s a lot more complex than tent camping. We’re talking pop-up hotels. Yes, that’s right. Hotels that can pop up virtually anywhere, opening the door to traditionally off-limit locations. These unique accommodations have gained worldwide attention on the travel scene, and they’re slowly making their way to the US. Here’s what you need to know.

A pop-up hotel is essentially a temporary unit, built for short-term use and then collapsed or moved to another location. Think tepees, old shipping containers, and even mobile homes. They can be built anywhere, which is why they are so popular at places or events where traditional hotels are hard to come by. These hotels are especially popular at outdoor music festivals, retreats, sporting events, and weddings because of their convenience.


Just because the rooms are built or assembled in a hurry does not mean they lack luxury—or a hefty cost. In fact, quite the opposite. On average, a four-day stay at a pop-up hotel can cost $1,500. Concierge and porter service is usually part of the package and rooms can often be customized to include only the exact features a guest requests. Depending on the event, there is usually a restaurant, bar, and spa tents or units too. It’s basically the ultimate form of glamping—glamorous camping— another recent global phenomenon that combines camping with luxury amenities (meal service and silk sheets under the stars, anyone?).

Companies such as the UK-based Pop-Up Hotel and Snoozebox are among the most well-known. Pop-Up Hotel is huge on the festival circuit—they booked over 130 guests in their luxury tents at the Glastonbury music festival this past year. Snoozebox is also a popular pick at major events. The rooms are set up in shipping containers, are easy to transport, and have climate control options.

Pop-ups are also used to transition hotels during major remodels. The San Vicente Bungalows in Los Angeles was converted to a pop-up last year when hotelier, Jeff Klein, purchased the business. Rather than shut down altogether, Klein implemented a few quick fixes—spackling walls, buying new linens, replacing broken bathroom tiles, etc—to keep it up and running until its complete makeover in 2015.


One of the most intriguing pop-up ideas is still in the works. Pink Cloud, a Copenhagen-based architecture firm, is working on a temporary hotel project in New York City. The idea is to create pop-ups in empty office buildings. The company would offer a menu of pop-up “kits,’’ where guests can custom-order their hotel, dining, entertainment, and amenities. Once placed, the orders are packed and shipped to their site in special modular shipping containers. Each kit is equal to one box and an average truck, according to its website, can fit 36 boxes.

When unpacked, the kits would contain all the makings of a normal hotel room: beds, sofas, toilets, partitions, and even a pool, if requested. This concept — which would include cities other than New York later on — would allow an individual to custom-design his or her lodging experience in a convenient downtown location. The cost would be cheaper, too. While a typical New York City hotel room adds up to $350 per night, Pink Cloud’s rooms would cost roughly $130. The project is still in the planning stages, according to its website.

The next time you’re desperate for lodging but can’t find a hotel, you might consider booking a pop-up hotel. You’ll get a unique experience that combines camping with modern conveniences and luxury, customized to your preferences. Would you stay in a pop-up hotel?

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May 24, 2018 | 7:00 AM