Forget staycationing, daycationing and gaycationing. Now there’s nakationing — as in naked vacationing — and the trend goes way beyond topless beaches.
Along with making packing a lot easier, clothes-free or clothing-optional travel is big business, with a bottom line of about $400 million annually, according to the American Association for Nude Recreation. The group, which has close to 32,000 members and 250 affiliated clubs, resorts and RV campgrounds throughout the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean, has been promoting nude recreation for 75 years.
“We advocate nudity and nude recreation in appropriate settings, and educate and inform society of the value and enjoyment of such,” reads their mission statement.
If the term “nudist resorts” makes you think of aging baby boomers and hippies, swinging singles or Sports Illustrated swimsuit models, think again. AARN spokeswoman Carolyn Hawkins says nakationers are all ages, all sizes and shapes, and from all walks of life.
“They could be your neighbors. There’s no one type of nude vacationer,” Hawkins says. “All of our affiliated clubs have a commitment to fostering wholesome, nurturing environments that promote body acceptance and respect for all persons. They’re multigenerational, and they range from luxurious resorts to basic campgrounds. People have a lot of preconceived notions, but you really need to visit to get a sense of the experience.”
Richard Wadsworth, owner of Sun Ridge in Sterling, Conn., agrees.
“In the past, people thought nudist camps were all about drugs and sex,” Wadsworth says. “Now most of them know better. We’re a place to get away from the stress, a place to sunbathe, a place to socialize where no one cares what you’re wearing, driving or how much money you make.”
Sun Ridge, a 45-acre resort with a pool, hot tub, tennis courts, softball field, indoor pavilion and other amenities, offers day and overnight visits May through September. Rental units are available, or you can camp in your own recreational vehicle or tent.
Wadsworth says Sun Ridge and other nude vacation destinations are seeing a younger demographic.
“In the past, our typical visitors were 50 and over,” Wadsworth says. “Now we’re seeing more and more visitors in the 30- to 50-year-old range. First-timers are a little apprehensive, but once they try it, they like the freedom it offers.”
To meet the growing interest in bare-it-all recreation, there are travel agencies, websites and travel clubs specializing in nude getaways, with names such as CruiseNude.com, Travelbuff.net and GoAwayNude.com. (Spoiler alert: There are photos of naked people on these websites.)
The American Association for Nude Recreation has developed an app, “AANRMobile,” with frequently asked questions about being a nudist, an affiliated club directory that you can search by state, roster of events and a news page with stories from the group’s “Altogether” blog. (The association’s clubs are family-friendly.)
And travel website TripAdvisor has announced the top 10 clothing-optional resorts, based on traveler popularity and TripAdvisor editors’ picks.
“For travelers, a great vacation is all about escaping. For most that means escaping the confines of their homes; for others, it is best achieved by escaping the confines of their clothes,” said Michele Perry, vice president of global communications for TripAdvisor, when the list was released.
But you don’t have to go far to vacation au natural — you can do it in your backyard. Earlier this month, nudists celebrated the 10th annual World Naked Gardening Day, a chance to get out into your backyard and garden sans clothing. “Put on a smile, a hat and gloves,” was the tag line. (And sunscreen, I’d add.)
If you’re interested in visiting a nudist resort, call and ask about special deals for first-time visitors. Many resorts will hold free open houses and other events during Nude Recreation Week, which this year runs July 5-11. The week’s finale is a collective skinny dip on July 11, at 3 p.m. Nudists will be simultaneously skinny-dipping at nudist resorts, clubs, beaches, public lands and backyards across the country, and everyone’s invited.
“We set a Guinness World Record for the largest skinny-dipping event in 2008 with more than 13,500 participants, and we’re looking to beat that record this year,” Hawkins says.