Monday, August 11, 2008

Mountain Rentals of Gatlinburg

If you are planning a vacation in Gatlinburg you really have to stay in a cabin to get the best experience and the most bang for your buck. It’s not much more expensive than staying in a decent hotel and if you have a large family or a lot of people staying with you a cabin is the best deal.

There are several cabin rental companies throughout Gatlinburg. We went through Mountain Rentals of Gatlinburg. They sent a big magazine with all the details of all the cabins they rent out. Everything looked so wonderful. (They have several honeymoon cabins, a couple even have indoor pools.) After going through the magazine and checking stuff out online (you can do a 360 tour) we found the cabin that seemed to suit us the best and that was available the week we were planning to be gone, Appalachian Splendor.

Unfortunately it didn’t have internet access which I thought would be okay but a week with very limited access…not okay for an internet junkie like me. Plus with all my writing stuff I need to have access to my email a lot. I almost missed out on a writing deal because I didn’t check my email for days. The cabin rental office has free wifi and I found one location in a mall that had internet access (didn’t have my laptop with me) other than that no internet access except at the hotels, which we obviously were not at. None of the Burger Kings or McDonalds had wifi that we stopped at. Seriously I thought I was going to die. I was having withdrawals.

Other than the lack of internet access our cabin was beautiful though it did have some issues. I have a two year old and the cabin was not toddler friendly. The front door he could open right up and walk out so they installed a chain lock on it for us. I thought that was wonderful of them. Most of the other problems we solved ourselves by moving furniture and just not letting him go outside. He fell down the front porch the first day and stuck his head through the slats on the back deck. Not cool we are literally way up in the mountains and he could fall right off the edge. The cabin was also two stories. Luckily the stairs were thickly carpeted and he could scoot down them. The loft was nice and had a high wall he couldn’t climb over, thank goodness.

The other major issue I had with the cabin was the drive to get to it. Twisting, turning, narrow, creepy mountain roads that seemed very treacherous, and then there was our driveway…heartattackville. It’s a sharp turn, a steep incline then a quick stop. If you make a wrong move you’re off the mountain…really….boom, bang, crash, and pray a tree stops you from going all the way down. I wouldn’t drive it. I couldn’t. There is no way. I panic driving between two semis. Driving through the mountains would kill me. So I couldn’t go anywhere without my husband which kind of sucked because there were things I wanted to do without the kids in tow. I really wish on the brochure or the Web site or something they would warn you about the area of your cabin and the roads to reach it. I would have been just as happy and a lot less stressed with one of the cute cabins at the bottom of the mountain.

Then the free stuff Mountain Rentals gives you…crap. Okay, the seventh night free when you book six nights is cool but the little bag and pen both sucked…the pen stuck and the bag ripped…and the coupons are no better or different than what you can pick up everywhere. Then the four free horseback riding tickets they gave us we couldn’t even use because we have a two year old. This guy doesn’t allow children under 5 or 6 and no double riders so that left one of us adults staying at the cabin with the little guy. My husband took the oldest kids then the jerk told him he couldn’t ride because he was a couple pounds over the weight limit. So he had to take the kids and pay for horseback riding somewhere else. All of the other stables allow small children to double with a parent and don’t have weight limits. Some even give out free cowboy hats and pictures when you ride. One of the reasons I booked with Mountain Rentals was for the free horseback riding. I figured that would be one less thing we had to pay for, and then we had to pay over $60 for it anyway.

Oh, I forgot to mention Saturday morning we woke up with no water and had to go to my husband’s family reunion in Maryville about an hour from Gatlinburg. It’s freaking hotter than hell in Tennessee in August. You don’t want to go anywhere without showering. So we got creative, we all dunked ourselves in the hot tub to at least rinse off and wet our hair so we didn’t walk around with bedhead all day. Thankfully when we arrived back at the cabin that evening we had water again. Let me tell you something though, that morning I was ticked…and that’s putting it nicely. We’re not really sure what happened something about a water pump going out on the mountain and several cabins were affected. They didn’t offer any kind of compensation for any of our problems.

Now that I’m done ranting let me tell you about the good stuff. We had three bedrooms, one upstairs with a huge king size bed obviously me, the hubby and toddler took that room, another bedroom in the loft area that I think was a regular double bed and super cute that ended up being my daughter’s room, then a nice queen size bed downstairs that was my teenagers room. He liked that he was alone and far away from the rest of us. If we had more people the sofa turned into a bed, too.

The view was spectacular. From our front porch that had a swing and rocking chairs we could look out and see nothing but mountains and trees. On the back deck we had a picnic table, benches, hot tub and a grill. Very nice. Except for a few railing slats that were not built to code and my little guy could stick his head and shoulders right through them. We put the benches in front of those to keep him away from that area.

The cabin had two bathrooms, one with a standard tub/shower and the second with a huge Jacuzzi bathtub. Again, very nice.

We had a full kitchen that was equipped with dishes, silverware, pots and pans and most of everything we needed. All we had to do was supply the food which saved us a fortune on eating out costs. We usually had breakfast at the cabin, maybe lunch or a snack out while we were enjoying the sights then came back to the cabin and had dinner.

Another great feature was the cabin had a washer and drier that we could use (no extra costs either, they weren’t coin operated). I think I did six loads of laundry while we were there. I know most people want to avoid all that on vacation but with three kids you like travelling and still having all the conveniences of home. Kids get dirty, bathing suits and towels get fishy smelling from the rivers and you might have a toddler that decides to get sick, like mine did. Yeah, immediate washer and drier access in the cabin…priceless.

So all in all the cabin was fantastic, sure it had some issues but I suppose everything does. I’ve never been anywhere that gave me 100% satisfaction, at least not when I travel with my kids. I’m a lot pickier when my children are with me because many vacation destinations just are not kid friendly even though many of the sites and attractions are geared towards children you think the accommodations would be more kid friendly.

If Mountain Rentals would fix some of their issues like offering childproof cabins and partnering with a more family friendly stable they might get many more families making return trips. They also should give warning of the drive and the steep incline of some of the cabins (really what if our vehicle couldn’t have made the drive? We didn’t drive our SUV we borrowed a minivan that luckily made it up the mountain). Oh, and if they offered internet access in all the cabins…it would have been heaven…heaven with bears.

I forgot to mention…black bears are plentiful in the Smoky Mountains. You have to be careful and be aware that they are out there and they are wild animals…not cute, little, cuddly bears. Don’t leave food in your vehicle and don’t leave garbage out that will attract them. Smart people have garbage cans or huge dumpsters that get locked up tight at night.

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