Follow us, stop back or get updates to find out what to see and do on your Smoky Mountain vacation. We are vacation rental owners who LOVE the area and LOVE to share with others how awesome time spent in the Smokies can be. We love finding hidden gems and sharing our experiences with others.
Today, February 7th, is National #BookDirect Day. What? Yep, today is a day that vacation rental owners are educating and encouraging vacation travelers about booking direct with owners like us.
Why Book Direct?
There are many benefits to booking direct with the owner when you’re ready to plan your vacation. The first one, is savings! When you book on large listing/booking sites like HomeAway, Airbnb, Booking.com, VRBO, TripAdvisor, or local rental management companies, or use travel sites like Expedia, you’ll be paying additional fees just to book through their system. Booking direct will pay for a week a week of groceries, a nice meal out or even an extra night in some cases, with the savings you’ll have. Its the same destination, why pay more? Check out the savings shown below by booking direct with us at each of our cabins:
When you book direct with owners you have the opportunity to speak directly, ask questions to be sure the property is a good fit and get great, local recommendations for restaurants, shopping and attractions. Owners who rent direct rather than using rental companies often have nicer, cleaner accommodations since we’re frequently at our properties taking care of things and have personal relationships with our cleaners and maintenance companies.
We are frequent visitors to our cabins and take a lot of pride in offering a beautiful, comfortable and clean place for our guests to vacation.
Is it safe to book direct?
Absolutely! The listing sites claim they are protecting you with their fees but you are no more protected than if you use a credit card to pay for your vacation. This effort is about you not being taken advantage of and making sure you remain in control of who you book with. We pay the same to process your credit card transaction directly or on any listing site, we use the exact same rental agreement – there is no benefit to either of us for you to book through a listing site.
There are scammers out there, it’s true, but here are some things you should always do to make sure you’re dealing with legitimate owners:
- Always pay with a credit card. Do not send money through PayPal ‘Friends and Family’. Do not wire money, ever.
- Ask for a rental agreement
- Look for the property on different sites. Many owners can book direct, but will also be found on various listing sites as well and you can see their reviews
- Find websites and Facebook pages. Scammers don’t go through the trouble of making those pages to appear legitimate.
- Talk to us on the phone if you have questions or are concerned. Many scammers will avoid doing this and try to only use email or Facebook messaging.
How do I book direct?
We love the phrase “Look. Don’t Book” for using the listing sites mentioned above. When you’re ready to find a place to stay for your next vacation, there are many ways to find owners without using the expensive listing sites. Here are more tips for finding owners:
- Search the listing site and look for the property name. Quite often you’ll find their Facebook page or website with contact information. Don’t be afraid to call-we love to talk to guests!
- Check with the local Convention & Visitors Bureau or Chamber of Commerce
- Look for fee free regional sites for the area you’re traveling – for example, in our area, we (along with many others) can be found on www.smbyo.com. Do a google search for the area you’re traveling and enter key words like “by owner” with the city or region. We have a page at our website with several owner websites where you can book direct. Check it out here
- Search Facebook for regional pages or groups that advertise their rentals
Ready for your Smoky Mountain vacation?
Call us or head to www.moonshinecabins.com! We’re ready for you!
Did you know listing sites like VRBO, TripAdvisor/FlipKey and AirBnB charge the traveler an additional 5-15% of your rental total? It’s often hidden among the charges or not clearly marked, making many travelers think the fees belong to the owner. They do not. Read on to find out more. The original post can also be found by following the link below or clicking here.
These fees may seem minimal, but often can equal what you’d pay for a nice (or several) meal out while vacationing, or a week’s worth of groceries to stock the fridge and feed your family while you stay at your vacation rental. The sites often use scare tactics to make guests feel their fees are justified and required for a trustworthy experience.
An easy way to save this fee and get personalized, friendly service is to contact owners directly outside of these sites. We’ll share more about that in a future post.
“GUEST SERVICE FEES (AN EXPLANATION)” OR DO YOU HAVE MONEY TO BURN ?
If you have arrived at this page then you may well have searched for “Guest Service Fees”, why you are being asked to pay them when booking a vacation rental and why they even exist!
DO YOU HAVE TO PAY ANY OF THESE FEES?
NO: We anticipate up to 90% of “full properties” (not shared accommodation) can be booked direct and on other sites more cheaply and do not carry these punishing costs. [our page is example of where you can book direct]
Booking direct always gives the best results, as you are dealing with the actual manager or owner. Who else knows the property and location better: those on-site or an advertising website in San Francisco which has pictures, writing and promises!
Many guests are new to booking online and will research, quite naturally, by gravitating to these biggest, slickest and most advertised or recognized brand in the business. These are more often the ones that have paid the most money to be at the top of Google or another search engine.
We’ve been to Gatlinburg far more times than I can count. We’ve tried to go to the Pancake Pantry at least twice. That long line will scare many o’ folks away! On our last trip, we decided we were all in and we MUST go. We were not disappointed, but there are some things you should know.
1.) Bring CASH! I knew this, but “forgot” to mention it to my husband. Fortunately, he had the cash to cover our meal. Even if he didn’t, there is a conveniently located ATM inside. Never mind all the CASH ONLY signs we apparently looked past on our way in and during our wait…which brings me to the next point.
2.) Be prepared to wait. Feed the kids a small breakfast to keep the whining at bay or plan accordingly. Hubby and I didn’t eat but the kids had a small bite before we left our cabin. Our wait was about 30 minutes on a chilly morning. Not too bad. We’ve seen the lines snaking all the way back into the fountain area of The Village during peak seasons and peak times.
They offer complimentary coffee if you just can’t wait or need to warm up! Lots of folks appreciated and took advantage of that on a chilly morning. There was a young man taking names and party sizes near the end of the line. Someone from your party must stay in line.
3.) Bring your appetite! First, the decisions on what to order were not easy. There are so many scrumptious options. Then, when our meals came, boy are we glad we brought our appetites! The plates were filled generously. At our table we had a couple of meals from the kids menu, Swiss chocolate pancakes, wildberry crepes, and eggs with a shortstack. I think we all left a little on our plates due to the generous portions! I had coffee as I always do with any delicious breakfast-the creamer comes in little copper containers and made my coffee taste that much better. I’m a sucker for things like that!
On the menu, they have box lunches if you’re the adventurous type and headed into the park for the afternoon. You can order those with your breakfast and they’ll be ready when you leave. They’re a one stop shop!
We really loved our time at the Pancake Pantry. The tables are packed in pretty tight and it was pretty loud but the delicious food and great service was worth it! It’s so indulgent and a little more pricey than our usual pancake place, but certainly a lovely treat. Of course, we know many people who never miss a visit to the Pancake Pantry when they’re in town. Maybe we’ll add ourselves to that list.
Hmmm…wonder what I’ll order next time…
Wondering what there is to do in Pigeon Forge? The answer is: PLENTY! Driving through the touristy looking strip can be rather overwhelming with so many similar looking options for your family’s entertainment pleasure. Let us break it down a bit and help you out with a couple of our favorites!
No visit to the Smokies feels complete without a stop at Mel’s Diner and The Track. In fact, those are two things our kids ask for each and every time we’re in town!
The Track just so happens to be located across the Parkway from Mel’s Diner. On our last visit, we started our afternoon at The Track- it was early and we’d had a late breakfast and stuffed ourselves full (who doesn’t with all those great pancake house options!) so we thought we’d work up an appetite first. Since we return often, we keep our re-loadable card on us. The Track has other locations around the country and you can use your card at all the locations. Once we loaded back up, we headed over to “Kid’s Country ” so the littlest brother could get his fill of driving the smaller cars on his own. They’ve got height maximums and minimums at both of these little tracks, so your littlest ones won’t be run down by unruly drivers! You’ll also find plenty of other fun rides for little ones like a train, merry go round, swings, and so much more. I was impressed at how kind and caring the employees were, tending to some of the littlest “drivers” on this visit. After a couple of rides in Kid’s Country, we headed to bumper boats (note: you WILL get wet!) and bumper cars. You can also play mini-golf here, too. If it’s really hot, the indoor arcade is always nice and cool and the perfect place to rest and cool down.
The big kids were ready for some fun next. They’ve got single cars, and for the little ones who want the thrill of the big cars, they have doubles so mom or dad can drive but they get to ride along. After a couple spins around “The Wild Woody” we’d worked up an appetite.
We hopped in the car and drove across the street to Mel’s. Our kids have found plenty on the kid’s menu but our older two are particularly fond of their chicken pot pie (seriously!). We’ve tried almost everything on the menu and have always been pleased. They always have great food served with a smile! You’ll find typical diner food here, lots of good comfort food, too! Burgers, fries, sandwiches, breakfast, chicken fingers, soups. Sometimes it gets busy and there is a wait, but it’s worth it. It’s a great little diner atmosphere with fun, vintage signs, offering plenty to chuckle about…and lots of memories of the good ol’ days!
Like I said, we worked up an appetite and they keep the dessert menu conveniently at the table. We’ve all got a crazy sweet tooth so ordering the 6 dip banana split was a no-brainer. Here’s the before and after once five of us dug in:
We’ll be headed back real soon, I’m sure!
We love The Smokies…there’s no denying that. I am always looking for great experiences for our family outside of the usual tourist-y spots. I really wanted to hike on a recent trip so I consulted one of my favorite hiking books: Day Hikes of the Smokies. I decided on Forney Ridge Trail that ends in the breathtaking, Andrew’s Bald. Round trip the hike is 3.5 miles and ranked as moderate in my book. One problem: the trail head is located at Clingman’s Dome (you know, that awesome, busy, popular spot that can back up traffic for miles….ugh!). Well, some days, much to my family’s chagrin, I cannot be stopped! We filled our water bottles, grabbed some snacks and hit the road.
To get to the Trail Head, you’ll follow NewFound Gap road, then watch for the signs for Clingman’s Dome. On this day our family (true to form) just couldn’t get up and go early enough to beat the crowds. We knew we were in for some traffic. We packed our patient hats (okay, so maybe not really, but it sounds good..and if you get started late like we did, I suggest you remember to pack yours!) and headed on our way. The beauty along Newfound Gap road should not be taken for granted. Make the passengers in the car look out the window…SO. MUCH. BEAUTY. Driver: keep your eyes on the road-twists, turns and tourists. There are many pull-offs where you can stop and take pictures. Once you see the signs for Clingman’s Dome, follow them until you reach the parking lot. If you’re like us, you’ll circle and wait for someone to leave…seriously…all the spots were full and we had to just keep driving until we stalked someone on the way to their car. We applied our sunscreen and headed for the line. The line for the bathroom. You’ll want to make this stop before you hit the trail…trust me!
Once you’ve taken care of the necessities, head toward the trailhead. You may miss it if you aren’t looking for it. Head toward the paved trail that takes you up to Clingman’s Dome. Of course, along the way you may want to stop for the obligatory photos with all the pretty scenery, read about all the places you can see on a clear day (if you’re lucky it is a clear day, if it’s not clear, you’re in the mountains so you’re lucky enough!). Once you’re closer, you’ll see a trail head off to the left before the Clingman’s Dome path…it’s marked if you’re looking. Most people aren’t and walk right by it.
When you start off, it’s rocky, full of roots and on our visit, HOT! HOT! HOT! There’s like, NO shade. Don’t worry…the payoff is tremendous. But not to worry, there are also areas with stairs made of rock . Once you’re on the trail a bit, you’ll have areas of shade and more dense forest that offer cooler temps. You’ll want to pay close attention since there are a couple of junctions on this trail. Follow the signs to Andrew’s Bald. The trail to the Bald is 1.7 miles. The final few feet before the bald are dense and green and you’ll notice the open space up ahead. When I was walking toward the clearing I was dizzy with anticipation. You could see the sunlight pouring in through the green trees. I knew the view was gonna be good. This hike did not disappoint. The views. The silence (I mean, what could possibly quiet my three kids…apparently great views!). Whoa.
So, we sat and enjoyed snacks, more water and the beauty. We admired, stood astonished, in awe at this world we’re in and basked in the sunlight Here’s a shot of me after we made it to the bald that my hubby snapped of me. Mom wins!
After lots of admiring (and finally a little complaining from the kids), we headed back toward the car a little quieter than before. No doubt we were all affected by nature that day. And maybe just a little tired.
Tips for hiking this trail:
-Pack plenty of water (at least a liter per person).
-Take snacks, or better yet pack a lunch and a blanket to enjoy the views while you eat.
-Remember to pack out what you pack in-Leave No Trace.
-Wear sensible shoes (for goodness sake, please no flip-flops, heels or open-toed dress sandals).
-Give yourself at least 3 hours if you have little ones hiking with you.
-Enjoy the scenery.
So…you did the moonshine tastings, did you? You left with more moonshine than you know what to do with, huh? We’ve got a great cocktail-ish idea to help you use that yummy stuff! We used Peach Moonshine because that’s what we had on hand, but any favorite flavor should work! One of our favorite Moonshine Shops is Doc Collier’s on the north end of Downtown Gatlinburg (But who are we kidding? We’ll drink anyone’s moonshine!)
1 oz peach flavored moonshine (or whatever you’ve got)
1 bottle/can of your favorite light beer/lager
Now, here’s where you need to pay attention…okay, kidding…it’s super easy!
Step one: Pour your beer into your favorite glass
Step two: Add an ounce of that flavored moonshine
Step three: Enjoy!
We made these for my mom on Mother’s Day. She loves her some mountains and some moonshine…naming credits go to her. Thanks, Momma!
Let us know what flavors you’ve tried!
We’ve got the best location for your Smoky Mountain vacations! Again, we’re biased, but hear us out! 🙂 If our 5 Bedroom cabin is too much for you check out our 2 bedroom, 2 bath cabin, Fireflies & Moonshine. And if you missed reading about our 5 bedroom cabin-check here. Just like our other cabin, Fireflies & Moonshine is located a resort area just a quick drive from the crazy, busy parkway in Downtown Gatlinburg, with all the same conveniences!
As you pull into your FLAT parking space (really, you can’t get flat parking many places
this close to the Smokies!) you’ll be greeted by the cutest front porch…it’ll be hard to resist the temptation to relax in the porch swing before you unpack…go ahead…you deserve it!
Sure, two bedrooms sounds kind of small and if you’ve stayed in a smoky mountain cabin, many are pretty small. Not us! When you walk in, you’ll enter the living room with plenty of seating for up to six, tall ceilings, a beautiful, locally hand carved mantle and cozy fireplace. The open floor plan then takes you to a spacious dining area and kitchen. The kitchen is stocked with all the needs a home cook could need. One of the perks of a cabin is saving money by preparing meals at home, not to mention TIME waiting on for your table since very few restaurants in the area take a reservation.
Also on the first floor is one of two master suites. This one is THE master since it has a Jacuzzi tub in addition to the tub and shower combo. Upstairs you’ll find the second master bedroom and bath with a seating area for resting or reading that book you’ve been meaning to read! Like many cabins in the area, we’ve got a loft with a TV and games as well as a futon that sleeps 2 more!
The best part of the cabin is my favorite-the sunroom! Off the dining and kitchen areas is a gorgeous, wood paneled, cozy sunroom. It’s perfect for grabbing your favorite book (you know, that one you’ve been trying to finish) and reading in one of two recliners, or heck, it’s vacation-take a nap! There’s also a small table for a friendly game of cards or checkers! To get even cozier in the wintertime you can turn on the gas fireplace and enjoy the wooded view.
What to Do
We’re close to so much! The quieter areas of the park are so convenient-Cosby is 20 minutes away and full of great day hikes or an overnight in a tent at their campground if you’re feeling adventurous. Check out Greenbrier where you will find Porter’s Creek trail and an old cemetery as well as a couple of older buildings. If you’re up for a longer hike, pack a lunch and check out Ramsey’s Cascades. Of course, Sugarlands Visitor center is as little as 15 minutes away-that’s a great place to stop and talk with a Park Ranger about where to venture in the park on any given day!
Walk to the pool if you want to cool off. If the kids are restless, our resort has a great play area with swings and a sand volleyball court as well as basketball! Mills Park is a quick drive, too. there you’ll find play areas for the kids as well!
There’s plenty of shopping on the Arts & Crafts Trail-it’s our backyard! We are blessed with so many beautiful artisans. You won’t be able to see them all in one day!
In the winter, there’s tubing and snow skiing at Ober Gatlinburg. In warmer months you can ride a variety of rides and zip down the mountain on the new mountain coaster or the original Alpine Slide, take the chairlift up even higher for more amazing views or play a friendly game of mini-golf. Ice skating is available year round, too! Of course, you’ve gotta take the tram from Downtown up the mountainside. No worries if someone is afraid of heights, you can drive up, too! Just follow the signs along Ski Mountain Rd at the south end of downtown.
Well, I could go on and on and on…but I invite you to come see for yourself all there is to do when you stay with us! Check out our calendar and rates to book your stay now
So, you’re ready to head to the Smokies for a weekend getaway or a weeklong vacation with family or friends. The next step…where to stay? We think (yes, we’re biased, but hear us out!) Mudpuppies & Moonshine Cabin is the PERFECT spot for your getaway! Here’s why:
LOCATION! LOCATION! LOCATION!
Yes, location! We are located in a resort area just a quick drive from the crazy, busy parkway in Downtown Gatlinburg. Love the trolley to get around? Perfect. Just outside the resort is a trolley stop. Love to feel like you’re in the mountains but don’t like the drive into the mountains? That’s us! It’s quiet and the birds are always singing but the roads are paved and easily navigated, even in the snow. No 180 degree turns or long gravel roads to get here! There are great restaurants really close if you want to avoid the crowds of downtown. Wanna get to the park quick? We’re 10 minutes from one of the quieter entrance to the park-Greenbrier, just a few miles east on Rt. 321, you’ll be there in a flash! A few more miles east and your at Cosby Campground where you can find some great trails to hike for a great day trip. Oh, and the Arts & Crafts Trail? It’s our back yard!
Plenty of Space
We can comfortably sleep groups up to 14. One bedroom is a bunkroom-perfect for kids! Up to 6 kids can share this space and have a TV, cable and DVD player all to themselves. We’ve got 4 more bedrooms for the adults-2 kings and 2 queens, all with TVs. Oh and for those nights you need to relax after shopping, hiking and playing? We’ve got a hot tub out back. Our kitchen is stocked with everything you need to cook a great meal for those nights you want to stay in. We’ve got plenty of room on three decks to sit and enjoy the sights and sounds…the front porch looks up to Mt. LeConte!
I love to have my coffee out there and welcome the day as we plan our next adventure.
You can all spread out and have your own space or come together for meals, games and family time. We’ve got pool & air hockey in the loft, and a great selection of family friendly games or a good old fashioned deck of cards.
When the weather’s hot, we’re a quick walk to the resort pool. Take a dip or pull up a chair and a good book near the water fall at the pool area. Relax the day away. Kids have energy to burn? Mills park is nearby or head to the resort’s playground area, a quick drive away!
Check out more pictures at our website: http://www.moonshinecabins.com
Two words – synchronous fireflies!
My mom (also a lover of the Smokies) told me about these fireflies and I thought…what? She’s crazy. After some research I found that, NOPE, she wasn’t crazy after all. I found some information at the National Park Service website about these beauties. Did you know they are only found in two places in the world? Yeah, me neither! They run trollies to the area but those trolley tickets sell out lightning fast. I tried. They sold out.
Well, my favorite business in the Smokies NEVER lets us down. I contacted A Walk in the Woods after seeing something on their Facebook page about firefly night hikes. We set up our guided hike. Our family of 5 (mom, dad and kids ages 12, 10, and 4) met our guide, Jaimie. We followed her to a quiet spot a bit farther out and began our trek at dusk. Our trail was an old railroad bed leftover from the logging days. Jaimie shared so much history of the area as well as plenty of facts about nature. The kids were all completely engaged and mom and dad were happy (no bickering!). A Walk in the Woods never disappoints. We have hiked with them many times in the last 5 years and always see, do and learn something new.
Once it got dark, we sat down, turned off our flashlights and enjoyed the show. I really wish I could paint an accurate picture of what that was like….but one must experience it first hand to really know what it’s like. If you’re in the area in late May-mid June, our family HIGHLY suggests you check out these beauties for yourself. If you like to play the lotto, try your luck at getting trolley tickets to the “show” or, better yet, contact my friends at A Walk in the Woods for a guided hike and an experience you won’t forget.