Mountains & Shine

things to see and do in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville




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,, 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:

Fireflies comparison v2Mudpuppies comparison v2

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 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!  We’re ready for you!


Listing Site Service Fees Explained… Or Do You Have Money To Burn?

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.

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!

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.

Read the entire story

Pancake Pantry: What to Know! (Besides YUM!)

We’ve been to Gatlinburg far more times thpantry collage2an 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.

Complimentary Coffee

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…

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