This set of questions was created by an informal poll of guests who frequent cabins and owners who participate on the TA forums in the Smokies. These are helpful questions and tips for renting a private vacation rental home in the Smokies. Ask these questions and perhaps they will help you find that perfect place for your next Smoky Mountain vacation.
- Exterior Questions
What are the roads like getting to the cabin?
Are they steep, 1 or 2 lanes, paved, gravel, do I need a 4 wheel drive vehicle to access it?
How steep is the driveway?
Is the driveway paved or gravel? Paved driveways are great, but gravel driveways are better for winter weather in terms of ice and traction.
How close is the cabin to the next cabin (privacy)?
Privacy issues as how close to other cabins including each side and in front and back of cabin in terms of feet?
Privacy - is it secluded/how many other cabins can you see?
If privacy is a primary concern ask about vegetation or size of the lot. Very private homes may not need window treatments and the interior photos may reveal that as well.
Does the view from the deck look over someone else’s house?
Is the view an east facing sunrise view or west sun setting view?
What if I book in the winter and the day I get to town it snows 10 inches and I cant get to the cabin. What is your refund policy?
Is there any nearby construction to the cabin? i.e. Next door to the cabin.
- Location Questions
How far is it to the nearest grocery?
Where is the home? Most managers and rent by owners will only divulge this information to guests who pay in full. This is in large part for the security of the current guests and for the home itself. However, if you are somewhat familiar to the town the cabin is near, you may want to ask specific questions about the area such as where is the home in relation to downtown or the Parkway or casino or the ski slopes.
What are the cabins close to Activities,Dining?
- Hot Tub – Spa Questions
How often do you clean the hot tub? Is the hot tub emptied and clean before every visitor?
These questions are good ones, but some hot tubs have better filtration than others. Some need to be completely drained after each stay and others need to be drained between 14 to 30 days. Ask if the spa has 24/7 filtration or does it only filter the water when the jets are on? Those that only filter during the operation of the spa need to be drained more often than those with constant filtration.
Is there someone available to fix the broken hot tub? How long does it typically take to have a person out to fix or clean the spa? The answer to this somewhat depends on the nature of the problem and unfortunately the day of the week and time of the day the problem is reported. Sundays and Holidays may pose challenges to any needed service.
Is the spa under cover out of the elements or is out on a deck? In snow many people enjoy sitting in the spa on a deck with snow falling. In the summer it rains a lot in the Smokies and a hot tub out in the open may limit the use during the rain.
How big is the hot tub in gallons? The larger the hot tub typically the cleaner it may be and depending on the spa, the longer it holds heat. Some hot tubs have heaters that work at the same time as the jets and keep the water warm during operation.
How many adults can use the spa?
Do you have to turn the spa on to warm the water? If so, how long does the water take to warm the spa?
- Other Exterior Questions
Do you have a fire pit? If so do you provide wood or do I need to buy it? Is it a gas log fire set?
Do you have a source to buy firewood in bulk for extended stays?
What is parking like at the cabin? Do you have covered parking? Can I access the garage if one is present?
Can I bring a motorcycle trailer and how many feet do you have to turn a trailer around at the cabin?
How do I access the cabin? Are there many steps or ramps? What happens if air conditioner breaks in July can you fix in a couple of hours? This is a good question, but more importantly if any of the major mechanical systems fail, how will they handle the event is what needs to be asked. Owners and managers are somewhat at the mercy of the contracted repairman to fix the problems.
- Interior Questions
Many of the interior questions should be answered on the owners web site or management company’s as the case may be. However, if you have specific needs for accessibility, bedrooms on the main floor, ramps, steps, and so forth be sure to ask the owner or manager.
What exactly is in the kitchen in terms of cookware, appliances and does everything work?
How many place servings do you offer in the kitchen? If the home sleeps 6 and there are only 6 servings of flatware and silverware, you are doing dishes at every meal.
Do you have central heat and air? Wood burning fireplace or gas logs? Ceiling fans?
If you allow pets, do you shampoo the rugs regularly?
What is the quantity of cleaning supplies?
How many rolls of bathroom tissue do you provide?
What linens do you provide? If quality and thread count are important to you as a guest, ask this as well.
How old are your beds?
- Fees, Policies and Money
This is the nitty gritty of renting cabins. Property managers and owners vary widely in the fees they charge for staying in a vacation rental. Be sure to ask about the TOTAL Costs before renting and when comparing cabins.
What are the fees, is there a cancellation policy, do you offer return guests a discount?
Do you charge cleaning fees including hot tub?
Is there an additional charge for over a certain number of guests?
Does the company offer trip insurance?
What is the check in/out policy?
Is there a damage deposit?
What is the cleaning fee?
What is your refund and cancellation policy? Ask about inside of 30 days and outside of 30 days?
Are there booking fees or other hidden fees?
- Other Questions
If it is a Rent By Owner cabin how far away do you live? Can you respond ASAP to a problem?
Are pictures updated/amenities accurate?
Does the company provide directions to the cabin?
Is the deck built to proper modern building codes and safe?
Do you have a floor plan?
- Interesting comments
Generally, where is the cabin? This is tricky sometimes, as most rental companies don't like to give out the address of a cabin before you rent it for security reasons. However, it really doesn't provide much assistance for a VRBO or rental company to mention that a cabin is "8 miles from Gatlinburg" or close to the Nantahala River Gorge, when it could be one of three directions
If you're really interested in a cabin with a view, you need to really scrutinize the pictures of the view from the cabin. If the place claims to have a view yet all pictures of the view are taken in the winter, you may have no view at all in the summer when the leaves are on the trees.
Also be wary of cabins that have very few pictures of their cabin to look at. What are they hiding?
For me, if the bedspreads/quilts/comforters on the beds looked old, it was a complete turnoff. If they haven't replaced their bedding since the 70s, how good can the rest of the cabin be?
If you're renting a larger cabin, ask if there are enough pots and pans to cook meals for lots of people. It's amazing to me how anyone could think that you can cook for 16 or 18 people with one average sized pot and a skillet!