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Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

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Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

Cabin Questions for renting cabins in the Smokies

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!

Happy Camping!

29 replies to this topic
LaPorte, Indiana
Level Contributor
23 posts
7 reviews
1. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

Those are really great questions! I wished I had thought to ask them before booking our cabin. We're leaving on Tuesday, so I'll just keep my fingers crossed.

Merry Christmas to All!

Lexington, Kentucky
Level Contributor
212 posts
27 reviews
2. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

Are there any maps which show cabin locations in regard to Gatlinburg town?

Canton, IL
1 post
3. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

I wished I had read this prior to booking and reserving our cabin also!! We are heading to Gatlinburg TN October 3, thru October 6th! Hoping Fall is turning the mountainsides a variety of colors by then!!

We have never been to this area, or in a cabin in this area-so we are both very excited! I"l let you know how it was when we return!

Canfield, Ohio
Level Contributor
5 posts
10 reviews
4. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

Excellent questions!

We asked most of them and were not disappointed when we arrived at our cabin as we were aware of the policies up front.

I think the bedspread question was a biggie for us, too! We were informed that a new one had just been put on the bed in our cabin.

We did get the address to several cabins and were able to google them with a street view, this helped some. I agree with the advisor. IF you don't see it in the pictures...it isn't there or not what you expect.

Also, smoking vs nonsmoking....we were told it was nonsmoking...so why were there ashtrays everywhere???

Once there, we drove around and took down the names of other cabins that had the same kind of view we had. This was important to us.

Happy Vacationing all!

1 post
5. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

Ask for specific directions. I've noticed a lot of people use Google Maps or a GPS, but both can be wrong about the mountains. Ask the company if they have up to date directions to the cabin. CabinsForYou.com is a company that does this and I find it very helpful.


Level Contributor
36 posts
19 reviews
6. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

Great tips, thank you. We are planning to go for NYE and want something very relaxing and special. Your tips have helped.

nashville tn
1 post
7. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

Always go with Uncle Buds log cabinsIn Gatlinburg They are the best every time. You can find them at www.unclebudslogcabinrentals.com Every time we have been they were perfect, clean, great location and the beds are so awesome, I never wanted to get up. These people really have it all together. Thanks

Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
10 posts
38 reviews
8. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

We traveled to the Smoky Mtns last August and stayed for 8 nights. I did all of my research online and I was extremely happy with the results, We rented a cabin in the resort community "Black Bear Falls", There are several rental companies that rent cabins out of the resort and the company that we went with was Diamond Mountain Rentals. Their prices were much more reasonable than some of the others and their staff was extremely nice and helpful! Our cabin was a 2 bedroom, very clean, tastefully decorated and had an amazing view!! The resort community was beautiful! It was tucked away a bit but Diamond gave me excellent directions and we found the cabin without a problem. The roads became steeper, the higher you went, in the resort. Our cabin was in the middle, but the driveway itself was steep.

The hot tub was sterilized before we arrived and we had them clean it once, in the middle of our stay, for a $15 fee, which was well worth it. I can't wait to go back and I would definitely stay at that same cabin again! I traveled there alone (one adult) with five children and our dog and we had an amazing time!

Hendersonville, TN
1 post
9. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

This is the letter I sent to Hickory Mist Luxury Cabin Rentals, LLC, the cabin rental company on January 4, 2010. To-date, I have had no reply:

I rented the “Savage Gardens” cabin December 30 through January 3 and was very disappointed with the entire process. During the reservation process the first cabin I rented was not even in Gatlinburg as defined on the web site. However, your phone attendant was helpful (the only positive experience with Hickory Mist) and modified the reservation to the Savage Gardens cabin. Even before we arrived, I sent several emails to Hickory Mist requesting information and never got a reply until after I finally phoned the office. One of the things I wanted to find out was the location of the cabin. The explanation I got when I called for why you would not provide that information was ridicules. From the Hickory Mist web site you state; bold highlight added:

“Hickory Mist is dedicated to true customer service. We want our customers to have the vacation of a lifetime when they stay in one of our luxury cabins. Our cabins are among the finest cabins and luxury lodges in the Smoky Mountains. We offer excellent rental rates and packages so that all you need to do is bring the family and have fun.”

This cabin was represented as “the luxury of your own private cabin and all the comforts of home this is the perfect cabin for a cozy getaway anytime of the year.” Well, my idea of a “Luxury cabin” includes being well decorated and appointed with appropriate and comfortable furnishings. I have been renting cabins in Gatlinburg for years and plan to continue, but with other rental companies. Our family has spent several new years holidays as well as an occasional summer rental, in fine quality rental cabins in the Gatlinburg area and this cabin is not even close to “the finest cabins and luxury lodges in the Smoky Mountains” as represented on your web site.

The beds in the main bedroom and smaller bedroom upstairs were very uncomfortable. The furnishings in this cabin were sparse; and that is being kind. Aside from the living and dining rooms, there were few furnishings, especially in the bedrooms. Only one dresser existed in the entire cabin! Only one bedroom had night tables on both sides of the bed and no other furnishings, beside one wooden chair, existed. The very large downstairs bedroom shared a bathroom with an adjoining bedroom, a fact not disclosed on the web site. This bedroom, about 300 square feet, literally had just a bed, one night stand with lamp and a single poll lamp on the other side of the room.

The other bedroom downstairs had two “Queen over Queen Bunks.” There is no way someone could have figured out from the pictures on the web site that these two bunk beds were in the same room. You had to have moved one of the bed out of the way to take the pictures that are on the web site. Do you really think it is practical to put eight people into what is the smallest bedroom of the cabin? They did have the most comfortable mattress, at least on the lower bunk. However, it is not really practical to have bunk beds in a room with such a low ceiling. The upper bunks were very difficult to climb into and barely enough headroom to turn over! You ought to move these upstairs so the upper bunks are functional. The way this is now, the cabin really only accommodates eight, without someone having to sleep on the floor or the couch.

You tout the many decks around this cabin but only four chairs exist on the decks. For a Luxury cabin, advertized to sleep up to 16, a few more chairs would help so we wouldn’t have to take turns to “listen to the river rush by!” And the grill; well we were afraid to cook on it and few other cooking implements were available; especially suitable for 16 people.

The web site also suggests we should have been able to “enjoy your own private fireplace in the bottom floor mater suite.” Beside the only king bed being in the upstairs bedroom and not in the “mater suite”, no wood or equipment to secure or prepare firewood for the fireplace were provided. Your guest contract stated that you do not “issue matches, lighters, or kindling to guests during their stay. Please watch grills carefully” suggesting maybe you should bring or purchase charcoal for the grill. But your web site states “Everything is waiting for you!” and “Our cabins and lodges are ready for your stay as well.” I had no idea I should have thought to brought my own logging equipment. You know, chain saw, ax, log splitter, just so I could use the fireplace! How could someone reasonably use the wood burning fireplace? Maybe that is why the real “Luxury cabins” we have rented previously had gas fireplaces or provided split logs for the wood burning fireplaces.

Throughout the cabin, lighting was poor and the wiring seemed to be incomplete. Most bedrooms had only one lamp. The main bedroom downstairs did have an overhead spot light but for a room of that size, it was completely inadequate. Most of the cable wall boxes were loose or hanging out and several closets has wires hanging down. You really should get someone to finish the construction.

To top it all off, the heating system is very poor. The first two nights the weather was mild. The overnight temperatures were about 30 °F. Nevertheless, the upstairs bedrooms were cool, the main bedroom downstairs was very hot and the second bedroom downstairs was cold. Friday the weather turned cold. Both Friday and Saturday the heating system was incapable of maintaining comfortable temperatures anywhere in the cabin. Even the once hot bedroom downstairs turned cool. The other three bedrooms were uncomfortably cold. The downstairs bedroom with the bunks had an electric space heater in it so this problem obviously existed before we showed up. Nevertheless, even with the space heater on high all day and night this bedroom was cold.

This cabin does have a lot of space but it is far from a “Luxury cabin” as represented on your web site. It looks like it was purchased after a foreclosure or from a distressed owner before construction was complete and the new owner never fully finished construction or furnishing it. We paid for a “Luxury cabin” but got a low-end unit with insufficient heating and inadequate amenities. Not only did you cheat us by over charging but, your web site is dishonest as it misrepresents this cabin and services. I know your contract allows you to deny any knowledge or responsibility for any and all claims, liability, obligations, requests, responses, refunds, etc., etc.; and no exceptions! Furthermore, I am not sure with whom the real responsibility lyes; either the Owner or the property manager/rental company. That is why I am sending this letter to both. I suppose the Owner could be unaware of the property’s conditions, thinking she left in the capable hands. Nevertheless, I will not be dealing with Hickory Mist Luxury Cabin Rentals, LLC for my cabin rental next time I plan a trip to Gatlinburg.

Savannah, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Gatlinburg, Maggie Valley, Pigeon Forge
Level Contributor
3,322 posts
17 reviews
10. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

Sorry to hear of your troubles, I know it would be very disappointing to rent a less-than-expected cabin. But this particular thread was created to provide helpful hints on how to find the right rental property for you. Please feel free to start a new thread in the forum, or write a review in the "vacation rentals" in the top left of this forum.


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