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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

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 most, 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 how anyone could think that you can cook for 16 or 18 people with one average sized pot and a skillet!

Happy Camping!

20 replies to this topic
Marion, Kentucky
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3 posts
108 reviews
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11. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

I would sure advise this too. I wish we had checked the company CABIN FEVER VACATIONS before we rented a cabin from them. It was a beautiful, wonderful cabin that was very poorly maintained. Only good reviews on their website, but when we got there we realized the problems we encountered had been going on for month according to the handwritten guest book. And when I went back to the website to leave my own comment, lo and behold, they have apparently disabled leaving comments. Yes, check check check the company any way you can. After we made our final payment, then they sent us an amazing list of disclaimers that could be summed up in a few words. "No matter what doesn't work when you get there, no matter what you don't like, no matter how bad we've misrepresented ourselves, you AIN'T getting no money back. You're screwed". However, we'll see about that. We plan to dispute the charges through our bank and every way we can.

Marion, Kentucky
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3 posts
108 reviews
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12. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

My tip is to check out your rental company and don't depend on the comments on their website. We discovered too late that they had probably been removing bad comments, and had in the meantime disabled leaving comments. When I went to their website to leave my own comment, there was no place to leave a review. Don't rent a cabin from Cabin Fever Vacations in Pigeon Forge. When you have a problem, they will come and "try" to fix it, but get ready to see a lot of your maintenance man. And get ready for an aloof attitude when you call in about the problems, they are so used to dealing with them that it's just part of the day. They couldn't care less. They have themselves covered from most any complaint with a stack of disclaimers you won't believe. A whole page on how you should just ignore the roaches, because they're going to be there you should just get used to it.

Marion, Kentucky
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3 posts
108 reviews
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13. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

They finally returned our call and offered a partial refund and a free night at another time along with a 10% discount on any other nights we reserve at that time. We are satisfied with the solution, but still feel they have had more problems than they admit to. We will try them again due to the free night, and reserve further comment until we actually see the refund be returned to our account and see how our "free" stay goes.

Middleburg, Florida
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12 posts
384 reviews
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14. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

Usually water in the mountain is not sulfur water. Sulfur water is usually found at the beach. We have always had good clean cold water in the smokies.

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1 post
6 reviews
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15. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

We rented a cabin from Cabin Fever Vacations and the cabin was very remote. Large and luxurious on their site but carpets had so many stains you were afraid to walk without shoes or socks. Had a butane leak on the grill and filled up the entire lower floors where two bedrooms were located. About 10 floods were burned out in key areas. Left us one trash bag for 4 days trash. My tip is to read reviews carefully before renting from Cabin Fever Vacations.

3 posts
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16. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

If you are concerned about your stay you can always purchase rental insurance through www.csatravel.com or www.travelguard.com I know www.americascabins.com offers Travel Gaurd insurance for your stay.

Kingsport, Tennessee
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249 posts
86 reviews
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17. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

Wanted to repeat again read , read, read, read, READ, the fine print on the contract BEFORE you sign and BUY TRIP INSURANCE.

We got burned on another cabin and therefore we will NO LONGER stay at cabins. AND I HAD checked all the fine print.

When we got there it had snowed , thank God we had 4wd. The cabins were stacked on top of each other and the one beside us was blaring rock music apparently some type of party. Oh well, I thought...give it a try. When we went in we found more rental agreements with more FINE PRINT that we had not read waiting on the counter for us to SIGN and put in the owner's mailbox !!!

Second thing we noticed was that the power had been off (clocks blinking). Probablly due to the snow. Husband said he was going to check the hot tub to make sure it was operating (see my previous post on this thread about our previous hot tub experience at a different cabin). Guess what ? He called me out to look and the bottom of the tub was FULL of grit, dirt, and silt type filth. It was a white , round, hot tub and we could see all the way to the bottom. Eww. So then we tried turning the jets on and when we pressed the button the whole tub went dead and kicked the breaker. Husband located the box and flipped it back over. Tried again...same thing again. Kicked the breaker.

Called the owner, she was not in town she said. (she only rented about 5 cabins on her property). Explained the problem and asked to be moved to another cabin. She was booked. Asked for a repair man, said nobody could come until Monday morning--she uses a local handyman. (We were staying the weekend).Asked to have our reservations moved to another date (keep in mind we are 2hrs away from home)...she didn't have a rental calendar with her. This made me mad.

Told her we were leaving and we did not sign the forms because EVERYTHING should have been disclosed up front, and that we expected a refund due to the hot tub, the partying next door, and the undisclosed fine print. She told us .....basically ....NO. We immediately called our credit card company and disupted the charges. Got our money back.

We have now found a WONDERFUL condo place we stay at now. NEVER again will we even ATTEMPT to stay at a cabin. With the condo place within 7 days of arrival we can reschedule, after 7 days we can reschedule with a 25.00 fee, and maintenance is on site or they can move us to another condo if something happens. Piece of cake.

I actually contacted the mayor and said that I believe that the cabin rental companies are getting away with highway robbery because of their shady rental contracts. Never heard back.

If you PAY so MUCH for something you expect it to WORK. You are paying for an experience...a hot tub...privacy....working appliances....something romantic...etc. That's why you pay MORE than hotel rates for a cabin, right ?

The above poster was correct in saying MOST cabins have a policy that no matter WHAT happens, you are screwed. Mechanical, electrical, water, snow, ice, family emergency, whatever --you aren't getting a dime back.

TRIP INSURANCE is a must if you are going to stay at a CABIN. PROTECT YOURSELF. Also use a credit card so you can dispute charges if something happens.

It's sad. The idea of renting a cabin is so romantic, they look so beautiful, and I am sure there are some nice ones out there somewhere. :( Just sharing my 2 experiences. Bitten twice by the same dog. Won't try again.

Green Cove Springs...
1 post
2 reviews
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18. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

Anyone stay at the new big moose lodge? It new and hard to find reviews.

4 posts
2 reviews
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19. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

I'd add to this list, if the cabin has appropriate fire-safety. Code-inspected wiring, fire alarms, windows sized for egress. Lots of poorly-built cabins going up in flames lately. Would you stay in the cleanest cabin that was wired by John Boy and Billy, or one that passed a building inspection?

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20. Re: Tips for Renting a Cabin in the Smoky Mountains Region

My sister and I would like a 2 bedroom cabin with a view. We don't want anything with a steep drive and close to pigeon forge activities. We plan the week of October 11th thru 16th. I realize this is peak season while looking at sites. Any help?

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