Deal or dud? How to choose YOUR perfect vacation cabin.
When choosing a vacation rental in the Smoky Mountains, it is important to consider priorities for your family. More often than not, a given vacation home cannot be everything to all people. Here are good questions to ask yourself and your group before committing to a rental.
Prioritize your wishlist.
- Do you value seclusion, or you want being close to a clubhouse and spa?
- Do you have kids/grand kids who need room to safely run around and play, or the trip is only for adults who prefer great views to “room to roam”?
- Are you Ok with possibly having to put up with a noisy party 8-10 ft from your accommodation, or you want quiet evenings by the fire pit and starry skies above – all to yourself?
- Do you want that “cabin in the woods” feel, or you want to have a more hotel or condo-living like experience?
- Do you need a lot if space for your family/group, or you do not care about having smaller place as long as other conditions are met?
Typical “resort” with cabins mere feet from each other
Look beyond photos, read between lines.
You will see many ads with great photos showcasing stunning views of the Smokies, but oftentimes those views come with trade-offs that are not shown in photos or mentioned in description: staying in a resort with cookie-cutter properties close to each other, driving steep roads to get there, no back yard, little parking space and no privacy. On the positive side, resorts may offer seasonally available pools (to which you often have to drive, not walk), spas, onsite office and faster internet.
Tip: Often the photos will not show the neighboring cabins in close proximity – a telltale sign is whether you see a “privacy screen” around the hot tub. If you do, chances are there are other cabins very close.
Our hot tubs do not need “privacy screens” because they are private as it is.
Another telltale sign is whether photos show other cabins’ roofs – many “resorts” are accessible by serpentine roads and cabins are placed in tiers one above another, so not only they are close side by side, but there will be rows and rows of roofs below.
Typical resort – limited parking, no privacy
See these examples to help you understand what is offered and decide what is best for you and your family to have great vacation experience.
Occasionally we receive inquiries when potential guests ask for or expect features that tend to be mutually exclusive.
For example: “We want great views, and we want newer house, we want privacy, a big yard, plenty of parking, a firepit AND we want to be right off of Parkway. We do not want to drive the mountain roads”. “We want a secluded property close to town.. and we are afraid of wild animals”
While one can possibly find a property with 2-3 of these features, it is unlikely there is one in existence that will have them all:
- Properties that are close to Parkway may not have big yards or be older.
- Properties with great views are often in “resort” communities and are not private and have no yards or firepits and are short on parking space.
- Getting to a property with a great view will likely involve driving the mountain roads.
- Typically properties that are very close to “town” are not secluded.
- If you rent a secluded property, chances are, you could see wildlife.
If sky is a limit, then with some searching you probably can find a property that “has it all”, but it will come with a price-tag to match.
If you have a budget in mind, and know the size of your group, research and see what is offered within your price range. While there are deals around especially in the off-season, beware of “too good to be true ” deals – those usually come with hidden caveats.
To avoid a let-down, be aware that most likely you will not rent a standalone 3-4 bedroom house/cabin that sleeps 10, for example, for the price of budget hotel or motel room per night. And if someone offers such deals – look carefully for clues above and decide whether it is really a deal or a disappointment waiting to happen. “You get what you pay for” holds true. Check the reviews, and whether owner/manager is reputable.
Tip: Be flexible. If your vacation dates are not set in stone, you can find good deals just outside of high seasons. By shifting your vacation time by just one-two weeks you may suddenly land a property that was not within your budget during high season.
Do not try to offer dirt-cheap price to owners or managers. They have studied the local market and price their offerings accordingly. So if you see something listed for $200/night, chances are, your offer of $100/night will be rejected (we know, many travel bloggers write that owner will rather take anything than let it sit empty – that is a persistent myth). But you can ask and be offered other perks, such as: an extra night if you rent certain number of nights, a free cleaning or a late check out.
By owner or by property management company?
There are pluses and minuses to each. Only you can decide what is best for you and your vacation.
Typically an owner has one or few properties, and takes great care and pride in them because they are also cherished family vacation homes or future dream retirement homes, not just “investments”. Think beloved family vehicle vs “rental car”.
- Owners typically offer more direct interaction and first hand knowledge of the property and surroundings. If you cannot figure out the TV remote, owner usually knows the brand of their TV and how to work it. When you call, you will deal with a person who actually has vested interest in the home they rent and everything in it.
- Only has one of few properties to choose from.
- The biggest drawback that if unforeseen happens (like winter storm preventing access, utility outage and the like) owner may not be able to offer immediate remedy or alternative accommodation because they only have one-two cabins. Many network with each other however, and often can find another owner who has availability. Whether you rent by-owner or by property manager, it is very important to purchase independent trip insurance coverage.
By Property management companies.
Property managers typically represent from few dozen to several hundred properties, so there are more selections.
- You may have an 800- number to call, and even have 24 hours answering. However that does not necessarily mean that your concern will be addressed immediately, unless it is a serious issue. It will go into a queue to be dealt with on priority basis. After all, they have dozens (or hundreds) of other properties to manage.
- Less personal attention – you are one of many they are dealing with. They may also have less specific property knowledge as the staff answering phones may never even stepped a foot in property they represent – let alone know all the details about how things work in it.
- Property management can often send a handyman/technician when something goes wrong, but it is not always a speedy process. Even property management companies can do little in case of major storm or utility outage because it is not in their control.
- The biggest advantage property management companies have over individual owners is they typically have an ability to relocate you to another cabin should the one you rented became inaccessible or unusable. The alternative one can be hit or miss – it may be better than what you originally rented or not as good, based on availability.
So, weigh your options, make intelligent decisions, and Happy vacationing!
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Posted on: 29th August,2017