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Smokey Mountain Vacation Guide 2014
FREE Overlook at The Smokies
Best Day Hikes of The Great Smokey Mountain National Park
Hiking Pole with Compass Thermometer
Episode 1, Planning Buyers Club Style.
When preparing to vacation anywhere; The first consideration is generally your accommodations, i.e. your room. And that my friend, is the chief issue. It’s your train of thought. You are thinking about getting a room; not getting a vacation.
The following article is going to give you some travel considerations that will shed some light on saving money and vacationing; the truly smart way.
A room is something that you book, when you are traveling from A to point B and you can’t make the journey in one day. It is perfectly acceptable to go to a booking website that has a multitude of room rates and star comparisons. Your goal here is to stay inexpensive and not to take home bed bugs.
A vacation on the other hand is supposed to be an enjoyable stress relieving venture that is full of rest, relaxation, excitement and enjoyment all rolled into one. How then to achieve that on a budget, is the question.
I am about to propose a new concept in travel philosophy; it’s called shopping in bulk or Buyers Club Planning.
For example: What would you pay for a 4 star room that has its own water park inside? What if the water park is free of charge? Now couple that with shopping and a restaurant, an arcade, rock climbing, mini put-put golf and a huge kid’s play land. Now you don’t have a room, you have a vacation; and you haven’t even left the hotel; how cool is that!
Now let’s talk about the cost for a minute. A room for 2 adults and 2 kids costs about $199.00 per night. Sounds pricey; but when you go there, you get that feeling like Dirty Dancing resort meets The Smokes in 2014; only with water slides instead of dancing, but hey, you get the idea.
Plus, if you break down the pricing, it’s not really that bad. You figure, that you are saving money on the gas that you would have spent to drive to a cabin out in the middle of nowhere, and you are gaining a Water Park that is free every night. The end result is you kind of break even, but with the added bonus of a luxury suite.
We used the water park to get the kids back to the hotel at a decent hour (around 6pm), and avoided traveling into parts unknown after dark. A safer friendlier vacation; except in that my 7 year old insisted that I ride all of the slides with him.
Indoor Water Park
Buying in Bulk
Another way to save Buyer club style is on your T-Shirts. You can spend $18-$25 for a single T-shirt or you can also find 3 for $18 on the strip in Gatlinburg and save a bundle. OK, so the Iron-on may peel eventually on these; but hey, at the rate that your kids outgrow T-Shirts; you may as well save the money.
I recommend buying your t-shirts on the first day; the first thing. We can learn a lesson from Disney's here. Basically if you buy matching t-shirts in a bright color (orange, highlighter yellow); it will give you the added visual security to locate your children. It will also help your memory should you have to tell the police what they were wearing. And hey, you were going to buy a souvenir anyway.
Indoor Water Slide Fun
The restaurant at the hotel was also convenient; should you require it. I do recommend going to FlapJacks of Gatlinburg for breakfast. They have the best atmosphere; friendliest staff, and the food was good too. FlapJacks gets 2 thumbs up. The portions are large enough that teenagers can order off of the kid's menu; and should.
I have not visited any other location of FlapJacks except in Gatlinburg on the strip; as you come into town. That said; I liked it good enough to buy a mug and write their corporate office. I even told them that I'd be interested in buying a franchise someday. I guess, liked it there a lot.
We also had the opportunity to eat at Ober Gatlinburg for lunch. Ober Gatlinburg’s restaurant was Ober priced!; you see what I did there. The 4 of us cost 45.00 for the lunch menu. Thank God, I had saved my soft drink reward points; and had earned a $25.00 restaurant.com gift code.
Ober Gatlinburg does have some great views; however it costs $5 to park. Driving straight thru the Smokies to the overlooks are FREE. I did like the look and feel of the restaurant; however the best part was the front window. It only has about 5 tables that can be seated there; and you guessed it, they were all full.
They did have a stage and dance floor; that looked like it needed remodeled. Mr. Swayze could have shot a sequel there; if it were in 1965. I liked the attempted feel there; but it seemed to come up short. The whole family agreed and gave it 2 thumbs down.
When driving in the Smokies; there are 2 things to consider. 1. You need to have good brakes; including your parking break. 2. Gas is .50 cents per gallon cheaper in the Smokies. I paid $3.19 per gallon in Pigeon Forge TN vs $3.69 per Gallon in Madison Indiana.
You will also notice while driving that there are large cages next to the curb. Those are to protect the trash receptacles from the Smokey Mountain Park's 1500 native Black Bears. Many of which weigh over 600 lbs!
The concept of buying in bulk; can be applied to another important part of your vacation as well. I had earned enough soft drink points to not only get a $25 off card, but I also had earned an 8X8 Shutterfly photo-book. We did not have to spend anything on getting over-priced prints made. We carried a digital camera; we upload the prints to Facebook to share with family and friends; then we linked Facebook to Shutterfly and made our photo-book. It’s simple it’s easy and it was FREE.
Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies
Bulk Admission Tickets
Yet Another (Less Obvious) bulk buying tip for The Smokies is Ripley’s. We did the Ripley’s Aquarium plus 3. This is where you buy admission to the main event (The Aquarium) and get additional passes included in the purchase. The Aquarium itself is a several hour event. It was by far the best of the Ripley’s. By adding the additional optional venues; you actually save considerably and is quite strategic.
There will be a point when you are going from shop to shop. Stepping into one of the Ripley’s venues that is pre-paid for is a way to stop the spending; entertain your family, and you saved again because you bought in bulk! Say no to the $25 fudge; by saying yes to the Odditorium or the Guinness Records of Weird.
In summation, if you plan to spend a bit more money initially and intentionally, at the venues that reward you for it; the savings can really add up. It is very much like shopping at Sam’s club or Costco for the bulk deals.
You simply need to set your end goals as a chief priority. They are to enjoy a vacation; to save money; to stay safe; and above all to have fun!