Tips for a SAFE and Happy Smokies Vacation

Is it fair to say that we do things on vacation that we may not even consider doing at home? Though I often write on current events or places in our area, this blog originates from a recent personal experience. Our family was driving on the main Parkway, when our son pointed out the “cute little girl” in another vehicle. The child in the SUV was roughly three years old, and was having a great time bouncing around the vehicle from the side window to the front console and back, laughing and singing with her grandparents,  while her car safety seat sat empty. We traveled along with this vehicle for several miles, until they stopped at a retail establishment. After the family entered the store, I wrote a politely thorough windshield note reminding them of the danger posed to this unrestrained precious child, both literally and legally. I am certain that they were only preserving their sanity after a long ride of seatbelted protests, but the potential for disaster was not worth their risk!

Here at Volunteer Cabin Rentals, we want your family to have an enjoyable vacation in your Smokies rental cabin and the surrounding area. Here are some tips to consider while visiting, to keep everyone protected from an unexpected hazard.
Home Away From Homefront
1. Childproofing-Though anyone with small children knows to do this, don’t let your guard down. Study the features of your cabin thoroughly, and consider indoor items like stairs, sharp corners, doors and blinds, fireplaces, hot water temperature, and tubs. Outdoors, verify the security of balconies, hot tubs, and dangers associated with the yard, slopes, and driveway. Consider bringing supplies like gates and nightlights, so that you won’t have to purchase them while here. A small pack of bungee cords and even a roll of duct tape can always come in handy to secure off limits areas.

2. Safety Plan-As you would at home, agree to an escape plan from your cabin, and designate a meeting spot outside, should an emergency occur. Accounting for everyone is much easier if the unthinkable happens.
3. Lock It Up-Consider your cabin rental a luxury “hotel room with many doors”, all of which should be secured and locked. Though violent crimes are extremely rare in our area, theft does infrequently occur, usually through unlocked doors and windows. Double check before heading out on an all day excursion to ensure you have secured all entries.
Out and About Town
1. Hide and Carry-Conceal your valuables on your person. Tourist areas attract pickpockets on vacation looking for the easy mark: like a backpocket wallet bulge, or the perennially ugly fanny pack, which advertises that all your important stuff is in one unsightly wad. Wallets in front pockets and crossbody bags are smarter choices. When seated, wrap a strap around your arm or leg for extra security, instead of hanging bags on a seatback or placing them at your feet.
2. Please no PDA!-Like the Louis Vuitton luggage on the airport carousel, public displays of affluence are the type of PDA that makes you a noticeable target for those wishing to lighten your load. Put the expensive camera in a bag if you don’t immediately need it, and leave your best jewelry safe at home. Relax without the burden of protecting unnecessary expensive accessories.
3. Left Behind Game-Teach and employ your kids with this good habit. Whenever you are leaving somewhere, take a last glance back to make sure that you have not left behind anything that you have been carrying. Don’t let a sitting rest stop be the place you lose your favorite sunglasses or most recent shopping purchase. Last week, I saw a lonely, but full shopping bag in the roadway intersection in front of a local outlet mall. I believe it slid off the back or roof of a car, unnoticed as they drove away.
Lost Child Strategies
1. Lost and Alone Plan-I have a friend whose son followed the wrong “mom in a red shirt” at Disney World, and got lost (he’s okay and in college now). It can happen to anyone. Have a plan worked out with steps for your children to follow if they get separated from you. This is an easy discussion that can occur during the car drive here. First step is for them to locate an employee of the store or park and say they are lost. Work out the best details for your family from there.
2. Different is Good-Put distinctive clothes on your children when traveling. Bright colors, school logos, and even matching family looks are corny, but effective in identifying to whom someone belongs. However, avoid a visible child’s name on clothing, as it broadcasts identification information to everyone.
3. Label that Kid!-There are companies that sell stick-on child identification labels, but it is more practical to employ a waterproof permanent marker. Write your name and mobile number underneath your child’s clothing, like a sleeve or above their belly button. Then all your child has to do is find an employee, show them the number and say, “I’m lost, would you please call my daddy to come get me?”
Lastly, guard your health by washing, washing, washing your hands while in public, and also by using safety practices in public restrooms (never alone if under 10, and caution buddies even then). Protect yourself, your family, and your fun on this trip to the mountains. Come enjoy our beautiful autumn, before the crazy holiday shopping season begins! We look forward to seeing you soon.

Come Shop the Extraordinary: the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair

So you have settled into your Gatlinburg rental cabin and spent some time unwinding. So what’s next? Tourism surveys indicate that one primary “to do” while on vacation is to acquire both personal souvenirs and mementos for others. For those who are also planning ahead for the holidays, finding a few just-perfect gifts is an added benefit of early shopping. What if you could locate all of the purchases you seek in a single location? You can do just that by attending the 39th Annual Fall Craftsmen’s Fair, currently occurring in the heart of town at the Gatlinburg Convention Center. This event gathers together fine craftspeople from all over the country, including multiple artists from around our local area (over 170 are attending this season). The fair is a nationally recognized tourism event for the southeastern United States. If quality, artisan products interest you, you must stop and shop here!
Visiting this biannual gathering offers not just a gift buying spree opportunity, but also a cultural and educational experience. Professional artists demonstrate their work, and also gladly answer questions regarding their specific artistic passion and livelihood. Any media you can name, along with multiple crafts you may have yet to discover can be found over multiple floors at this location. Fine drawings, paintings, and photography of many types, along with pottery wares for both aesthetics and function can be purchased here. Handwoven crafts, all types of original, one-of-a-kind jewelry; glass, wood and leather works; clothing, toys, decorative items, and many other artisan products are offered. There is just too much variety to be described in short summary in a blog.
Let me emphasize clearly that this event is not akin to your hometown craft fair. These distinctive artists must be screened for their skills prior to exhibiting, and the exceptionally talented are showcased here. This is the place to find the unusual, the uncommon, perhaps even the unheard of item that will suit your needs. For every artist’s wares on display, the principal craftsmen for that product line must be present at the fair. Quality crafting is both considered and honored throughout the venue. There are unique goods available in all price ranges, and all items are carefully curated for your viewing and purchase.
Don’t miss this opportunity. It is true that multiple arts and crafting events occur in different locations in our area throughout the year. None is as unique and comprehensive as the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair, held during our season of autumn beauty in October. Plan to enjoy yourself and save precious vacation time too, by finding everything in one location. Come browse to locate that special creative piece , and even enjoy live bluegrass music daily while you shop. Adult admission is a modest $6 per person, with children 12 and under free. The Gatlinburg Convention Center is a modern and comfortable facility located at 234 Historic Nature Trail, which is the Traffic Light #8 intersection with the Parkway. For daily hours and more details regarding this must-attend event, view this link:

See ALL the Fall Colors of the Smokies: Scenic Helicopter Tours

scenic-helicopter-largeOne of the many pleasures of a secluded Smoky Mountain cabin rental is taking in the views of nature around you while relaxing. Choose an easy chair, a porch rocker, or a steaming, swirling hot tub. But what if you could view the Smokies in all their autumn splendor? What if you could view all of the Smokies? Ok, well, maybe not all. But when viewed from above, the vast, undulating landscape that we locals call home rolls out beneath you like a multi-hued carpet!

Consider taking a helicopter ride, to see our area like you’ve never seen it before. This activity is a superb choice for creating a one-of-a-kind experience for you and your family. There are several options available, offering different areas of flyover and duration, to accommodate various budgets and levels of courage.  Make a quick journey over Douglas Lake and the surrounding foothills, or fly deep into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to see Cades Cove stretch out below you.

scenic-helicopter-smallPlan your glorious, fall color review now by checking out the touring information at Scenic Helicopter Tours. Their experienced, professional pilots fly the most number of approved flight paths throughout the Smokies area, giving you the best selection and value for your airtime dollars. All members of your group can fly (from the youngest to the oldest), in 3- or 4-passenger groups. Don’t forget your camera, since photos and videos are highly encouraged.

It’s truly a different perspective to see notable landmarks and the area’s natural wonders from the air: sightseeing at its best. Our VCR family loves these flights, and so will yours!


If Shop You Must, Then Do It Here! The Village Shops of Gatlinburg

the-village-gatlinburg-2We like to hear about the local places that our customers discover, during their vacation stay here in our rental cabins in Gatlinburg. Sometimes locations are mentioned that we have not yet experienced ourselves. Then there are the venues that are mentioned over and over as favorites. The Village Shops of Gatlinburg shopping area is one of the latter. Nestled in the heart of town next to the Pancake Pantry Restaurant (one of our favorites also, but I digress) is the entrance to this outdoor cluster of small stores.

Sometimes I wish all of the county’s retail venues were surrounded by such a lovely planned atmosphere. Created to resemble a small European town, bricked pathways, a splashing fountain centerpiece, and carefully detailed architecture and landscaping combine to create a peaceful environment. Plant those weary family members on a bench to relax, enjoy a snack, and people watch, as those with the will to purchase keep exploring!

the-village-gatlinburg-1A German deli offers a hearty lunch, and doughnuts and ice cream are also deliciously available. Those who enjoy kitchen arts can find a selection of spices, olive oils, vinegars, sauces, coffees, and teas for sale among several stores in the complex.

Other shops among the 27 stores located here can dress and pamper anyone willing. Bath and body products, pajamas and clothing, shoes and socks, leather goods and jewelry are all offered for your personal selection.

Perhaps something for your own use while on vacation? Hiking goods, toys, books, and even insulated bottles can be put to good use during your stay in the Smokies.
Souvenirs and gifts (for others or yourself) can also be found: unique artwork, candles, and pottery are artistic features. Perhaps an inspirational gift, or an item from the Celtic isles, or custom, personalized pieces may suit your needs. Don’t forget to check out the coupons on their website for extra savings.

the-village-gatlinburg-3So, here’s a start to a great day: breakfast at Pancake Pantry, and then step out well-fortified to explore next door. Interesting, high quality merchandise in an Old World environment: what’s not to love? We think so, too! Make sure and visit the Village Shops of Gatlinburg while here in our mountains this beautiful, autumn season. Happy fall, y’all!