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Avoid These Common Mistakes
When Booking a Cabin or Vacation Rental

Beautiful view of cabin rental in Parkside Resort Gatlinburg Tennessee

1.) Not Knowing the Cabin Location


Location can make or break your vacation. A bad location can cause many unforeseen problems, or even completely ruin your vacation or trip.

If the rental agent says they have a policy against giving you the exact location before payment, or gives an excuse, or only a general location, proceed with caution.  Your loved one's safety and well-being outweigh anything that may be given as a reason for not telling you. You will want to preview your location on a map and with Google Street View and use these tips to make your decision. 


This is not to say an unfamiliar location is bad, in fact, new locations are the spice of life, and can be amazing!  Factors to be considered are ones important to you, and only you can make this decision with the exact address.

This is why i love VRBO! It gives you the location of the most cabins and tons of reviews.  All the information is easy to find.

Road signs show curving roads ahead and Notice of 4 wheel drive required in winter to get to cabins in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
3 cabins rest on a mountainside at Pakside Resort near Gatlinburg Tennessee

2.) Thinking All Rental Agents are the Same

Cabin Property Managers play a huge role in your satisfaction as their guest. There are as many kinds of managers that run the gamut from friendly, helpful and caring to rude, dishonest and incompetent--and everything in between.  No one wants to deal with an unethical manager.  


Clue #1

It's important to read reviews from prior guests.  Even the best places can have one bad review, so see as many reviews as possible. For example, it's better to see 25 reviews, 2 of which are bad, than to see 4 reviews, 2 of which are bad. Reviews are not everything, but they will give you an idea. Remember, no one is perfect, even on their best day.  But patterns of bad reviews are a red flag.


Clue #2

Does the company or owner respond to the reviews? What tone did they take with the reviewer? Do all the responses blame the guest or someone else? Do they use a dismissive tone with guest concerns?  Look for a more genuine and caring response from the owner or company.

This is not to say there are not bad guests. There most certainly are guests who try to scam owners out of their payments, which is unfair, unethical and bad guests can be blacklisted for doing so. (see below)


Clue #3

Another key is to reflect on how you are treated when booking.  Employees are reflections of their managers.  There can always be one bad apple in any company.  But if more than one employee is rude or unhelpful,  their could be problems with management as well.  Also, can you call or email or text and get a real person 24/7?  This is very important! Absentee managers and rudeness should never be tolerated.  Be sure you know who you can call if there are any issues before, during and after your stay.

Clue #4

When you actually arrive for your stay, do you notice the workers?  Do they look happy?  Check their demeanor to know if they are treated well by management.  Are you made to feel welcome or are you just in the way?  I like to see employees who are happy or at least not irritable.  Everyone has bad days, but you are looking for patterns with a cabin company.  Workers are a reflection of management.  If an employee is rude, report this to the management or owner, who may be unaware of their behavior.  

clouds rest on the Smoky Mountains behnd beautiful Westgate Resort cabins before the wildfires in Gatlinburg Tennessee
Several cabins on the side of a mountainside in Pigeon Forge overlooking Sevierville and the town below

3.) Not Knowing the Cabin Rental Fees

Always be aware of fees and policies ahead of time and get a copy of them emailed to you.  The fewer fees, the better.  Although some policies come from large corporate offices, each manager or owner usually makes their own rules about the unit or should have, at least, some discretion over policy. 


Some fees can be negotiated or waived, and some are set in stone.  Each manager can have a completely unique fee/payment policy so do not assume that the last place you stayed will be the same.  Common fees to ask about include:


  • Cancellation fees

  • Cleaning fees

  • Damage fees

  • Early check-in and Late check-out fees

  • Pet fees.  

This is not to say fees are unfair and that you should dispute them.  Vacation rentals are very high maintenance and fees add a layer of protection for the cabin owners.   But there are times when they can  be excessive and do not be afraid to question what their purpose is. 


Always check your credit card after your return home.  Using a credit card rather than a debit card can protect you from accidental overcharges and allow you to dispute fees that are excessive.

In the end,

Most good property managers and owners will want you to be happy, relaxed, and come back on your next vacation. They love the "regulars"!  The good ones will jump through hoops to make your stay as great as possible.  So DON'T be one of the guests who try to take advantage of this.  Having yourself labelled as a chronic complainer or someone just trying to get a free vacation will not be helpful.  

Problems can arise during any vacation stay, even with the best companies and owners.  It's a very demanding job, especially in peak seasons when they are the busiest.  Managers, owners, maintenance, office staff, housekeepers, and contractors must all work and coordinate together to present you with your amazing, fun and relaxing 3-night stay.  There's alot of work going into it. 



Bad guests can actually be blacklisted. Yes - blacklisted from ever renting a property again within certain realms.  Because of bad (and I mean sometimes absolutely horrible) guests who have stayed in cabins, chalets, or hotels, there are lists that exist that are shared among the industry. If you are placed on one of these lists, you will not be able to rent a unit from them for the foreseeable future.

Usually, in order to be blacklisted, you have to do something pretty bad. Being blacklisted means that the place does not want a guest to come back and the guest has in some way made the company feel threatened and they want to warn others.  A company or owner may feel like they lost alot of money or the guest was abusive. Making reasonable complaints or requests are not a reason to be on a blacklist. 


Also, your credit card can be charged for damages you or your crew are responsible for.  Any damages you discover upon entering your unit should be reported immediately.  Units should be inspected for damages before and after each and every guest stay.  But if something is missed, you do not want to be held responsible.  

Bonus Tip!

If you enjoyed your stay and would want to recommend it to others, leaving a good review is golden to the owners.  They will want you to come back and probably alert you to the best deals and offers and discounts.  Being a good guest will, in turn get you the best service from everyone involved. Treating employees with respect and handing each housekeeper a $5 or $10 dollar tip (always - always - try to give tips directly to each person - do not leave on counters) during your stay can earn you and your crew the royal treatment instantly. (Not to mention making someone's day a little better).

So try to enjoy it and remember - Don't sweat the small stuff! 

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