Our families took a trip together this past summer. When deciding where to go, we only had a couple requirements. #1 It needed to be somewhere we had never been before. #2 It needed to be within 6 hours of our home. Both of us have small children and more than half the day stuck in a car is torture. For us. Not the kids. We decided on the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area in Tennessee. This is the first time that we have been there, which is just crazy! The area is gorgeous and there is so much to do for all ages. We didn’t know what we were missing!
Here are some of our travel tips that helped our vacation run as smooth as it can….with kids of all ages!
1. Stopping at local parks for meals. When planning the drive, we made sure we had a place to stop for lunch. We mapped our trip and determined what area we would be around towards lunch time. We found a local park that looked perfect for our lunch stop. The kids were able to play outside on the playground and the adults had some much needed fresh air!
Side note: On the drive home, we wanted to try something different from the normal fast food joint. We used Yelp to look up the most popular local bbq restaurants in close proximity to where we were at the time. Yelp is an awesome tool where people can review a whole list of things including local restaurants, hotels, and entertainment venues. We ended up finding Smokey Bear’s BBQ in Corbin, KY. Check out this awesomness!
2. Make sure to have separate living spaces for each family. As we were booking the cabin, we made sure that there would be a separation of space for the little ones that still nap. Or for when anyone needed quiet time. When we arrived at the cabin, it was beautiful! It had two levels, which meant that each family had their own separate living space. The kids went crazy for the balcony and ran back and forth on it a thousand times. We also purposefully booked a cabin with a yard. Many of the cabins in the hills of Tennessee either don’t have yards or have a steep cliff where we couldn’t help but have nightmares of our kids rolling down the sides. The yard also gave room for the kids to run and let out some energy.
3. Pre-plan your meals. We planned what meals we were eating at the cabin and which ones were going to be eating out. This way we could save some money…and possibly calories, by preparing meals ahead of time. We made a full menu for each meal and then made a grocery list for all items needed. Each family was responsible for roughly half of the items so we could shop accordingly ahead of time. When we arrived in Gatlinburg, we made a quick stop at a local Kroger to pick up a few items we didn’t want to take on the drive, such as milk.
4. Have a rough itinerary of your “bucket-list” items to make sure you fit them in. We are all about going with the flow, however there were some things we were excited to see. We came up with a list of those places to visit and then decided which days we could fit them into. One place we had our hearts set on eating at was The Old Mill for breakfast. Everyone we talked to had recommended eating there and it lived up to the hype! The portion sizes were gigantic! We planned to eat here the day we were going to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. After the aquarium, we ventured to Tanger Outlet Mall. All the food we had at breakfast easily held us over until after shopping which was late afternoon. Ripley’s Aquarium was so much fun for the kids…and adults! If you’re in the area and looking for something to do, add this to list! It’ll easily fill up half your day with all the exhibits and activities.
5. Be flexible! We had originally planned on going to Dollywood’s Splash Country after lunch and naps. When looking at the forecast, it was calling for rain. We made the decision to go in the morning instead. We spent a large majority of our last day hanging out here. We don’t have many photos due to the whole water vs. camera problem. We all loved the lazy river. You can’t beat laying on a tube in the sun relaxing! There were water rides, slides, and activities for all ages! Even little Brynley got to run through the kiddie pool and slide down some water slides. She was worn out by the end of the day! We all were having so much fun that we forgot about eating and didn’t leave until at late afternoon. Luckily we had a pre-planned meal of pulled pork sandwiches back at the cabin!
6. Don’t forget to splurge! We aren’t talking about money. Since we were due to head out the next morning, we HAD to make ANOTHER ice cream run that night! Kilwin’s Chocolates in downtown Gatlinburg had the most amazing ice cream. We had to get one last fix! Don’t forget that you’re on vacation. Make that second, or third, trip to get ice cream!