A few days ago we told the kids that we had a surprise for them and to pack their bags for some fun!
They were excited – some of them handle surprises better than others (my bios become highly suspicious – like their mother - whatever; it’s character building), whereas, Ryan’s bios become the happiest clan of children in the whole wide world! There’s nothing they like better than a fun time and man, when they envision a good time, they go big.
Ryan and I were craving snow and worked our destination around this desire, and so off to the Smoky Mountains we went – more specifically off to Gatlinburg, TN (Michigan would have definitely been more promising in the snow department). We arrived in the beautiful mountains with a greeting of…… really cold rain but no snow.
Our cabin was absolutely breathtaking and the scenery divine, but sticker shock quickly set in when we discovered that in order to afford the numerous enticing Gatlinburg offerings with our 7 children (Luke stayed home with a sitter), we would have to take out a loan or go broke trying to please them (which doesn't really align with our general parenting style). Some of the kids handled the disappointment of not being able to do every single fun activity better than others did (those really excited about the surprise had definitely built it up in their minds to look something like a trip to Disney World.)
I put my research/cheap skills to good use and found what seemed like an affordable, fun option for the whole family – ice skating! $9.00 a person for 3 hours. Perfect. We arrived at around 10 am in order to accomplish our three hours before Annabelle's nap time. When we arrived we learned that we would also have to pay a $10-15 tram fee per person to reach the top of the mountain – where the ice skating rink was located. After Ryan and I consulted, we paid the fee and decided this would be our big, fun, family adventure together. We finally arrived at the top of the mountain around 11:15, found the counter where we had to pay, and were told that the rink would be shut down at noon for 30 minutes. Of course it would.
When it was all said and done we probably paid close to $200 for an hour’s worth of fun. #justkeeplivin, right?
Our takeaways? Gatlinburg is stunningly beautiful but not a place to take 7 children unless you have millions of dollars to blow, and if this isn’t your reality, (as it is not ours) you’re going to have disappointed children at every turn. Ryan and I decided that our best (and most affordable) family vacations are usually spent in our travel trailer at a Jelly Stone or a KOA park swimming, hiking, fishing, and relaxing around a campfire. Gatlinburg will probably be a place that he and I will revisit because neither one of us is into all of the commercialized excess, and we’d be happy as clams hunkering down in the cabin, hiking, spending time in the hot tub and sipping coffee and hot cocoa by the fireplace in the evenings. Overall, the kids did enjoy the change of scenery, the dinners out, the ice skating, the ability to shop and spend their money, and the numerous red box rentals.
Oh, and the funny irony of the whole trip? We came home to more snow than we had in the mountains.
Just keep livin!