Budget-Friendly Travel: The Great Smoky Mountains
Witness and I recently traveled to the Great Smoky Mountains with our two friends M+S. It was definitely a fun trip, and one that I would be willing to make again, especially since it was a budget-friendly one! For two adults, the trip cost about $475 including the cabin, gas,
food, snacks, and souvenirs for our family back home.
Our Journey to the Great Smoky Mountains
The drive took about 9.5 hours from Chicago, IL. Witness and S took turns driving, and the trip went by pretty quickly with games, snacks, and music. I had packed breakfast and lunch the night before, so we ate as we traveled. We left at 7:30am (about half an hour later than expected), so we arrived at the cabin office at 5:30pm. We didn’t realize there was a time change between the states, so if you’re making the drive from the midwest to the south, make sure you calculate it in.
Travel + Food
There are roughly 589 miles between Chicago and the Smokies. Roundtrip, gas cost us a total of $83.55. Use this site to get calculations on your road trip. We took M+S’s cozy and gas-efficient Hyundai Elantra. We did have a little trouble packing everything into the trunk, but it was enough room for the four of us. If we had decided to bring another person or animal (like Cashew), a rented vehicle would have been the better decision.
We went shopping at Walmart and HMart for our groceries. The total cost for four days of meals and drinks was $216.33. If you want to save money, buying groceries and cooking is the way to go, even though it may be a bit of a hassle. It cost us $13 a day to feed one person on the trip, and we ate like kings!
Cabin: “On Eagle’s Wings”
We decided to book the cabin in Tennessee through Jackson Mountain Homes. Our cabin was called “On Eagle’s Wings” and nestled within the the Smokies in Gatlinburg, TN, the Gateway to the Smokies. The cabin had two decent sized bedrooms, both with king-sized beds. There were three full baths, a hot tub (yes!), an outdoor grill, two patios (with porch swing), an outdoor table set, pool table, kitchen utensils, (free) soap, movie room, fireplace and towels provided. Both couches could also turn into beds, so technically we could’ve had two more couples join us. The grand total for the four nights and three days was $462.85. We got one night free because we were visiting off season. Each couple paid $231.42; not a bad deal for a home away from home!
After a filling dinner and some star gazing on the deck, we went to bed. The following day, we decided that my first hike ever would be an 4 mile hike up to Ramsey Cascades. According to nps.gov, “Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the park and one of the most spectacular. Water drops 100 feet over rock outcroppings and collects in a small pool where numerous well-camouflaged salamanders can be found.”
I wouldn’t suggest young children or people too out of shape (like myself) to take the hike up, especially if it’s your first time. It was quite difficult, challenging, yet rewarding. I would suggest you bring snacks, lots of drinking water, and a nice pair of hiking boots. Every time we climbed a mile or so, we’d meet a few hikers coming down from the cascades. Each one would tell us, “It’s hard… but it’s worth it.” Take a look for yourself!
We also saw some wildlife on the trails. This deer caught us staring at its cute curiosity.
The following day we were all pretty sore. So, after taking some pain killers and allergy meds, we drove an hour to Cade’s Cove. Instead of walking trails, we decided we’d let the horses do it instead! We visited the Cade’s Cove Riding Stables. It was highly rated and an incredibly informative guided trail. The rate is $30 per person, and tip is appreciated!
After riding, we drove along the Scenic Drive, capturing gorgeous photos of the mountains plastered onto the backdrop of the beautiful blue sky. There was a lot of history regarding cabin life and the settlers who first made Cade’s Cove their home. We were also able to see a herd of grazing deer along the valley. Although we didn’t get to see any black bears, it was a beautiful and relaxing way to end our trip to the Smokies.
We had a great time at the Great Smoky Mountains with M+S. When you’re traveling, make sure you bring a spontaneous spirit, food + water, and great friends to make memories! Have you ever been to the Smokies? What did you do when you visited?