Two days before we left for our family vacation, my oldest started throwing up. It seems that we’re starting a tradition of someone or two getting sick on vacation, as last year in Boston two of the three kids came down with fevers that lasted a day. She woke up bright and perky the next day, so I was relieved that it was at least a short-lived bug.
We drove all day Monday and arrived in Tennessee to meet my brother and his family for a few days of mountain fun. But just as I was getting really confident that we were in the clear after a day there, my son passed out for a two-hour nap on the couch, which is completely out of character. Then I was unable to eat dinner, also completely out of character. The next day began with him throwing up, continued with us huddled and shaking on the couch the entire day, and me checking to make sure all of the bathrooms in the cabin worked really well.
Thankfully, we both woke up the next day feeling great, so we only missed one full day of vacation, but it seemed like our misery was compounded by the fact that everyone else was out having fun while we were stuck home watching Disney Junior. We made up for lost time by hitting two morning hikes the next day, and we did an afternoon river float trip, which was by far a highlight. I don’t have pictures because, river, but we made a very slow trip down a very low river. We all got somehow injured in the process — my husband jabbed with a rock in his side, me rubbing my inner arm raw from paddling when we’d get stuck, my son smashing his finger in a rock and both girls getting dumped out of the tubes at one point — but it was so fun even if we did have to stop frequently to walk our tubes a bit. My youngest had her own tube and even though she was saying “all done” 10 minutes into a 2+ hour trip, she settled down and happily floated along the river. I wouldn’t want to do a trip like that on a roaring river quite yet, but it was actually kind of perfect for the ages the kids are now.
Gatlinburg was a really fun place to go for family fun. Here are just a few things I’d recommend if you ever get there!
A Few Gatlinburg, Tennessee Must-Dos
Tubing: We went on this River Rat Tubing trip. It was perfect, from the online purchase to check-in to the fact that you basically left the building and went down a ramp and got straight in the water. The shuttle was waiting at the end and it was a 2-minute drive back to our cars at the start. Couldn’t have been easier.
This hike was great. It was a steep half-mile up to the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but it’s paved and has benches along the way for kids who needed to rest. At the top a tower gives you incredible views of the mountains, and we got to be in the clouds and then watch them blow away. Plus, it intersects with the Appalachian Trail, which is cool to see, too.
This was an easy hike that was less than a mile round-trip. There’s a small waterfall at the end, but the kids had the most fun climbing on the rocks in Falling Creek and walking over a big log that spanned the creek.
A slightly longer 1.3 miles to the falls, Laurel Falls was a beautiful destination. There’s a waterfall at the end and you also get to see people being really dangerous on wet slippery rocks. It was super busy and we had to really watch where the kids were stepping, but it was definitely doable for our family.
We’d never been putt-putting as a family, and it proved hilarious. With kids 5, 4 and almost 2, you can imagine that I tossed the score card immediately (I’d been planning to compete with my husband at the least) in favor of trying to make sure no one hit anyone with their putters. The putt-putt courses are all over in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, but we went to Fort Fun’s hillside location. The course itself was pretty basic, so I wouldn’t go again to that particular one, but it was fun for the kids. We only had to climb the mountain twice to retrieve balls.
Carry a Charger
My phone didn’t hold a charge and my GPS navigation drained my battery faster than it could charge in the car. I had about 2 percent charge the entire trip. Carry your portable charger if you want pictures!
I had planned on doing a couple of short runs on the trip to keep up with my training, but had … runs of a different kind. Har. Just kinda walked right into that joke, sorry guys. Luckily we hiked a decent amount, so I got some exercise in and I’m jumping right back into my half marathon training this week after a 7-mile run last week. Fun fact: The day my brother’s family left, I got a text that my niece was throwing up in the car. Way to spread our germs far and wide, team!
Have you ever been to Gatlinburg? What should we do on a return trip there? —Erin