The Best Idea We've Ever Had

A couple years ago, the lovely Robin and I had a brainstorm (no smart remarks, please).

Our children were grown, married, parents, living on their own and buying their own homes. What little vacation time they got was often spent working around the house or something like that. It was starting to look like our treasured family vacations were all in the past. So we told them, "Every May, we will reserve a week at a cabin or condo within driving distance (5-6 hours) of home, and we'll have a bedroom for you. If you're able--and so inclined--to join us, all you have to do is get there, and pay for any eating out you want to do while you're there, but we'll pay for the place and for the groceries to eat in."

It was a no-lose proposition from our perspective. We would get to spend a vacation week with our most favorite people in the whole world--our kids and their spouses and our grandkids! There is nothing better.

And, from their perspective, it's not a bad deal either. They get a free room in a vacation spot, free groceries, and even free babysitting throughout the week!

Since that brainstorm, we've vacationed twice in Gatlinburg. And last year, we enjoyed our first week as owners at Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort, a rustic mountain retreat on 70 acres in the heart of the beautiful Smoky Mountains. It is adjacent to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the largest national park East of the Rockies and the most-visited national park in the United States. It's also situated right between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, a short distance from attractions such as Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and Dollywood theme park, as well as specialty shops, arts and crafts, family-friendly restaurants, championship golf, whitewater rafting and clubs and theaters like Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, Black Bear Jamboree, and Country Tonite Theatre.

Let me just say, we can't wait to go back. I love hiking in the Smokies (used to take Aubrey and Aaron backpacking there...these accommodations are a step or two up from sleeping in a tent). Our condo (in a rustic design I just love) sleeps six adults and features beautiful wooded views, fully equipped kitchen, whirlpool tub in the master bedroom, fireplace and washer/dryer. The onsite amenities include the 60,000-square-foot Wild Bear Falls water park, Smokehouse Grill, Mason Jar Lounge, Serenity Spa, two heated outdoor pools (seasonal), two hot tubs, 24-hour fitness center and 24-hour convenience store and gift shop.

Our plans are to return to Gatlinburg next May, but in the future, as the grandkids get older, we may exchange our week in the Smokies for Orlando or Branson or Myrtle Beach....not as close, but by then, maybe the kids will spring for my airfare.

If you haven't experienced a Westgate Resort vacation, you seriously won't believe it. So here's a special deal on me. You can enjoy four days and three nights at one of Westgate's five-star resorts for as low as $99 if you use the reference number in the brochure below (click to enlarge).

Part of the deal is a tour of the property and (of course) a sales presentation. But there is no obligation to buy anything. And, seriously, Orlando, Myrtle Beach, Gatlinburg, Williamsburg, Park City, Las Vegas or Branson. Call. Go. Enjoy. Thank me later.

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