Have you been to Deep Creek Lake yet?
Am I beginning to sound like a broken record? Anyone who follows my blog with some degree of regularity knows that every year, we spend Labor Day weekend there with three other couples and 8 kids total. It is an annual HIGHLIGHT. For all 16 of us. Seriously.
Why? Why do we love it so? Why do we keep going back? What does it take to plan a great weekend up in Deep Creek?
Fret not, kittens, I will tell you. And today is your LUCKY DAY!!!! For those who enjoy my rare but always fabulous (Thanks to Born Lucky Studios) video blogs, I’ve got a new one in store for you today, so don’t miss out. It is 50 seconds of your life. And it will be GLORIOUS.
Step One: How the hell do I find a great house to rent?
Ahh yes, never an easy question. We are four years in and we’re still sorting through what makes the perfect group house for a long weekend. We all have to compromise. There are 8 adults in our group. We all have opinions. Not all of them are the same. But we share one thing in common: the quest for the PERFECT home that we can keep renting each summer. Or – alternately – a wish that someone would just throw down the cash to buy a home up there. No one has yet done this.
When looking to rent, for the past two years, we’ve turned to Railey Mountain Lake Vacations for the following reasons:
- They hold the largest inventory of homes in the Deep Creek area;
- They have a wide variety of price points in rental homes;
- The company is staffed with helpful and accommodating employees;
- It is the smoothest and quickest check in process I’ve ever experienced with a home rental.
In fact, this year, for sport, I was going to time the check-in process, except by the time I whipped out my iPhone and found the clock to start the timer, I’d already been checked in, handed the keys, given a map, and grabbed some free bags of popcorn for the always-scrounging-for-a-snack children in the backseat of our car.
What I can tell you is that while the home we rented last month was absolutely not our dream home, we still learned valuable lessons in how to fine-tune our search.
My advice to you is to consider – do you want a water view with no tree obstruction or a more wooded but obstructed view of the lake? Do you want a really developed outdoor living space with a big fire pit and lots of chairs or are you looking more for several big family rooms inside? Do you want a bedroom for each couple and then the kids have their own room or are the kids still young and you’ll do better with several master suites, putting the kids on the floor? Look, we’ve tried all these variations.
This past Labor Day, we went for the totally unobstructed view of the lake and a flat big yard for the kids to play, along with a direct shot to the lake. In past years, we didn’t mind a slope or hilly descent down to the lake because it disrupted a younger child’s ability to just dash into the water. Now our girls are all big enough that we felt more confident in giving them easy and quick access to the lake and we wanted to wake up in the morning and have a glorious view with no trees in our way. We also really thought the kids would get a ton of use out of a big, flat yard (and they did).
We were right in some respects but we also learned this: it turns out exactly where your home is located on the lake really matters if you don’t care for high traffic areas. The particular home we rented was in a high traffic area and honestly, we like feeling like we’re removed from busy lives during our annual Labor Day get-away. In previous years, we’d always been tucked away into a quiet corner of the lake – and it turns out – we just never thought to ask specifically about its location on the lake. There you have it, four years in and we learned a lesson.
Want to know what else we got wrong? This is a big one. We learned this one the hard way. When renting a home, I would urge you to ask this question: Who cleans the home prior to your arrival? Every year we’ve always had lovely, perfectly clean homes. Naively, it never occurred to us that we wouldn’t have a sparkling, clean home. Guess what?
Oh. That happened.
The home we rented was old, it hadn’t been kept up in repairs and it was not clean. Not anywhere near what we considered an acceptable level. When I checked out, I asked to speak with a Railey rep and she was incredibly apologetic and open to hearing my long list of complaints. Then she noted the house is new in their inventory and the home owner refuses to use their cleaning service and insists on using his own cleaning service.
Might I suggest they are a cleaning service that exists only in the home-owner’s head but not in reality?
That being said – this is a VALUABLE learning experience that I hope you will apply to your own rental experiences: WHO CLEANS THE HOME. From our experience, not only will it be a future first question but if the answer is “the home owner provides their own service” – then our response will be the following: “Oh hell no…moving on to the next property.”
What did Railey Mountain Lake Vacations do about my long list of complaints, you might be wondering? Christmas came early, kids. About 10 days after our vacation, I received a check in the mail, it was a refund of about $500. I’m not sure how they arrived at this amount but we were happy to take it. I suggested to Mr. WM that we start a Deep Creek fund and put it in the bank. He ignored me, noted that we aren’t a commune or cult, and proceeded to write checks and divvy up the refund between our friends.
I thought we’d all be super psyched when next summer rolls around and we have basically boat rental money sitting there waiting for us. Anyone else with me? Bueller?
Okay, so given the fact that I keep reminding you just how many times we’ve had amazing trips to DCL, I’m going to offer you two more things. The Know-It-All top 10 list of what you should do during a weekend up there and the dramatic denouement of this brilliant blog post: a 50 second view, an insider’s peek, if you will, of what really goes down when we hit DCL each Labor Day.
Step Two: The Quick & Dirty Deep Creek Lake Bucket List
1. Boat rentals with tubes are a must-do for adult and kid fun;
2. Rent a home with a hot tub;
3. Grab at least one meal at the Mountain State Brewery – between the delicious pizza, the outdoor play space for kids, mountain and sunflower field views and fantastic beer;
4. There is no better people watching than the Honi-Honi. Just trust me. Oh. And it’s more fun to park your boat there than your car;
5. The Mountain Coaster at WISP. Personally, I hate it, but it’s like catnip for husbands and children;
6. Swallow Falls State Park. Trust me. Just go hike it and enjoy the views;
7. Swim in the lake. Again, just trust me. It is like an annual cathartic cleansing ritual for us;
8. Campfires and s’mores in the evening;
9. Take the chairlift to the top of WISP and hike around;
10. Deep Creek is a year-round destination, if you missed out over the summer, then head there for beautiful sweeping views and great hikes this fall or for skiing through the winter and early spring. As Mr. WM aptly said years ago, Deep Creek is Maryland’s very own Lake Tahoe.
With that, behold, our weekend in 50 seconds:
Disclosure: Railey Mountain Lake Vacations offered us a discount on our rental property in exchange for writing about our experience. My opinions here are all my own.