Our family got to experience our very FIRST Great Wolf Lodge experience! And Boy Oh Boy it was an ADVENTURE! We learned a lot and we are excited to share our experience, and tips that helped our family on a memorable trip.
The follow experiences, ideas, tips and tricks shared will be based on what is most helpful to our family. Important elements to us are being good stewards of our money, time and family building. You will see this reflected in the notes below. I will be going over general thoughts, randomized helpful tips, as well and health and packing tips.
Our dear friends invited us to come with them to Great Wolf Lodge (they are veterans to the game of GWL). My friend who had a gift card given to them from a Christmas Present noticed that there was a deal to be used as a discount to the overall cost if booked between X-Y. We got together to pick dates and quickly realized the price differences between a weekday trip and a weekend trip as well as some months were cheaper than others.
If possible LOOK FOR A DEAL CODE, and SELECT DATES DURING WEEKDAYS AND NON-BUSY MONTHS (off season). This will help you save money and select the room that works the best for your family.
Once we had found the dates that would work best both of our families as well as within the deal time frame, then we looked at the different room options available. A few things we learned during it process is the floor level. Our friends booked over the phone and were given a room on the first floor. This allowed them to easily load and unload into their room from the parking lot, as well and reduced time waiting at the elevator to go to and from their room. The first-floor rooms have HIGH ceilings which is so nice, as well. Our room which we booked online was on the 8th floor (the highest floor possible.) It was nice to have no one above us but other then that the cons outweighed the benefits.
REQUEST A ROOM ON THE FIRST OR SECOND FLOOR.
Our Veteran GWL friends let us in on the secret that you can bring your own food. They recommended the Majestic Bear Suite, this suite sleeps 8 people, and has a private room that can be closed (this was so helpful since Darren had to work during the day in the room). The room also included a mini fridge, microwave, and small sink. The other HUGE feature that was a selling point was it had a countertop table that seated everyone at meal times. We enjoyed every meal in our room sans one. (which I will explain below). The foods we brought included: yogurt and granola, taco soup, oatmeal, bagels and cream cheese, Charcuterie board style, and many snacks. This was a HUGE money saver for our large family (7 full size eaters). ALSO since we had the room that had a table it allowed us to have some reprieve from the pool and noise. This was so important after a long day at the pool.
EAT IN YOUR ROOM WHEN YOU CAN. AND BRING WATER BOTTLES.
There are many activities to do while you are at the Lodge, some of them we were very excited to participate in and others didn't fit our vision for our vacation. I will explain a few that we did and tried here in a moment, but what is IMPORTANT to note is that the swimming pool is open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and you WILL want to have other things to can do and enjoy, especially if you need a break or have early risers like myself who are up and excited for the day by 7:00. In addition to what the Lodge provides we also brought a lot of card games to play in the room on our table which was a life saver. The other activity we did was the Arcade, we spent 30 dollars and had an hour of entertainment and won a hand full of tootsies pops. My kids have never experienced an arcade before and they enjoyed learning how things worked but was hard to navigate with the amount of people in the arcade. One activity that was offered that we didn't do was mini golf, it is 7 dollars per person which would been about the same price as the arcade. Other activities they offer at the hotel include walking in the woods behind the hotel, yoga, PJ dance party, build a bear, candy shop, ice cream shop, and magical wands. While we know a lot of people have enjoyed these thing for us they weren't what we envisioned as part of our adventure. Also note everything costs money, each activity will cost you, therefore having a plan or bringing things from home can both save your money and sanity.
CREATE A PLAN FOR HOW YOU WILL SPEND YOUR TIME WHEN NOT SWIMMING AT THE POOL.
The pool is huge and has very fun slides, they use a wristband system, one wrist band for the kids allows them into the waterpark, when you get to the entrance they give them a second wrist band that is color coded to say what slides and areas they are allowed in (this is based on height). For the adults you get a different wrist band that has a few features, one is that it is your door key, (this is fun because you have it with you always and don't have to worry about loosing it especially while at the pool), you also have the option of adding a credit card on file for your wrist band, normally we would pass on this feature but since Darren was working during the day we added the card to my wristband so that I could buy lunch during the day. We did chose to do lunch at the pool on our full day there. You can bring food into the pool area IF it is purchased at one of their restaurants. Our friends let us know about the pizza, a large pizza was only 15 dollars, we were pleasantly surprised with the price, the taste and the quickness of them. It also was fun to eat it in the pool, (but super loud, I probably would have enjoyed giving my ears a break and eating in the room.)
As I mentioned they have chairs all over the pool you can find an empty on to put your things on while you are swimming. They also have these cabanas around you can purchase to use for the day. We did not get one or ask about the price, BUT my husband and I were commenting that we would consider renting on IF we had a newborn that needed to be fed or nap or some space away to not be so close to everyone. Some have curtains you can close, they also have towels, chairs and table to eat. Food is brought to your cabana, and they have a mini fridge to keep things cold. I tried to ask some of my friends after leaving about the Cabana, some think that they have packages that include vouchers for meals and included in the price. Needless to say in certain seasons of my life I would have been highly interested to see what the cost would be for the private area.
RANDOM BUT HELPFUL HINTS:
- When you arrive and leave they have carts you may use to bring your things to and from your car, pull up to the front door and discover where our room is then grab a cart to unload. At the Grand Mound in Washington GWL all the rooms are to the right off the main doors.
- They have recently created a check in system on your phones, which allows for ease of check in and check out.
- They have late check out available which was important since Darren needed to work for the day, (but it was $70) then we could go swim afterwards. This allowed us to extend our stay, but it was additional cost.
- After you check out for your stay you can stay and swim the rest of the day. (Plan accordingly while packing up)
- Bring water bottles, YOU WILL NEED TO DRINK WATER and you can bring them into the pool. (Also water is like 4 dollars a bottle so don't forget to bring your water bottle.)
- Everything operates off your wristband, AND you can attach a credit card to your wristband, this can be very helpful and all too convenient as well 😉
- Everyone gets wolf ears - you have to get them from the gift shop 🙂
EVERY EXPERIENCE IS A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY
Everywhere we go as a family we are intentional to use each opportunity to teach and train our kids, yes even on vacation. (Especially on vacation! Because there are new opportunities to be taught on in these new environments.)
- Hotel etiquette - We actually do not stay in hotels very often as we are more of a camping family, but we realized how important it is to set a standard of etiquette for our kids. We covered things like no running, volume, being considerate of those next to you, above or below you, smiling and saying hello to those you pass in the hallway, thanking the staff when as they are graciously serving you, how to leave the hotel well at check out, etc.
- Elevator etiquette - This one may seem strange but I can not tell how important it was for our family to address and teach on the elevator etiquette. We for sure have not had a lot of experiences with elevators, and especially not with a lot of other people around. Since we were on the 8th floor we had a LOT of practice on our etiquette. We taught and trained them on things such as: waiting patiently for the elevator to arrive, what button to push if you need the elevator and how to tell if the button has already been pushed, watching the arrows light up to show if the elevator is on a downward or upward path. Also trainings on: not standing in front of the elevator doors when it opens so others can exit before you enter, holding the elevator doors open as everyone loads, asking what floor the others would like, politely requesting what floor you would like, only pushing the buttons you need, etc.
- Teamwork to set up and unload - In everything we do as a family we encourage all members of our family to take an active role in the set up, unload, clean up, pack up and loading. It is important to us that we are not rushing to go do the next activity until we can all go together. Equally we have seen first hand that many hands make light work.
- Realities of the Arcade - Our family operates in a way where the kids already know that during a game there can only be one winner and thus the rest are losers, so we used this to instruct similarly in way how the an arcade works and the reality of "lucky chance." We thought this was important to share since we don't make it to an Arcade frequently.
- Pool Safety - This may seem obvious since we are at a pool BUT we thought it would be SUPER important to cover the standard and explicit rules since for half the day it would be just me (mom) and the 5 kids by myself. We covered rules such as: they must stay in a decided area and they can not run to the next area without asking first, lifejackets must be worn unless asked (my kids are 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8), that they have to use the restroom in pairs (and NO PEEING IN THE POOL), we used the buddy system when it came to the slides (one would slide down and wait at the bottom until the sibling came down then they could go back up together again). Pay attention to the whistles of the lifeguards, and respond right away to their directions. Have Fun of course but stay safe.
We DID NOT prepare well in this area but we will NOT be caught off guard the next time. The pool is HEAVILY chlorinated (our friends we traveled with said this time in particular was more then ever before.) ALL of our kids had physical affects from the chlorine. Here are some things I would have brought to support their bodies.
- Vapor Rub - To rub on their chest before bed, the chlorine caused an inflammation of their airway, and all of them where coughing in the evening when we came back from the pool. (A few of my kids worse than others but they have that tendency during other situations as well.)
- Cough Drops - To support their throats after coughing so much.
- Diffuser with oils - This would have been so helpful to have running in our room to help with breathing in Chlorine all day. Oils such as: Lavendar, Frankincense, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Bergamot and anything to help with deep breathing.
- Nebulizer - IF you have a kiddo (I have one) that would benefit from this tool to help soothe the airway, or wash the dried chlorine out of their lungs I would recommend having one of these on hand.
- Lotion - The hotel does provide lotion but I would recommend bringing a plain, unscented moisturizing lotion. Also, and I say this with grace since not only did we not do this but I know it can be hard to do. I would remind myself next time to make sure the kids shower after swimming, and to rinse out the swimsuit and anything that got chlorine on it, if you leave the chlorine on your body it can make rashes and continue to seep into the skin (the largest organ a body has.)
Most of these packing tips comes from wishing we would have brought these. We learned a lot during this trip that we would do differently for future trips.
- Life Jackets - GWL does have lifejackets you can borrow, but they are limited and many times I saw the cart empty so if your kiddos needs a lifejacket I would bring your own.
- Flip-flops and or water shoes - This was an epic fail on my part, we forgot flip flops to wear from our hotel room down to the pool (we ended up just wearing our shoes which worked out fine), BUT I also longed for my water socks while walking around in the waterpark area and in the pool. The cement is VERY slippery as well as the bathrooms, and as a mom I would stand watching my kiddos for hours and my feet were killing me by the end I longed to wear my comfortable and supportive shoes. (Next time I will!)
- Swimsuit cover - Seems obvious right? Yup! I forgot mine. The pool provides towels which is nice but they are to only be used in the pool area, there is a 15 dollar charge if you don't return them. You have to check them out by your wristband. Next time I will be remembering my swimsuit cover for the girls as well.
- Waterproof bag and or LARGE bag - They allow you to bring a bag into the pool this was helpful to us to carry our water bottles, and put our shoes, and clothes in it before entering the pool. There are chairs there you can snag an empty one and put your bag and towels on the chair to save your spot.
- Paper Products (don't forget the napkins!) - This is VERY important if you are planning on eating in your room. There are not utensils, plates, bowls, and NAPKINS in the room so make sure to pack them. We brought fruit to eat and had to use my husbands pocket knife to cut it up, and with out taco soup we forgot a serving utensil so we used a disposable coffee up they provided with the coffee machine.
- CONDITIONER - The Lodge provided shampoo/conditioner combo, I used it twice and in my opinion it did nothing but dry out my hair. My daughter and I have long hair which tangles easily so conditioner next time is a MUST!!
We had a great time and were grateful to go with our dear friends! Made lots of memories! Both of our families got to share a dinner together (Taco soup and Chili), followed up by Bible reading and worship together. It was a sweet and special time that will be remember always.
This week we are releasing a Vlog on our experience. Make sure to check it out!