I have been hearing about Great Wolf Lodge for years now, as it seems everyone with kids makes at least one trip in their lifetime to it, but it really hadn't been on my radar, mostly due to cost. But this year we decided it was time to take the kids after we had to use some money from our "go south when it gets cold for vacation" fund for our rust bucket on wheels (aka, family van.) So, we figured this was a nice compromise to not completely disappoint the kids, but not go into debt taking a family trip.
So here's my tips for doing Great Wolf Lodge, frugal style. :)
1. Book During off-season. My first thought was to go to Great Wolf Lodge at Christmas time. The Christmas atmosphere would make it magical! But when I looked at prices I noticed that if we went at Christmas instead of a slower time we would be paying $240 dollars more a NIGHT!!!! Wow. No thank you. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized the crowds would drive me crazy anyways. It was busy enough on a slow time for me. I can't imagine the lines and the room in the pools at high peak times. Going the first week of November was a perfect and frugal time for our family. Weekdays of course are slower too.
2. Find a coupon. I was fortunate enough to have a friend who received a coupon in her email that she forwarded to me. It seems like if you sign up for their newsletter as well you can receive coupon codes. The coupon we used was 30% off!! So put the word out to friends, search online, sign up for the newsletter, check groupon...find THAT coupon!!!
3. Bring most of your own food. The rooms are equipped with a microwave, coffee maker, and mini fridge. We brought most of our own food to make meals in our room. You can't have microwave popcorn though...:( discovered this after I brought a bunch. :( ) We made oatmeal in the microwave, Kraft dinner for the kids, had bagels, taco salad that I made at home and assembled in the room, and lots of snacks!
|Eating breakfast in our hotel room.|
4. Eat at the LUNCH buffet. Because my husband and I are HUGE foodies, i knew we would want to eat at least ONE meal at an onsite restaurant. The buffet is pretty popular for breakfast and dinner, but it is a LOT cheaper at lunch. Sure, you don't have as much options during lunch, but there is still plenty of food to fill you, plenty of options to please the whole family, and you don't have buyers remorse after you leave.
5. Buy the Paw Pass. Now, this may get mixed reviews on whether it is a frugal option or not, but hear me out. The Paw Pass is a deal you purchase where you pay about 65 dollars and it gives you about 120 dollars worth of activities and items for your kids. There is so much more to do at Great Wolf Lodge besides the waterpark, but most of it costs extra money. I knew if we went without a plan we would feel overwhelmed at what extras we would allow our children to do and in the end probably pay more money than we had planned mostly because we had never been there and were uninformed. With the Paw Pass the kids were told before we went that they were not to ask for anything else. Not only did the kids love everything on the Paw Pass, and did not ask for anything extra on top of it. (well, except the 3 year old who didn't really "get" a lot of it. ;) ) And it was often a nice break from the waterpark.
|The ears and stuffies were part of the Paw Pass|
We also saved all our change for awhile and used that to budget for our two meals we ate out (one at the resort, the other was cheap pizza on the way home.)
Other ways to save? Let family know you are going to GWL and would LOVE some GWL gift cards for Christmas or birthdays! :)
7. Avoid the crowds. I already mentioned earlier that booking during off-season will give you less of a crowd. But I found that even during off-season it was busy enough for me. My husband and I are not fans of crowds though. However, we figured out on the last day that if we went to the waterpark during meal time, like dinner, it was less busy. Everyone was eating, and we were having fun with barely any lines for the slides!!!
All in all our weekend was filled with a lot of fun, and we stayed under budget. ;) Our 8 year old could go on every ride which really made it fun for me! I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much if we had went when all our kids were younger, as our three year old couldn't go on a lot of the slides. There was no shortage of things for him to do, but as someone who loves rides it was definitely way more fun going on the big slides with my 8 year old. My husband and I were able to take turns going on the bigger slides with our oldest and middle child. We probably will go to GWL lodge at least once more in our lifetime, but will wait for the next time to be when our youngest can go on all the slides. I think it all depends on your personality - if you love wild rides, or if you are content hanging in the wave pool with the little ones.
So go to Great Wolf Lodge to enjoy your mini getaway. ;)
Peace & Love. ;)