When it comes to family vacations, we’re the type of family who prefers to spend our time camping in the woods, exploring a new town, or just playing tourist in our own city. Resorts like Great Wolf Lodge don’t always rank high on our list of places to visit. But when you have young kids, sometimes you can’t avoid doing the mainstream family travel activities.
I had been trying to ignore my daughter’s requests to visit Great Wolf Lodge for quite some time, but I couldn’t hold off much longer. So back in the fall, after a week and a half away from the kids for a work trip, I decided to surprise my daughter with a night’s stay at Great Wolf Lodge.
My kids were over the moon when we pulled up into the parking lot of Great Wolf Lodge. Since we live in Washington state, the nearest one to us is located at Grand Mound, WA. However, there are a number of other locations spread out across the United States.
We only stayed a night, but that was more than enough time needed to get our fill of water parks and resort activities. One of the things I noticed about Great Wolf Lodge is that while it touts itself as an affordable family vacation destination, it can get pretty pricey pretty fast! You can easily spend $1,000 or more with just one visit.
Luckily, I had a few tricks up my sleeves to help us save money at Great Wolf Lodge, without sacrificing any of the fun. If you’re planning a water park trip in the near future, here is my ultimate guide on how to save money at Great Wolf Lodge.
Sign up for online deals
Early last year, my husband and I decided to look into staying at Great Wolf Lodge. But with rooms averaging $200-$300 a night, I just wasn’t ready to drop that much cash, even if it did come with some cute wolf den decor. Fortunately, I had signed up for Great Wolf Lodge’s mailing list, and within a few weeks, I had already received some great online deals. For this particular visit, I was able to cash in on a deal that offered up to 50% off the listed rate, depending on the number of days you book. Since we only planned to book one night, I ended up only getting around 15% off the listed rate, but that still saved me around $30! Signing up for the deals is easy, and if you miss out on one deal, you’ll most likely get another one in your inbox soon.
Avoid weekend bookings
Like any park or resort, the weekend rates for rooms at Great Wolf Lodge are much higher than the weekday rates. If you can swing it with your schedule, try and plan for a visit during a week day rather than a weekend. At the very least, try and come earlier in the weekend rather than later. For our visit, we chose to book a Friday night, with a check-out on Saturday. Just by coming on a Friday versus a Saturday, we were able to save around $50!
Go in the off season
Since Great Wolf Lodge’s main claim to fame is their indoor water park, the winter months are peak season for the resort. To save some money, I suggest scheduling a visit during off-peak times, like the fall or spring. Our visit was in early fall, when the weather had just started to turn cold. Doing that, we were able to save around $100 from what we would have paid for a visit during the winter months.
Bring your own food
Resort food can get quite pricey, even at Great Wolf Lodge. Fortunately, all the rooms come equipped with mini fridges and microwaves. While we did enjoy a breakfast and lunch at Great Wolf Lodge, we ended up bring along some of our own food, including food for dinner. After an afternoon of playing at the water park, it was nice to relax and veg out in front of the television with some warmed up home-cooked meals. Eating our own food helped save us at least $20.
Split your meals
Even though we brought our own food, we also wanted to experience some of the dining options at Great Wolf Lodge. One of the ways we saved money on our meals was by splitting them. In general, for our family of four, this either means my husband and I sharing an entree while the kids each get a kids meal, or we order two or three entrees and eat the food family style. Doing this at Great Wolf Lodge, we were able to save around $50, including potential tax and tip!
Borrow some wands
Besides having water parks to play around in, Great Wolf Lodge is also full of other fun attractions, including an interactive game called MagiQuest that takes you throughout the whole resort. With the aid of wands, players complete activities in a scavenger-hunt style quest. The wands can make various objects around the lodge come to life, and it gives the kids something fun to do after they’re done with swimming. A tip that a friend of mine gave me before we went to Great Wolf Lodge was to borrow wands from a family who had already gone. I have to say, this is quite a genius tip! New wands range from $16-$23 dollars, so with our borrowed wands, we were able to save at least $32! All we needed to do was purchase new games in order to activate the wands.
Skip out on the packages
Great Wolf Lodge is like Vegas for kids. Everywhere you turn, you’re bombarded with games, souvenirs, lights, sounds, and everything in between. There are toppers you can add to your wand, there are additional quests you can buy, a spa geared for kids, and even an arcade. One of the packages that Great Wolf Lodge tries to sell you is the Paw Pass, which they tout as having the potential of saving you up to 40% of what you’d pay for the additional activities and souvenirs. But quite honestly, if you’re only staying for a night, all of those extra activities and souvenirs is just sensory overload. We chose to opt out of the extras, and by doing this, we saved at least $80. At check-in, each kid gets a pair of wolf ears anyway, and in my opinion, that’s enough souvenirs for our family.
Come early, leave late
One of the best tips for saving money at Great Wolf Lodge is to come early and stay late. On the day of arrival, you have access to the water park as early as 1 pm. So even though check-in is around 3 or 4, you can still enjoy a couple of hours of water play before actually going to your room. Another great thing is that after you check-out, you still have access to the water park all the way until the park closes for that day. So essentially, you get one extra day of fun! We took advantage of this, and arrived early. And although we didn’t quite make it to closing the next day, we did still stay until well after we checked out. Doing that saved us another $200!
In total, using all of these tricks, we were able to save over $500 on our trip to Great Wolf Lodge. It took a bit of research, and some self-restraint (especially the ability to say no to my kids when they begged for extra souvenirs!), but we were able to have a great time while still staying within our budget.
Have you been to Great Wolf Lodge? Share your tips for how to save money at Great Wolf Lodge in the comments below!
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