As our kids get older we have made an effort to move towards experiences rather than toys as gifts. A few months back our family was treated to a media sneak peek at Great Wolf Lodge in Southern California and the kids have been begging to stay at the Resort ever since. At first glance, Great Wolf Lodge is a little out of the price range for many (us included) and we told them that maybe we could visit sometime in the future. Because I am really good at finding a deal, I made it my mission to figure out how to save money on a trip to Great Wolf Lodge. I am excited to share how we were able to stay at Great Wolf Lodge as a family of five and save hundreds of dollars.
Great Wolf Lodge is not just a hotel. While many hotels tack on a ‘resort fee’ without any resort amenities, Great Wolf Lodge is a delightful exception. Great Wolf Lodge is a giant water park for families with tons of activities that just happens to have a hotel! There are lots of fun activities that you can add on to your stay, but there are also tons of fun activities included in your stay! Water park admission is included in the price of your stay. We were greeted with complimentary Wolf Ears (I assumed these would need to be purchased!) and balloon animal. We enjoyed tons of included fun throughout our stay.
Check Groupon for deals. We found that all Great Wolf Lodge locations are listed on Groupon regularly. We saw deals for Great Wolf Lodges all over the country, some as little as $99 for the night! Remember this includes water park admission and a night’s stay! I always suggest checking out the top banner on Groupon’s main page before checking out with your purchase, you can often get an additional percentage off.
Prices vary greatly depending on what day you thinking of staying and even based on the time of year. A week day during the off season is your best bet. We saved nearly $100 staying on a Sunday night in January rather than a weekend during the holiday break or summer break.
Hotel Rooms hold 6 or more guests. We were seriously impressed by the room options. As a family of five we are often reminded that most travel accommodations are built with a family of four in mind.
Remember that the price to stay at Great Wolf Lodge is not just your hotel stay, but also admission tickets to the Water Park for up to four guests. While you will not need to get another room, you will need to purchase additional water park admissions for any more than 4 guests. We had to pay for one additional ticket. The ticket was $50 and included the day we checked in and the day we checked out.
Guests can check into the water park as early as 1pm the day of their arrival. Make sure to allow time to play the day you check in and the day you check out. We splurged on one night. You can bet our frugal family checked into the water park the moment we were allowed to on the night we arrived. We also checked out the next morning, put our things at the bell desk, and then went back into the water park for a couple hours. There are bathrooms and showers in the water park so we were able to get dry and cozy before we said goodbye!
Take advantage of the in room fridge and microwave. The food is very good at Great Wolf Lodge, but we didn’t eat in any of their restaurants during our stay. Quick research showed that we could easily spend a couple hundred more dollars on food during our stay so we skipped it. We brought our own supplies to make breakfast, snacks, and even sandwiches for lunch.
The SoCal Great Wolf Lodge is right on the border of Anaheim and Garden Grove. This is a very touristy area and there are tons of restaurants close by. Our kids were starving by dinner time and wanted to go to the buffet. We hopped into the car and downloaded a coupon for Souplantation which was about 15 minutes away. Dinner was just over $40 for all of us, rather than well over $100 which is what the price would have been at the resort. We could have been even more frugal with a stop to McDonalds, Subway, Carls Jr, or many other fast food places we saw on our drive to Souplantation. We saw several guests bringing in pizzas to eat in their rooms too. I am not sure about Great Wolf Lodges in other areas of the country, but the one in Southern California had many convenient food options very close by.
Don’t upgrade to a fancy room. The deluxe rooms are themed out so perfectly, but if you are on a budget it is such an easy decision. The standard room was a great size. We had two queen sized beds and a pull out couch. While some themed rooms are really extra fancy, we still loved the rustic decor and we were very comfortable! Remember your stay includes water park tickets, they won’t be inside the rooms much anyway.
Take advantage of all the things that are included! Our kids enjoyed cartoon drawing lessons, night time dance parties, story time, a character meet and greet, and even balloon animals made in the lobby! We realized we missed a yoga class and face painting – both are also complimentary with your stay.
Paw Pass can be a deal, but really think about it if you are only staying one night. We skipped the other add on activities and didn’t feel like we missed out on anything. When we visited as a part of the media event we were able to enjoy some of the add on games. My kids had a great time, but nobody seemed to mind that we did not do these things on this trip. They really only wanted to play at the water park. Our kids love arcade games, but they were no competition for the water park.
WiFi is included as part of the Resort Fee. Don’t spend money on renting a movie, just bring your device and enjoy a movie in your library.
Remember to bring your swim suit, cover up, goggles, and water shoes or flip flops. You can leave your towels, sunscreen, hats, and life vests at home. Towels and life vests are available to use at no additional charge at Great Wolf Lodge. Our family tends to go to a water park a couple times a year and I hate taking wet towels home, I love that they provided that service. I also loved that we did not need to take hats or sunscreen for protection. Reapplying sunscreen to myself and three kids is a recipe for at least one person getting burned (usually me) and a bunch of kids being mad at me for just trying to keep them safe. I loved not needing to participate in this chore than nobody enjoys. Should you forget any of the items mentioned at the beginning, you will be happy to see they are available for purchase (but that isn’t very budget friendly!).
A few things people have asked about that are not about budget, but I thought were worth mentioning…
Allergies : If you choose to eat at Great Wolf Lodge, you should know they are excellent about catering to guests with allergies. Whether you have a food allergy, sensitivity, or preference – there are many options available to you. We were told that all allergies are taken very seriously. Let your server know someone in your party has an allergy and the chef will come out personally to discuss your needs. As a mom of children with preferences, but also one with an allergy, this is really wonderful news.
Special Needs : There is a lot of accessibility throughout the Resort and a few things are accessible in the water park. Unfortunately, I don’t believe any of the slides were accessible. We did notice a wheel chair entry into the river and I believe the wave pool was wheel chair accessible as well. Ramps for navigating the water park were wide enough for a wheel chair user to navigate with ease. As far as other special needs, I would personally suggest calling and talking to the front desk. Our experience is that kids with sensory seeking tendencies, this resort is all one could ever dream of. I am not sure if there are suggestions or any accommodations that can be made for children that are overwhelmed easily. We found that Great Wolf Lodge was very stimulating to all our kid’s senses and I know that all kids are wired differently. I am not qualified to say and I was not able to get an appropriate answer on their website, but I found that the entire staff was so helpful when I called or spoke in person about other things. I would suggest calling to ask if you have any concerns.
Our stay at Grew Wolf Lodge was everything our kids dreamed it would be. While it was still a splurge, we were so happy to find a great deal on Groupon and also save some money in other ways. If you have been to Great Wolf Lodge before and have other money saving tips, I hope you will leave them in the comment section.