Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Hungry Like the Wolf - 10 ways to make your trip to Great Wolf Lodge Better

Shortly after becoming a parent you'll realize that babies and kids have a lot of stuff.  Some of it is necessary like face clothes, towels, and winter boots, while other stuff builds like you're raising a small army of hoarders who collect broken toys, half constructed art projects, and puzzles missing various pieces.  Because of this we try to focus on a build memories, not acquire "stuff" rule for a lot of our gifting.

This means that when the minions receive monetary gifts, a good portion of it usually goes towards a fun activity that wouldn't normally be in our standard budget and not more stuff.  This past weekend our memory was an overnight trip to Great Wolf Lodge.

Image Courtesy of Toronto Teacher Mom

Great Wolf Lodge is essentially an indoor water park hotel with a rustic outdoors cabin in the woods theme with locations in Niagara Falls Canada and over a dozen places in the US.  It includes mascot creatures, like a tree, bears, and a moose that are all a part of their twice daily story time activities, kinda like that evil talking deer in Evil Dead only not evil (that I'm aware of).  Their basic mission is to create a family, memory filled, vacation experience.

While I'd say this isn't the most relaxing getaway for parents, our kids, and kids of all ages were in love with this place.  As we entered the hotel, there was literally a child kicking and screaming that they didn't want to leave, fortunately the minions are happy enough that we said we'd go back next winter.

Here are 10 hacks from our experience that can help make your stay better, and cheaper!

Storybook Centre at Great Wolf Lodge

  1. Don't book during peak times
    This will save you both coin and headaches of March Break crowds, and massive weekend lines.  By booking on a Sunday night we managed to save $100 on our room. 
  2.  Maximize your play while you stay
    Check in is at 4PM (or when your room is ready) and check out is at 11AM the following day, however you can visit the water park any time after 1PM on the day you arrive and continue using the facilities during the day you check out. 
  3. Be prepared for your room not to be ready
    If you arrive with bathing suits under your clothes and a small backpack, you can easily use the water park until your room is ready without having to rent a large locker (simply keep your stuff locked in your car) or rent a smaller locker.  All of the lockers are in the actual water park, so this means that your clothes can get pretty wet from drips and splashes from the slides running all around you.  By wearing appropriate clothes to the park you can avoid looking like a flasher (after my jeans and shirt got soaked on their way into the locker I made my way up to our room wearing knee length boots and a trench coat over my bathing suit, it was a short walk, but I still felt silly).
  4.  The extras seem fun, but expensive
    There are a lot of cool extras, like a magic quest game, adult and kid focused spas, an arcade, on site babysitting, bowling, and a PJ club at night.  All of these have a cost associated with them.  We figured we were paying enough for the room and skipped all of the extras.  The park wristbands are also your hotel keys and can be used to pay for anything in the park, so make sure you know what you're scanning cause it's all going to show up on your credit card bill at check out. Use extra caution if you decide to activate one of your kids' wristbands with purchasing power.  For our stay the water park, and complimentary evening story time were more than enough to keep the kids entertained and happy.
  5. Take advantage of complimentary life jackets
    The water park has a ton of complimentary life jackets, while we didn't make the minions wear these in the splash pad, this made our lives a lot less stressful in the wave pool, regular pool, slide area, and lazy river.  This meant I felt confident in the wave pool with both kids solo while Chris got to check out some water slides too big for the minions.
  6. Bring a lot of food
    While you can't enjoy outside food in the water park, you can eat in your room for a fraction of the cost of purchasing at the lodge. Each room has a fridge and a microwave for personal use.  Bring more food for meals and between meals, even if you plan on eating out or at the hotel. The water park is hungry work, and your kids will quickly go from playing in the water to hangry land based monsters bent on destruction. There are several restaurants at the lodge, but I can't verify any quality as we brought our own lunch and snacks, then had dinner out so we could show the kids the actual Niagara Falls.  If you want to eat at the lodge you can purchase an inclusive meal package at $50 per day per adult or $25 per day for kids.
  7. Bring yourself some libations if you want a drink
    There is a bar in the back of the restaurant and in the "snack shack" at the pool, but they aren't advertised because of the family themed nature of the establishment.  Because we have four year olds who wanted to be in the water ALL THE TIME there wasn't really time for us to have a drink until we got back to the room, post story time.
  8. Bring something quiet for the adults to do at night
    Even though we splurged for a themed "Wolf Den Suite" with enclosed bunk beds, the kids could still hear us and we could definitely hear them. We thought they'd be so tired they'd fall asleep almost instantly, but unfortunately Jack was wired and remained up and singing songs until 10PM. Bring some cards, books, or magazines, to enjoy until the kids nod off. The hotel advertises that they lend board games, just contact the front desk.  The Niagara Great Wolf Lodge does not offer movies to watch in your suite,but has basic TV, so bring your own electronic device if you think you'll want to kick back with a film either before or after the kids go to bed.
  9. The chlorinated water will wreak havoc
    Bring some extra moisturizer, or eczema care cream for sensitive skin and make sure your kids have a good rinse off after their day of play.  Anyone with long hair, particularly kids will want to bring some good cream rinse, an ouchless brush, and some patience to get rid of the birds nest level tangles that will be a result of the chlorine and epic amounts of water splashed, thrown onto it.  I'm not going to lie, there were some tangle related tears.
  10. Stay hydrated
    The water park is intentionally kept at a warm 84 degrees F (29 degrees C) which is great, but you will get thirsty.  Bring plenty of water for everyone to drink before, during and after their stay to ensure hydration.  It's days later and I'm still thirsty!

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