Parenting is about rolling with the punches. Before I had kids, I liked structure in my life, a schedule that I could rely on. Nowadays, I’ve learned to go with the flow. This hasn’t been an easy task for me, and has only been accomplished due to the unbelievable patience of my wife. She’s truly great with the kids. If you enjoy traveling, parenting also involves frequent changes of plans. This “roll with the punches” story comes with a new way to get a discount at Great Wolf Lodge.
We recently had one of those left-hand turns when I had to cancel my South American trip to stay home and take care of a sick wife and kids. The kids were all better by late in the week, while Mickie was still recovering. As we got into the weekend, everyone was feeling pretty much normal and the kids had Monday off from school, yielding a long weekend. My daughter had been clamoring to go to Great Wolf Lodge for months. For those not in the know, Great Wolf Lodge is a kid’s nirvana. It’s an indoor waterpark complete with other complimentary activities. For more extensive pictures, you can see one of my earlier reviews of it here, but there’s been a lot of changes.
Holiday/long weekends are busy times at Great Wolf Lodge. Back when they were a publicly-held company I bought some stock in them because I thought they did a really good job on the kid’s experiences. I learned that they planned their locations not to be right in major metropolitan areas, but to be within a 3-hour drive of as many major metro areas as they could. We have one just about 3 hours from where we live in DC (in Williamsburg VA), but that also means there’s a whole lot of other people who are within driving distance.
On these busy weekends, rates can be relatively high, with normal rooms shooting up over $400 a night. You have to stay at the hotel to have access to the waterpark and your room comes with 4 passes to the park, so the overall value isn’t too bad. But, I wasn’t really in the market to spend over $400 for a day at Great Wolf when we normally find sales that get us a themed room for the mid-$300 range. We woke up Sunday morning and I decided to take a peek at the website. The Williamsburg location was showing only a handful of rooms available (they had been sold out when I looked the day before). The only room type they had was a room with a hot-tub in it. Our kids prefer the themed rooms (Kid’s Kamp, Wolf Den, etc), so I called the hotel to see if they were truly sold out of everything else. I also figured there was an outside chance they might offer me a small discount if I booked a room last-minute that might go unsold.
The front desk agent I spoke with confirmed they only had the hot-tub rooms. As I was hemming and hawing, she mentioned that she’d be willing to give me a discount if I booked one of those rooms last-minute. I wasn’t expecting a big discount, so I was a bit surprised when she offered me a rate of $250, easily $50 cheaper than any rate we’ve ever paid there. I took her up on the offer and then broke the news to my wife that she needed to pack quickly. The way to maximize your value at Great Wolf Lodge is to arrive early on the day you check-in and grab your waterpark passes. You’re allowed to use the park starting at 1pm the day of check-in, and until 4pm on the day of check-out. So, you can essentially get 2 days at the waterpark for the price of one. It’s also worth noting that unless they’re sold out, Great Wolf has a habit of slipping a note under your door offering deeply discounted rates if you add on a day to your stay.
The room itself was similar to the pictures in my previous post, except substitute in a hot-tub for a kid’s play area.
The rooms all have refrigerators which are always helpful when traveling with young kids. Great Wolf Lodge has also been updating the activities on-site, including adding a small bowling alley, a large craft area where you can make your own stuffed animal and smaller food options beside the main restaurant, including a pizza place and Dunkin Donuts.
The extra food outlets are nice when the hotel is really busy, but the main restaurant consistently exceeds our expectations. The four of us ate dinner at the buffet, Michelle and I both had a glass of wine and the meal was still around $80 with tip. And, the buffet had a wide variety, including peel & eat shrimp, pasta made-to-order, carving stations and an asian section. This isn’t gourmet food, but well worth the price. The breakfast buffet for 4 set us back about $50.
They still have the traditional activities, like the arcade (where my daughter scored a jackpot), Magiquest (a treasure hunt game played throughout the hotel) and, of course, the waterpark.
Most amusement parks charge $75-$100 per person for an entry ticket these days. Great Wolf averages less than that and includes your hotel room. These aren’t glamour accommodations, but they’re good enough for a room that you won’t spend much time in. And, if you’re flexible on travel dates, I’ve seen them pop up on Groupon from time-to-time (though never for holidays or busy weekends). Every time I think my daughter has outgrown it, she starts begging us to go back. It’s simple fun, reasonably priced.
Don’t miss any of the daily travel tips, tricks and strategies found here. Follow me using one of these options: