Last week, our family took a quick overnight trip to Great Wolf Lodge in Centralia, WA (about 1/2 way between Seattle and Portland). While the resort had hosted us in the past, this trip was at our own expense, and it was important to me to keep our costs down. It's no secret that a trip to Great Wolf is a splurge, but with advance planning, you can keep your costs under control.
Save on Your Room
- Travel Midweek: Do you have a school break that isn't a traditional travel time? Perhaps day two of parent teacher conferences when you are scheduled on day 1? Rooms tend to be significantly cheaper midweek than on the weekends.
- Look for Rate Specials: Instead of heading straight to the company's reservation page, take a minute to find the "deals" link on the homepage (here's the link for Great Wolf Grand Mound Deals) and see whether any might work for you. If you are a member of an Auto Club, a teachers union or a government agency, call the reservations line and ask whether there are any discounts for your organization.
- Book Early...or latePrices tend to be cheaper if you book well in advance, but it's always worth looking for a last minute deal if you find yourself in the need of a spur-of-the-moment getaway. If you are waiting for the "right" rate, get on the Great Wolf Lodge mailing list.
- Don't fall for "Package Options": Package Options like breakfast or lunch rarely represent a value.
- Use the Water Park All Day
Remember that you can use the water park beginning on 1pm on your checkin day and until the park closes on the day you check out. You might save money on an extra night by leaving the park just after dinnertime and heading home.
Save on Food and Incidentals
- Bring Your Own Food: Rooms have a refrigerator and microwave. I've seen families show up with a crock pot! Treats like ice cream or fudge can be a budget breakers too, so if you're on a tight budget be sure to pack some special treats.
- Check your list twice! You'll pay a premium for swimsuits, sandals or swim diapers once you're at Great Wolf, make sure you have everything you need before you zip up your suitcase.
- Ask What's Free In addition to the paid crafts and activities you'll see signs about in the cub club, there is also a small selection of free activities. Ask the staff what's available at the time of your visit. Ask for information about scheduled story times and other activities as well.
- Save on your Cell Phone When you arrive, ask for information about signing up to receive discount texts on your phone. But be careful, you might be so drawn in by a deal that you end up spending money on something you hadn't planned to buy.
- Leave the Resort for Dinner There are many food options near Great Wolf Lodge. Some cheaper, some more expensive. For our family, leaving the lodge for an hour or so to eat gives us a "reset" that lets us throw ourselves back into the waterpark with gusto
- Bring a Refillable Water Bottle or Coffee Cup Instead of buying expensive bottled water, bring your own refillable bottle. Starbucks (located in the lobby) will also give you a discount for bringing your own mug)
- Order "Take Out" If you don't bring your own meals, or dine off-site, ask about lower prices on takeout meal packages that you eat in the lobby (During our trip, a Pizza, Salad, 2 Liter soda and breadsticks was available for $25. That was more than enough food to feed our family of 5)
Additional expenses to expect
- Locker rental fee so that you can lock up your valuables while you enjoy the water ($10)
- Resort fee ($9.99 during our visit)
- Poolside Snacks. You cannot bring your own food into the pool area (it's ok to eat outside food in the lobby area) so you'll probably end up buying a few snacks to keep the fun going.
Great Wolf Lodge and Surrounding Area with Kids
Travel Story: Family Vacation at Great Wolf Lodge
Budget this for your Family Vacation
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