12 Tips for Saving Money at Great Wolf Lodge

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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Don't fall for "Package Options": Package Options like breakfast or lunch rarely represent a value.
  5. 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
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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
  11. 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)
  12. 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. Related Links
    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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    1. Bluegreen Kirk on March 14, 2011 at 6:58 a.m.

      I have found that traveling midweek saves a lot of money on a lot from airtravel to hotel prices. Take out is another great idea.

    2. Charles McCool on March 14, 2011 at 10:21 a.m.

      Here is an item to save money on food that sort of combines a few of your existing items:

      - leave the property, get takeout, and bring it back to the room. Kids can have a dinner/movie night. Parents can, also, either with the kids or in a different room (if suite).

    3. Debbie on March 15, 2011 at 2:31 p.m.

      Great points! We have also used local delivery services on occasion - Pizza or even Chinese or Thai food!

    4. tripgirl6 on March 17, 2011 at 2:30 a.m.

      Very useful tips, not just for the Great Wolf Lodge but for other trips as well. It's all on effectively planning your getaway. Midweek travels/bookings could usually save you a lot of money vs weekend trips...also food and other supplies are usually cheaper outside the compound.

    5. carolinagirl on March 24, 2011 at 12:24 a.m.

      I enjoy your blog! Instead of calling the main "800" number for reservations, I would suggest that you call the lodge directly. Many times you can get a better rate this way. Remember the best times to go are Monday through Thursday.

    6. Jacinda Green on March 31, 2011 at 1:23 p.m.

      Great tips!

      Only $25 for dinner for a family?! Great bargain!

    7. Car Rental Kenya on April 2, 2011 at 4:02 a.m.

      I enjoy your blog post content. I really like the way written this post. It is nice and very cool. Nice and thanks for share your ideas with us. Thanks a lot.

    8. Lizinoly on December 17, 2012 at 10:09 p.m.

      We went to the same GWL in Centralia. We stopped by Tumwater Costco on our way there and picked up a pizza, we brought packets to put in waterbottle a that we brought as a "fun drink" for kids. We also packed a cooler with fruits and veggies.
      I LOVE the crockpot idea. Thanks!!!

    9. lisa on November 19, 2013 at 6:49 a.m.

      We leave tomorrow. Can't wait. Thanks for the tips. I will be blogging about our stay too!

    10. bridgett smith on January 6, 2015 at 5:35 p.m.

      Hi appreciate everyone's posts I was just thinking about taking my grand kids this weekend just up and going but !after reading all the post and everything I appreciate it so much so I will plan ahead before I go. I'll plan during the week and take them because they do go to school# but 2 day I don't think that would hurt too much. everyone has posted some very important things and really good things to look out for. it just wasn't on my mind. looking forward to taking the grandkids and having some fun and saving some money and I will take my crockpot and snacks. Nana Thank you.