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13 Tips to Save BIG at Great Wolf Lodge for Your Vacation

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13 tips for your great wolf lodge vacation | giant slide and pool

Been to Great Wolf Lodge?

Updated June 8, 2018. If you’re looking for a fun, family vacation that everyone will enjoy this summer, consider planning a trip to one of the 15 Great Wolf Lodge resorts! Everyone is sure to enjoy the fun water park, as well as staying in a lodge filled with lots of activities for everyone – including arcades, spas, fitness rooms, specialty restaurants, and children’s activity areas with Yoga and bowling.

BUT, before booking your trip and planning your stay, here are a few helpful tips you may want to read first, along with personal experiences/quotes from Hip2Save sidekicks!

1. Save BIG with package deals.

13 tips for your great wolf lodge vacation | beach entry pool

You can often find deals on Groupon, Zulily, and even on the Great Wolf Lodge website for huge savings! Plus, be sure to check for promo codes if booking on the Great Wolf Lodge site. If you can book at least 60 days in advance, you can save up to 50% on a three or more night stay.

Keep in mind that additional taxes and fees may apply in order to provide additional services that are often charged individually by other resorts. This fee covers services such as wireless internet, self-parking, fitness center access, in-room coffee and two bottles of water, life jackets and towels in the water park, access to fax, wolf ears, local phone calls, and a concierge service.

“Booking early and booking during weekdays if possible saves the most money. Make sure to get on their mailing list as I have seen some of the best promotions come directly from them rather than Groupon, etc. We stayed for $99/night with one of their emails. We didn’t get a theme room but we did get the big family suite. I mean $99/night is what you’d pay at Holiday Inn, right?!”

2. Enjoy the water park for FREE on check-in day.

13 tips for your great wolf lodge vacation | lazy river

Consider driving to the resort in your swimsuits as you can gain access to the water park as early as 1PM on the day of check-in and enjoy the water park until closing time on the day of check out (usually around 9PM). You can check-in to your room starting at 4PM and must check out by 11AM on check-out day. That means you can essentially enjoy two full days in the water park for just a one-night stay!

If you plan on staying until the water park closes on your check-out day, be sure to be out of your room by 11AM and store your luggage at the front desk or in your car. It would also be very helpful to pack a smaller bag with a change of clothes that you can take into the water park and store inside their lockers (available for rent). You can also use their showers and dryers inside the water park.

“We love that they let you check in early. Arrival is supposed to be 3PM, but we arrived at 11AM on a Monday and they got us right in a room. We got to spend most of the day at the park, plus you can stay at the water park all day after checkout, too.”

3. Don’t pack life jackets or beach towels.

13 tips for your great wolf lodge vacation | giant slide and pool -- girl with life vest smiling

Don’t bother packing extra beach or bath towels as both are provided by the water park. However, you may want to bring a swimsuit cover-up as the beach towels must stay in the water park area (and bath towels must stay in your suite). Also, Coast Guard approved life jackets are available in a variety of sizes so you won’t need to bring your own unless you want to (inflatables are also not allowed).

“Safety vests and towels are available for all guests with no limits! Seating in the water park is on a first come first serve basis. They also have an area for infants/younger kids to enjoy and parents are encouraged to go in and play with them. The indoor wave pool has 3 different settings, calm, medium (which was great for the kids to kick and float around), and a higher setting which was a bit much for 3 and 5 year olds on their own, even with puddle jumpers.”

4. Military & first responders get discounts.

13 tips for your great wolf lodge vacation | girl hugging man in service uniform

Great Wolf Lodge offers a 30% off discount to all qualifying military and first responder families through their Howling Heroes program. Note that a valid ID must be presented at check-in and you must apply promo code HEROES at checkout when making an online reservation.

“Thank you Great Wolf Lodge for offering discounts for military and first responders!”

5. Know everything there is to do.

13 tips for your great wolf lodge vacation | young girls getting pedicures

Although each resort offers different attractions, all resorts offer a variety of games, attractions, and activities for your family to enjoy during your stay. Be sure to ask for board games from the front desk as it is a great way to unwind whenever everyone is tired and just wanting to relax in your room.

You can explore the lodge playing MagiQuest or ShadowQuest (an interactive adventure game), get pampered at Scooops Kid Spa (or the Elements Spa Salon for adults and teens), play games at the Northern Lights Arcade, visit the Iron Horse Fitness Center (with cardio & weight training equipment, flat-screen TVs, and towel service), and even attend a nightly Story Time and lobby show in your PJs.

“There are lots of free things to do – activities like bingo, dancing with bubbles, etc. are going on in the lobby quite frequently. Lots of them are geared toward younger kids in the 3-6 range.”

6. Bring food & snacks from home.

13 tips for your great wolf lodge vacation | food containers packed with food

You are welcome to bring your own coolers to Great Wolf Lodge but they are not allowed in the water park area. Since rooms do have microwaves and mini fridges, you can easily save money by having a supply of snacks and drinks in your room. A reader also suggested ordering pizza from Domino’s or Pizza Hut and having it delivered to the lobby and eating it there (can’t take to your room).

13 tips for your great wolf lodge vacation | pizza and soda

If you’d rather just eat at one of the on-site restaurants, one of the best options for feeding a hungry crew is to order a large 16″ pizza with toppings from Hungry as a Wolf, which costs around $14-$16, depending on your location. Bring a few 2-liter sodas with you to avoid paying for drinks and you’ll have a much more affordable dinner than eating at the restaurants.

“We never eat there because the food is too pricey. We always bring a huge bag of breakfast foods, snacks, sandwich fixings, etc. And we eat out for dinner. So much cheaper.”

7. Save 42% by buying kid passes.

13 tips for your great wolf lodge vacation | child with dragon backpack

If your kids want to do extra activities around the resort that cost money, such as MagiQuest or ShadowQuest, getting a Glitz Glitter Tattoo, making a Creation Station animal, or an Oliver’s Mining Co. Experience, consider getting a Paw Pass for just $79.99 (regularly $111.99). The Paw Pass includes:

  • Choice of MagiQuest or ShadowQuest game
  • Choice of a classic wand, standard topper, or Magi belt
  • One Creation Station animal (outfit not included)
  • One Clubhouse Crew Adventure
  • One Oliver’s Mining Co. Experience
  • One Paw Points arcade/attractions card (20 points)
  • One 12 oz. candy cup – sweet! 🍭
  • One pair of Great Wolf Lodge goggles from Bear Essentials Swim Shop
  • One Glitz Glitter Tattoo
  • One Leather Treaty name bracelet from Buckhorn Exchange Gift Shop

The Wolf Pass is priced at $89.99 and it includes all of the above plus one game of bowling at Ten Paw Alley, one Compass Quest game, one game of Howl at the Moon Glow Golf, one movie at Howly Wood XD Theater, one game at Oliver’s Time Challenge, and one $5.00 Paw Points game card.

The Pup Pass is $52.99 (regularly $78.99+) and includes one Color-Your-Own Item at The Great Wolf Kids Store (t-shirt or pillowcase), one Creation Station animal, one Clubhouse Crew Adventure, one Oliver’s Mining Co. Experience, one Paw Points arcade / attractions card (20 points), one 12 oz. candy cup, and one single scoop ice cream cone from Bear Paw Sweets & Eats.

“We opted for the Paw Pass for $79.99 because the kids were dying to do the MagiQuest. If given the opportunity, my kids that are seven and eight would spend more time doing the MagiQuest than they would the water park. It is seriously their favorite thing. They had so much fun trying to decipher the clues and complete each mission.”

8. Print coupons and save while you’re there.

13 tips for your great wolf lodge vacation | great wolf candy company storefront

If you’re planning to purchase items in the shops and/or take advantage of their services and entertainment options, be sure to print these coupons before heading to Great Wolf Lodge. To find coupons for your region, just click on your location and add “/coupons” to the end of the URL.

“They have extras to add on – kids salon for mani/pedi, arcades, fun souvenir stores, etc. that are decently priced, especially with their coupons!”

9. Know when to avoid the crowds.

13 tips for your great wolf lodge vacation | great wolf lodge front

To avoid crowds, hit the water park right when it opens (usually 9AM) and an hour before it closes (usually closes at 9PM). The lines at the water park are usually the longest in the middle of the day, especially for popular water slides, so try to go on as many rides as you can during non-peak hours.

10. Guard your wristbands.

13 tips for your great wolf lodge vacation | wristband

The Great Wolf Lodge wristband is an important part of your lodge stay as it acts as your room key and payment method, valid to use anywhere in the lodge during your stay. When you check-in, your credit card information is added to your wristband, so you’ll want to be sure and guard it carefully.

If you don’t want your kids having access to your credit card, be sure to mention this at check-in and they will get a different color wristband that will deny them access to your credit card. Whenever you leave the resort, it’s a good idea to cut or shred the wristbands so no one can access your information.

13 tips for your great wolf lodge vacation | wristbands in a jar

Also, if your wristband is too long, a Pack Member at the resort will clip off the tail to make it less irritating for you. Plus, wristband snips are saved by each department and then entered in the “Great Wolf Tail Competition”. Each little tail is collected, saved, and put in a large container as part of a monthly, spirited contest across all resort areas. The challenge is to see which department is a “cut above the rest”, and how many guests had their wristbands sized to perfection. Pretty cool!

“I loved that they had a specific wristband color based on height. This way kids that are too small for taller rides are not allowed for safety reasons.”

11. Going to California?

13 tips for your great wolf lodge vacation | someone wearing mouse ears

If you’re planning your trip to Anaheim, CA, consider checking out their packages that will allow you to save on Disneyland Resort tickets, too. For instance, you can save up to 20% on a two, 30% on a three or 40% on a four-night stay at Great Wolf Lodge Anaheim, CA and they’ll bundle in Disneyland Resort tickets. Plus, Great Wolf Lodge also provides a shuttle to and from Disneyland for its guests.

12. Take advantage of a free Shutterfly photo book.

13 tips for your great wolf lodge vacation | shutterfly photo book

As one of Great Wolf Lodge’s partners, Shutterfly offers guests a promo code for a FREE 20-page 8×8 hardcover Photo Book ($29.99 value)! Whenever you get to your room, look for a Shutterfly promotional card near a sample photo book with a unique promo code to redeem your offer.

“We love Shutterfly Photo Books, so this was a great and frugal way to cherish all the fun memories we had at Great Wolf Lodge!”

13. Got food allergies? No worries!

13 tips for your great wolf lodge vacation | family enjoying pizza

If you or a family member has food allergies, you may be happy to know that Great Wolf Lodge takes food allergies very seriously and will do everything to accommodate your needs. The resort’s chef will personally come out and talk with you and discuss your needs for a gluten-free menu.

Written by Mary for Hip2Save. Mary is a proud mom to 3 kids in Austin, TX, who thrives off Jesus, running long distance, bargain shopping, warm Texas weather, a yummy latte…and a little Candy Crush from time to time. She also loves quality time with family & friends and sharing great deals with others.

Join The Discussion

Comments 18

  1. Heather C

    Collin, can I pin this from the Hip2Save app or do I need to go to the regular site?

  2. Jessica

    Using a crockpot (#6) is prohibited in their guest policies.

    • Mary (Stellar Sidekick)

      Thanks for letting us know Jessica!

  3. Suzanne H

    We have gone to GWL twice. The 2nd time we went, we had 9 people to feed. I ordered from Domino’s (with a coupon of course). I asked if they could call our room once they arrived and they were happy to oblige. The person at the front desk laughed when I came to the lobby to get the pizzas but said she thought it was pretty smart and not against the rules as they do allow outside food in your rooms. We paid WAY less than any of the onsite food, no one had to cook and we got pizza, salad and dessert!

    • Mary (Stellar Sidekick)

      Great tip!

    • Heather C

      Thanks Suzanne!!

  4. K

    Why aren’t you allowed to take pizza to your room? Isn’t it basically a hotel room? That’s just odd.

    • Evan

      I was wondering the same thing. Hmm I get that they want you to buy from them but at the same time, that could/would really turn off some people.

    • Rebecca

      Yeah that’s weird. Someone above said it IS allowed & they’ve done it.

    • Shannon

      I was coming to ask the same thing! I eat outside food in hotel rooms all the time!

  5. ExtraHip

    We bring a Pizzazz pizza cooker. When we get to our destination, we stop by a grocery store to pick up frozen pizza (& other perishables like fruit, veggies, milk, lunch meat, cheese). We take the pizzas out of the box so they fit in the freezer in the mini fridge. We bring a pizza cutter from home and slice the pizza on the cardboard circle that comes with frozen pizza. Add some paper plates and we’re dining for less every night.

  6. Sara

    I attend a lot of professional conferences at waterparks. Because I am working, I do not use my water park wrist bands. I always ask for the bands and find a way to share them with others so that they can enjoy complimentary use of the water park.

    • Sandy

      Very thoughtful of you!

  7. Izzy

    I went with my husband and son to the williamsburg GW as part of my work conference. We found the selection for my son’s allergy to be really poor. We had indicated he had dairy allergy and the food provided was mainly spaghetti with cream sauce and other food containing dairy like biscuits. When we talked to the chefs, they basically just told him to eat the pasta without the sauce. So much for being allergy friendly …

  8. Emily

    We just got back from great Wolf Lodge New England and they definitely let you bring in whatever food you would like. We went out for pizza, brought back pizza, ate leftovers and brought all of our drinks and food with us. and other people were bringing all sorts of things from home so you can bring whatever you’d like to your room just not inside the water park.

  9. Tana

    We go about every 3 month. Usually we get an offer to check out by 9am (instead 11) and you get free lg pizza and a free locker for the rest of the day. It’s well worth it for us since we wanna head to the water park right in the morning!

  10. Irina

    The one in Southern California has a great group of businesses next door with many restaurant options as well as a supermarket – all easily walk-able. The Vietnamese restaurant (I believe it’s called Saigon 9) had great food for less than 1/2 the price of eating at the resort!

    • Susan

      IRINA thank you for sharing. We’re headed to GWL and then Disney never been to Cali before and I’m very happy to hear there are restraunts and a grocery store.
      Any other tips you can share.

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