Great Wolf Lodge is an awesome vacation spot for families, but costs can add up quickly. Check out these practical tips to save money at Great Wolf Lodge.
Great Wolf Lodge is an amazing indoor waterpark (and much more) that offers families a great vacation no matter the season. With four kids ranging from ages 4 to 11, our whole family had a blast at Great Wolf Lodge and my kids were begging to go back as soon as possible. But as anyone with a large family will tell you, vacation trips can get expensive quickly.
Thankfully, Great Wolf Lodge caters to big spenders while not excluding us budgeting families. Yes, we may have to do a bit more legwork on the front end, but it pays off in dividends once you realize how affordable a trip to Great Wolf Lodge can be.
Through our own trial and error, find out how you can save money at Great Wolf Lodge without sacrificing any fun or family time.
Start with the Deals Page
Every Great Wolf Lodge location has a Deals page on the top navigation of its website. This is where you should start first when you begin planning a trip to Great Wolf Lodge. (Click here to find a lodge near you so you can navigate to its Deals page.)
Seasonal deals may include 40% or more savings on bookings within the next two or three months. The ESAVER deal (up to 50% off) seems to be an ongoing offering for those who book a stay 90 days prior to their visit.
On the Deals page, you can also find codes encouraging your to book 2, 3 or more nights in a row. Keep these deals in mind when you begin your search for when to visit Great Wolf Lodge. You can go ahead and enter the deal that works best for you in the code box as you begin your search.
Avoid Holidays and Weekends
As fun and festive as it may be to book a trip to Great Wolf Lodge during holidays (I’m calling out myself here!), you’ll get much more bang for your buck if you avoid booking on holidays. In fact, if I had booked our room on a weekday instead of a holiday, I would have saved nearly $200 for a one-night stay!
Check out the Great Wolf Lodge Rate Calendar (circled above) and you’ll see that prices fluctuate monthly and daily. The Family Suite pictured above is as low as $299 on weeknights and up to $869 on a Saturday night in February (see calendar below). Booking during the week (if possible) is nearly always guaranteed to save you hundreds of dollars.
Just remember that it really pays off to consider the calendar rates and keep your travel dates flexible as you find the best deal. Some of the best deals happen when you book last minute and you can also get some great deals when you book well in advance.
If you’re budgeting for your trip, be sure to calculate these added fees:
- Resort Fee $39.99
- Room sales tax 7%
- County lodging tax 8%
- State hotel fee $5 a night
Keep in mind that these fees may fluctuate for each state. These fees are accurate as of January 2023 for the state of Georgia.
Book a Basic Room
Though Great Wolf Lodge has amazing themed rooms, if you’re on a budget, you have to ask yourself if that camping ambiance is really worth it.
Yes, the Wolf Den Suite with its cave-theme bunk area looks awesome, but is it worth $100 more a night? For my very practical family, the answer is a resounding “no.” In fact, the only times we were in our room was when we were sleeping or eating. We spent as much time as possible at the waterpark.
Book 1 Night, Play 2 Days
As much as you may want to book multiple nights at Great Wolf Lodge, in reality, one night offers an exhausting amount of fun. You’re allowed to enter the waterpark at 1 p.m. on the day of your check-in. And though our room wasn’t guaranteed to be available until 4 p.m. that day, it was ready by 2 p.m.
Our first day at the waterpark, we logged in three hours of playtime before heading back to our room for a snack. Then we came back for 2 more hours of fun before we left at 7 p.m. After that it was dinner, showers and bed for all of us exhausted watersliders. (It felt like we logged 50 flights of steps per hour!).
Though you are required to check out by 11 a.m. on your day of departure, you can load up your car with your belongings and stay at the waterpark until it closes for the night at 8 p.m.
On our day of checkout, the waterpark opened at 10 a.m. and we were the first in line when the doors opened. We stayed another 3 hours before clocking out and calling it a wonderfully short, yet active trip.
All in all, we logged 8 hours of waterpark time in a span of exactly 24 hours. I couldn’t imagine doing that for three days/nights in a row. That’s why one night at Great Wolf Lodge was the perfect fit for not only our budget, but our four kids as well (ages 11, 9, 8 and 4 at the time).
I have a feeling that those who stay multiple nights at Great Wolf Lodge have to create a bit of balance and begin to seek out some of the other fun offerings of the lodge. The only problem is: all those fun extras cost much much extra!
Skip the Extras
So if you’re on a budget, my advice is to skip all the extra add-ons. Great Wolf Lodge offers MagiQuest, a TopGolf attraction, Build-a-Bear workshops, climbing walls, gem mining, miniature golf, bowling, arcade games, ropes courses and more depending on each location.
If you’re set on doing add-ons, you can bundle them by choosing a package (Wolf Pass, Paw Pass, Pup Pass) ranging from $80 to $60 per person. As a family of 6, that wasn’t an option we wanted to entertain for such a short visit. But I can understand how a longer stay at the lodge would warrant a variation of activities such as these.
Instead, budget-conscious vacationers can fill downtime (such as after dinner or after breakfast) with some of the free activities offered by the lodge. Yoga in front of the fireplace was a hit for us and a great way to pass the time before the waterpark opened at 10 a.m. Additionally, if you have little ones who need entertaining before bed, lodge employees hold a storytime in front of the fireplace nightly.
Other free activities include Great Wolf Lodge character appearances, arts and crafts, trivia, a mural show with songs and stories, and a dance party. Activities will vary per lodge site and often coordinate with the season.
Additionally, three more ways to save money at Great Wolf Lodge include:
- Skipping the late checkout
- Skipping the cabana rental
- Skipping the locker rental
For our trip, I was lured into purchasing a late check-out, justifying it since we were only spending one night at the lodge. That was an $80 lesson learned. Though we did take quick showers right before we left, we would have been just as happy saving the money and changing inside the restrooms in the waterpark.
The cabanas at Great Wolf Lodge seem like a great thing, but they range from $150 to $200 a day. If you have older kids, an unlimited budget and want time to yourself to relax or work on your laptop, cabanas may make sense. Kind of. There are employees dedicated to fulfilling every one of your whims while you’re renting a cabana. The catch is: you pay top dollar for silver-platter service. Besides the cost of a cabana, we wanted to experience the waterpark together as a family instead of separating ourselves from our kids.
The last thing to consider skipping to save money at Great Wolf Lodge is the locker rental. Lockers range in size as well as price ($15 to $25 a day). At first, we thought we might need a locker to store my small sports backpack that held our coverups and my phone.
But as it turned out, everyone leaves their stuff in one of the hundreds of chairs around the waterpark. Because your room key is located within your wristband and you receive complimentary fresh towels inside the waterpark, you don’t need to bring much with you. I only brought my phone so I could take a few videos of my kids.
Forgo the Wristband Payment Option
In the same way that the Great Wolf Lodge wristbands work as a room key, they also have the capability of being used as payment for food, activities and more using RFID technology. When asked if we wanted to add the payment option to our wristbands, we politely declined, knowing we weren’t planning on buying much if any extras at the lodge.
If you’re traveling on a budget, I highly recommend forgoing this payment option unless you are diligent about tracking your expenses on the fly.
Bring Your Own Food
One reason we didn’t need the easy payment option on our wristbands was because we opted to bring our own food. Each lodge room includes a mini fridge with plenty of room to store food for two half days. We not only brought shelf-stable snacks, but plenty of food for our other meals such as one-pot meals that we could easily reheat in individual-sized glass containers in the microwave (which was nearby in a vending area).
I even brought cream for my coffee and coffee pods, but quickly realized that the one-mug coffee makers in the rooms have a special container that are not compatible with traditional coffee pods. Thankfully, the room came with two regular coffee pouches and one decaf pouch, which was enough for our 24-hour stay.
Since our trip, we have heard of lodge visitors bringing their own crockpots, in which they prepare and turn on in the morning to have dinner waiting for them that night. Genius! This is a great way to save money at Great Wolf Lodge.
Get Takeout for Breakfast Buffet
Because our Great Wolf Lodge stay was a Christmas gift to our kids, I did make a few splurges (such as the late room checkout I mentioned earlier) that I would not do again.
One of those splurges included the breakfast buffet, which cost $15 per person. Because two of my kids have food allergies, I knew that if they were to eat a meal at the lodge, breakfast would be the easiest meal to accommodate. Unfortunately, none of my kids ate $15 worth of food at our breakfast. In fact, they were far more fascinated by all the choices in the drink machine.
I did see some people who had previously indicated they wanted to do takeout for the breakfast buffet. They loaded up a huge to-go container and I’m assuming went back to their room to eat it. This could actually work well for my family on a future visit, if we ordered two takeout breakfasts and simply shared them in our room.
But more than likely, I will end up making something easy like a breakfast quiche and we will simply heat it up for our next trip.
One Not-So-Great Deal for Large Families on a Budget
I’d be remiss not to mention the option of a Day Pass for Great Wolf Lodge. Though this may seem like the more cost-effective choice and a great way to save money at Great Wolf Lodge, when considered for large families, it simply doesn’t make sense.
Though many Great Wolf Lodges offer day passes for roughly $50 a person, for our family of 6, it didn’t make sense for us to spend $300 for day passes when we could apply that money toward a hotel room in the lodge. Otherwise, we’d have to pay for a hotel room or Airbnb off-site (we live 2.5 hours away), which would be another added expense and not as convenient.
We’ll Be Back Soon
Overall, Great Wolf Lodge is an awesome short vacation spot for families who are looking for lots of fun. And despite your tendency to be frugal or flagrant with your money, it’s great that Great Wolf Lodges accommodates all types of vacationers. Save these tips so you can save money on your trip to Great Wolf Lodge.