Great Wolf Lodge Review

Pressing the Reset Button | Tips for Planning a Stay at Great Wolf Lodge

Homeschool is great. Sometimes, however, we become so stuck in our mundane routine that we don’t even realize how far we’ve traveled from our vision.

If you’re new here, our vision for home education is this:

To foster a healthy relationship with learning that inspires a lifestyle of educational, mental, and spiritual growth.

While field trips, extra-curricular classes, and formal lessons are great ways to execute this vision, I strongly feel that just being can teach our children the value of rest. In rest, we discover the balance we all need to prosper.

Let me give you an analogy.

You’re probably aware that, when it comes to working out, rest is just as important as the physical activity.

Why?

Because it allows our muscles, tissues, nerves, and bones to rebuild after being broken down by an effective workout routine. Too much physical activity, when not coupled with resting periods, can take a toll on the human body.

In the same way, too much education, without adequate resting periods, can take a toll on childen—and their parents.

Enter the “reset” button.

You know, that button you press when your Wi-Fi has been running a little slower than usual? Yes! I press a similar button to reset my family when things have been a little—slow.

This spring, after pressing that reset button, we took a little trip to the Great Wolf Lodge resort. We called it our mini family getaway where for just a few days we could just be. Let me tell you, it was everything we needed and more!

Before I delve into my tips, I must disclaim this post is not sponsored. We paid our own money to stay at this resort and all opinions are my own. If you missed the video footage of our GWL adventures on Instagram, you can rewatch them on our Instastory highlights under the title “Today” for a limited time.

Now, here are some helpful tips if you’re planning a family getaway to Great Wolf Lodge (GLW) this spring. 

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1. Sign up for emails.

Before you book your stay, I highly recommend signing up for emails. All you need to do is go to the company website and create an account. After doing so, check your inbox over the next few weeks. You’ll be surprised by how many promo deals GWL will send you for up to 50% off your stay. Without doing so, you could end up paying $400-$500 per night!

 

2. Your waterpark passes are included.

You probably know this but, in case you didn’t, when you purchase a hotel room for the night, this fee includes your entry to the waterpark for all the guests who’ll be staying in that room. So, if you booked a room for a family of four for $300/night, you will NOT have to purchase additional tickets to the waterpark. Each family member will receive a wristband upon check-in that grants them entry into the park.

 

3. Check for “Homeschool Day” offers.

If you’re a homeschool family, your location may offer “Homeschool Days.” Homeschool Days are basically days the resort invites homeschoolers to enjoy their facility at a discounted rate. Our location’s Homeschool Day was last month during Spring Break. They sent out offers as low as $99 per night! We were unable to take advantage of that deal but will be looking out for it in the future.

 

4. Don’t purchase a day pass.

From what I saw, day passes are around $55 per person. For a family of four, that’s $220. Trust me when I say, you can get a room (which includes your waterpark passes) for the same price, sometimes even less if you watch for promo deals. I highly recommend staying a night at the hotel if you can manage to book it for a lower value. You’ll be able to take advantage of the fun evening activities without worrying about driving/flying home. Plus, how cool is it to sleep at a hotel that has an indoor waterpark?

 

5. It’s an indoor waterpark and it’s warm!

Great Wolf Lodge Review

Again, I’m probably insulting your intelligence, but GWL is an indoor waterpark. Although, I also don’t want to assume you know this information. Some people I spoke with actually didn’t know. All major attractions are indoors. No need for sunscreen or sunglasses unless you’re enjoying the outdoor pool/hot tub. It’s also very warm, about 80 degrees indoors. The water temperature is warm, too! And, yes, it’s open during winter.

 

6. Arrive early.

Standard check-in is at 4pm, but we were allowed to arrive as early as 1pm to have access to the waterpark, which we took advantage of. We simply checked-in, received our wristbands, and enjoyed the water park until our room was ready. And as a side note: our room was ready by 2:30pm, so we were actually able to get into our room earlier than the standard check-in time! However, this is likely because we visited during low-traffic hours.

 

7. Leave late.

Check-out is at 11am, but you don’t have to leave just yet. After checking out of your room, put all your belongings back into your car and enjoy the waterpark (and the rest of the resort) until it closes at 8pm (sometimes 9pm). Your wristband will still work for entry to the waterpark! If you want to keep your room a little longer you can always pay extra for what they call “late check-out.” You won’t necessarily need to, though, because everyone can shower and dress in the waterpark locker rooms. The locker rooms even have a machine to spin-dry your swimsuits.

 

8. You don’t need your wallet.

The wristband you receive upon check-in is attached to your credit/debit card on file. Simply scan it to make purchases at the resort. The wristband is also your room key so don’t lose it! This is pretty handy because you can keep your wallet in a safe in your hotel room and you won’t have to rent a locker ($10-$18) at the waterpark to host it.

 

9. Don’t struggle with your luggage.

If you’re not valet parking (which is an additional cost per day), send someone (your hubby or oldest child) to the front entry and have them bring a luggage cart to your parking space. There’s no additional charge for this service. Simply load up, check in to your hotel room, and leave your cart outside your door when you’re done. A staff member will bring the cart back downstairs for you.

 

10. Skip the upcharges.

GWL offers Wolf Pass packages for up to $60 per child. This is an additional charge. You get the following:

  • One MagiQuest game
  • One wand to play MagiQuest
  • One round of mini golf
  • One entry to the Moonstone maze
  • One climb at the ropes course
  • One arcade card with 20 points (this will go quickly)
  • One candy cup
  • One ice cream scoop
  • One pair of goggles

I personally did not think the passes were worth the money. There are plenty of free events to enjoy at the resort after the kids tire themselves out at the waterpark. There’s morning yoga, face painting, crafting, and story time. There are also several evening parties—including a dance party for the kiddos and more! Make sure you receive an activity schedule when you check in. If you’re staying for more than three days, perhaps the passes could be worth the money, but I wouldn’t recommend it otherwise.

 

11. You can pay for activities/attractions separately.

A Wolf Pass is not the only way to enjoy the resort’s activities. You can save money and just pay for the activities you really want to enjoy. MagiQuest, one of the resort’s most popular attractions, will cost you around $33 per person for the game and wand. That’s nearly half of what you’ll pay for the Wolf Pass. Save your wand to avoid purchasing another one if you plan to return to GWL. Additionally, bowling is only $6 a game. No need to pay $60 for a Wolf Pass if you only want to bowl! I will say the Wolf Pass is worth it if you plan to do more than two activities.

 

12. Visit on weekdays and off-holidays.

GWL 2

Part of the reason we had a wonderful time was because we visited on low-traffic days when the resort wasn’t crowded. Judging from other reviews, visiting on weekends, spring break seasons, etc., is a no-no. When we visited, the lines at the waterpark were not long. Some slides had no wait at all. There were also plenty of chairs to relax in, plenty of tables to eat lunch at, and plenty of room to move about in all the pool areas.

 

13. Take advantage of Camp Howl.

This is the only upcharge that could be worth the money. For $25-$30 per child, you can put your kiddos in a program called Camp Howl and enjoy a child-free evening from 5pm-9pm. This gives you an opportunity to sip some wine (if you drink), enjoy the hot tub, sit by the cozy fire and chat—whatever you and your spouse/friends want to do at the resort!

 

14. Beware of the towel return policy.

Be sure to return your towels before the waterpark’s closing hours. Failure to do so will result in a hefty charge to your credit/debit card. When returning your towels, you MUST ensure you swipe your wristband and hear that “beeping” sound. Some attendants may let you know about this policy (ours did), but judging from other reviews, some of the park attendants failed to relay this information to guests.

 

15. Stay an extra night.

This may not happen for you, but our resort sent us a promo code on the second day of our visit inviting us to stay an extra night for only $75. A huge savings from the $400 per night average! If you’re willing to take a risk, just book one night less than you’re planning to stay and see if your resort will offer an additional night for a fraction of the cost. Keep in mind that we stayed at our resort during low-traffic days, so more rooms were probably available to give us this offer. If you can swing it, you could save over $325 for your last night’s stay.

 

16. Don’t overpack.

GWL 5

The waterpark supplies a seemingly unlimited amount of beach towels, free of charge, but make sure you return them when you’re done! The waterpark also offers certified life vests and flotation devices. You will not be able to bring your own floatie into the park, but you can for sure bring a certified life vest if you’re picky about those types of things.

 

17. B.Y.O.F.

Yes, bring your own food if at all possible. As with any resort, prices are inflated and the food is just so-so. GWL allows you to bring a cooler into your room (not to the waterpark, though). There’s a nice size mini fridge to store it all. We packed sandwiches, cereal, apples, bananas, Gatorade, water, and more! For dinner, we simply drove about 8 minutes to the nearest Chick-fil-a. And I will add that the waterpark states “no outside food” but I saw plenty of families bring in their own food at our location. According to other reviews, some locations will check your bags so BYOF into the waterpark at your own risk. No worries, though, there’s a restaurant inside the waterpark should your kiddo swear they’ll die of hunger.

 

18. Not teen-friendly.

My boys are 6 and 9-years-old and I agree with the people who say this resort is for families with children ages 12 and under. I saw MANY bored teens. Unless your teen has a “kid at heart” personality or is a low thrill-seeker, they’ll probably hide in the hotel room glued to their cell phone. There’s only one high-thrill slide. The other slides were so low-thrill that I saw toddlers get on them. There were also moderate-level slides suitable for 9-12-year-olds. However, there’s an outdoor pool that teens might enjoy, but it’s only open during the warmer months. I’m not a high thrill seeker, so I was happy to get to enjoy the slides with my boys free of fear, haha.

 

19. You can relax.

The lifeguards and staff at my location were phenomenal. They were alert, friendly, but stern. If your kids are pretty well behaved, you can totally relax in the chairs next to the waterslide area and let them go at it! Honestly, I didn’t encounter one child misbehaving (although I know this is rare). The lifeguards are quick to blow their whistles and put them in check. My husband and I did enjoy the slides quite a bit with our children. However, after an hour or so, our thighs started burning from climbing all those steep stairs. We opted to stay in close range while our boys went on the slides as much as they pleased, and we felt like they were in good hands.

 

20. Coffee (and other adult beverages) onsite.

For all my coffee lovers, the resort does have a Dunkin Donuts on-site and the prices are actually reasonable. My husband and I paid about $5 for two medium coffees. For a resort, that’s not a bad price point.  We are not drinkers, but we’ve also peeped that the resort offers beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages in their restaurants. There’s even a bar in the waterpark.  Also, feel free to BYOB to the hotel.

 

21. Celebrate a birthday.

GWL 7

My youngest son’s 6th birthday gave us another excuse to splurge on this getaway. It worked out since his actual birthday landed on our homeschool field day last week and we didn’t get to throw a party. He had a great birthday with his friends, but GWL definitely took it up a notch. They made him feel extra special the entire stay, from singing happy birthday GW-style, to giving him special party hat wolf ears that alerted everyone to grant him birthday wishes. He kept asking how everyone knew it was his birthday. He loved it! Be sure to let the resort know you’ll be celebrating a birthday and get your camera ready to capture the moment.

 

22. Visit the Lagrange, Georgia Location.

If you’ve got options in regards to locations, choose the Lagrange, Georgia location. For starters, the customer service is great (shoutout to Ms. Kim at the check-in counter). The rooms are nice and clean since it’s a newer facility. The Lagrange location is also the prototype for future Great Wolf Lodge’s, as there are newer attractions that other locations do not have. So go and check it out!


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Well, that about sums it up! Have you traveled to GWL before? What are your tips?

 

 

 

 

 

How to Combat Summer Learning Loss

Summer Schedule to Combat Learning Loss and Restore Order + FREEBIE

The summer vacation sort of crept up on us.

In Georgia, most kids are out of school by the third week of May. But in our homeschool, summer vacation wasn’t supposed to begin until June.

What happened?

My second-grader decided he wanted to take his final assessments early. All his friends at church were already out of public school, and he wanted to join the crowd.

So, I let him.

It was a win-win, really. We had a family trip approaching and I thought It’d be nice to come back home and not have to worry about school work.

The problem?

After that lovely trip to Maryland, where we got to visit my siblings and explore the beauty of Washington, DC, there was total chaos in our home. Fighting over games, tablets, toys, and personal space ensued. Our living room floor was full of Legos, art supplies, and Cheerios. Our kitchen sink housed every single dish from the cabinets by the end of the day. And I was close to losing it.

Capitol Building Washington, DC
Our Family Trip to Maryland Included a Day-Trip to the Nation’s Capital

But then I remembered something; amid our travel adventures, I’d forgotten to write out our summer schedule. So, I did just that.

When I say peace was restored almost immediately, it’s no exaggeration. I showed the schedule to our boys and it was like a weight was taken off them. Knowing their daily expectations offered them a sense of security and control. Even more, creating a schedule that carried out my vision to combat summer learning loss gave me peace of mind.

Let’s not get it twisted. There are still those days when everyone’s mood clashes. Today, as I write this post, is one of them. However, incorporating a summer routine has definitely given us smoother days when we’re stuck at home.

So, what does the schedule entail?

The purpose of the schedule, other than to restore order, is to ensure our boys keep their brains sharp, limit technology usage, and learn something new this summer. I understand resting from the demands of schoolwork is essential for developing brains, but I also wanted to ensure our boys were spending a little time each day building fluency with old skills and taking the initiative to develop new ones.

Take a look at our summer schedule below and download your FREE editable copy, here!

Summer Schedule to Combat Learning Loss
Click the Image to Download Your Editable FREEBIE and Create Your Own Summer Schedule!

As you can see, I’ve split the schedule into three parts: mornings, afternoons, and evenings. Every morning, there are three requirements to enjoy afternoon screen time:

First, our boys must read at least one book or two chapters. My five-year-old is still new at reading so we’ve worked it out where my oldest son does shared-reading with him. There are several studies that illustrate the significance of summer reading to prevent learning loss. However, our reason for ensuring our children hit the books during summer vacation is to simply encourage the lifestyle of reading.

Boys Love to Read Books by Mo Willems
Our Boys Love to Read Books by Mo Willems

Second, our boys must do at least one math activity. I made each of them fun interactive activity binders that house at least 35 activities for math fluency practice. You can read more about it here or purchase it here. These binders are a great alternative to worksheets because the Velcro attachments allow for repeated use until mastery. Additionally, these activities are perfect for kinesthetic learners who thrive with hands-on learning.

Boys Interactive Math Binder
My Son Practices Fluency Using His Interactive Math Binder

Third, our boys must complete their chore checklist. This checklist is basically a reminder for them to clean up after themselves, which is super helpful to me. Since they’ll either be playing with their tablets or watching TV, completing their chores in the morning means the house is likely to stay tidy all afternoon. I laminated the checklist (and schedule) to make them reusable with dry-erase markers.

Chore Checklist for Kids
Chore Checklist for Kids

Believe it or not, these requirements only take my boys about an hour or two to complete after breakfast. After that, they usually build Legos or draw pictures until the afternoon. I also created a list of activities to choose from should they grow tired of building skyscrapers with their Legos or drawing Sonic characters with scrap paper.

Why have a summer schedule?

Like most children, my boys thrive on structure. It offers them a sense of control and limits the frustration that can often trigger defiance and sibling rivalry. I’ve also made it a requirement that both must complete their checklist before afternoon screen time, which encourages them to work as a team.

Schedules are also great for me and my husband, who work from home. We know that from noon until four in the evening is going to be the quietest time to get important things done since the kids are typically quiet during screen time. To be honest, they’re actually so quiet, they’ve finessed us into having longer screen time because we’ve lost track of the clock. We must remember to set that egg timer!

Lastly, schedules are a great way to ensure we reach our summer goals. In our case, our main goal was to ensure our children were still sharpening their brains and building new skills. Trust me when I say that summer learning loss is real, but over the years we’ve discovered that making fluency practice a requirement decreased the amount of re-teaching we’d have to do for reading and math in the Fall. Repetition is one of the keys to mastery for children.

What are some alternatives to screen time?

Evenings in our home are scheduled to help our boys get their minds off the screen. Children must be encouraged to try new things and develop interests apart from television and video games. Therefore, our schedule reminds the boys of some of the things they like to do. Those activities include:

  • Playing the keyboard
  • Cooking
  • Dancing
  • Listening to audiobooks
  • Telling jokes
  • Making crafts
  • Drawing pictures
  • Playing sports
  • Playing board games
  • Storytelling
  • Playing outside
  • Playing MadLibs
Educational Board Games for Boys
Board Games are Great Alternatives to Screen Time During Those Summer Days You’re Stuck at Home.

Not only are these activities fun, but they’re also a sneaky way to incorporate additional learning into our daily summer routine. Of course, most of these activities will hold the attention of older children. But if you have wee ones, visit my friends Zoe, Josephine, and Angela at ThinkBaby.org and read their post “FUN & EDUCATIONAL DIY CRAFT IDEAS FOR TODDLERS.” They’ve got an awesome website full of gems for new and veteran moms!

What happens when we’ve got somewhere to be?

Summer vacation is filled with camps, traveling, sports, swimming, fellowship, and much more! This week, my boys have Vacation Bible School in the mornings. Next week, they’ll have afternoon swimming at our local pool. We try as much as possible to keep them involved with outdoor activities. When we have somewhere to be, we just pick up the schedule where we left off.

For instance, after VBS, my boys complete all their morning requirements and enjoy screen time for the rest of the afternoon. Next week, morning requirements must be completed before afternoon swimming. The remainder of the schedule will commence when we return home in the evening.

Schedules are made to be broken in our home. Therefore, we invite spontaneity. We are known for taking impromptu trips out of town, fellowshipping with friends until the wee hours of the morning, and hopping in the car to attend that local event we just learned about an hour ago. It’s no big deal if we ditch the schedule for things we find more enriching to our lives.

Vacation Bible School FUN Time Travel
Vacation Bible School Shenanigans With My Futuristic 8-Year-Old
HEART 360 (2)
My Boys Had a Blast Spending Their Mornings at VBS Where the Theme Was “Time Travel.”

Why do we have so much screen time during summers?

Summer screen time is a treat because my boys are only allowed screen time on weekends during the school year. Screen time basically consists of anything from watching tutorials, to coding and playing video games. While the allotted time is from noon to four in the afternoon, I admit some days our boys are probably watching screens much longer than that.

My husband and I have no qualms about children and screens, but we do see the value in controlling the amount of time our boys spend watching screens in order to help them develop other interests. Likewise, we’ve recognized that eliminating screen time on school days helped increase their concentration and work ethic, as they no longer tried to “hurry up and finish” school work in order to get to their video games.

There are many scholarly articles that make a case for why screen time is or isn’t good for children. I say, it all boils down to what’s best for your family. I know parents who can’t do any screen time whatsoever due to their child/ren having sensory processing disorders. Our boys can handle limited screen time, but we do heavily restrict what they’re allowed to consume (i.e. no violent or inappropriate games or shows).

Coding on a MAC for Boys
My 8-Year-Old’s Favorite Pastime Is Coding New Games with Scratch.

I hope you enjoyed me sharing a glimpse of what our summer is looking like this year. I decided to write this post because some of you liked the summer schedule I posted on Instagram and I wanted a way to provide an editable copy for you. I also love sharing what works for me in hope that it may work for you, too.

If you’re looking for activities to do with your children this summer, I highly suggest connecting with your local library, homeschool group, or recreation center and check out their schedules. You’d be surprised how many free and low-cost activities these resources have to offer.

I want to hear from you: What are your summer plans? Let me know in the comments!