This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Great Wolf Lodge has 17 wolf-themed indoor waterpark locations across the US (and even one in Canada), and we kept driving past them on our year-long RV road trip, our kids begging us to stop every time.
Sure, we’ve been taking them to the greatest national parks in the country, but they are still kids, after all. They have such fond memories of our annual visits to Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas, I can’t blame them for lighting up at the sight of those tunnel slides as we haul down the highway.
Celebrating the kids’ birthdays on the road has been a bit of a challenge. We’ve swapped neighborhood and school friends for family-only parties, and I try extra hard to make sure their days are special without feeling guilty about not giving them a bunch of presents. We don’t really have room in the RV for more “stuff,” and they simply don’t need any more toys. Experiences are a big part of birthdays now.
When I saw we could arrange our route to be in a city with a Great Wolf Lodge (GWL) on our soon-to-be five-year-old’s birthday, I was thrilled. I knew he would love celebrating that way, and the rest of the family would be excited to finally visit a new (to us) GWL location. An added bonus? GWL was able to accommodate our RV by letting us park in a nearby lot at no additional charge.
We booked two nights at the Kansas City Great Wolf Lodge and got a solid rate of $219 per night for our dates because they were having a summer sale. While that may seem a little steep for an average hotel room in Kansas City, remember that this comes with waterpark admission for up to six people for the day you check-in through the day you check-out. Our family of six was able to play at the waterpark for three days with our $219 per night hotel charges.
We saved about $60 per night by not booking a themed room, meaning no bunk beds for our kids, but we swore those off a few trips ago when they wouldn’t stop fighting over who got the top bunk. The double queen room we reserved with a sleeper sofa was just right for our family of six.
The Birthday Bash package
Instead of paying extra for a themed room with bunk beds, we opted to pay $99 for the Birthday Bash package (price varies by location). The package included a cake, balloons, a birthday poster on our room door, special birthday wolf ears, a birthday shout-out on the lobby TV when we checked in, GWL themed plates, forks, napkins — basically, everything we needed except candles.
The package also included a $40 Paw Points game card for the arcade and a $40 dining credit, adding approximately $80 in value.
Considering we knew we would spend at least $40 in the arcade and $40 on food while we were there, it was an absolute no-brainer to get the cake, poster and balloons for an additional $20.
The best part was that the amenities were waiting for us in the room when we checked in on Lowell’s birthday. We looked (and felt) like the World’s Best Parents for pulling off such a special treat even though, in reality, all we did was click a Birthday Bash button.
Meanwhile, it was the by far the easiest birthday I’ve ever thrown together as a parent.
3 days of celebrating at Great Wolf Lodge
We spent a considerable part of our two-night, three-day stay at Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City in the arcade.
We played an awful lot of MagiQuest — a game played throughout the hotel with motion-activated wands. Thankfully, three of our four kids already had these wands packed with them in our RV.
And of course, we also took full advantage of the indoor and outdoor water activities.
Our kids had a blast, as they always do at GWL. But my husband and I both noticed that the Kansas City location is much smaller and has less to offer than the Grapevine location we usually frequent. From restaurants to rides, Great Wolf Lodge locations vary, so do your research before booking the one closest to you. It may really be worthwhile to drive further down the road.
Ways to save money at Great Wolf Lodge
Great Wolf Lodge is never going to be the cheapest place to stay and play, but there are some ways to save some money during your visit.
Skip the GWL restaurant and order pizza to your room for dinner instead. You can easily feed a family of six for under $35 this way.
Purchase a guest pass. If family members or friends want to join you at GWL for a birthday celebration at the waterpark without staying the night, you can purchase one guest pass per registered guest in your suite (ages 3 and up) for $50 per day, per guest.
Sign up as a GWL member. Sign up at the location you’d like to visit — it’s free — so you’re alerted by e-mail when there are sales. If you can, be flexible and stay on weeknights. And you can usually save a lot (up to 50%) by booking in advance, so plan early.
Check the Deals page for the GWL location of your choice.
Keep an eye on Groupon, and similar deals sites. Great Wolf Lodge will appear at discounted rates a few times per year.
Use the right card to stay at Great Wolf Lodge
Mommy Points also noted that there are a few ways to save your cash and maximize spending at Great Wolf Lodge.
For example, you can often book Great Wolf Lodge properties on Hotels.com/Venture. Pay with your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and you’ll earn 10x miles on the reservation. And with the Hotels.com Rewards program, you’ll get one free night for every 10 paid nights you stay, boosting your return to 20% when you pay with the Venture card.
You can also book your stay directly with Great Wolf Lodge, pay with your Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard and then wipe out the travel charge from your statement by using miles from your Arrival Plus card within 120 days of payment.
Alternatively, look for Great Wolf Lodge locations on the Chase Travel site. Book your stay there, and use Chase Ultimate Rewards points from your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve to cover the cost.
However you decide to book your family’s stay at Great Wolf Lodge, it’s a great (and easy) place to celebrate a birthday and create lasting memories with your little ones.
Know before you go.
News and deals straight to your inbox every day.
NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 points! With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 60,000 point sign up bonus worth up to $1,200 in value, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards