This past week my daughters had school vacation. It wasn’t the same week as my school vacation so we couldn’t do as much as we would have wanted as a family. Honey and I each took a personal day to hang with the ladies on Thursday and Friday (we all had that day off). We had talked about going to NYC or Boston for the day to take in some museums but we kept coming back to the idea of a little getaway at Great Wolf Lodge New England. We have talked to SO many people who have done this trip and knew our girls would love it. However, we kept being put off because of the price tag. Thankfully the federal government saw fit to refund us a bit more than we were anticipating and the trip was suddenly more affordable. I also watched Groupon and Living Social like a hawk as well as signed up for the Great Wolf Lodge emails to score the best deal I could.
I thought the easiest way to recap this trip would be to highlight the pros, cons, and tips that made our trip an overall success. If I was giving a grade, I’d say GWL earned a B+.
- The resort is about 1.5 hours away from Hartford, about 20 minutes north of Worcester in Fitchburg MA. My kids don’t love the car for more than 2 hours, so this was a perfect distance.
- The check-in procedure was quick and easy. We had the option of online check-in but I forgot about it. Each family member is given wolf ears at check-in too which the kids loved.
- Check-in is at 4pm or when your room is available, but you are welcome to use the waterpark beginning at 1pm. We arrived at 1:30 and our room was ready. We brought our stuff to the room and were in the water by 2:30.
- All guests must wear a wrist band at all times which allows you access to the water park and the ropes course. Also, the adult wrist bands are also your room key and could be used as payment around the resort if you wanted. We did not choose this option.
- The water park is extremely well-staffed with lifeguards. There are also plenty of life jackets for all age groups. We brought Kitten’s from home, but Lovey used one from GWL.
- This resort is a former CoCo Key and when it transitioned to GWL it had a complete overhaul. As a result the rooms are updated, clean and comfortable. There was plenty of room for our family of four in our Wolf Den Suite. The girls LOVED that there were bunk beds and a TV in their little cabin.
- We all agreed our favorite part of the water park was the wave pool. This is no surprise because my girls love the beach. Honey said the wave pool was like being at the beach without all the sand in your bathing suit.
- When we were there the resort was full but it didn’t feel that way. Even in the water park it never felt crowded, there were plenty of chairs to go around, and never a wait for anything. We ate dinner in the bar our first night and only had to wait about 20 minutes. We did notice when we left on Friday it seemed more crowded, with longer lines.
- There is no information about food offerings on the website. For a food allergy family this is a major issue. Honey did an online chat with customer service to get more information and he was encouraged to contact food services directly. I called TWICE and left messages and never heard back. In the end, most of our food experiences were fine, but I would have felt more comfortable knowing about food options prior to our arrival. This is a HUGE con for me as my priority is always to keep my family safe. However, it’s not one that would prevent me from returning, especially know that I am more aware.
- On Friday morning I sent Honey and Lovey down the the restaurant to get us some breakfast while Kitten slept. Our plan was to get take out and bring it back to the room, especially when we learned that there was nothing on the menu Lovey would eat and no gluten free cereal option. Unfortunately they do not allow take out at breakfast. So, Honey and Lovey walked back up to the room to get us, we all walked back down and when we got there the wait for a table was 30-40 minutes. Womp, womp, wah. We went back to the room and had cereal and PB sammies. I think the resort would go a long way to work on their service delivery model for those of us with food allergies.
- There are two portions of the resort with rooms. One is in the main area where the restaurant is, and the other is on the opposite side of the water park near where the play area is located. We were in this portion of the resort. If at all possible, I would request to be in the other area if we went back again. The play area is open until 9pm and my kids go to bed somewhere between 7:30-8. While it wasn’t super noisy, they were distracted by the sounds of other kids playing while they were supposed to be sleeping.
- This con is super nit-picky but I own it. In our area of the resort on the 2nd floor there were signs pointing towards the vending machine but there was no vending on our floor. I must’ve walked back and forth 5 times before I finally went downstairs. Likewise, while there are plenty of elevators the stairs are not marked anywhere in the resort. This was annoying.
- Before you go, make sure everyone in your family has cheap flip flops. You’ll want something to slip off and on in the water park and on your trek back and forth to your room. I bought the whole family $3 flip flops at Old Navy which we wore everywhere during our stay.
- Also make sure everyone in your party has a cover-up to wear in the water park and trekking back and forth to your room. There were plenty of people who were comfortable walking around the resort in just a bathing suit (including Kitten, whose cover-up we forgot) but that’s just not my style.
- Most rooms have a microwave and fridge. Bring your own food. We brought cereal, milk, juice, fruit, and snacks. This saved us when we found out that Lovey couldn’t eat breakfast in the restaurant. You’d also cut down on costs if you ate some of your meals in your room.
- Save money on the “extras”. We didn’t get a Paw Pass for any of the other activities and aside from the fact that it was all right outside our room, our kids didn’t seem to mind. We actually told them it was for someone else’s vacation and they bought it. (Hat tip to Elise’s wife for that suggestion. We bumped into them at the bowling alley a dew weeks ago and she had told the kids that the play area wasn’t open to them until a certain time. BRILLANT) We spent $20 on an arcade card and called it a day. Definitely skip the Scoops Kids Spa. I think a pedicure was like $50, for a child. No thank you. We have polish at home.
- Bring a waterproof camera if you have one. We brought our goPro and got some great pics in the wave pool (where else?).
I’m sure there are other tips and things I’m forgetting. If you have specific questions feel free to ask away in the comments.