How To Survive: The Wisconsin Dells

We recently enjoyed a much needed mini get-away at Great Wolf Lodge with our sweet little bumpkins, and we learned a few things along the way. I’ve included what I think are the most important things to consider… {And if you want to see more awesome pics of our trip, check out Our Stay at The Great Wolf Lodge!}


1. Do your research.

This one probably seems pretty obvious {it might even be what led you here!} When we started considering the Dells as an option, we were looking for a relatively inexpensive place to have a short getaway in the middle of winter. We had a family friend recommend the Great Wolf Lodge {where we did end up staying!} but we wanted to be sure to still look at our other options. Here are some of the things we considered:

  • Is there a “Best Time” To StayIf your dates are flexible, definitely look at a wide range of dates! We found that staying on a Thursday night was about the third of the the price as if we had tried to stay that same Saturday!!
  • What are the check in/out timesAnd how do they relate to when you can use the other amenities? For us, check-in was 4pm, but we could show up at 1:00 for the waterpark {changing rooms on site.} Check-out was 11am, but we could use the park until “closing time” afterwards.
  • At What Age Do they Start ChargingAt our hotel kids 2 and under were free: which meant we didn’t have to “pay” for 3 of our children… #winning
  • Room Set UpTraveling with two “babies,” we knew that if we tried to sleep all of us in open open space we’d be in for a rough night. Some hotels offer multiple room suites or special areas for kids. We chose a room that had a divider wall between the beds and “living” space.
  • What Food is Available On SiteWith myself and our eldest daughter needing to eat gluten-free, we needed to know what would be available to us at the hotel and surrounding areas.
  • Are the Amenities Open to the PublicIn other words, can non-guests come and go in the waterpark or other areas? I don’t think this would have been a deal-breaker for us, but we were glad to have a hotel that reserved its facilities for guests only.
  • What Other Activities/Events OccurringPretty self explanatory. Our hotel had story time every night at 8 for the kiddos, and for an extra fee, there was an adventure club with all-day activities.




2. Know your time constraints.

Despite having done all the research we did to figure out where and when to go, we didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the ACTUAL times things became available for us to utilize. Even though we DID ask when the waterpark would be available for us, we didn’t realize we weren’t getting the whole picture. For example, our plan for Day 2 was to wake up early and spend several hours swimming before “checking out.” We were told we could still use the park the whole day until closing time after we checked out.

However, we discovered that that the waterpark didn’t open until TEN on the weekdays and NINE Fri/Sat/Sun. Once we finally did make it in, we found out that the kid area we were trying to access doesn’t open for another half hour after whatever time it opens that day. *insert eye roll* In addition, the one place we could get breakfast on-site didn’t open until 8am, so our earlier birds had to survive on juice packs and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse until then. {Yeay cable!} So if you have to actually leave after you check out, make sure you know these times. ?


Along those lines, know the times of the special events being held as well. Our hotel had this awesome animated story time at 8 PM every night. This ended up working out perfectly for us: Wes kept the big girls entertained and happy, while I was able to get the babies to sleep in a quiet and peaceful room.




Maybe I should emphasize that one a little more ha! This one was true for both our trip there and our actual stay. Yes there was food and snacks available on site and the surrounding areas. Yes it was the price you would expect to pay in a tourist area. Including the WATER. We made sure to bring snacks, fruit, water bottles, juice pouches etc. We still hit up a couple of restaurants and treat zones, but if we had to rely on them solely our wallets would have been quite depressed.




4. Pack wisely.

Yes, this did need to be separate from the snacks tip. There were a few key things I wanted to make sure we had. The first was our personal soaps and lotions. Our oldest suffers from eczema, and we knew from previous experience that “pool water,” aka chlorine, is extremely aggravating to her skin. Even without eczema however, large public pools use a lot more chemicals than the average family pool, and with it being indoors we could even feel it in the air when we breathed.

Even our little guys skin broke out in that all-too-familiar rash within no time. Luckily we had our trusty Beauty Counter soap on hand <– {side note: this was the first, of many, soaps we tried that didn’t make her CRY during bath time!} and we made sure to wash them all down after each pool exposure. Nothing could have fully prevented the irritation aside from not swimming, but this definitely helped to keep it under control! Also, this hotel did have a kids’ soap as part of their freebies that worked great on our other kiddos.

Other things we made sure to bring included the kids personal blankets and snugglies, life jackets, swim diapers, an extra swim suit per family member, and a separate bag for bring home wet items. The life jackets were probably the only thing that I might possibly reconsider… They actually had lots available on site {which we used for the babies} and in the splash areas they weren’t really as necessary. Still, the girls enjoyed having their own personal ones so it worked out.




5 . Make a plan, but be flexible.

Super non-commital right? Our initial plan was to rent the room for one night, but to use every “extra” hour of available waterpark time to let the kids swim. Despite my disappointment in the awkward timing of the waterpark and restaurant hours once we got there, we could tell by the end of the first day, that another full day of swimming would probably be too much for our kiddos. Perhaps it was the time of year, or the “stress” of the driving and sleeping in a strange place, but we opted not to utilize our afternoon waterpark access after check-out. Instead, we got in a short swim {since there was only a very small window to do so} then bathed and clothed all the kids so they’d be fresh for the rest of the day. We headed over to Buffalo Phil’s for some delicious pizza and train-delivered awesomeness before heading home!




Thoughts on the Great Wolf Lodge, specifically…

Overall, we were pretty happy with our stay, and I’d definitely go there again! My biggest “complaint” would still be the convenience of their facility times, BUT in all fairness we were going for a pretty quick little trip, and it ended up working out just fine with how much our kiddos could handle.



The Waterpark Area

The waterpark area was slightly confusing to navigate, but they do have maps to help figure it out. We didn’t even realize we missed a whole section our first day, and on the second day we didn’t have a lot of time to use it {as it had different hours than the main area.} Never-the-less there were a ton of super fun areas to chose from once we got the hang of it and the kids LOVED it! There were a TON of slides, but we didn’t end up trying any of them. {Our 5-year-old was the only one big enough to go on her own – but she didn’t want to without one of us – and we each had a baby.} We had fun, but I think older kids would enjoy it a lot more.



*Note: A version of this post was previously published on our old blog, Discover. Create. Live. on February 23, 2016

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