Great Wolf Lodge with Teen Kids and a Baby- By Jen Campbell
A couple weeks ago I wanted to take my son, daughter, grandson and nephew to The Great Wolf Lodge, for a quick overnight trip. We had such a good time, I wanted to share my experience with you.
My grandson is an infant, the boys are between 15-17 years old and my daughter is almost 20. With it being a "quick" overnight trip, we didn’t get everything packed in that we planned (since it was a short trip) but did all the things that we wanted!
My son went about a year ago with his dad for a weekend trip, and he couldn’t wait to get back to the indoor water slides. We went as a family several years ago and had a wonderful time! The hotel room included the water park access, so in order to visit the water park, you have to stay at the hotel. When I calculated the rate for a local water park plus staying overnight someplace, it worked out to be about what one would expect to pay for this, so I tried to work out the huge chunk of change I forked over, in my mind...being the frugal one that I am!
We went to The Great Wolf Lodge in Charlotte, NC. There are 14 different locations now in the US, but the Charlotte/Concord location is just over 3 hours from us.
You don’t have to do everything they offer! There's a lot to do there for all ages. We simply wanted to do the water slides and areas for the smaller children. They offer MagiQuest, they say it’s much like the Harry Potter World at Universal Studios (I’ve not yet been, so I can’t say for sure). You basically purchase your wand and the game, then you receive a booklet with neat clues, that will send you all over the HUGE Hotel searching for your clues. Kids all over the hotel seemed to be having a fantastic time! However, since my son had done this before and is a teenager now, this didn’t interest him one bit.
The boy’s favorite water slide was the Tornado. It’s like a huge big funnel that you slide down on a raft built for up to 5 people that drops like 4 feet into a huge waterfall type pool that slides you up one wall and then down another. Finally releasing you into a pool at the end. I’ve done this ride several times, and while it’s my favorite, I always end up closing my eyes once we did the short drop, as I am a big scaredy-cat! The boys kept going time and time again, with grandma keeping the baby at times, so the 3 could go do a few rides. Even though I consider myself in fairly good shape, climbing the stairs for every single ride…put me out of breath and tired. Whew!
I liked the wave pool, the regular pool, the small children's areas and the large bucket area for smaller children. Also the zero entry water area which was super shallow, was nice. The boys enjoyed immensely playing basketball in the regular pool with other guests and I was more than happy to simply watch over them and swim about. The lily pad floating area looked like lots of fun, but I chose to sit back and watch others do the adventure and fall into the pool, with many (including me) looking on and laughing.
They also offer an outdoor waterpark type area, but we didn’t even wander out there. It was such a hot day 90+ degrees, and with a baby, we didn’t want the sun exposure. They have a neat little ropes course for all ages, but alas it was outdoors, so we didn’t partake. The area looked super packed, and so we happily stayed indoors.
You could sit in a lounge chair and relax with a nice cold drink in your hand (they do sell alcohol, but it’s a bit pricy in my humble opinion- so I stuck with the bottled water I brought from home)….but I wasn’t able to relax much with the loud room's noises…to me it seemed like the sounds were maximized in such a huge area.
They also have a neat Arcade for kids of all ages (which the boys checked out) mini bowling and a Scoops Spa (which seemed to be a mom and me place for kids who enjoy pampering). For our family group, it was all about the water park area I guess this trip!
THE ROOMS AT GREAT WOLF LODGE-
Great Wolf Lodge offers standard rooms and then themed rooms. We didn’t stay in a themed room (we could have done so in a bunk bed fort type room for an additional $50 per night!) but seeing as though it was summer, the rates for one night already busted our budget (and we chose a Sunday night stay so it would be less), so needless to say we stuck with the standard room. I had wanted to bring our niece with me, but when I tried to upgrade prior to arrival, I was told they were sold out, and on the website it showed booked up. Hmmm….
So back to our room. Our standard room was HUGE, very nice, super roomy and offered plenty of room for the 4 of us and a sweet baby. We had 2 queen beds and a pull out couch! The partition between the couch and sleeping area was cool. We brought the babies small bed so we didn’t need to ask them for a crib. We had a small refrigerator, where we stored our drinks from home, a microwave and nice patio area, since we were on the ground floor. They even had cute little scented shampoo/conditioner, and kid’s fun, scented body wash. Lots of luggage carts were available to lug all our luggage and miscellaneous baby items to and from the room.
THE FOOD AT GREAT WOLF LODGE-
The Dunkin Donuts inside The Great Wolf Lodge had great coffee and donuts for breakfast that we ate the next morning. Their food area near the water park area was clean, although the staff seemed a bit disorganized. The boys ordered cookies on the way home and seemed to enjoy them in the back seat. We ordered a hamburger, fries and a drink in the park area, and while it was pricy, it sure was convenient, and tasted good, alas it worked in a pinch. We opted to head out to dinner locally (a chain steak place) that evening that was really delicious!
The staff went out of their way to make our stay pleasant. While some of the food workers weren't super friendly and attentive, overall we didn't have any issues in any area of the hotel or water park. I was impressed with their quick response by the lifeguards on duty. I think they take safety very seriously (and they should) and I actually witnessed them "testing" the staff on 2 occasions with someone doing a fake drowning (someone on staff) to see how quickly they responded, to me it looked like they did a fantastic job!!
I think for a short weekend, The Great Wolf Lodge-Concord is great for all ages, even adults, and is doable on a tight budget. We stayed only one night, but were able to enjoy the park that afternoon we arrived, into the next day even after check-out, so it seemed reasonable for around $320. It’s worth going to any time of year in my opinion, although having been in summer and in winter, it sure seemed more exciting to go in the winter. For me, knowing it was super cold and dreary outside, we were busy having tons of laughs and fun indoors! We'll definitely be going again soon I think.
Helpful International Travel Planning Tips- By Jen Campbell
Here are some helpful tips and general guidelines that will make your international airline travel more enjoyable.
Planning Advice for Your International Vacation:
* Always use a Travel Professional! Your travel consultant can assist you with any problems such as a delayed/cancelled flights, the overbooked hotel, and last minute medical emergencies or other situations that could happen while traveling. Our goal is to get you back on track and enjoying your vacation as quickly as possible.
* Plan on arriving in your destination at least a day before you need to be there. Such as cruising, arriving the day of your cruise embarkation could be a disaster if a flight is delayed or cancelled. Sometimes, your luggage may not arrive when you do- and what a disaster that could be. A 24-hour window allows your luggage ample time to catch up with you.
* Your travel consultant will reconfirm all of your extensive trip details long before you depart on your vacation. If you traveling internationally, your consultant will confirm the correct dates that you will be arriving at your destination and pay close attention to any overnight flight schedules in reference to connections and arrival.
* Booking your trip across several airlines can be confusing, stressful before and while traveling, and potentially can be more expensive. It’s important to hire a travel professional to review your itinerary and advise you as to whether it's viable with connection time constraints, baggage handling, and other issues that can crop up. The agent can also serve as your one-call contact should something go wrong.
Packing For Your International Vacation:
* Be sure to carry your passport, medication, emergency contact information (especially your travel professional’s contact info) and other critical information that you deem necessary with you at all times. Never, ever pack your important documents and medication in your checked suitcase!
* When packing your suitcases, opt for two smaller suitcases over one large suitcase. Many airports abroad are not equipped to easily handle a full cargo of luggage, and may be in a constant state of “catch-up”. Your luggage may not arrive with your flight, but be on a later flight instead. This frequently occurs when you have several connections. When a flight is overweight, the first things to be off loaded are the heaviest bags. Your overweight 70-lb super stuffed mega bag will be one of them. Instead, your best bet is to use two smaller bags.
* Consider purchasing cubes to pack all your clothes in. They’ll help you stay more organized, help to conserve space, as well make packing and un-packing in your hotel room a breeze.
* Pack your itinerary, your travel professional’s contact information and your pertinent contact information while traveling (in each piece of luggage). This will help the airlines catch up with you and coordinate the delivery of your luggage during your vacation.
* Pack everything that’s absolutely necessary into your carry-on. Include a change of clothes, basic toiletries, and medication should your checked luggage not make it to your destination. Pack those things that are not readily available in stores and that you immediately need.
Helpful Packing Tip- Don’t forget to pack some snacks like granola bars, candy, nuts, protein drink powder, etc. to tide you over during long layovers/delays and late arrivals when cafes and restaurants may be closed.
What's your Top International Travel Tip? Share with us below:
Planning Your Own Travel is TOO Easy!
By Guest Blogger- Nolan Burris
Growing up in the sixties and seventies, nothing excited me more than to rush home from school to see my favorite cartoon - The Jetsons! That kid’s show accurately predicted many things we now take for granted.
In true Jetson’s style, our super-thin televisions hang on the wall (or easily could). There are robots to sweep and mop our floors. Telephone calls have become video calls, and meals are ready in minutes from microwave ovens. Who would have imagined this would all be reality now!
There are some things the Jetsons didn’t predict. One them is the dramatic change in how we buy almost everything. From laundry detergent to furniture, Amazon.com can deliver it all! It offers an ever-increasing range of products, but at the cost of a rapidly shrinking number of places to get them.
Want to book a cruise or jump on a flight to Paris? Just raise your wrist and ask one of the many smartwatch apps, or your mobile phone to make it happen. It’s easy. Too easy. It’s so easy that you might not realize what’s really going on…and it’s not good.
Yes, any cheap plastic gadget these days can book travel. However, they are completely incapable of understanding humans: what you love, what you hate, why you’re taking the trip and how important it is to you.
They’re also unable to explain things like cancellation policies, fare rules, undisclosed resort fees, port charges, facilities charges and other extras added after you arrive. Instead, they reduce them to a single checkbox that says: “I have read and understood the terms and conditions.”
The biggest danger of gadget-planned travel is the illusion of choice. It always appears that you have countless options for nearly every resort and cruise line! Still, isn’t it amazing that no matter the date or destination, there are always “just two rooms left at this price”?
In reality, what you see is the result of software-based algorithms that examine your past searches and browser history to generate the display. What you get can be wildly different from the same search done by a friend, with completely different prices.
Ever look at a luxury hotel just out of curiosity? Careful! You’re likely to see fewer and fewer deals and specials. Accidentally tap on a 2-star dump? Oops! You risk being re-categorized for future searches; no more nice hotels for you.
Another illusion is that you can apparently get the “same hotel” or the “same cruise” a travel agency might have offered, but for a lower price! But is it really? Even the best hotels and ships have rooms or cabins that nobody wants.
Rooms in noisy areas are always cheaper than quiet ones. Dumpster views are cheaper than ocean views. Cabins under the all-night dance club are less than ones where you’ll actually get some sleep. But will your smartwatch tell you any of that?
No. It wasn’t made for that. It was made to efficiently generate sales with as little human involvement as possible. That might be fine for laundry detergent, but when it comes to your hard-earned vacation, can you really trust software to look out for you?
There are many things in our Jetsons world I love. Video calls with my mother, no matter where I roam, make me very happy. Realizing I am just a line of code in some vacation booking program does not.
Luckily, living, breathing travel consultants understand and care. You see, they come with a feature no gizmo will ever include: a heart.
What do YOU think, do you agree that gizmos can't replace a travel consultant? Share with us below.
Guest Blog Author-
About our Guest Blogger- Nolan Burris:
Cape Fear River Adventures- What Fun in the Sun! By Jen Campbell
A little place in Lillington, NC is such fun on a lazy day of summer! It's called Cape Fear River Adventures. You can tube, or kayak or canoe down the Cape Fear River. We chose to be lazy and relax, so we did the tubing.
Our Personal Tip #1- Devote a full day to this floating oasis….it’ll take between 4-6 hours to get down the river. Relax and enjoy the wonderful day.
Our Personal Tip #2- Don’t’ be a cheapy and bring your own tube. They have them and for a low cost ($20) you can use their wonderful equipment. We watched a few people have to deflate their own tubes, and they looked muddy and gross and they seemed to have a time with them....don't be that cheap guy!
Our Personal Tip #3- Rent the Cooler Tube...it's for all your drinks and towels and all, it's only $10 and so worth it.
We had a great time this past weekend doing the tubing with our family at Cape Fear River Adventures. My mom came down from Maryland and this was her special request while she was visiting for a short weekend trip.
So...we packed our lunch, drinks, water and sunscreen and off we went. We had a BLAST!!
Our 10 Quick Tips-
Client’s Holland America Noordam Alaskan Cruise Review-
Below you will find the latest review from one of our clients, who just returned from an amazing cruise to Alaska, on board the Noordam, which is a cruise ship from Holland America Lines.
My apologies for the delay. I’ve wanted nothing more than to talk about the trip to anyone who would listen, but unfortunately getting back to reality at work and at home has taken a lot of time! And as you know traveling is hard work, so I kept putting this off “until tomorrow.” Well, tomorrow is now!
Simply put, I think I ran out of adjectives by Day Two! Even just the teeny, tiny part of Alaska that we were fortunate to see is simply breathtaking, and you can’t truly capture or describe its size or beauty.
The Holland America ship, Noordam was awesome too. We enjoyed wonderful accommodations, thought the ship was tastefully decorated, the crew was outstanding, the food was fabulous, but two things stood out as major reasons we had such an extraordinary trip:
1- The weather was amazing every single day! We were astounded how the guides or drivers would be gushing over how awesome the weather was, and how awful it was the day or days before, meaning we literally were in the RIGHT location at the very BEST time possible. That does not usually happen to me, so it was a welcome blessing. Not that you couldn’t have a great time in rain or clouds or cold, but knowing all that we could see in perfect weather of blue, dry skies was so thrilling! We spent as much time as we could on the verandah, especially during sailing times. Having that is a MUST, I think, when cruising Alaska. We didn’t miss anything, and we enjoyed afternoon tea or coffee out there a few times which was such a treat. We just couldn’t stop looking at everything in awe.
2- The second thing is seeing my daughter (who is a performer on the ship). Of course it was heavenly for me to be with her (and she was able to spend a great deal of time with us), but beyond that joy was how neat it was to be fussed over by everyone because we were her family visiting!” Goodness, Sue and I felt like VIP’s! The other crew and attendants just made us feel so special and were so personable and helpful. If you are with someone that everyone knows, it just adds another layer of WOW. Obviously, this isn’t going to occur for most cruisers, but it was so, so special for us.
I kept thinking about your parents and how they raved about their trip. They were not kidding! For me, as an infrequent traveler, it was truly a trip of a lifetime, which I think Alaska probably should be, right?! I can’t recommend it enough, and we quickly discovered that the best way to vacation in Alaska is a cruise for sure. Having the Holland America Noordam ship as the hotel, and not having to move and unpack in each city, was fantastic. It went so fast, but we had such a great time every single minute!
Thank you for all your support and assistance, especially when I had the change in travel partners. It was so nice to know we weren’t overlooking any documentations or planning pieces in the months prior to the trip. And also thank you for the nice goodie bag you sent to us before we left! We especially enjoyed the Nivea cream, thanks! I have hundreds of pictures, but I have included a few favorites with this message. I will go to your FB page and include a review, too.
I hope I have more opportunities to work with you in the future. Thanks, again, and good luck to you as you make other dream vacations come true for your clients!
Thanks Karen for your wonderful review of the Holland America Line Noordam ship review and Alaskan review. Your pictures are amazing! We're glad we could assist you on your Dream Vacation!!
10 FAST Money Saving Tips for Cruisers! By Jen Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
1. Did you know that the least expensive time to cruise is during the Fall months and the first week of December.
2. Booking through a Professional Travel Consultant (like Escape Destinations Travel) can get you special perks like transfers, discounts not found online, special amenities, great gifts, extra service, coordinated flights, and unique shore excursions.
3. Formal nights are optional on most cruise lines these days. Always try to pack lightly.
4. Room service is free for most all cruise lines, but specialty restaurants, bistros, and cafes do cost extra.
5. Consider booking spa treatments on days the ship is in port. These “specialty” services will cost less, and you will not need to stand in line.
6. Choose a large ship for the children; they will have more activity and exciting choices to choose from on the larger ones.
7. Save money by booking shore excursions through a tour company, or your Travel Consultant instead of the cruise line. Many times your savings can be as much as 30% or more per excursion!
8. Always book your cruise early! The best fares are available as soon as the sailings are announced by each cruise line. This can be nearly 12-18 months out from the date of embarkation.
9. Allow your Travel Consultant to handle every aspect of your booking (from start to finish). They are the professionals and know how to handle the booking(s) from start to finish.
10. Booking with a Travel Consultant allows them the opportunity to either check rates for the cruise you’re booked on and get you a discount, upgraded stateroom, or $$$ in your pocket should the price go down.
What's YOUR Best Tip for Saving money on your Cruise(s)? Share with us below:
International Vacation Tips & Tricks!
By Jen Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
Here are some tips, tricks and general guidelines that will help to make your international vacation very enjoyable.
When Planning Your Trip:
* Always use a Travel Consultant! Your travel professional will sort through any of your concerns or questions ahead of time, along the way to your destination, while traveling in the country, or when you’re headed home. Should you have a cancelled or even delayed flight, they are there being just a simple phone call away. Should you hotel have issues, be over-booked (yes sometimes it happens with a few), a medical emergency or other situations that can happen, they’ll be right there to assist you immediately and help you quickly get back on track to your destination!
* Do you have a group tour or cruise you’re trying to get to? Always plan on arriving to your destination in advance. We recommend at least a day before you need to be there. Let’s say you have a dream cruise you’ve saved up for a while for, and you chose to arrive the same day of embarkation. Should you inevitably get delayed due to weather, flight cancellations or a flat tire, you may not be able to board the cruise in time. Or, if your flight was cancelled and you were re-booked, your luggage may have gotten lost in transit. A 24-hour window allows your luggage to catch up with you, or a delay to not de-rail your dream trip. And always consider insurance, trip delay or luggage lost is normally covered by most travel insurance companies.
* Reconfirm all those fine details long before you depart on your vacation. If you are traveling over several time zones or even the International Dateline, remember to verify the arrival date(s) are the correct dates that you will be arriving at your destination. It’s imperative to pay very close attention to any overnight flight schedules regarding connections and arrivals that may interfere with your travel itinerary, group tours, cruises, etc.
* Booking your trip across several airlines can be confusing, is very stressful while traveling, and can even be potentially more expensive to your budgeted vacation dollars. It’s good to hire a travel professional who will be certain to review your itinerary when it’s first issued as well as prior to your date of travel. They can advise you as to whether it's really do-able as far as connection times, baggage handling, and other issues/concerns. The consultant can also serve as your one-call contact, should something unfortunately go wrong.
Packing For Your Trip:
* Don’t forget to carry your passport, important medication, emergency contact information (especially your travel professional’s contact info) and other critical information with you at all times. Never pack your important documents and medication in your suitcase that’s checked! Your carry-on, or on your person is the best option.
* When packing your suitcases for your vacation, consider opting for two smaller suitcases over one large suitcase. Many airports abroad are not equipped to easily handle a full cargo of luggage, and may be in a constant state of “catch-up”. Your luggage may not arrive with your flight (as it should) but could even arrive on a later flight, instead. This frequently occurs when you have several connections. When a flight is overweight, the first things to be off loaded are those heaviest bags. If your suitcase is not light, but is an overweight massive bag, it could be one to be off loaded first.
* Pack your itinerary, to include your travel professional’s full contact information and your own contact information while traveling in each piece of luggage you plan to bring on the vacation. This will help the airlines catch up with you and coordinate the delivery of your luggage during your trip, should this need arise.
* Pack everything that’s absolutely necessary into your carry-on. This could include the following: a full change of clothes, toiletries, and medication should your luggage not make it to your destination or be delayed. Pack items not readily available in stores at the destination and that you need. Also, some other items that may be handy: gum, candy, nuts, granola bars, that may help you with your energy in case a store/restaurant is closed whether in transit or when you’ve reached your final destination!
Have a Wonderful Vacation!!
What's essential to you when you travel Internationally? Comment Below.
International Toiletry Essentials to Pack for Your Next Trip-
By Jen Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
Packing for your International Trip doesn't mean you have to go all out for your next vacation. With a few ideas, shared below, you'll be well on your way to being completely prepared with all your toiletry items needed.
· Place your travel size toiletries in a hanging toiletry bag or jewelry. Hotels have limited counter space. This can easily be hung over your bathroom door at the hotel.
· Bring any dual voltage, compact folding hair dryers/curling irons/flat-irons (if needed) on your vacation. Dual voltage appliances are practically the norm, now, and can easily be found at many local stores. If you can go without, this would be much better, and lighter!
· Most 3+ rated hotels will have hair dryers. But, what could be better than air drying your hair!
· Even with dual voltage appliances, you'll need an adaptor plug for the sockets. Of course, if not bringing dual-voltage appliances, you'll need to bring an electrical converter, as well, but be aware even the smallest of these can add as much as 5 lbs to your luggage weight.
· Many of the nice hotels abroad will provide at least a small bottle of shampoo, so be prepared. Bring a couple with you, at least, or fill travel bottles with your favorite products.
· Pack a cheap, dozen washcloths or handy facial/makeup wipes. They don't exist abroad (that I could find). Use one a day and simply toss.
· Pack a micro-fiber "turby towel." This is helpful to dry your hair, body, etc. I always carry my "turby towel" with me on my travels as it helps dry my hair quickly.
· Purchase double-purposed type products: shampoo/conditioner-in-one; tinted moisturizer instead of packing foundation + moisturizer.
· Don't forget the travel-sized products come in very handy while traveling overseas.
· Tweezers, nail polish remover pads (definitely not the bottle of liquid); emory boards, toothpicks, dental floss.
· Manicure scissors, small needle and thread kit (with common colors).
· Safety pins, in various assorted sizes.
· Barrettes, bobby pins, ponytail holders, hair clips, stretchy headband (good for cold weather, too).
· Perhaps consider packing a very small roll of duct tape (hey...it may come in handy to mend clothes, bandages, luggage if it's ripped, etc).
And remember, unless you’re planning on camping during the "Wild nights in Munich, during Oktoberfest" about anything you need, can be very easily purchased along the way!
3 Super Quick Tips for Traveling Abroad!
Don't laugh...but these have to do with paying attention to Your Precious Feet!
1. DO NOT SKIMP ON FOOTWEAR! Your feet are so worth it!
Vacations abroad are by their nature, very much walking, climbing and touring vacations. So many times you'll find yourself off the beaten path. The center of many towns are traffic free, so walking is how they are seen. Think of all of the cobblestone streets in Europe!
It's so important to purchase quality, well fitting, supportive and comfortable shoes. Make it a huge priority. Don't go "cheap" on the shoes, invest in something that will reap you healthy benefits. Buy them in advance before you leave for your overseas adventure and walk in them often, before-hand. Blisters or super sore feet can ruin your entire time abroad. You want to make memories, not nurse sore, aching feet.
2. INVEST IN GOOD SOCKS-
Do invest in good socks and good footwear.
Wool or synthetic blends will tend to help to cushion your feet, even when wet and easier to rinse out and wash by hand while abroad. They dry more than twice as fast, because they breathe well and wick moisture. Cotton will soak up sweat and moisture, and this isn't great when walking (especially if you're going long distances).
Such a quick, simple little tip, but worth so much! Trust me please. Your feet will thank you.
3. BRING (2) PAIRS OF COMFORTABLE SHOES-
Pack two pairs of comfortable, well-broken in walking shoes. Each day switch to the other pair if possible. Your feet will thank you. Find some that are versatile and can be worn with anything in your suitcase.
I try to remember to pack a pair of black flats and a pair of flat-soled boots, often, but sometimes even instead, a second pair of slip-ons in place of the boots. In either case, they can both be worn with slacks, jeans, or dresses. You can even switch them back and forth from day to evening-should you have a nice night on the town!
The reason has to do with various pressure points on your feet. No matter how well-fitting a pair of shoes may be to you, your feet tend to rest differently within them. By switching off shoes, you can give those pressure points in your feet a much needed break. This will lessen your chance for blisters or sore spots.
It’s another simple little traveling tip, but worth so much! Trust me. Your precious feet will thank you.
Do YOU have any particular shoe styles, or brands that have worked well for you on your travels, please share below!
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