Should You Take Your Kids to an Indoor Water Park Hotel?

So, should you take your kids to an Indoor Water Park Hotel? Is it worth it?

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There is something to be said about the excitement of watching your little ones experiencing something magical for the first time.  You are young, your children give you a fresh new outlook on being playful and even a new outlook on life in general. Everything you take them to; museums, amusement parks, even just a playground is fun for not only them, but you as well. It’s like you are allowed to be a kid again, well, a big kid with responsibilities, but a kid none the less.

I remember the first time my husband and I took our little guys, maybe 3 and 4 years old, for a weekend adventure to the Poconos to visit the new craze in hotels; The Indoor Water Park, Great Wolf Lodge.  As soon as you drive into the lot the experience begins. The lodge is built to resemble the authentic lodges out west and has carvings of wolves all over the building.  You step inside the lobby and you are greeted with a huge stone fireplace, more wood carvings and an atmosphere built right out of a childhood fantasy. And the rooms! The rooms and suites match this childhood dream perfectly. Some rooms are basic, but most of them have little log cabins, tent themed areas or a wolves den built into them where the kids can sleep in their own little fort. It’s almost like getting a little bit of the Disney experience for just a few days.

Of course, what everyone comes to GWL for is the indoor water park. It, too, is themed with forests and wild animals carved into the walls, slides and pool areas. It’s perfect for families with little ones as well as older kids who like the more adventurous slides. And it even has an adult only hot tub for when mom or dad need a quiet break.

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The GWL in the Poconos (and many others) also has an interactive game throughout the hotel, so when your kids get waterlogged they can take a break, but still not agitate you with boredom in the room. Wands are bought at a little store at the hotel, your quest is chosen and off you go on an adventure around the hotel to talking trees, stars that light up in the ceiling, wall carvings that move and then finally ends in a fight with a dragon. It’s awesome….when you are young and have little ones brimming with bright eyes and smiles.

This is where this post changes…. We recently found an old gift card we had been given to  “the Lodge” ten or so years ago. One nice thing is they never expire. However, our family dynamic has changed a bit since we had visited the Great Wolf. We are now a family of 6; 3 of which are teenage boys. Our youngest is an 8 year old girl, so I was very excited to take her to this magical place.

We drove into the lot. Yep, still the same. Carved wolves and all. We entered the lobby and again, same ambiance. My daughter loved it. My sons-not so much.  They were surrounded by parents in their beginnings with loads of toddlers and elementary age kids running around with wolves ears, pointing wands with the occasional scream of laughter or tears from exhaustion. Pure chaos.

My husband checks us in and we decide to change into our suits and hit the water right away.  My husband and the boys grab my daughter and they introduce her to all the fun that is Great Wolf Lodge; the wave pool, the slides, the huge bucket that dumps. Everything! I, immediately, head to the lazy river as I’m much more of a “take it easy” type of guest.

As I’m laying there in my tube floating down the man-made waterway, I look around at all the young families. The happiness in their faces, the joy of experiencing this as a child along side their own little ones and it makes me a little sad. I’m old. My kids are old and soon instead of being grumpy while hanging out with us, they won’t be hanging out with us at all. My oldest will be going off to college in a year and a half and then the second will follow the year after. And then they will be off to their own lives getting to experience this kind of thing for the first time with their kids…. and maybe they will even drag me along so I can once more experience it through the eyes of my grandchildren and maybe even turn me back into a kid once again, at least for a few days.

So, should you take your kids to an Indoor Water Park Hotel? Is it worth it?

Well, with all the extras, it can really add up to be an expensive little weekend, but YES! You should! Become a kid again! Enjoy your little ones while they are young and you aren’t too tired from life to hop on that tube and slide down that slide. The memories you will make will last a lifetime! And memories are what makes life worth living! And who knows? Maybe it will become a tradition for generations to come!

Staying sane on road trips with kids (No, it is not impossible)

Every trip we take isn’t going to be international and sans children.  In fact most trips Jodi and I go on in our lives includes our kids in the backseat of a car.  Let’s all just take a moment to remember what it was like the last time we went on a road trip with children . . . horrors.
You can only play the license plate game so many times before you want to leave your precious offspring along the side of the road by that sweet little farm house and hope someone else will pick them up and care for them so you can just enjoy scenic ride through the country.

Next time you start packing for another joyous family car trip, add these to the list: kids activity bags.
Activity bags are easy to adapt for each child’s interests and age using things you already own.  Let’s hear it for being cheap!  No really, I love cheap.

Here’s how it works:

1. Gather a gallon ziploc bag, paper lunch bag, or pencil box if you are really “Matha Stewarty”, for every hour of the car ride.  If it takes you 8 hours to drive to Grandma’s house, each kid will need 8 bags.

2.  Fill each bag with the following: one coloring page, five crayons or pencils or markers (or switch these up per bag), one book, one toy, one snack and small juice box, one game (the games can be paper or not; puzzles count, paper mazes count and so does origami for older kids.  Be creative or just steal other peoples ideas from Pinterest).

3. For older kids you can substitute the coloring page for a craft.

4. Every three bags, add in a music cd, playlist, or movie dvd (if your car has that capability) for the kids to play.

The activity bags help reduce the whining and impatience that inevitably ride along with your kids in the backseat by giving them something to look forward to every hour.  For every young children, reduce the time between bags to 30 minutes.  It also takes the pressure off of you to entertain them for 8 hours straight and reduces the number of times you threaten to turn the car around “right this minute.”

Happy road trip!

Photo: 1. Children and dogs in a car: Tomoka River Region, Florida by State Library
2. Joseph Kearns Jay North Billy Booth Herbert Anderson Dennis the Menace 1962

Letterboxing: Something FREE To Do On Your Next Vacation

Road trips can be long and boring, so before we get to our official destination we like to do some Letterboxing along the way. If you have never heard of letterboxing, it is very similar to Geocaching except a GPS is not required which makes it more like an old fashioned treasure hunt. Also, instead of little trinkets, you are searching for a box with rubber stamp to stamp in your Letterboxing journal and a book to leave your mark to show you have been there. Having these planned before any road trip is essential. You can have your children take turns reading the clues, figuring them out and of course the always favorite, stamping the books. It adds to the excitement of the drive while discussing the last letterbox, the next clues or trying to figure out what the next stamp could possibly be. It also is a great way to get your family to work as a team while trying to get to the same goal.  

To get started it is best to visit this website: www.letterboxing.org. The site is excellent and has everything you will need to know to get started, find locations all over the world and print off the necessary clues.

The next step will be to create your “handle”, “character” or I.D.  I found the best and easiest way was to visit the local craft store and find a rubber stamp that everyone likes.  Some people like to make there own out of white erasers and you can find out how to do that by going here:

  http://www.mitchklink.com/letterboxing/carving.htm 

But for newbies, I’d stick with buying one for your whole family or one for each individual in your family.  When we began ten years ago, we were a family of five; hubby, three boys and me, so I chose a stamp with three Cootie bugs and made our name “Ima Cootie”. To make it more special, we use turquoise ink when we leave our mark in a Letterboxing journal and usually leave a note like, “This was a fun one” or ” What a great hike” with our “Ima Cootie”, date and where we are from.

It’s always a lot of fun to look through the journal to see who else has been there, what notes they leave and where they originated.
One of the fun parts about Letterboxing is the secretiveness. Most are placed where people walk by everyday and have never noticed a SPOR(suspicious pile of rocks) or a perfectly placed downed log. Some boxes we have found have even been in museums behind furniture or in crevices and supposedly the museum workers don’t even know they are there, so it is imperative that you search very sneakily and when you find it, remove yourselves from the location to open it and do the stamping. Then very quietly and covertly put it back and secure it in it’s original location so that others can find it just like you did.
Most of our road trips, vacations or days out include at least one letterboxing adventure which have taken us through the woods, in museums, historical and government buildings, lighthouses, rest areas,  on top of waterfalls and even under benches and statues at the beach.  There are so many things we would have never discovered or experienced together if we had not gone on these little treasure hunts. They keep everyone busy and excited when you’ve run out of other things to do.

Good Luck and Happy Hunting!