As much fun as traveling the world to exotic locations can be, sometimes, when you have a family, you need a trip with fewer logistics and easier entertainment. It’s even better if the trip can be completely free!

Great Wolf Lodge is a hotel and conference center whose main attraction is an indoor waterpark. For those with families, a weekend trip is a great way to get away and have some fun without the stress or planning involved in long distance trips.

With 20 locations throughout the United States, chances are you live within driving distance to a Great Wolf Lodge. But if not, you can get your family to one with points and miles.

Let’s discuss how you can take your family of any size on a family trip to Great Wolf Lodge for free.

Family Attractions

Great Wolf Lodge’s main attraction is its indoor water park. Access to the park is included in your room stay, and you can access it as early as 1 p.m. the day of your arrival. You can continue using the water park after checkout until the park closes for the day.

You’ll find the standard water park attractions, such as a lazy river, multiple raft slides and a wave pool, as well as kid-specific attractions, such as a water playground and kiddie pool.

Everything is built with families in mind. There is only one entry/exit to the pool area, which makes it easy to ensure your kids don’t leave without you, and it’s fairly easy to see most of the pool area from any place in the park. This allows your little ones to go up and down the slides without you once you’re worn out.

Within the water park that is kept at a balmy 85 degrees, there are food options that will appeal to the kids (hot dogs, burgers, pizza), bars that give the adults an opportunity to wind down while their kids go down the slides for the 100th time, and even hot tubs reserved for adult use.

In addition to the water park, you’ll find arcades, putt-putt, restaurants and a fairly steady itinerary of programs for children in the lobby, such as coloring and craft activities, bedtime stories, dance parties and appearance by Wiley the Wolf, the Great Wolf Lodge official mascot.

It’s absolutely possible to spend several days at Great Wolf Lodge without leaving the premises.

Rooms range from a standard hotel room including a set of bunk beds to a multiple-room suite that can fit a family of eight. Our family is normally crowded out of hotel rooms, but at Great Wolf Lodge we are able to sleep everyone comfortably.


There is a Great Wolf Lodge in every region of the United States and one in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Often they are located near other family attractions, such as theme parks, zoos and campgrounds.

The closest Great Wolf Lodge to us is just an hour and a half drive in Mason, Ohio, immediately adjacent to Kings Island theme park. A walking path connects the two attractions.

You’ll also find a location 6 miles from Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio; 2.5 miles from the Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California; and near a slew of other water parks in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.

You’ll likely have a Great Wolf Lodge within striking distance of your house. But if not, you should be able to find plenty of flight availability to some busy airline hubs, such as Chicago Midway (MDW), Phoenix (PHX) or Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), which are all close to Great Wolf Lodge locations.

List of Great Wolf Lodge Locations in the U.S.

Anaheim, California
Kansas City, Kansas
BaltimorePocono Mountains, Pennsylvania
BostonSan Francisco
Charlotte, North CarolinaSandusky, Ohio
ChicagoScottsdale, Arizona
CincinnatiTraverse City, Michigan
Colorado Springs, ColoradoWilliamsburg, Virginia
Grand Mound, WashingtonWisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Grapevine, Texas

How to Book a Family Trip to Great Wolf Lodge for Free

There are two great strategies for taking a family trip to Great Wolf Lodge for free.

Travel Portals

Travel portals allow you to redeem your flexible currencies for hotel rooms across the country, including Great Wolf Lodge. Availability on these portals varies as they are routinely powered by a third-party booking site, such as Hopper or Expedia.

For those using Chase Ultimate Rewards, you may be able to stretch your points further if you hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. With these cards, 1X Ultimate Rewards point is worth 1.25 cents (Chase Sapphire Preferred) or 1.5 cents (Chase Sapphire Reserve) when redeeming through the portal.

Keep in mind that you may not be getting the best rate when booking through a travel portal. While third-party booking sites often have discounts off of the nightly rack rate, the property itself may be offering steeper discounts than can be found through the travel portal.

Especially with a property like Great Wolf Lodge that is heavily dependent on school age kids’ school schedules, we’ve found great discounts for last-minute, off-peak weekend trips. Other times, it’s still cheaper to book through the portal after the discount.

In addition, when booking through a third-party booking site, your reservation and customer service experience must go through that site instead of the property. If you need to cancel or make adjustments to your reservation, you will have to deal with the online travel agency’s customer service.

If you are booking a cash stay, you’ll earn more rewards on most reservations by booking through the travel portal than directly with Great Wolf Lodge. You’ll have to weigh the value of earning points against the ease of having your reservation directly with the property.

Always check the property’s website before booking and make sure the math still works for you.

For example, I ran a search for March 11 to March 14 and found the same room on Chase’s website for $20 cheaper per night.

How to book a family trip using travel portals
How to book a family trip using travel portals

If you find a good rate, you can book using your favorite travel portal currency. If the better rate is through the property website, we still have options for a free trip.

Venture Miles

Using your Capital One Venture Credit Card or Capital One Venture X Rewards Card is another great way to take a family trip to Great Wolf Lodge for free. Because of the Venture Miles purchase eraser feature, you can simply book your travel directly through Great Wolf Lodge, using any discounts or promotions available, and then erase the charge by selecting it from a list of purchases coded as “travel” on your card. You’ll redeem points at a rate of 1 cent per point AND earn rewards on the purchase.

Because this strategy only requires a purchase that codes as “travel” you can focus on maximum point accrual when making your reservation. This is a great opportunity to stack your points.

For example, you could book your stay through a shopping portal, such as Rakuten or TopCashback. This would allow you to double dip by earning cash back through a shopping portal and by earning rewards on the credit card itself.

Say you book your stay through the TopCashback shopping portal. You’ll earn 2X miles per dollar on your Venture or Venture X plus 2% to 5% cash back in your TopCashback account, depending on the season you book.

You can also take advantage of extra rewards from Southwest. If you needed to top off your Rapid Rewards account to earn your Companion Pass, you could earn points by making hotel reservations using Southwest Hotels powered by

You’ll earn 1X Rapid Rewards point per dollar spent in addition to the earnings on your Venture or Venture X cards.

The Venture X card includes 10X miles on bookings through the Capital One travel portal, so don’t forget to check their rates first to see if the price is competitive.

How to Eat and Play for Free

Just because you have your hotel room paid for, it doesn’t mean that your trip is free. When traveling with a large family, food bills, entertainment and souvenirs run a hefty portion of most outings.

However, all the activities, from eating to playing the arcade, can be covered by points and miles if you utilize your cards correctly.

Placing a card on file with the front desk allows you to add any charge at the property to your room simply by scanning your wristband, which also acts as a room key.

On my trip to Great Wolf Lodge, I was able to erase the cost of my kids’ fun time at the arcade as well as Dunkin Donuts expenses for two adults. We added these charges to our final bill, and they coded as “travel” on our Capital One card. We could’ve bought breakfast on our Venture Miles, too, but we didn’t.

Because I care about you as a reader, I ran an experiment. At our breakfast, there seemed to be a problem with our credit card not being properly set up on file at the front desk. Instead of fixing this and sending the charge to my room, I decided to use the same card I had booked the trip with to complete my purchase at the on-property restaurant.

It turns out that it is crucial that you add any property charges to your room instead of using your Venture Card. My breakfast was coded as “dining” on my credit card statement instead of “travel,” which meant I couldn’t erase it.

So remember, if you want a trip fully paid for with points and miles, you must put your credit card on file for incidentals with the front desk and put all charges on the room.

You could use both of these strategies by booking the trip through the portal using the great rate you found on the Ultimate Rewards travel portal and then use your Capital One Venture card for incidentals.

Final Thoughts

Booking a family trip to Great Wolf Lodge for free is simple using Capital One Venture Miles or your favorite travel portal. Just remember to provide a card that erases travel purchases at the front desk for incidentals, charge all expenses to the room and you can play, eat and swim for free.

Great Wolf Lodge has been a go-to for my family for a quick weekend fun trip, and we look forward to going back again.