Planning your family’s next vacation to an indoor waterpark? Here are some tips that have helped make travel to a waterpark with toddlers that much easier, and enjoyable!
I know this blog is about health and nutrition. But let me tell you, vacations have as much to do with my health and happiness as food. So today I’m taking a break from my kitchen and talking my family’s experience with indoor waterparks and toddlers!
Vacations have certainly looked a bit different since having children. While I’d love to travel without my trio for an extended period [sorry Joey, Anthony, and Lily, Mom and Dad do need to recharge], right now that’s not our reality. While I often dream of a week-long cruise without kids, Ted and I are making the best of it and traveling with our kids to the next best thing: waterparks. We live near the world’s greatest waterpark that’s perfect for summer travel [the Great Lakes], with a few google searches we realized we live near a few indoor waterparks that have been perfect for winter getaways. In fact, we’ve visited them 4 times within the past year. I guess you could say we are aficionados now when it comes to traveling to waterparks with toddlers! And a baby.
Because I’ve had friends ask me about our overnight adventures to indoor waterparks with toddlers, I thought I’d share a few learnings. Here are a few quick notes to keep in mind:
- It was definitely easier traveling to the waterpark before Lily was born. Traveling with a baby requires a more diapers, a pack n’ play, noise machine, etc. Plus, she can’t really enjoy the water like her brothers. We have to hold her the entire time— which is not easy with a wiggly 9-month-old. But we’ve visited waterparks twice now with Lily in tow, and honestly, she’s an easier traveler than I am! That’s probably why we keep going back….
- We’ve visited two different waterparks: The Great Wolf Lodge and Kalahari. Kalahari is better IMO, mainly because there’s more for toddlers to do and enjoy. BUT it is more expensive… so keep that in mind when making your reservation.
- We travel for 2 nights MAX. One night isn’t really enough because of hotel check-in times, but after we’ve spent 2 nights in a hotel room and endless hours swimming, my crew is spent and ready to go home.
- A full day would look like this:
- Wakeup and eat breakfast in the room.
- Swim from 9-11:30am
- Lunch break
- Naps 1-3pm [yes, they really napped that long!]
- Swim from 3:30-6pm
- Dinner break
- Movie on the iPad until everyone falls asleep
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I thought I’d break down the waterpark travel into a few key parts:
- We live within 2 hours to both the Great Wolf Lodge and Kalahari. Perfect driving time when we are trying to juggle naps for all 3 kids. And since check-in for both waterparks isn’t until 3/4pm, the timing to leave right after lunch so the kids can nap in the car has worked for us. We did try traveling without naps hoping for an early check-in, and that just lead to major meltdowns by 3pm.
- Along with an iPad for car viewing, I brought snacks and a BIG garbage bag to help me feel organized and clean when someone was finished with their disposable snack while in the car. It might seem ridiculous to need an iPad and snacks for a 2 hour car ride, but once you hit the road with my crew you’ll soon realize we do whatever it takes to make it a peaceful ride for everyone.
- Besides packing swimsuits [2 for each child so they have a dry one post naps], we pack a pair of pajamas and one outfit per person. Yes, that’s even for 2 nights stay! Honestly, when we aren’t swimming we are in PJ’s in our room. Or traveling back home in regular everyday clothes. The more I pack the more I have to unpack, so I try to keep that in mind. And if your clothes get stains or spills on them, I swear no one will notice. Waterparks are filled with parents focused on their kids and kids focused on the water. Not your shirt!
- Don’t forget a pair of sandals! They are key for getting to and from the waterpark. And a cover-up if you so choose.
- You will need water diapers for those not potty-trained. Life jackets were required AND provided at Kalahari, not at Great Wolf Lodge… which was another plus for Kalahari.
- OH and bring 2 garbage bags for your room: one for wet swimsuits when you travel home, and one for dirty clothes.
- As you can imagine, food at these waterparks is expensive. What helped was spending some time and researching nearby restaurants to get carry out for lunch and dinner. Mainly dinner.
- I also pack foods for breakfast and snacks, so we aren’t too tempted to eat out all the time. And plenty of bottled water [and water bottles for baby + toddlers].
- Oh and beer. And wine. Yep, Mom and Dad had a good time too!
- Because Lily is in a pack n’ play, we have stayed in hotel rooms that have 2 separate rooms + living space. A two-bedroom suite as some might call it! Yes, it’s pricey, but you can find coupon deals almost weekly from both Great Wolf Lodge and Kalahari. And once Lily can sleep in a bed, she’ll be in a room with the rest of us. In fact, we’ve slept with the boys in a king-sized bed and had Lily in a pack n’ play in living space before too. A lot just depends on the rooms and their availability.
- Because Lily is taking two naps and the boys are only taking one, it was key having 2 adults supervise the kids. I would stay back in the room when Lily did her morning nap and Ted would take the boys to the waterpark.
So there you have it, my learnings from traveling to a waterpark with toddlers. I say I’d much rather be on a beach with my hubby drinking a margarita in peace, but the reality is seeing how happy these two-day trips make the boys, Lily, and Ted [seriously, I think he has the best time out of all of us], makes me appreciate having these memories share.
Let’s chat: What are some of your favorite trips to take with small children?! Have you been to an indoor waterpark with kids?