I’m not writing this post to bash on Great Wolf Lodge. After all, any time or place, where thousands of people congregate, is going to have germs. So this post isn’t a “bash” type post. I am not claiming that the company did or didn’t do something that caused us to get sick.
But the fact is, while we were there, we got sick.
Was it Norovirus? Ecoli? Or the so-called Great Wolf Lodge Flu?
Hard to know for sure.
Here’s what happened.
We arrived at Great Wolf Lodge (my family of four at the time, two little boys and the parents). We got a regular room, cruised to the store and got some snacks for the fridge, got ourselves our wolf ears and bracelets. And went out ready to ROCK.
And it was awesome. The first day.
We went everywhere. The pool, did the slides, climbed on the equipment, got dumped on by the bucket. We played in the arcade. We ate at the buffet. We ran around and did the Happy Potter tour. We played mini-golf.
And everyone slept great.
Day two (of a four night trip) dawned and turned into something equally amazing.
For part of the day.
It was great, until after lunch, when one of my children got quiet. And then he sat down. And I didn’t think much of it. He had been going hard for almost two days, after all.
But then the vomit comet started. He threw up suddenly, without warning. All over the couches. And then the floor. All the way to the bathroom. While I frantically looked for towels, sheets, anything to catch the deepening puddle of grossness.
Hoping that it was just that he ate too much, or something disagreed with him, I called the desk and asked them to send up new towels and sheets.
I cleaned him up, and put him in bed to rest.
But the vomiting returned, and then for the remainder of the trip, he remained in the room, throwing up any time ANYTHING was consumed.
As an experienced parent, I knew what to do. I didn’t freak out. I got him some fluids, plugged in the Roku stick (which I had thrown into the bag while packing on a whim) and decided to wait it out. I washed down everything.
We weren’t going to be able to get home without him throwing up multiple times (it was a several hours drive) and he was already in a bed and safe. (Within an unlimited amount of clean towels and sheets) plus room service.
So we waited for the puking to stop. I figured in 24 hours, it would stop.
But it didn’t. And after we went into day two of the vomiting, I was really questioning my decision to wait it out before going home, and for coming in the first place.
On day three, it was time to go home regardless of the fact that the trip continued for everyone else. The rest of the families we arrived with had actually made arrangements to stay a little longer….but we were done.
I loaded up the kids, and my son made the trip home with his mouth hanging over a bowel.
When we got home, I hoped that it would be all over. And for the most part, my son recovered quickly. But then the rest of us came down with it, one by one.
And I was the last to fall ill, and the one who got it the worst. I couldn’t hold food down for close to seven days.
And it turns out, our family is the only one who has gotten sick at GWL. It is apparently really common for people to complain about contracting rashes, diarrhea, parasites, ecoli, coughing, and other icks after staying there.
Some people just love Great Wolf Lodge….but I went once and I don’t have any desire to return.
But if I did, here are the tips I would recommend for parents and kids who want to avoid getting sick.
First, get the idea into your head that the bad germs are on everything. EVERYTHING.
The place is FULL OF CHILDREN. Children are lovable, disgusting germ spreading machines. Nothing is sacred, nothing is safe. You MUST wash your hands constantly. The whole lodge is kept super warm (due to the pool and people running around in bathing suits), making it an ideal place for bacterial to live and thrive. After every activity. Use hand sanitizer if you can’t wash. When you leave the arcade, wash up. When you finish mini golf, wash up. And for heaven’s sake, DON’T LICK ANYTHING.
And don’t get me started on the pool.
Here’s a quote from a TripAdvisor review that is particularly horrifying:
…we went on to the wave pool only to immediately find ourselves literally swimming in…poop…it was floating all around us, and the pool was evacuated and then closed…when we returned home the next day, two of the four of us…became violently ill.Very Disgruntled Parent (source)
Even more horrifying for me is to realize that this TripAdvisor review is from the same Great Wolf Lodge that we visited.
Next, avoid eating where other people are.
Eat in your room instead of in the buffet area (you’ll save money too if you eat out of your fridge). This reduces the likelihood that you’ll touch something germ infested before you put your hands anywhere near your face/eyes/nose/mouth. Think about how many people touch those serving spoons. Gross.
Third, maintain your healthy habits.
Drink lots of water, get good sleep, eat healthy foods. Don’t give the bugs a chance to get a foothold in your body because you ran yourself into the ground having too much fun.
Fourth, carry bleach wipes with you and use them.
Wipe down the handles, toilets, other surfaces where germs can live, in your hotel room at least once a day, especially at the end of the day. If your kids demand to use the arcade, ask them to wipe off the handles before they play each individual game. (I am pretty certain this is where we went wrong). You’ll be helping protect your own kids, and any kids who come afterwards.
Fifth, bring and use your own water bottles.
There are water fountains everywhere, but this is another place where people share germs.
Or, maybe just wait….
One of the things I might consider recommending is that parents wait to take their kids to Great Wolf Lodge until they are a bit older, and better able to avoid putting their hands in their mouths all the time. Obviously younger children are going to be more susceptible to transferring germs (sending and receiving), or pooping/throwing up in the pool. An older child can better manage washing up, and understanding the need to keep things clean.
I was just thinking that maybe I’d try again with the kids now that they are bigger…
But after reading that TripAdvisor review (and some of the others), I think I’ll just save my money for something else enjoyable. If you are headed to GWL, have a great time, wash your hands, and good luck!
Emily Anderson is a mother of three children, all under the age of 10. Located in the Pacific Northwest of the US, Emily is a mom and part-time blogger, jumping in front of the computer when the kids are sleeping. She started this blog in April of 2019 and is proud that the blog is now paying for itself. If you want to know about her journey as a blogger, check out out her personal digital journal or her post about failing her way to blogging success.