Have you ever taken your family to an indoor waterpark? Is so, you know it can be an overwhelming experience. We’ve been to several different indoor waterpark hotels over the years and have learned how to make our trips much more enjoyable than when we first started out. Like anything else with kids, doing some advance planning can help to make family trips to an indoor waterpark more enjoyable for everyone. Below are some tips and recommendations based on our experiences.
Take advantage of any free activities and perks
Staying at an Indoor waterpark hotel is not cheap. Generally, you are paying more for your room than during a standard hotel stay and also paying for waterpark admission (usually built into the room price). Most indoor waterpark hotels have various free activities available to guests. This could be a kids club with events going on throughout your visit like story time, dance party or various crafts for kids. Some waterparks do something special if you visit on your birthday. We’ve seen hotels offer scavenger hunts or have movie nights too. There’s more than just water slides at an indoor waterpark hotel. Add in some of these free activities to get extra value out of your trip.
Trust me on this. I’m not going to go into detail on whether or not indoor waterparks are the most sanitary places. Go barefoot in areas where you are meant to be barefoot, like on all the water attractions. Wear shoes or flip flops in other areas like the snack shop and bathrooms. It’s a hassle since you are always wet at the waterpark, but it’s worth the extra time spent.
Be prepared to spend money
This is a given. Indoor waterparks cost money. You may find a deal on Groupon or another discount site, but for the most part, you are paying full price for your stay. Prepare in advance by setting money aside for not only your room, but also food, drinks, and any other expenses that could pop up during your visit.
Find a good home base
Depending on the size of the facility, indoor waterparks can be fairly spread out. Find chairs or a table in a central area where you can see most of the park. Make this your meeting spot. If your kids are old enough to go off on their own, have them come back and check in at certain times.
Take advantage of extra hours
Some hotel waterparks allow you to enter the waterpark before the official check-in time and stay after you check out. Use the extra time to enjoy the waterpark as long as possible.
Save up spare money for the arcade
We use credit cards most of the time in order to earn rewards points, but we still end up a giant jar of loose change every year. If this happens to you, save up those dimes and quarters for extra expenses on your waterpark trip, like arcade games. Most waterpark hotels have a giant arcade and kids love arcades. Plan ahead with arcade money and look like a hero to your kids!
Book a room
This may seem obvious. However, many indoor waterparks sell day passes to the general public. Obviously, this will save money, but having a room at the hotel provides privileges that day passes don’t allow. Use your room for naps or just to take a break. If your room has a fridge or a kitchen area, take full advantage to avoid having to buy food inside the waterpark.
Use the lockers
Waterparks usually have lockers you can rent for the day. Charges can run from $5 to $15 normally, which seems excessive, but it’s a small price to pay to protect valuables like your wallet, purse, and cell phones. If you aren’t planning on being at your chairs the entire trip, you might want to make this small investment for peace of mind.
Pack a separate bag for swimsuits
Most indoor waterpark hotels allow you to stay at the waterpark for a while after checking out. This is great, but you also don’t have access to your hotel room anymore. Pack a change of clothes in a separate bag or backpack. Throw the rest of your luggage in the car and only keep what you need in the park with you. Also, bring a garbage bag or plastic shopping bags for your wet swimsuits. This will keep your other belongings from getting soaked and make laundry easier when you arrive back home.
Go on a Sunday night or a weekday
Because of my work schedule, it’s hard to pull off going to an indoor waterpark during the week, but it’s the best time to plan a stay. The crowds are much smaller and rooms usually run at a lower rate.
Waterparks are so much fun, but they also can wear you out. If you need to take breaks, take breaks. It’s hard to do because you have a limited time in the waterpark and you paid a ton of money to visit, but even 20 minutes back at your room or leaving the park for lunch can recharge your batteries.
Plan some “Me Time”
If your spouse is with you, make a plan to take turns watching the kids at least once or twice so each of you can get a break. Go sit in the hot tub, go back to the room or just sit and relax. You both deserve it for planning such a great family adventure.
Bring your own food
Most waterpark hotels we’ve visited have policies prohibiting extra food from being brought into the waterpark area. We never follow this rule. Sorry, waterpark security! We just don’t. Similar to visiting an amusement park or a sporting event, waterparks are known for less than stellar food options with high prices. You can either suck it up and pay or you can sneak in food in your bag. Throw some sandwiches, snacks, and water bottles in your bag or bring in a small backpack cooler. We’ve never had security question us about bringing in food so until they do, we are breaking this rule. If you have a room with a fridge or kitchen area, take a break for lunch and then return to the water park. Go out to eat if there are restaurants near the hotel.
Our family loves waterpark hotels. We try and plan a couple of trips a year, between our kids’ sports seasons. We always have a great time, no matter what park we visit. Advance planning (and some trial and error) have helped us to have positive experiences over the years. Make time to plan out your stay at a waterpark hotel. It will help your family have a much better trip to the waterpark hotel if you do.
Check out our review of Castaway Bay in Sanducky, Ohio. It’s one of our favorite indoor waterpark hotels!
What are your “Go To” tips for indoor waterpark hotels? Let us know in the comments below!
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Kevin Payne is the co-founder and budgeting and family travel enthusiast behind FamilyMoneyAdventure.com.
Kevin is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance and travel. He is a regular contributor to Forbes Advisor, Bankrate, Fox Business, Credible, CreditCards.com, and Student Loan Planner.