"Can we go to Great Wolf Lodge.... PLEASSSSSSSSSE? So and So just went and said it was soooooo much fun?"
"We'll see ... one day." ( in my head I'm saying 'must be nice to be rich like so and so's parents')
Does this conversation sound familiar? It's a conversation that we have been having in this house for many years. It always made me feel awful to have to say no, but we are a single income family of 6 and it just wasn't financially feasible. I'm going to be honest it made me feel like a failure as a parent to deprive my children of this when most of their friends had already been dozens of times (there goes that Snow Plow parenting again). I would try to remind them about all the amazing family vacations we had taken, and all the wonderful experiences that they had been blessed to have. Honestly I was trying to guilt them, a mother's last trick. Even as I spoke the words it felt hollow, even to me. I had looked into taking the kids many times, but it just wasn't possible financially. I put it on my someday list.
As you my faithful, beautiful readers already know, I am Mrs. stretch the dollar. I want to live big but still pay my mortgage. Recently I have discovered "group rates". I have decided that from now on whenever possible I will attempt a group rate for everything possible ... that included "The Great Wolf Lodge". Maybe I could be that awesome Mom after all ... no, I have pre-teens and a teen the best I will ever get is a pleasant face, but at this stage I'll take it as a "YOU ARE THE MOST AWESOME MOM IN THE WHOLE AND ENTIRE WORLD", delusional ... yes, but a Mom's got to do, what a Mom's got to do.
This Christmas was the year that we finally did it, we became the awesome parents (o.k. only in our own minds). This year's family Christmas gift was a trip to The Great Wolf Lodge. Two years ago Christopher and I began a new Christmas tradition. We would scale back on "things" and beef up "memories / experiences" for Christmas. Surprisingly my kids loved it. They were more than happy to have less "things" and get to take a big family trip with the money that would go to toys and gadgets that would sit in their boxes or under their beds.
This is the part of the story when the Great Wolf Lodge hero emerges from the background, Vivian St. Onge. Vivian is the Group Sales Co-ordinator for Great Wolf Lodge, she also quite amazing. I began speaking to Vivian in November. If we booked with 9 other families then we could secure a "group rate". The group rate knocked $40.00 off our rate. Paired with the fact that we were staying during a non-peak time, and we were staying on a Thursday night all meant a rate that we could afford.
I began my recruiting. I pitched the idea to my friends and to the kid's friend's parents. Everyone could not believe the rate we could get. There was a point when I wondered if I shouldn't try to increase the number of rooms in the group because everyone wanted to go, and not only that, they wanted to bring people with them. I felt like the Christmas hero. It's probably for the best that I did not go ahead and get a cape made.
Through the whole process that beautiful lady, Vivian would call me and say "Tristan we don't have enough families booked yet" as our due date to book for the group rate began to approach. I would then ask her if we could back the date up, and beautiful lady that she is, she did. I emailed, called around trying to get those families who had seemed so eager weeks before to book. Everyone had their reasons why they couldn't come after all, but in the end there were five of us. Throughout the whole process I would get emails and phone calls from Vivian. She was so nice, so helpful. What I didn't know then was that Vivian was just the tip of the iceberg for the amazing experience that we had with the Lodge. Although we could not get the group rate and ended up having to spend an extra $50.00, Vivian worked some magic and upgraded our room. See I told you, a hero.
To be continued...