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Top Ten: Things To Consider When Planning A Trip To Woodloch Resort With Small or Special Needs Children

We went to Woodloch for the first time a couple of months ago to find a little bit of Winter (since there had been pretty much none in NYC). We only stayed for a weekend but true to our style we managed to squeeze in everything humanly possible in a little over 48 hours. Though located only 2 hours away from the city (Northeast PA) this all-inclusive family resort makes it seem as though you have entered another world, and being set on over 1,000 acres it’s easy to see why.

Being the phenomenal (some would argue obsessive) planner that I am, and seeing how little vacation time we actually get in this family, you can rest assured that I looked at Woodloch long and hard before deciding where to spend a rare weekend away. So instead of telling you how much you will love it here or whether or not your special needs child or picky toddler is going to give you an unforgettable weekend (in the good way) I will share with you the Top Ten: Things To Consider When Planning A Trip To Woodloch Family Resort With Small or Special Needs Children and let you decide for yourself.

1. Food: Included with the price of our stay was dinner the first night, 3 meals the following day and 2 meals on Sunday. Additional food was available for purchase throughout the resort at a reasonable price. Once we were seated at dinner the first evening, we met our waitress, who would be with us for the entire weekend. She was incredibly friendly and accommodating and went to great lengths to please all kinds of appetites. We liked that the seating was private for the group you were traveling with – we had a table for 4 with a highchair but observed tables for 2, 3 and even 12 people around us. That being said, the formal seating for each meal was not ideal. We would have preferred a buffet option for breakfast and lunch so that we didn’t have to spend quite so much time each day devoted to eating (there were quicker options around the resort but they cost extra). This may have been more of an issue for us because dining with antsy toddlers is no vacation – during many meals, one or more children were trying to escape to the activities, lying on the floor exhausted or whining about being hungry before the food even arrived. Also, we would have enjoyed an earlier option for dinner, some kind of seating before 6, so that we had a little more time in between dinner and children’s bedtimes. The quality and quantity of the food was very good and dishes could be substituted to accommodate picky appetites or other dietary needs.

2. Activities: Plenty of variety and labeled by age group, which was uniquely helpful since we were traveling with a broad range of ages. Some of the activities we tried cost a little extra but were well worth it because of the “uniqueness” factor. At one point Ryan took James snowmobiling through the snowy woods – come on, who doesn’t think that’s worth a few extra bucks?

The pool area included a large pool, toddler pool and water play area filled with deliciously warm water, plus 2 jacuzzis within view of the pool. There were locker rooms to put our stuff (important if your room was not connected to the pool building), a bar and snack area, and a sauna. The pool was definitely one of the favorites, if not the favorite activity of everyone in the family. Other highlights of the weekend included snow tubing (our 2 yr old was able to go alone and our 1 yr old in our tube), the indoor toddler gym, the arcade and the go cart track.

Less successful activities for us were the bumper cars, which were small, noisy and had a long line all weekend (though the toddler-sized ones were neat) and the rifle range, which involved James sitting in the car sobbing after first listen. There seem to be a ton of amazing lake and outdoor activities available during the warmer months – we definitely plan to visit at some point in the future to try those out.

 

3. Lodging: We stayed in a room set kitty-corner to the main lodge (Classic Timberline), which was very convenient to food, the lake and snow tubing. Because the Timberline rooms were not in the main lodge they were also very quiet. There was a small refrigerator and a separate sink from the bathroom/shower. The room was quite large with two queen sized beds and two day beds – the 5 of us had plenty of space when inside the room (though we didn’t spend much time there aside from sleeping). Decor was rustic but upscale. There were needle disposals installed in the bathroom (as well as throughout the resort), which seemed a little odd but would have been very handy had one of us been diabetic. One concern: Our room had heating units along the baseboards, which during our cold stay were quite hot. We definitely kept an extra eye on the babies around them.

 

4. Entertainment: We did not attempt to see any of the nightly entertainment (though other guests seemed to enjoy it) because we decided to do other things during that time, but you could choose to attend or watch from your TV in your room, which I thought was a nice option to have since there was a minimum age for some of the shows.

The life-size characters waiting outside the dining room before lunch and the mardi gras parade during dinner on Saturday night were a big hit with our kids (and us, because they were entertained).

5. Accessibility: The entire resort is wheelchair accessible though many of the activities are spaced some distance apart. I don’t know if you would want to push or wheel a chair to some of the farther away activities, especially during cold weather. There is a free shuttle that circles the resort, but I’m not sure if it’s accessible – definitely worth checking into before booking your trip.

6. Schedule: Summed up in a nutshell: 10, 2 or 4. There was quite a variety of activities available and the pool, arcade and indoor toddler gym were open during a wide range of hours. The main blocks of organized activities, games and events started each day at 10AM, 2 or 4PM. The activities were clearly labeled by recommended age which was very helpful. The problem was that if we went to one activity at 10:00 there was usually not another until 2, so if two kids (or adults) wanted to do an activity before 2PM we would all have to split up to find age-appropriate activities, which kind of defeated “taking a vacation for time together.” We would have enjoyed taking the younger kids to a 10:00AM activity and having an 11:00 or 11:30 choice for us or James so that we could have all stuck together a little bit more.

7. Value: We went on a very economical weekend and feel that we got a good value for our time there. I believe it was around $368 per person for the weekend stay, including all meals. Kids under 3 were free and 3-12 were around $180. However, for peak and holiday periods the price can be more than double that, per person, for a single weekend. My suggestion would be to shop the specials online for your first visit so that you can get a feel for what you would be willing to pay in the future.

8. Customer Service: Everyone we came into contact with was attentive and friendly, particularly our waitress. Relatives of the original resort founders were often seen wandering around chatting with guests which was a nice, personal touch. Private babysitting was offered for a fee – if we had been staying longer we may have tried this out in order to catch a show.

9. Layout: So I’ve already told you that Woodloch is a large, beautiful resort. Unless it’s 9PM, dark and freezing, and you need to get from the indoor pool to your Classic Timberline room. Then it involved a “longish,” frigid walk. There are shuttles every 15 minutes and there is some parking if you want to drive, but the resort is big enough to make for some uncomfortable walks depending on the age of your children and the weather.

10. Tips (My own, not the money kind – though we did tip our lovely waitress after her undying patience with our brood all weekend):

a) Go to the water activities after dinner when every one else is going to the shows – the pools and splash area will be deserted. And even more awesome.

b) Read the fine print after making your reservation – bring some dress clothes that are necessary for your Saturday evening meal so you’re not left scrambling, like we were.

c) If you don’t like to spend a long time on all of your meals, perhaps you might bring some yogurts, juices or breakfast foods with you? There was a fridge in the room and we may have done muffins and yogurts in the mornings had we known.

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Though the whole weekend was enjoyable, the icing on the cake for us was waking up Saturday morning to 8 inches of fresh snow, which ended up being the only real snow we saw all season. Opening the curtains to a snow-covered forest wonderland was magical for all of us that first morning, and even though they make their own snow for tubing there is nothing quite like a fresh blanket of snow to bring out the kid in all of us (especially my husband).

Would we go back? You bet! The kids were all sad to leave and we are anxious to see the resort during the warm months when that gorgeous lake is open for water activities (and when the walk back from the pool isn’t quite so chilly). I encourage you to visit http://www.woodloch.com to find out more about vacation possibilities. They have some great Last Minute packages being offered online through May 13th, with even more deals to be found before June 29th (Mother’s and Father’s Day specials plus a Star Wars special next weekend!) and in the Fall.

On The Road Again (a quick update)

Let me start off by saying that I’m more than aware of how tardy my posting has been of late, and for that I’m sorry!

But let me explain – I’m almost done with my Woodloch review and we (sadly) just got back from Rocking Horse Ranch this week, which is special needs-friendly, kid-friendly and parent-friendly all wrapped into one amazing getaway so there is now another review to add to the ever-growing list. As I type we’re on our way out the door yet again to Sesame Place Day for Children With Autism, followed by the Autism-Friendly performance of Mary Poppins next weekend (I still can’t believe we got tickets!!). So, not a bad excuse for a little disorganization, right?

And what’s your excuse? The Central Park Challenge is only 6 weeks away and I don’t see your name on our team roster… Can’t make it? Do you have a $1 to spare? Can’t run fast? There’s a walk that even my 18 month old will be participating in.

Need more than a guilt trip to inspire you? For more details look up The Foorce on the YAI website (www.yai.org) or see my Top Ten Reasons to Join The Foorce post from last month.

And I promise, this week I’ll be better about posting – just wait and see!

Top Ten: Reviews To Look For In April

I’m planning to devote the month of May to topics regarding mothers, so I am shaming myself into (finally) finishing the reviews I have saved in my Drafts folder by announcing them to you (there are actually more than ten, but i have to start somewhere!) We have thoroughly researched and experienced each of these places with James (and in many cases our toddlers, too). The reviews are all works already in progress, so if you see one that interests you more than others shoot me an email and I’ll move it to the top of the heap.

Top Ten: Upcoming Reviews

1. FDR Resort in Jamaica

2. James’s Middle School for 2012-2013 (we finally chose one, 13 tours later!)

3. The Million Dollar Quartet (look for coupon for this show to be posted soon)

4. Woodloch Family Resort

5. Rocking Horse Ranch

6. Holiday Inn Stroudsburg

7. Sesame Place

8. The Fulton Steamboat Inn (Amish Country PA)

9. White Post Farms

10. Cherry Crest Adventure Farm