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Is Camping at Disney's Ft Wilderness Really Camping?

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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Is Camping at Disney's Ft Wilderness Really Camping?

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Is Camping at Disney's Ft Wilderness Really Camping?

I can count this as the first time I had to set up a tent in a downpour. To make it more interesting, I had purchased a four person (which doesn't seem possible) backpacking tent from Wal-mart on a whim, and took it along without waterproofing it or even checking it out beforehand....took it fresh out of the box and started setting it up in the rain (one of my finer moments in life). So, there I was with an eight year old and a ten year old, getting soaked and hoping it wouldn't start thundering and lightening, but we were at Disney after all and magical things do happen here, don't they? And even though it was Disney, I was pleasantly surprised at how cheap it could be if you knew how to work it.

Our Cub Scout pack planned this trip to Disney's Ft Wilderness about four months ago. That was when our deposit was due. This place is so popular, it's hard to get a foot in the door, so the earlier you can get a reservation, the better. I can't tell you how excited the kids were to actually get in the van and go! As a group, we decided to camp in the individual camping spaces, an asphalt "driveway" with a sand and crushed shell pad. Two families would share a pad. Each family would pay $67 a night for their family...not bad for Disney. The other alternative would've been to camp in Creekside Meadow, a grassy knoll area in the Southwest corner of Ft Wilderness. There, it costs $10 per head per night (which can be pricey for larger families) and is actually geared more towards groups with ample fire rings, a sand volleyball court and a slew of picnic tables. In the other individual camping sections, like ours, campfires are not allowed. Each camping pad does have a little grill, so marshmallow roasting can be done there if need be, but it just isn't the same now, is it?

One thing about Disney....Disney has rules..and a whole lot of them. Many of us were miffed that we could only have one vehicle at each campsite, and a few of us who tried to break the rule were swiftly admonished. So, lots of unloading and consolidating stuff in one vehicle. I already mentioned no campfires outside of the established areas. You also had to remember your keycard lest you get locked out of the comfort stations after midnight...something that's easy to forget when you wake up and your kid has to go...right now!

A word about these "comfort stations" as they were called....very nice and clean. There were numerous ones around. You could always find a bathroom no matter where you were in the "fort". They were air conditioned and the showers were private with nice hot water and the pressure was more than excellent. My only complaint here was no ledges for parking your gear and stuff, although they did have hooks on the walls. So bring a toiletry bag and maybe another bag for your clothes to hang onto these hooks. You don't want to have to put stuff on the floor. The only benches were back by the showers.

Each camping site did have water and electricity. If you come with your RV, they also have a sewage hook-up and some of the premium sites have cable TV. If you're totally not a camper, try out the cabins. They have maid service and I believe internet as well.

I know Disney is known for nickel and diming their visitors, but there isn't too much of that here. We attended a fun pool party and some of us played bingo. The kids got whacked in dodge ball and there were plenty of balls and things to borrow to play beach volleyball, soccer, football or whatever sport you could dream up. For a little money, you could also rent bicycles and golf carts, go on a carriage ride, a moonlit hay ride and even have your little ones ride the ponies down by the marina. Don't forget the Hoop-de-Doo Musical Revue served with dinner or Mickey's Backyard BBQ Party, pricier options to spend your money on.

We just took the free air-conditioned buses all around the Disney complex. You can check out all the other Disney resorts with these buses. Some of our group went to the Disney resort that had giraffes poking around near the lobby and were already looking into finding some kind of super discount fare online. We took the free boat ride and checked out some of the resorts that were right on the lake. The boat can also take you to the Magic Kingdom and the monorail system...all extra fun at no cost. If you do decide to go to the Magic Kingdom, be sure to go early! We were astounded by the absolute hoards of humanity that were showing up around 11am! Being a guest at Ft Wilderness (or any of the other Disney resorts) also allows you park access before and after the general population is in the park, which translates into less crowds and shorter lines. This program is called Extra Magic Hours, so be sure to check which park is open early and which one is open late on the days you are there.

The kids' highlights?

  • Watching a movie under the stars while eating through bags full of roasted marshmallows and smores. The staff conveniently keep two firepits going throughout the show. Before the movie, Disney's Chip and Dale came out along with a lady on a guitar playing singalong songs. This singing and dancing was a big treat for the younger, six and under crowd.
  • Swimming and playing in the heated pool. There are two pools on site. We were in the bigger one, nothing special really, but hey, the kids like any pool with water in it.
  • Taking the boat on the lake and wondering what was on that island in the middle of the lake. Lots of enclosed netting and even a small shipwreck were up against the rocks. I enjoyed seeing the different resorts that we passed by, one being the Wilderness Lodge and the others were Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa and Disney's Contemporary Resort. There were also some smaller hotels along the shoreline, with a new one just being constructed......obviously a lot of lodging choices!
  • Taking home a few memories. I don't like to purchase "stuff" at theme parks or vacation destinations (for the most part) as souveniers. Do your due diligence and research what your local Disney store at the mall (or online) has for sale. Then buy it while you are still at home. You'll find similar stuff here at Disney but at a much higher price tag. If you really want to be thrifty, buy the stuff on eBay or even second hand. You are NOT depriving your child of anything by doing this! I've done it MANY times and my kids were never the wiser!
If we had had more time, we would've:

  • Taken that moonlit ride; we were told you could see the nightly fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom from here and at the marina
  • Rented one of the Seadoo or pontoon boats (there are about three different types of boats to rent, plus you can do a fishing trip or rent a larger boat and a skipper)
  • Had a picnic lunch down at the marina (volleyball net, beach, tables, loungers and hammocks to hang out with)
  • Rented a golf cart to get around quicker
  • If we had stayed longer, we might've visited one of the Disney theme parts. Again, I would've researched all the deals online. I know Florida Hospital is giving out Disney tickets if you donate at least $59 to their hospital...a small price to pay, knowing you are helping in some small way. The military also has a small discount. See your local ITR office on post, as well as tickets thru the military's Shades of Green Resort in Orlando. We actually plan to attend a timeshare presentation at the Hilton Grand Vacation Club to get some free Disney tickets. Of course you have to be pretty tough to attend one of these and not buy a timeshare, but since my husband is a Hilton rewards program member, and we've read some of the reviews from others who stayed at this particular timeshare, we've found that it isn't as high pressure as most.
All in all, a fun and low-cost trip that we would do again. Before you go, be sure to read this Ft Wilderness Fact Sheet. I found everything accurate there, except for the directions. If you are coming from the south, take Exit 62 and follow the signs for "Magic Kingdom". Has anyone here done Disney in any capacity? Stayed at a resort or visited one of the theme parks? Do you have any tips to share? What was the best ticket price or hotel you could find? Which resorts or theme parks were your favorites?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would definetly still count it as Camping i think its a beutiful place especially for the kids.

March 24, 2008 at 8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi... just happen to cross your site...

Im planning to go to Tokyo or Hong Kong Disney this Christmas. Hoho and I found some stuffs from Hong Kong Disneyland here as well:

I will definitely take tones of photos there!!!

July 4, 2009 at 4:07 AM  

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