Camping at Fort Wildernessby Jennifer and Dave Marx, Authors of PassPorter Travel Guides
Years ago, we took Dave's then 7-year-old daughter Allie on a surprise Walt Disney World trip. In order to maintain the surprise, we told her we were going camping. She just assumed we were camping in Michigan, but instead we drove all the way down to Florida to camp at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground! We encountered some interesting obstacles in tent camping at Fort Wilderness, so we thought we'd pass along our experiences and tips to you!Tip: We have over 150 detailed photos of the Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground in our PassPorter Photo Archive! Check them out!
Driving down to Florida. We always fly -- it's just too far from Michigan. But in order to go tent camping, we had to bring our camping gear with us and it wasn't going to fit in our luggage. Yet our car was too small for three people and all our gear. So we rented a mid-size car with a big trunk. We also split our 20-hour drive into two parts, stopping for the night at Dave's brother's house in Atlanta. We carried along a copy of Dave Hunter's invaluable guidebook "Along Interstate 75" (Mile Oak Publishing, ISBN 1-896819-12-5) and at the author's request, noted any changes we encountered along the way.
Concealing the surprise.
Keeping up with our e-mail.
Staying cool in the Florida heat.
Getting around the "World."
WHAT TO PACK
The dining tent may seem like a luxury to some, but we found it very helpful when it rained (which it did on our second and third days). And remember rain isn't unusual for Florida. Coat your tent seams with sealant before you go, or you may be bailing, just as we were!
The portable fan was priceless in the stifling August heat. The battery-operated fan wasn't large, but it put out a good breeze. We also bought fan misters at the parks and used those to cool ourselves off at night. If we go tent camping at Fort Wilderness again (which we hope to), we WILL NOT go in August if we can help it. It's just too hot.
Among the snacks we brought were marshmallows and S'mores fixin's -- though there are no fires allowed at the campsites, a big, central campfire with Chip and Dale is held nightly. You can buy the marshmallow sticks and snacks at the campfire, but it is cheaper to bring them from home. The only problem is that the Florida heat melted our chocolate! Eeewy gooey! So if you plan to eat S'mores , keep the fixin's in a cooler, or just buy them when you need 'em.
We used the laptop and cellphone to keep up with our e-mail while we were camping. The connections were slow and spotty, but it did work for e-mail. Web browsing was another matter, though. Having a 100 foot extension cord for the laptop and phone charger helped greatly, too. Note: There are some phone jacks at the Reception Outpost (check-in center) which you could use if you are in a similar situation. We used them once, but found it more work to drive up there and plug in than to wrestle with the slow cellphone connections back at the site.
WHAT WE DID
Because we were in a full hookup loop, most of our campground neighbors were in medium to large trailers. As a result, we found that the Comfort Stations (restroom/laundry facilities) weren't overcrowded. And if we visited them at off-hours, we usually had them to ourselves. We found it helpful to keep our resort ID cards and flashlights with us at all times -- the resort ID cards because the Comfort Stations were locked at night and you needed the card to get in, and the flashlights because it was pretty dark around the campground after sunset.
We loved the nightly campfire, singalong, and movie. It was well worth the time. We also took a canoe trip (we loved it, Allie was a little squeamish). At the last minute, we decided to try for a table at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue -- we were able to get same-day reservations and we had a WONDERFUL time. Our table was right next to the stage (we must have gotten someone's cancelled table). We also enjoyed, an afternoon at River Country (with our Fort Wilderness resort guest discount) -- it was a great way to cool off.
One thing we never did was use the car once we arrived. It was parked in our campsite the entire time. Why not? We simply forgot to use it; it was just too easy to hop on the bus or boat. Besides, driving around Walt Disney World just isn't as magical as letting someone else do the driving.
WHAT WE WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME
We're returning to Fort Wilderness next month with Allie, but this time we're staying in one of the new Wilderness Cabins! It will be interesting to compare that experience with camping last year, and we'll be sure to share the results with you.
> Notes: To learn more about Fort Wilderness, visit Jeff Spencer's
informative site at:
> Things To Do: Share your experiences or ask your questions about
camping at Fort Wilderness, and we'll share them on this page! E-mail us at jenniferanddave (at) passporter.com