In 2008 I went on my first (and so far, only) solo trip to WDW. I’d been planning a family trip forever, intended for my daughter’s fifth birthday, and this trip was a surprise treat to myself for my 30th birthday in between that long, long five-year period of no Disney. (It was still nearly another 3 years before our family trip, which is a whole different story.)
At some point I’ll probably write up an abbreviated trip report, but for now I’m going to focus on the digs. The trip happened mainly because I was pricing out options for a vacation – you know, as you do – and though to check out how much it would cost if I stayed in a tent, by myself, for a long weekend. I was startled by how inexpensive it was. The campground and tickets together were only about $400. I just needed to get there, and since it was only me, the airfare was manageable too. So after going back and forth and harboring intense guilt at taking myself to WDW and leaving my family behind, I booked my trip to Fort Wilderness for three nights.
I’ll skip everything that doesn’t pertain directly to the resort. I arrived there on Magical Express at around 10 am or so, did a pre-check in, and left my carry-on bag behind the desk. The staff was very nice and said that it would be no problem to come back in the evening and pick up my luggage there (since I didn’t technically have a “room”, Magical Express would leave my bags at the desk) and be taken care of then. So I went outside to the bus station to catch the bus to Hollywood Studios (which as I’ve said before is my automatic “First-Day Park”).
I took my time waiting, and wandered around. The whole of the resort is, of course, very rustic, and the front area has a stable with plenty of horses and a small attraction that celebrates the horses of Disney films, animated and non. I’ve also heard that the horse who leads the “Boo To You” parade at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, aka the Headless Horseman’s Horse (not to be confused with the Headless Horse), lives here too. I didn’t see him.
I didn’t spend a whole lot of time exploring the resort grounds, just got onto my bus and went, but I had read up on the resort and knew in advance that it’s big. It’s widely spread out and pretty much impossible to easily navigate without the inner bus system that they have in place. You have two inner bus lines that just go from the resort entrances to the various campsite/cabin loops, and the outer bus line which picks up from the entrance and takes you to the various parks. To get to the Magic Kingdom you can take a ferry, which is one of my favourite things about this location.
So, I stayed out at the park until about 8pm or so, then came back so I could set up my tent. (I am SO glad I did not stay for Fantasmic and get back later, because long story short, I totally failed at putting up my tent alone and another family had to come help me. Disney fans ROCK.) When I got back to the resort and went into the reception building to get my luggage and tent, the staff very kindly offered to drive me to my designated camp site instead of leaving me to the mercy of hte inner bus system and trying to find my site alone. I would’ve been SO lost. I had a nice conversation with the young lady who drove me there, as she asked what brought me there and then what my favourite Disney movie was; I ended up going into a lengthy train of thought musing on Ariel and Ursula and how they’re really two sides of the same coin and you could almost HEAR her eyes glazing over, but hey, she asked. 😉
Moving on and ignoring my troubles putting my tent up, once I settled down for the night, it was sooooo nice. The “comfort station” nearby with restrooms and showers was in close walking distance, and you needed the Key to the World card to get inside (both a huge improvement on some campgrounds I’ve been to), and even with plenty of other guests nearby it was peaceful and nice when I settled in. It was raining lightly, and I just lay there, dim lights seeping in through my tent (it was fully dark by now), quiet music and voices nearby, and I thought, I am here.
It was hot though, until about 2 am. I had to wake up and take off my overshirt, then wake up later and put it back on. 😄
I woke up to birds and early morning light around 5:30 or so in the morning. My back was raginginly stiff but I felt good. I got up, bit by bit, and dressed to take a run on the jogging trail. I checked the resort map to get an idea of where to go, then headed out and followed the general direction and the signs. I passed by one of the pools – at the time, none were heavily themed, but since I’ve been they have refurbished the main one with more theming – as well as some other campsites, RVs, and barbeque pits and the like. I just walked until I got to the harbour area, which is where Trail’s End Restaurant is, as well as Hoop-De-Doo Review, the beach, and of course the ferries to the MK. From there it’s around the curve a bit and you’ll find the trail. It’s not all that long, only, as I recall, a little over a mile or so one way, and back. I ran all the way to Wilderness Lodge, and even at 6 am, it was *swampy*. I probably couldn’t have run longer even if the trail had been longer. Still, it was a good run, and I loved it because of where I was. 🙂
After getting back, showering, dressing, and eating a quick breakfast I set off to catch the bus to Epcot. Now, I thought to myself “I am young, healthy… I don’t need to wait for the bus to get me to the front of the resort! I’ll just walk there!” And I did. And I made it… but I immediately saw the need for the bus systems within the resort. It was not a walk I’d want to do twice in one day. It was long, not the easiest walk of all time even without the length, and much of it was not even near the campsites so there wasn’t much to see. So if you have no other transportation, and you’re weighing the options of either waiting for a bus or taking the time to walk… wait for the bus. It probably won’t take much longer (might even be shorter) and you can save your energy for walking around Epcot for 14 hours!
That night I got a ride back to the resort from a friend I met up with, and it was past 10 pm. I took the bus from the entrance to the campsite this time, having learned my doggone lesson. 😉 I had another good night but awoke, once again, at dawn. Oh, and: the famous Florida weather had brought up a few thunderstorms that day and like an idiot I had not secured my tent from weather. LESSON LEARNED. So I had to use my jogging clothes to mop up the puddle in my tent, and didn’t manage to jog again. Oh well.
The next morning I took my time getting ready, ate my own breakfast again, then went to catch the ferry to MK.
I actually got there before it was running and had to wait a while. Finally a ferry arrived that was going to the Contemporary and they said we could take that. I jumped at the chance to ride the monorail, and took that ferry. It was a quick jaunt and I spent a long, happy day at the MK, getting back well past midnight. This time, coming from the harbour, I walked back to my campsite and had no qualms doing so.
The final morning, I had no park plans since my flight was leaving in the early afternoon; instead I had dining reservations at Trail’s End for breakfast with my friend. The breakfast was fabulous: not only inexpensive, not only incredibly filling, but each table had crayons and colouring sheets of “country”-themed Disney folks like Woody and the cows from “Home on the Range” (as if anyone wants to remember that film). After breakfast, we walked around the grounds, looking at the decor, the animals, and just killing time.
We examined the pool and went into one of the supply stores to look for souvenirs; I was still wearing my birthday button and a cast member asked me if I’d had a birthday call from Goofy. Since I hadn’t, they called for me and put him on, and I got a birthday serenade. 🙂
The ONLY downside of this entire trip was on my last morning: when I woke up, I wanted to get an early start so I packed up my tent. Remember I had NO transportation and with the tent, more bags than I could easily carry, so I didn’t love the idea of sticking it all onto the bus to get to the front of the resort. I had been told I could call the reception desk and ask for a pickup of my things when I checked out, so I did, and the CM argued with me about whether or not I really needed a pickup. I told her I had three bags and a heavy tent and would rather not stuff it onto the bus, and she suggested I leave all my things at the site and someone would come by within a few hours.(!) I think maybe it was a misunderstanding of my circumstances, since I’m sure they dont’ have that many people who show up with JUST A TENT, but it was an aberration of otherwise great, great service.
Anyway, after parting ways with my friend I checked out, then hung out waiting for the ME bus to go back to the airport. Sigh. The end result? I am doing this again, as soon as I can get the money together, with my now-seven-year-old daughter. She will LOVE it. I only got to experience a fraction of what Fort Wilderness has to offer, and I hope I can come back again and again and enjoy more of it.
The biggest advice I can give anyone is, be prepared. Know how to set up your tent. *lol* The “sand pits” they advertise are gravel, and not comfortable or easy to get the tent pegs into, so you’ll need a good hammer and a good sleeping mat. Secure your tent when you’re not in it. I had all my valuables with me so I was not worried at all about theft, but didn’t think about weather. 😛 Stuff like that – some things, you will only learn by experience, but always read up on other experiences to get an idea of what to expect.
And beyond that… enjoy it! Disney is probably the best camping experience you can ask for! 😀