Trip Report 2013: Day 3, beginning at Fort Wilderness

Before we officially start Day 3, let’s backtrack a tiny bit to the night before…

I haven’t talked a whole lot about our campsite yet, other than putting up the tent. However, there isn’t actually a whole lot to say about it.  Every campsite gets a sand/gravel patch with a little driveway leading into it for your car (should you have one).  As long as you have a hammer to get the tent pegs in, the ground material is very easy to set up in. (Don’t laugh. I didn’t know I needed a hammer on my first trip and I had to be rescued by neighbours who knew more about setting up a tent than I did. :P)  Many of the sites also have small trash cans and even some recycling stands with different partitions for newspapers, bottles/cans, etc.  All sites also have a picnic table and a water hookup with hose; this is super useful, as a lot of other campsites I’ve been to don’t have these.

Home Sweet Home! (Image from Wikipedia)

Home Sweet Home! (Image from Wikipedia)

We were also very close to the comfort station, right around the corner, which was a big help when we got in after dark that night. “Comfort station”, by the way, means bathrooms and showers.  There are also electrical outlets, suitable for hair dryers and charging cell phones, AND – best part – they are AIR-CONDITIONED.  So they ain’t kidding about the comfort part. 🙂

Exterior of a Comfort Station. This is from http://bigbrian-nc.livejournal.com/11409.html and used without permission. (He's got a great review post there, go read it.)

Exterior of a Comfort Station. This is from http://bigbrian-nc.livejournal.com/11409.html and used without permission. (He’s got a great review post there, go read it.)

D had a real knack for finding squashed things (bugs mainly) outside every comfort station we went into. She thought it was the same one each time.

And this here is the interior (partially) of a comfort station, courtesy of this page: http://home.hiwaay.net/~jlspence/photogal.htm

And this here is the interior (partially) of a comfort station, courtesy of this page: http://home.hiwaay.net/~jlspence/photogal.htm

When we got back, around 8:30 or 9 or so, I hadn’t yet blown up the air mattress (because I R SMRT), so I did that and then D got to carry the flashlight over to the comfort station and we brushed our teeth and got ready for bed.

So I wasn’t able to tell if I had just not inflated the mattress properly or if it had a hole in it, but boy did that thing deflate quickly once we were on it.  The worst was not just that it was going flat – I’m willing to sleep on the ground – but the way it was inflated in SOME spots but not others, and if you moved at all, it readjusted the inflation areas. GAH. Plus I had not put any blankets down beneath it – dumb move. Didn’t sleep well for the third night in a row.

Even better: we were ready for bed by about 9:30, which isn’t TOO bad for D though I’d prefer 8:30… and it took her a while to wind down, because she’s hyperactive and her brain is always going a mile a minute unless she’s EXHAUSTED.  Well, she’d drifted off and I finally was getting there too, and then the first strains of the Electric Water Pageant floated gently and unmistakably into our tent. XD  So I guess we probably fell asleep somewhere closer to 10:30 or even later, in the end.

The next morning we kept up the trip’s unintended tradition of getting up before 6am. 😛  Not really on purpose – I didn’t wake her, we were just both up and couldn’t get back to sleep.  I HAD  actually planned on getting up early though, because I wanted to try to get a run in… I hadn’t factored in the late sunrise so it was pitch black!  I told D we would go on a walk instead, so after pulling on some clothes and using the bathrooms we walked around, bringing the flashlight.  We killed about a half an hour and it was finally starting to get light by the time we got back.

Because I'm at work and can't find my own map that they gave me. This is from Disneydrawingboard.com.

Because I’m at work and can’t find my own map that they gave me. This is from Disneydrawingboard.com.

During the walk, I managed to figure out where the Meadow Trading Post was – it’s really tough to figure out based on the map, which I actually did have with me – and although it wasn’t open yet, we needed to pick up a few things because neither one of us had our toothbrushes.  Believe it or not. 😛  So I decided we’d be needing to pop by there on the way out to Epcot.

One of my regrets about the shortage of time on this trip was that, especially due to our resort-hopping, we really didn’t have time to explore ANY of the places we stayed at fully.  Most of our downtime between parks was taken up checking in and sometimes setting up the tent.  Next time we come to WDW, our first day we will just hang out at the resort rather than head immediately to the parks.  All the resorts deserve a little bit of exploration, and Fort Wilderness is one of the BEST ones to do that with!

Well, anyway, at this point we got showers and dressed, ate some light breakfasts (mostly muffins) and set about taking the tent down.  I’m not as good at that as I am at putting it up, so it didn’t QUITE fit into the bag, but that’s OK… I only had to stick it into the trunk of the car. 🙂

The Meadow Trading Post; photo by Jack Spence at AllEars.Net, used without permission (and I will remove it if asked).

The Meadow Trading Post; photo by Jack Spence at AllEars.Net, used without permission (and I will remove it if asked).

Interior of Meadow Trading Post; photo from the useful site CB4GO.com (http://cb4go.com/Free/Attractions/AttractionsDisneyWorldOrlandoResortsFtWildernessCampground.htm), used without permission

Interior of Meadow Trading Post; photo from the useful site CB4GO.com (http://cb4go.com/Free/Attractions/AttractionsDisneyWorldOrlandoResortsFtWildernessCampground.htm), used without permission

Once we’d loaded up for the day, we drove over to the Meadow Trading Post – which had pretty much just opened – and picked up the toothbrushes and a couple of little souvenirs, namely a box of different teas that I’d tried out on our last trip.  They’re quite good and my husband loves tea, so I decided to pick up another.   So here’s a tip: Don’t forget that the Meadow Trading Post (and the Settlement Trading Post) is there.  Most things that you may forget to bring, you can pick up at the shop and it’s not really your standard gift shop; it’s more of a general store.  There’s a variety of food, basic first aid items, diapers, and other necessaries.  Are they more expensive than they would be outside Disney property?  Oh my, yes.  But I didn’t feel like I was being gouged.  There was a markup but it was not excessive.

The two women who were working the store were very nice and noticed D was wearing her Captain EO shirt, so they made a point of chatting with her about it.  She told them that we were going to Epcot that day and that we’d be seeing it (this is after we had agreed repeatedly that we would NOT be seeing it, because the Supreme Leader makes her nervous in 3D, so it was not on our schedule).  They also told her alllll about the Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and how she really should go to that – thanks, ladies. 😉

When we got back into the car D discovered that there was a tiny frog on the side door.  We named him Kermit. 🙂  Then we checked out and headed off for a day at Epcot!  D had said she wanted to ride the horses, and I felt bad that we hadn’t even so much as *seen* them yet, but I already talked about my regrets.  One thing we DID see while driving to the campsite the day before: a deer running along a trail!  We see deer at home all the time but somehow, at WDW, I consider it far more magical and exciting. 😀  Kind of like, you know… EVERYTHING at Disney!

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Trip Report 2013, Day 2, Part 3: Fewer Photos, More Words!

Still Day 2, still Hollywood Studios! (Only for 1 more post after this though…)  When we left off, D and I were heading to Pizza Planet for lunch.  Join us, won’t you?

Going in, D wanted to play a game in the arcade, as you do.  And she picked out – The CLAAAWWWW.  I should preface this by saying that D has played The Claw once before and didn’t win.  I told her before and after that people rarely win but she still took it hard.  So I didn’t really want her doing it this time, especially because it was a full dollar to play, but she was set on it.  She picked a machine with stuffed dogs in it, chose the one she wanted, and went for it.

Well, she didn’t get the dog she wanted but to my absolute astonishment she got the one next to it!  I don’t know, maybe they have the Claws set so that they’re easier to win on in DHS?  Or maybe it was just Disney magic at work! 😀 Anyway, all it took was a dollar and a single try!  She named it Mary. 😀

Mary the Lucky Dog! :D

Mary the Lucky Dog! 😀

So I know a lot of people who do not love Pizza Planet.  And I understand that.  There’s not a lot of food choices – I ended up not getting anything and just eating D’s carrots that came with her kids’ pizza.  But I do love the theming, and D’s not picky about her pizza, so we were happy. 🙂

I wanted to take pictures of Pizza Planet but didn't want to kill my battery. Here ya go. :P

I wanted to take pictures of Pizza Planet but didn’t want to kill my battery. Here ya go. 😛

On the way out I let her get a pressed penny.  This is something else I really never do – I consider pressed pennies to be a waste of 76 cents (or however much they cost now).  Those poor pennies!  But in this case, it was a decent option, because there weren’t many games in that arcade you could put money into and have something to show for it afterwards.  Since D is not a very good gamer yet I thought it was better to leave with a souvenir instead of a frustrating game attempt, so we went ahead on it.  She chose a Maleficent design. 😀

I have to confess to one thing: I can’t quite remember the precise sequence of events here.  I think we might have gone on the Great Movie Ride *before* heading to Muppets, but timewise, I’m honestly not sure of that.  So I’m sticking it in here, anyway. 🙂

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times now, the majority of the attractions at Hollywood Studios had very little lines, so our wait time was generally pretty low (and as I’ve also mentioned, this was lucky for D, who has no waiting skills at all).  We moved thru pretty quickly – didn’t even take any photos this time – and when we got on I tried to find the Hidden Minnie I knew was in the mural.  But it’s been so long that I couldn’t find it until we were passing it, and as we’re passing is NEVER long enough for D to pick these things out, so we missed it. ARGH.

Have you seen the Hidden Minnie in the Great Movie Ride mural?  It’s one of my favourites. 😀

Anyway, we got the gangster track this time around.  I think I always get the gangster track. I’m pretty sure I almost never get the western one.  I will say though, today it looked as if they only had one car running due to the small lines, so it probably would’ve been impossible for me to get the western track. *lol*  Anyhow, Mugsy was better than our guide. I wasn’t a huge fan of our guide, but Mugsy was pretty good.  Weird thing, I’ve had a few times when I’ve ridden this and the “bad guy” has been somewhat sympathetic, and sometimes totally not.  This Mugsy played it all Gangsta. 😀

D had wanted to go on the ride, but I don’t know if she remembered precisely what it was.  She enjoyed it, but the entire section from “Alien” until you pass the “horror movie” part, she really just can’t watch.  She has to bury her head agianst me and wait until I say it’s OK.  However, the whole thing is apparently worth it for her because of the “Wizard of Oz” part.

We got to the spot where Dorothy and her friends are standing and looking at the city of Oz, and D says to me “Wow! The Tin Woodman looks GREAT!” (He’s her favourite; she probably has a little crush on him, you know, as 7-year-olds do.)  She swears that when she said that, he turned in her direction and smiled. What I saw: programmed animatronic movement in her direction. What she saw: “I think he actually moved, like, with his feet. I think he heard me and turned around and smiled.  I’m pretty sure he’s not really an animatronic.” 🙂  She was talking about this for DAYS and DAYS, folks.

Anyway, as I said, that part is probably out of order because the next shots on my camera are in the Indiana Jones Stunt area, and I’m pretty sure we did that on our way out of the park (and it makes sense given that we were coming from that side).  I kept trying to find some of the “hidden” details in Hollywood Studios, and this time I found, for the first time, the “Do Not Pull Rope” excavation area near Indy.  So I told D to pull it.

I don't know, I'm getting a mixed message here.

I don’t know, I’m getting a mixed message here.

To her credit, D REALLY pulled. HARD.

To her credit, D REALLY pulled. HARD.

She was not enthusiastic at first, but I insisted, so she tugged, and there came a lot of noises and a man’s voice said “Hey you! Stop mucking about up there!”  D asked if there was someone really down there. 🙂

Then we made our way out of the park, taking the route around Echo Lake that has a good view of Gertie the Dinosaur, and past the 50’s Prime Time Cafe.

"I fed her those leaves," said D as we passed. "I feed Gertie leaves every day." <3

“I fed her those leaves,” said D as we passed. “I feed Gertie leaves every day.” ❤

I can't believe Eddie Valient STILL hasn't replaced that window blind.  Darn it, Roger!

I can’t believe Eddie Valient STILL hasn’t replaced that window blind. Darn it, Roger!

Then it was back onto the tram, so that we could drive to our campsite and set up camp.

This is our site before I set up the tent!  Annnnd I forgot to take a picture with the tent set up! *headdesk*

This is our site before I set up the tent! Annnnd I forgot to take a picture with the tent set up! *headdesk*

They put us in the 1500 loop both nights we were there (nonconsecutive)!

They put us in the 1500 loop both nights we were there (nonconsecutive).

So this was the plan. Leave around 2:30, get set up etc by 3, pool from 3:15 or so until 4pm, and then get dressed and head back to HS for the evening.  Most of it went OK; I took a little bit longer than I expected to get the tent set up, b/c D was fascinated by tiny lizards and was not interested in helping me unless I raised my voice. 😛

TINY LIZARDS EVERYWHERE.

TINY LIZARDS EVERYWHERE.

Second problem: Could not find swimsuit. (It turned up later but we only did the pools the first two days.)  D can’t swim, but she LOVES being in the water, so we walked across the road – our campsite loop was right across from the pool! 😀 – and I kept her from plunging into the deep end, which she was all ready to do.  I took her around to the front and had her play near the stairs the full time, so she mainly hung off the bars leading into the pool.

Here's the reasonably-awesome Fort Wilderness pool!

Here’s the reasonably-awesome Fort Wilderness pool!

And here is D absolutely loving water.

And here is D absolutely loving water.

I kept trying to get her to go into the splash area, but she really loves being immersed in water, so she held off.  Eventually I found some life jacket style floaties and had her get into one, then I sat and watched her for a while.  Eventually she decided she wanted to go down the waterslide, which is an AWESOME one, and even though I couldn’t be right there to catch her I let her go ahead; well, apparently the ride down was great but she swallowed/inhaled water at the bottom so there was no more slides after that. 😉  At this point she finally DID go hit the splash play area and had a great time.

This is D at the height of slide enjoyment. A split second after this she had water up her nose and pretty much everywhere else.

This is D at the height of slide enjoyment. A split second after this she had water up her nose and pretty much everywhere else.

The Ft. Wilderness Splash Play area... there are height restrictions but I won't pretend I didn't get soaked, myself.

The Ft. Wilderness Splash Play area… there are height restrictions but I won’t pretend I didn’t get soaked, myself.

So it was more like 4:30 before we were ready to leave the pool, and closer to 5pm before she was changed, dry, and ready to go back to DHS.  Ahhh, well.  Flexibility is key when you are at Disney World!!

So around this point, I realized we were going to have to drop something from our schedule and I was pretty sure that something was going to have to be Beauty and the Beast.  I had intended to see the 5:30 show, meaning we’d want to get there between around 5:15 or so, and when it was done at 6pm we’d still need to do Toy Story, Star Tours, Muppets, AND get dinner in there somewhere within about 90 minutes or so (since I intended to leave before 8pm).  So I asked D, and we discussed it and agreed that it was OK to drop Beauty and the Beast this time, even though I have been trying to take her to it since LAST trip! Oy! But yeah.

So we went on Star Tours again when we got there, and this time D was not the rebel spy, but I thought the adventure was better.  It was ENTIRELY different from the first one, not just one part different but two different planets (we got Tatooine on this one), and a hologram of Admiral Akbar instead of Princess Leia as we had on the first.  Afterwards D got to do her “Big Souvenir” for the trip, and she chose – not a surprise – a Build Your Own Lightsabre!  It was more affordable than I’d expected, with a single-blade one coming in at $21.95 pre-tax, and she really liked customizing it for herself. 🙂 To keep her 4-year-old brother from feeling left out I got him a flashing green lightsabre-shaped keychain. Which, I should emphasize, he LOVES and has used almost daily since we got back. 🙂

Okay friends and followers, we are NEARLY done. Honest. 🙂 One more post at Hollywood Studios, and I’ll have covered the full day!  Unfortunately that post is very low on pics, so I may see what I can cull from earlier trips just to have something to show off.  Give me a while and I’ll put something decent together.  Meanwhile, have a magical day! 😀

More vlog cramming: #5 and #6

Still behind on posting the vlogs I have actually recording leading up to my October trip.  Here are the two I did last week, while camping in Maryland. 🙂 They were both done on the same night!

#5: Second Interview with Special Guest D

She has some awesome PJs. 😀 Btw, she has this habit of compulsively clearing her throat b/c she usually has some kind of scratchiness in it, that’s why there’s this constant “hem” noise that she makes during this. She was getting it a lot on the camping trip due to pollen. 😛

#6: Evening Camp Tour

All camping makes me think of Disney World, which I usually try not to tell my husband. Because it makes me look obsessive, which I am, but maybe he doesn’t know that yet… 😉 I ended up using YouTube’s alterations options to lighten this because it came out WAY too dark. This is about how it looked to me while I was taking the video. 🙂

So, going to try to make the next one tomorrow (12 weeks left!), and if anyone wants to ask me any questions, about anything Disney-related, I will try to answer them! Leave a question in the comments! The next one will be just me, and the one after that will be another interview with my daughter, so you can leave questions for her too if you want. 🙂 I have one for her already. 😀

Vlog Cramming: vlogs 3 and 4

So remember I said I was going to be vlogging the weeks leading up to my possible-but-not-yet-definite Disney World trip in October?  And then I posted two and didn’t post any others?
SURPRISE!  I DID record others!  And they ARE up on YouTube! I just have failed at promoting them because I am so unbelievably busy.  So, to catch up, here are vlogs 3 and 4; #3 dates back to before my recent trip to San Francisco (which sort of kicked off my “Falling off the face of the earth” phase I’ve been stuck in since mid-June), I believe it was on 6/10:

My interview with my daughter, in which I ask her questions about what she remembers from our last trip (February 2011, right before her 5th birthday; she doesn’t remember that much *G*) and what she’d like to have come up on the next one!

#4 was indeed recorded on time, on 6/17, while I was in San Francisco. I even got it up on YouTube right away. Then I was utterly not able to blog it up here. My goodness I’m overwhelmed with work! Anyone who follows me on Twitter is probably really sick of me saying that by now. XD

I was put up in the Marriott Marquis, a LOVELY hotel in the Union Square area of San Francisco and just a short mile-or-so walk to the waterfront. As I mentioned in the video, I did indeed get to take Wednesday afternoon off and walk around. 🙂 BUT my camera died about halfway through the walk so I didn’t get to take any pics of the huge Disney Store two blocks from my hotel. 😛

So that’s it! I have vlogs 5 and 6 uploaded and ready to post soon, too!  For the record, my YouTube channel is here and I have a few (very few) non-vlog videos there.  Mostly about my kids though.  Might get more interesting when I have more to post, lol, we’ll see. 😉  Subscribers welcome!  I sub back! ;D

Bows and Shoebox and Restaurant, Oh My: Vlog #2

I don’t think anyone is as impressed as I am with the fact that I managed to make a second vlog, and on schedule even.  I am willing to bet, in fact, that nobody is impressed at all. 😉

 

If you can’t view the video, here’s a recap:

  • I am not DEFINITELY going to Disney. I’m still just trying, but at least now if I only make part of the cost I can cover the rest and pay it back later.
  • I bought some Disney bows from @RealLifeDisney on Twitter.  I tell you twice which princesses they represent, as if you can’t likely guess yourself, because I’m just that intent on making it clear.
  • My idea this week for an interesting video is showing you a shoebox full of travel-sized items. What was I on?
  • Should I take my daughter to Crystal Palace while we’re there, or no? We’re splurging already on MNSSHP (if we go, that’s a definite) so I’m on the fence.  Tell me your thoughts!

I’m going to excuse my appearance by telling you that it was relentlessly humid today and my hair suffered from it. Poor hair.  Yep.

17 weeks!  I have to think of 16 more things to talk about?!  I’m doomed. 😉

May 27th is my birthday, and I’m going to Disney: Vlog #1

Yes, that’s me. That gorgeous creature up there in a bright yellow “Team Zissou” t-shirt, that’s me. (I’ll take bets on how old I am today. I know you’re like “a mother of two?! But aren’t you in high school??” And thank you, I never get tired of hearing that, but… no.;)*

Anyway, if you can’t load the video, or if you don’t feel like it, or if you want to look at how cute I am without the audio on, the gist of it is this: my husband has this money left over from a fund I started for his birthday last year, which he hasn’t used yet, and he wants me to take my mother-daughter trip in Fall, so he’s pushing me to borrow out of that fund and pay it back when I can. I’m surprisingly resistant to this idea, but he is just as surprisingly insistent, so the odds are pretty good that I will be doing this camping trip. 🙂 Not 100% perfect, but there you go. So the above is both my announcing that I’m going, and also – well, I realized that I’ll be leaving on this trip on a Monday so I counted up the weeks and I thought it would be fun to do a planning vlog to keep myself entertained. It won’t be high detail (I’ll save that for a more appropriate forum), but just updates on what I’ve gotten done each week.

Which may really be NOTHIIIIING woohoo! But it’s not like I’m forcing anyone to watch, so there you go. 😉

So for the record… I don’t know how to do anything fancy on videos. The only equipment I have is my digital camera, and I have no editing software or anything. I’ve never had a YouTube channel before, and it looks as if I can add audio, but I’m not about to do that on a talkypost. So don’t expect anything fancy any time soon – as in, ever. 🙂 No George Lucas-style scene wipes or anything (darn it). No scene cuts, special effects, or even close-up stills of info I’m talking about. Heck, I dont’ even know how to put text into these things. It’s OLD SCHOOL, people. 🙂

If you’d like me to talk about anything in particular, as long as it’s something I can say with a bunch of first graders in the room, let me know what it would be and I might address it! Not that I expect anything to come up, but just, if it does I’m open to it. 🙂 Now back to trying to write real CONTENT for this blog…

But guys, I am hopefully going to live up to my blog name now. Come Disney with me; we’ll have fun. 🙂

*For the record, I’m well aware that I don’t actually look like I’m in high school; that’s the joke. 😉

Disney on the Cheap: My efforts to get to WDW this fall

January 2011 at Hollywood Studios

January 2011 at Hollywood Studios

The last time I took my family to WDW was also the first time – not for me, but for both of my kids. It was in late January/early February of 2011, and my daughter was about to turn 5. My son was just about 1 1/2. I’d waited years to take them, to make sure that my daughter would actually remember at least part of the trip.

After it was over I decided that my next trip would be just me and my daughter, a short camping trip similar to one I’d done for my 30th birthday all on my lonesome. I was aiming square at late September, 2012, with thoughts of tossing Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in there too; but real life came and bit us in the butt, and long story short, the not-insignificant amount of cash I had saved up went to bills.

It happens. I mean, I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t pretty upset, but it happens. Life goes on and Disney World is still there.

So now, I’m starting from scratch and trying again to save up the money to get my daughter on a trip to enjoy as much as possible in 3 1/2 days on-property at Disney. Don’t get me wrong, I loved having the whole family, no complaints! But my daughter and I, we bond over WDW. I want to take her while she is young, to have a time just with her, and so that we can do whatever she wants without having to take everyone else’s needs into account.

So with that in mind, I’m planning a trip I might not get to take, trying to squeeze as much savings out of every part of it.

I thought, since a lot of people would love to go to Disney if they can afford it, I’d write a few posts talking about how I estimate my costs and how I try to whittle them down… My best suggestions in general, and how I am applying them specifically.

Part 1: Location, Location, Location!! Aka, Pick the right resort.

This is obvious. Look at your needs. First need is, do you NEED to stay on-property? (Personally, I do.) Depending on various factors and what you’re willing to sacrifice, plus the time of year that you go, you can get a room relatively close to Disney for very cheap. VERY, VERY cheap. I’m talking $30 a night cheap at certain seasons.

What you need to know: these are not the nicest hotels. They may smell funny. They may not be the safest-looking places.

A second need is, how long is your trip? What kind of trip is this? Is it going to be a quick-fix vacation – you know, been there before, will go again, but need a touch of Disney magic when I can get it? Or is this your Big Family Vacation that you’ve been saving for for 5 years? I’ve done both. 🙂 These two can lead you to VERY different places.

Third, who is coming with you? This is actually related to both of the first two questions, because obviously your needs are different if you are travelling solo or with an adult partner, versus if you’re travelling with kids or extended family. This can influence both whether you want to stay on-property AND the type of vacation you’re on.

And fourth, how much time do you want to spend in your hotel, and what aspects are most important to you? For instance – free breakfast? Free WiFi? Pool? Which of these is a make-or-break when selecting a hotel?

So none of these needs stand on their own. They all really dovetail with each other and you need to look at them all to paint a picture. Once you’ve got that picture, take a look at your options:

Firstly, on- or off-site hotel rooms? A quick look at non-Disney hotels:

If a hotel's exterior photo emphasizes a small patch of flowers over the hotel itself, don't have high expectations.  Image courtesy of Expedia.com.

If a hotel’s exterior photo emphasizes a small patch of flowers over the hotel itself, don’t have high expectations. Image courtesy of Expedia.com.

If you are travelling by yourself (or I should say, without children), and you will only be in your hotel for sleeping, and you are not easily wigged out by seedy-looking places, you can look into the cheap hotels I mentioned and spend a relatively miniscule part of your budget on your lodgings.  One note: read the reviews of the hotel first.  Know what you are getting into.

You can also upgrade, of course. Old Towne Kissimmee has a lot of nice hotel options. My first trip, I stayed in a Comfort Inn Suites that was really pleasant! Good (free!) breakfast, nice pool, lovely rooms. It lacks the Disney theming but in terms of room quality it was around a Moderate, but for less. Plus they have suites – BIG plus if you are travelling with a larger group (more than 4 people) and the Disney Family Suites are a bit past your price range.

Image courtesy of Expedia.com

Image courtesy of Expedia.com

Old Towne Kissimmee is closer than I thought it was to the Disney resort. We took a shuttle each day and it went to so many different hotels that I didn’t realize it’s very simple to get there. In fact, if you go to the grocery store in Celebration, then turn left out of that parking lot and left again at the light, you’ll reach the Comfort Inn Suites pretty quickly. (Of course that’s if you’re driving yourself; that will be another blog entry…)

The downsides: if you don’t have your own transportation, the shuttles usually only run once a day and pick up from multiple hotels, potentially hurting your options of getting an early start on the day at the parks. Even if you DO have a car, then you’ve got to pay for parking – getting back to the hotel for a nap, if needed, can be a hassle – and especially if you’re at the Magic Kingdom that’s a LOT of walking back to the car at the end of a long day. Good ol’ TTC. 😉

Another point to note is that you can get some great rates at the Downtown Disney hotels, which are technically on Disney property but which are not Walt Disney World owned and operated. This means you can get some luxury digs, without the perks that WDW hotel guests get (no Extra Magic Hours, not eligible for Dining Plans, etc), for less than you’d spend at a similar Disney-owned hotel. This is great if you’re not, like me, looking to make your cost as low as possible so that you can afford it, you’re just looking to save money where you can while still getting the most upscale experience possible.

So which is the better deal off-site: as cheap as possible, or bargain comfort? If travelling with kids, I point out the bargain comfort. I’d always spend a little bit extra to make sure my children are comfortable and safe. On my own though I’d probably go the cheap-as-possible route. 🙂

Now let’s say that, like me, staying ON Disney property is a must if possible. Honestly – I consider that to be a part of the expense just like the tickets. So how do you keep that cost down?

A look at WDW Resort Hotels

I apologize for my lack of realization that I'd be blogging 2 years later when I took my uninteresting photos

I apologize for my lack of realization that I’d be blogging 2 years later when I took my uninteresting photos

There are various options to you. Knowing your discounts is a good one (if you find that overwhelming, a Disney travel agent like myself can always help you! Plug, plug); in addition to Disney’s own room discounts, for instance, there are also discounts available to AAA members, to Florida residents, to Active Duty members of the Military, and more. They can be overwhelming, and some discounts are undeniably better than others; and yes, some of the best ones aren’t available to everyone. Obviously, Disney wants you to stay at the higher-scale resorts, so the discounts are deeper as the rooms get more expensive. But sometimes, shopping around can get you some unexpected cuts in your spending.

So once again you want to look at your needs.  How big is your party?  If it’s over 4 people, at most resorts you’ll either need 2 rooms or a Family Suite.  Cost-wise, you’ll get a better deal by booking two rooms at most resorts than you would for booking a Family Suite – but the suites come with a mini-kitchen, which is its own cost-saving device, since you get the option of cooking your own meals.  This is not an option when you have two standard rooms.

Obviously, you’re going to get the lowest prices on rooms at the Value resorts.  Obviously, these are not $30 hotels, either.  But the nice part is that you WILL get a better experience at a Value resort at Disney than you would get at a cheapie off-property.  Sure, it’s not glamour, but all rooms are still well-themed and well-maintained, comfortable, reasonably spacious, and when you step outside your room you get a TON of things your cheapie hotel in Kissimmee wouldn’t get you.  Food court, play areas, multiple pools, music, shopping, constant buses to the parks, and the check-in area!  Goodness. Honestly, I feel like Disney resorts are among the only non-luxury resorts where you could make an excursion just to see them and still have fun. 🙂

Clearly, what I was getting at before I sidetracked myself there is that again you look at your needs.  What you need for a Disney resort will be different if you are solo tripping than it would if you were touring with your parents and your children.  Weigh your pros and your cons for each, your biggest needs, and make a chart about what you CAN afford vs. what you’d LIKE to afford.  If the two align, then go for it!

My choice: The Campsites at Fort Wilderness

Here's the reception building circa 2008, aka, IWantToBeThere

Fort Wilderness Reception in Spring 2008

To get the lowest possible price on-property at Disney, there is no argument that the Campsites at Fort Wilderness are where to look. You bring your own tent and you can camp for as low as $40 a night, depending on the time of year. If you don’t have a tent you can rent one. The resort itself provides plenty of free entertainment to its guests like outdoor movies, running trails, a petting zoo, and so on. It’s rustic, it’s beautiful, and it’s CHEAP.

This, by the way, is my choice if I didn’t already say so. I’m aiming to camp in early October for 3 nights; the cost after tax is about $160. That’s less than the cost of one night at many of the other resorts. I’ll admit to this: the bus system is a bit on the confusing side because the resort is so HUGE (see my review of the campgrounds from a month or two ago), but they also have a ferry to the Magic Kingdom; I mean, you’re right there.

And by the way, I do have a tent; and this time when I go, I’m going to know how to put that sucker up all by myself. I hope.  As of right now I do have enough money to cover the resort reservations, but that’s not much good without the rest of the costs!

Next time: Looking at Tickets

Review: The Campsites at Fort Wilderness

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.

Here's the reception building circa 2008, aka, IWantToBeThere

Here’s the reception building circa 2008, aka, IWantToBeThere

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.

Trail rides area circa 2008 with real non-animatronic horsies

Trail rides area circa 2008 with real non-animatronic horsies

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.

Choppy pre-storm waters. Oh, Florida.

Choppy pre-storm waters. Oh, Florida.

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. XD

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.

Here's the beach, actually circa 2011, because I'm cheating

Here’s the beach, actually circa 2011, because I’m cheating

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.

HORSIE!

HORSIE!

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! 😀