So here’s the scoop. We went to Disney World last week. It’s the 2nd time we’ve been to Disney World in 4 years (and 2 years ago we just did Downtown Disney & the Boardwalk without going to the parks). So, I’m not an expert, but I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of this Disney thing. During my trips I’ve picked up on a few things that might help you plan your next trip.
Four years ago we stayed at the All-Star Movie Resort. It’s a pretty standard hotel room, but of course you have the “Disney Magic” of Mickey soaps, towels in the shape of Mickey, and Disney decor around the outside of the hotel and pool areas.
The pools were nice – nothing fancy, but a nice pool.
And of course, they (as well, as all Disney Resort hotels) offer transportation to all the theme parks, other resort hotels & Downtown Disney (now called Disney Springs).
And, you also receive the perk of “Extra Magic Hours” (the parks either open early or stay open later for hotel guests on certain days). If you fly in to Orlando and stay at a Resort they will pick you up from the airport (we did this). They have the entire transportation thing down to a science!
We also purchased a meal plan since we didn’t have a car to drive anyplace off property for meals.
Two years ago we stayed off property at a nice extended stay hotel. The hotel was about 20 minutes away from Disney. Nothing fancy, but it had a kitchen where I cooked about half of our meals.
It had a pool, but since we had to drive (and try to park each day we didn’t have time to use it).
Since we stayed at this hotel we had to drive to Downtown Disney (where parking was a nightmare) and the Boardwalk (again – a nightmare to park). And while finding your way around the entire Disney area isn’t terribly difficult, it can be overwhelming if you aren’t 100% sure about where you are headed.
This time we stayed at Fort Wilderness Campground.
We pulled our camper, which meant we needed extra days for travel. Once we got there, the line of campers & RV’s to get in was backed in to the road. We sat in the middle of road for several minutes waiting for the line to clear up enough so we could pull in without our camper hanging out in to the road! Once we pulled in, we headed to registration where we were assigned our campsite. But, before we pulled away he asked if we had a dog (this is the only property that allows dogs). And we did have our dog – we stated that when we made our reservation. So, he gave us another campsite in the “dog friendly area”. So, we pulled our camper to our site…and found another camper sitting in that site. So, we pulled the camper back up to the front (where we now sat in a small area – against the flow of traffic) and my husband hopped out, went up front & was given a new site. We pulled our camper to our new site and were immediately frustrated. Although the pad was nice & big as stated, the street area given to whip a 5th wheel in to place was tiny. But, luckily with the help of the “neighbor” my husband was able to get the camper in to place. And, once we were set up it was wonderful!
The campground has several comfort stations, however I never went in to any, but I heard a couple of women on a bus one day talk about them (they were impressed) so I assume they were clean.
The campground has 2 pools. We never went to 1 of the pools (it was too far), but the pool we went to was great. It had a water slide, a splash pad, hot tub, good size pool, and a playground nearby.
The campground offers transportation…and let me just say, this is when I discovered not all Disney Transportation is created equal. All “All-Star” Resorts share buses to get everyplace (there are 3 “All-Star” Resorts). So, it seems like you are always in line to board a bus, and rarely get to sit on a bus (when you do finally get to board a bus you are most likely standing, which isn’t normally a big deal, unless you have walked theme parks all day and/or have tired children). With the campground we had bus transportation to get every where, except the Magic Kingdom which you take a boat to get to. We never waited long to board a bus (or boat) and only shared a bus from Epcot with Wilderness Lodge. Which means we almost always had a seat & were never on a bus (or boat) for very long. (This campground does have cabins, so you can still fly in to Orlando, have the Disney bus pick you up at the airport & they will drop you off at the campground for your cabin stay.)
We still received “Extra Magic Hours” by staying at the campground, since it is considered a resort property.
Since we had the camper we were able to save lots of money on meals. We ate breakfast at the camper every morning and packed snacks to take to the theme parks. We mixed up how we ate lunches and dinners. Two days we packed PB&J’s to take to the parks for lunch (you can take food in to the parks, they don’t mind). One day we bought lunch at a counter service place – it was nearly $65 for 4 people (chicken bites – not filet mignon, people). I can’t imagine if we had bought lunch all 5 days! YIKES! One day we ate dinner at a park and another day we ate dinner on the Boardwalk. On the other nights we ate late dinners at the camper – sloppy joes or something quick. We did buy snacks a couple of times, but shared. Also, I read that all the parks have free cups of ice water at counter service places if you ask. So I tried that this time. Yep – they do. But they are kid cups. If you are thirsty you’ll need a couple! Also, if you are in line for a ride (such as a roller coaster) you don’t have anything to do with the cup (should you be savoring the tiny amount of water) once you board. I started taking a bottle of cold water & refilling it at water fountains – it was much more convenient. I could drink while I was in line, eating a granola bar – put the lid back on & put it in my backpack for the ride!
Fort Wilderness also had lots of activities we didn’t have time to participate in, such as movies (I think almost every night they showed a movie), campfire, sing-a-longs, games, horseback riding, biking/running trails…and so much more!
Hopefully these help you plan your next trip.