For those of us with more than 2 children or less than a cool grand to lay out for sleeping quarters per week, camping has always been a good option and it's no less true at Disney.
If you look around online, most reviews are from people who go just to camp and don't actually go to the parks, there's SO much to do there.
Some of the free: 2 pools, one with hot
tub and slides, both open 24 hours! Evening movies on the larger pool deck
with fire pits for bring your own s'mores, walking trails, sandy beach, buses
and boats to get you around, 4 playgrounds, fireworks watching and tennis
(pick up complementary gear at the Bike Barn), volleyball, horseshoes, shuffleboard,
fishing in the canals (Bring your rod or rent one for $12.50 for a day), basketball
(balls are at the court) and tetherball. You can also go to Tri-Circle-D Ranch
and look at the horses, all the ones for the trail rides and parades are kept
and cared for there! Plus...ponies! Go to the Fort Wilderness Resort and take
the tour (W-Sat 9 a.m.) or just hang out and watch their version of Old Faithful
(every half hour). Check out the Carolwood Pacific Room (in the Villas building)
and see Walt's trains or play chess. Kids can get a goodie bag with a list
of hidden Mickey's, a map of the resort, coloring book and more!
Moderately priced (or, things I would pay for, it's my opinion!)
Trail Rides $46 for 45 minute ride (age 9 and up)
Evening hayrides $5 for kids (10 and under), $8 for adults, 45 minutes
Surrey Bikes (under $25 for up to 6 peddlers)
they have cruises, carriage rides, jet skis, parasailing, bike and golf cart rentals, there's an arcade, you can work out at the lodge fitness center ($12/day), Archery Class (90 minutes for $39), get a massage, Pony Rides (over age 2 and under 80 pounds $5), have Segway tour, attend one of the two dinner shows, eat at the fru-fru places and so on.
Having camped here 13 nights:
Check in is really simple. Be sure you have them link your bands to the debit/credit card you pay for your stay with, that's about all the interaction you will have with the front staff.
The hot tub is 104 degrees and they allow
all ages, though under 12 has to have an adult. There is a 64 foot long slide
going into the pool.
The weekends are crazy, expect packed campsites, security does no patrols, people are up and yakking well past quiet time (10 pm). The parks don't close early enough for everyone to be back before 10, expect lots of folks walking and driving by. A good fan or white noise machine will drown out 95% of it.
You can tie up a clothesline, I have seen clotheslines, hammocks, tarps tied off to trees and so on. I have also seen as many as 3 cars in a site, though it clearly states one is the limit.
The bathhouses all have laundry, the change machines will take $1, $5, $10 and $20 bills. They sell tiny detergent packets. It's $2 to wash and $2 to dry and one dryer cycle will dry your clothes. Super hot is too hot, that will melt the elastic in your delicate stuff (bras and swimwear are delicate!)
The campground is not big enough to need a golf cart, you really can walk from end to end, it's a mile for Pete's sake. You mainly just want to walk from the middle to the end-the big pool to the beach. The front end is just check in and the horses. Bring a bike if walking scares you. Or take the bus, there are 3 dedicated bus lines inside the campground with buses that stop about every 10th of a mile at designated stops.
Check the map, we camped on the purple route,
but could take any bus that came by because the yellow and orange route both
had stops very near ours. MUCH less wait time!
Campgrounds do have free wi-fi, but it's come and go. Still, if you just need to check e-mail and update Facebook and maybe do your banking 2-3 times in a week, it's plenty. I have read about people going to buy routers and all of that. No need, hopefully you aren't there to be online.
If you rely on buses and boats, add an hour
to your time to get anywhere. If it's closing time, add 90 minutes to get
It's not a good place to be like I tend to be-a stickler for the rules. Some people, like us, have saved for years to be here and the trip is a big deal to them. Some people live 20 minutes away and just popped in last minute to get really drunk at Downtown Disney and plan to come in by bus at 2 a.m. and sleep it off. I'd say about half the people camping are not going in the parks-they are just hanging out. It is not quiet Thursday-Saturday nights. You will need a fan or some kind of LOUD white noise machine. People walk and golf cart by all night long, talking and even yelling back and forth, revving engines and honking. As SOON as 7 a.m. rolls around, every kid with wheels is set loose, particular favorite devices are Razor scooters with the little piece of metal that drags and makes a noise like an industrial machine. Or skateboards.
That being said, kids between around 8-13 will never lack for company and there are playgrounds and the pools and tons of games, organized or open, that they can join in on. Teens will have a harder time of it as most of them either get out of having to camp with the grandparents (the source of 80% of the rampaging kids) or they have a friend already and just stalk around glaring at everyone and whispering to each other. Ah, adolescence. That time when your hair MUST be perfect, eyeliner MUST be one inch thick, though visible bra straps are fine. Over time, I quit worrying about the hair and eyeliner, though the whole 'bra straps showing' is still an issue. I guess you don't outgrow it all. hahahaha! At least I have sense enough to not wear anything my butt cheeks can fall out of. Well, I mean usually.
There are lights on the bathhouses, which are in the middle or outer edge of the loops, tucked behind trees. Only a couple sites get shined on. The rest of the campground has knee high lights every 10-12 sites that barely put out any light. It's VERY dark, you will need a flashlight to get around in the campground at night. The walkways along the road are lit at night with higher lights.
There is a swamp-literally-just across the
road from our site and creeks running everywhere, tons of lakes and ponds
and standing water-it's rained more than it's been dry. And yet-nearly no
mosquitoes. Not sure what they do, but they have to be doing something. No
ants going after spilled food, no critters in the trash at night. There are
deer, turkey, squirrels so tame they don't even move if they are busy in the
road, there are GIANT birds, ibis galore and about 900 frogs. But no bugs
and no raccoons. I am pretty sure I saw peacocks, though. As we were leaving,
we saw TINY deer, like Key deer sized deer. They were SO cute.
What else...there's food available, lots of it, for a price. The Chuckwagon snack bar sells the food they make at Mickey's BBQ for much less. Trails End has the best buffet price in the parks at $15 age 10 and up for all you can eat food and lots of different drink choices. The server we had was REALLY focused on getting his tip-not by providing amazing service as he refilled our glasses twice (his sole contribution to our entire meal) but by slapping down the ticket and announcing, "Now, how do you want to handle the tip?" He gave us various options, assuring us cash was best. When I used the Magic Band to pay for it all, he was irate and made us wait about 10 minutes after we were done to sign the slip. Apparently when you do that, The Mouse sees how much he's getting and he has to pay taxes on it. I think $15 for walking to a table 3 times in half an hour is pretty decent money, especially considering there were about 10 tables in his section and turnover is high. That whole thing made me mad-I would have happily tipped him the amount, but that DEMAND was SUPER tacky and put us right in our place as wallets and not guests. He even made a snide remark about our accommodations 'Oh! You got lots of money I see, staying in the CAMPGROUND.' I should have complained to management at the time, but did not want to ruin our day. We were full and the food was good. We won't be back, though.