Back in 2015 Busy Bee and Busy Bumble got the chance to go to a conference held at the Fort Wilderness Resort at Walt Disney World. A little background: Busy Bee had been to WDW when she was four and both sisters made the trip again in 2012, that time being the first for Busy Bumble. On that 2012 trip we went with our mother, which was kind of like having our hands held on our first long distance Disney trip. This one would be completely by ourselves, from booking to travel and back home again.
Because this conference was being held on-site at Fort Wilderness we decided to book there. Now Fort Wilderness has two options for accommodations: cabins or tents/RVs. Most of the resort is a campground, with sites meant for tents and others with hookups for RVs. A portion of the resort though has cabins. They’re not cheap (believe my bank account after this trip was paid). But they do hold a large number of people, stand on their own for privacy, have a kitchen, a nice bathroom, and climate control (this is what you’re really after in Florida).
So let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start…)
Booking our cabin through Disney’s WDW site was incredibly easy. If you haven’t booked with Disney at least take a look at the site. They do a great job of making the process user friendly and transparent. We got a cabin since we obviously couldn’t bring our usual camping stuff with us all the way to Florida. Besides, it was September and bound to be humid and I’m not going to turn down some A/C to escape that Florida heat. We were also able to book our flight and seats aboard Disney’s Magical Express. It was nice knowing everything would be coordinated by Disney and all we’d have to do is show up with our luggage and appropriate documents.
A few weeks before our trip Disney sent us all of our travel documents and vouchers for our discounts (the Magic Your Way package we booked included DisneyQuest tickets, mini golf, merchandise coupons, and dining coupons). We also got our luggage tags for Disney’s Magical Express and some nice Disney luggage tags by American Tourister. Best of all was a short time after that we got our Magic Bands in a separate shipment! This part always makes the trip more real for me. It’s important to keep the Magic Band separate from any checked luggage. This is your ticket aboard the Disney’s Magical Express bus, your room key, and your payment system if you’ve linked a credit or debit card.
We flew with Virgin America (shed a tear for the merger). This is my favorite airline, which should be an oxymoron but it’s totally true for me with VA. From checking in online to the actual travel, VA takes care of you. I’ve only had one problem with VA in all my travels with them, but that’s for another post. We were able to upgrade our flight to Main Cabin Select, which gets us bulkhead seats right behind First Class with unlimited premium drinks and snack boxes. One of the things I’ve loved about VA was the fact you could ask for a drink even in the Main Cabin seats and get them on demand at no extra charge. No more dehydrated flights! The snack boxes and extra room in Main Cabin Select were pretty awesome though. We didn’t have a third person in our row so we spread out. Check out our lunches:
Fruit and Cheese platters with Chex Mix, Caramel Corn, Chocolate Chip Cookies, soda, and why yes that is Champagne! It’s included!
So we sat back and enjoyed a few movies, caught up on some Last Week Tonight episodes (I think Busy Bumble’s laughter may have disturbed a few other passengers, but they’re missing out) and had a pleasant flight to Florida.
VA only does one flight from California to Florida so we landed at 5pm ready to head to WDW. Disney’s Magical Express takes care of your checked baggage so we just went right to the DME check in. Don’t forget to pull out your Magic Bands! Yes, they can check you in if you forgot them or never got them in the mail, but it is so much easier to just tap your band and find your assigned bus.
Now the buses don’t stop at every resort; that would take forever. You’re assigned a bus that goes by a few including your own. It’s a nice way to see the other resorts, at least in passing. Our bus passed by the Wilderness Lodge, the Polynesian Village, and the Grand Floridian before finally ending up at Fort Wilderness. We were the only ones left, but I figured most people don’t take DME to Fort Wilderness. When we landed I got a text alert that our cabin was ready for us, so all we had to do was figure out where it was.
We were in the 2700 loop which meant catching a Purple line bus to the cabin and then hiking the road back to our cabin. Just to reiterate the nature of this resort, this is not really a place meant for guests without cars or golf carts. You can rent a golf cart, but in the high visitor seasons be prepared to reserve well in advance. There were a few times I nearly called the front desk to get a cart, but Busy Bumble wasn’t sure we really needed one and it became a point of pride not to have one. But as a warning for people who have mobility issues or don’t like public transit-walking treks, get a car/golf cart/bicycle.
So our cabin… was pretty swell.
You can see there’s a driveway for a car/golf cart. There’s even an outlet to charge your golf cart. The outside patio has a barbecue grill (charcoal) and a picnic table. We were at the edge of a boggy swamp so there were croaks and squawks throughout the day.
The interior is done up just like a stereotypical cabin. That is to say you can expect lots of forest green, deep red, rough-hewn wood and unfinished lumber accents. I loved it. So much of the rest of WDW is pretty polished or even downright bland to appeal to the average guest as far as accommodations so it was nice to have something that was a little rough around the edges.
As you can see in the picture the main room you enter into is the kitchen/dining/living room. There is a television, land line phone, and wifi so you’re not really roughing it by 21st century standards. The living room has a sweet little table that’s just the right size for kiddies (or Busy Bee) and there’s a Murphy bed tucked away where that quilt is on the wall.
The kitchen is an actual full kitchen with an electric stove, oven, refrigerator, freezer, sink, and dishwasher. There’s a service that Fort Wilderness offers where they can do grocery runs for you. There’s a shopping list you can fill out in the kitchen when you arrive. There’s a small sundry store at the resort but for big groups I’d say either use the deliver service or make a run to Publix in Kissimmee before you arrive.
I had to take a picture of this lovely print of the old train that used to run here. Back before the resort was changed, when River Country was open and much of WDW was still undeveloped Fort Wilderness had a steam train! You can find pictures on other sites and recollections from guests about this excursion train, but this print is a fond reminder of the Fort Wilderness that was.
The cabin has one bedroom apart from the Murphy bed in the living room. This room has a generous queen bed and a bunk bed. There’s plenty of storage, with a sizable closet and a chest of drawers, too. Once again the decor embraces the camping theme. Check out the Hidden Mickeys in the bed linens and curtains:
All in all the cabin could sleep potentially six people comfortably, although you could squeeze in more: there’s a lot of space. It might be a little dicey in the mornings with just one bathroom, though. I don’t have any pictures of the bathroom, but it was pretty much your standard sink, toilet, and bathtub/shower combo, albeit with a lot of room in there. It still stands as the biggest bathroom we’ve ever had while staying at a Disney property.
Because we checked our bags and had them delivered by DME we were warned before our trip that our bags might not make it to our room for a few hours. I know that seems strange to some people since shouldn’t they come on the same bus as us? They actually go on a different vehicle and they try to take the most efficient route when delivering the bags. We had a dinner reservation at the Hoop-De-Doo Revue (more on that in another post) and we were hoping to clean up a bit before dinner, but with no bags in sight we resigned ourselves to waiting. As it turns out we came back from dinner to find our bags delivered. Maybe if we’d done the later seating?
One of the great things about Fort Wilderness is the fact that so much of it is still undeveloped Florida swamp. It’s a great place to see wildlife. I know what you’re thinking right now: alligators. We didn’t see any. Not to say that they might not be there, but we never saw any sign of them. There are signs warning you about snakes, lizards, and other potential animal dangers, though. Heed the warnings.
Here are a few of a critters we came across:
Yes, those are turkeys hanging out in that tree. That was pretty weird, but they’re Disney turkeys so they can do whatever they want. The tiny froggies were adorable. After you’ve seen your first one you really watch where you step.
We spent three days at the resort but didn’t get a chance to really explore the tent and RV sites. They have comfort stations spaced throughout so you’re never too far from a restroom and most of them have laundry facilities too. The resort also has hiking trails, horseback riding, canoes, playgrounds, a pool with play features, bicycles for rent, tennis courts, a sand beach, two stores, and three dining options: Mickey’s Backyard Barbecue, the Hoop-De-Doo Revue, and Trail’s End. There is boat service to the Wilderness Lodge and Magic Kingdom, and a paved path to the Wilderness Lodge.
Most of our trip was spent in conference, but we did get a chance to go to Epcot for a day trip (more on that in another post). On our last day we got a reminder that the DME bus would pick us up a few hours ahead of our flight’s departure time. I appreciated that they left a lot of room for potential delays. I’ve heard some people complain that they lose three hours or so because of this, but I’m a worrier when it comes to travel problems. I’m okay with getting to a place and then waiting so long as I can make it back home safe and on time.
Fort Wilderness like all Disney resorts will allow you to stow your luggage with bell services. We left ours since our DME bus wasn’t until 1pm and we headed off to Downtown Disney for lunch and shopping. Be sure to tip the bell services Cast Members when you come back. It’s a free service, but I wanted to apologize to our poor Cast Member for having to lift our heavy luggage.
If you want an unconventional Disney vacation that is incredibly peaceful and relaxing, or even if you just want to spend a day away from the theme park scene, come to Fort Wilderness. This is still one of my favorite trips ever.
Good: Not your typical theme park resort; nature and wildlife; no crowds (except around dinnertime at Pioneer Hall…)
Not So Good: Not really meant for people without a car; if you want overt Disney theming, this isn’t for you
Best Moments: Tiny froggies! Food at Trail’s End and the Hoop-De-Doo!
Forgettable Moments: The muggy weather (but hey, we went to Florida); having to drag our luggage back to the internal resort shuttle and back to the DME (as I said, not meant to people without vehicles.
Budget Range: Moderate Resort- Cabins can go well into the $200-300 range in the most popular parts of the year. Campsites are very affordable but you’ll need to bring your own gear.
Summed Up As A Song: “Ain’t nothing like the great outdoors to ease your soul. Ain’t nothing like the great outdoors to keep you from growin’ old.”- The Great Outdoors, Country Bear Vacation Hoe Down