We are on a countdown to see a Mouse! Our annual Fort Wilderness extravaganza is about to begin for the 16th time! It is truly our "happy place". Often our friends tell us that "one day, when the kids grow up, you won't go to Disneyworld anymore!". Sorry friends, that couldn't be further from the truth. It is highly likely that Neal and I will go more often as our schedules will free up and we will be able to go several times a year, and possibly for longer periods of time. Of course it is our hope that the kids, and maybe their kids, will join us for a yearly family trip for years to come, but we can only hope. Time will tell. Disney is truly a magical place for our family, and always has been. There is something for all ages there and with four kids at varying ages, meeting everyones needs has always been a priority. Although we love to travel to new places each year in the RV, Disney is that one place that we can go to that everyone absolutely enjoys. We have been going as a family since 2000 and each trip has been a unique and wonderful experience. In the beginning we travelled by minivan, got a hotel off site, and only stayed for six days to save money. It was a whirlwind trip and exhausting. We then graduated to flying and staying on property...boy, was that expensive! We then got smart and purchased our first RV. Our first "big family trip" was fulfilling a lifelong dream by taking the RV down to the Campsites at Fort Wilderness Resort and spending a whole week and a half on property! It was fantastic! We were able to do so much more for less, including staying longer! After so many years of going to Disney, we have learned how to do it right, and on a budget! We now stay on property for 14 days and love every minute of it!
1) Stay on property at The Campsites at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort in an RV!:
It is so affordable to stay in your RV at Fort Wilderness. Up to 10 people can stay in your campsite which really saves some money! In addition to parking our RV, we bring a tent (with an air conditioner...we glamp after all!) for our oldest son who loves his own space. We have a canopy for his tent, fans, air conditioner, terrific air mattress and plugs so he can use his computer etc., so his space is comfortable for him. The average cost per night for the site is $97, however we upgrade to a Premium Site for $119.77 per night (2015 prices). It is a more spacious site and is very level. The following description is taken from the Disney website:
"Great for larger parties, 4 types of campsites accommodate everything from tents to 45-foot and longer RVs, with a maximum of 10 Guests per site. Each campsite is equipped with privacy-enhancing landscaping, water, cable television and electrical hook-ups, a picnic table and a charcoal grill. Most campsites also include a sewer hook-up, and some even permit pets."
2) Save money making most of your own meals!
It is definately worth investigating if the meal plan is a good investment for your family during your stay. It used to be for us when we went for shorter trips. We now go for 14 days at this point and, although we love the food at Disney, eating out for two weeks is excessive for our family. We save so much money making many of our own meals!! Also, our family really tries to eat healthy and we believe that you can do that best by making many of your own meals during your vacation. It is important to note that Disney has certainly made it easier to enjoy healthier meals at many of their restaurants and do a terrific job accomodating special dietary issues. We have plenty of storage in our RV with a full size fridge and freezer so we are able to stock up on veggies, fruit, dry goods, drinks, and frozen items. We really love to bring our favorite meal items and have some yummy breakfast, lunch and dinners peacefully sitting by our RV. It is nice to get away from the crowds as well!
3) Go off Season!
Truthfully, we did this only twice when the kids were younger. We have a business and kids in school, so we have been at the mercy of our lives. We go when we can, which is usually during a peak season. However, it is worth it if you are able, to go off season as it saves alot of money. In the past, we would make the effort to take a trip during Disney's "free meal plan offer" (typically offered in a non peak season), however this is no longer offered to some properties, such as the Campsites at Fort Wilderness. Why do they not offer this free meal plan to the Campground? It was once explained to us that since Disney allows up to 10 individuals to stay at a site, it is not cost effective for them to also give away 10 meal plans. I did argue that we all will still leave alot of money with them during our stay, but that got me nowhere...I tried:) It is also good to note that going off season can have some weather risks. We once went at the end of August, and although it saved us some cost-wise, we dealt with Tropical storm Faye the entire time were went to Disney. We are able to look back on that trip and laugh, but believe me, it wasn't worth the monsoon we dealt with in our, then, Class C Winnebago. It was exhausting!
4) Join AAA!
We book our trips with our now good friend Tracy each year through AAA. I always go online and see what the cost is with all that we plan to do on the Disney site, then call Tracy. AAA saves us $200-$300 off each trip every year. They also give us $100 back which I use to purchase my next year's AAA premium membership- it's essentially free. We also receive a booklet of saving offers for shopping and experiences for free. Not a bad deal. A cheaper trip, coupons, and a free membership. Sold.
4) Buy more days of park passes=save more money!
We have learned over the years that it is worth buying more park days for the amount of time we spend at the resort. The current price for a one day pass at the Magic Kingdom is $99 (w/o tax) but if you purchase seven day passes, the price per day per ticket is only $45(w/o tax)!! Savings!!!! We add on the "Water Park and More Option" as well which, for almost the cost of one day at the water park, offers unlimited water park days, Disney Quest, admission the the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, and free mini golf. This packet is available to use for your entire stay. Deal! It is also worth investigating the No Expiration or Park Hopper and Annual Pass offers to see if that is a good option for your family.
5) Get a Disney Chase Visa Card!
We save so much money with the Disney Chase Visa Card. To us, it's free money! There are two options for this card: the Rewards Credit Card (receive $50 credit after first purchase) and the Premier Card (Annual fee of $49, receive $100 after you spend $500). Both cards offer Disney reward dollars (1 and 2%). Use the card all year long and use the dollars towards your next trip! We use our dollars towards the cost of our dinners out at Disney. Free Meals!! The card also gives you savings at select restaurants, stores and Disney experiences. Check it out!
Not everything at Disney cost money! We have put together a list of things to do FOR FREE while staying at Disney on your next vacation:
- Walk around Downtown Disney (you will often find free street performers etc). Window shopping etc!
- Monorail ride.
- Visit the Boardwalk area.
- Boat rides.
- Swim at resort pool.
- Evening resort campfire and movie.
- Fireworks for select locations ( ie. Polynesian resort beach, Campground beach)
- Nightly electric water parade (Seven Seas Lagoon)
Kathy and Neal
Follow us on our RV Adventures. We don't camp, we "Glamp".