Disney Resort On A Budget - Fort Wilderness Camping

by Vern Woodruff on October 17, 2019 155 Orlando

Leap's Note: Today's post comes from Undercover Tourist customer and super Disney World fan Vern Woodruff. Vern has written about the Disney World character tips and the Jedi Training Academy

Fort Wilderness Camping - Entrance Sign

A trip to Walt Disney World Resort comes with many expenses, your lodging being one of the top costs. At Disney resorts, this cost is further increased if your party has more than four people since the vast majority of lodging options are limited to four or less in a room. To cut down on this expense, many people consider lodging at an off-site location. However, some of the perks you receive as a Disney Resort hotel guest can be valuable enough that you do not want to lose out on them. So, how can you minimize your lodging expense while still reaping the benefits of being a Disney Resort hotel guest? For those of you who can drive to Orlando and are willing to camp with a tent or small camper, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground is the best option for you.

Planning my family’s visit to Disney World, we originally were going to drive and stay at one of Disney’s value resorts since they are the least expensive lodging option. However, with a family of five, I discovered that a regular room would not accommodate us and a suite would have to be reserved instead. This was much more costly and actually was more expensive than reserving two regular rooms. I did not want to spend that much on our lodging, especially since we would not be in our rooms much, but I did want the Disney Resort perks. It was at this point that I checked out the Disney campground at Fort Wilderness. I discovered that each campsite could have up to 10 guests, which worked out great for my family. Selecting a tent or pop-up camper campsite was the least expensive choice and was more than $1,000 less for our 8-day stay than the cheapest room available to us. Even though we were staying at the Disney campground in a tent, we received the same perks for being resort guests as those staying in a Disney luxury suite.

Disney Campground - Fort Wilderness Camping - Tents

If you are not familiar with Disney, you may be wondering about the benefits of staying on-site. The main perks are:

1. Starting 180 days from your arrival date, you can make Advance Dining Reservations for your arrival date, as well as the rest of your stay. Non-Disney resort guests can only make a reservation 180 days in advance, so they miss out on the expanded reservation window and have to arrange reservations for additional days of their trip by contacting Disney when each of the other desired dates reach the 180-day window. Appointments for the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique have this same perk.

2. Starting 60 days from your arrival date, you can start making FastPass+ reservations for your entire trip. Non-resort guests are limited to 30 days from each date they plan to visit.

If you are interested in making reservations at the most popular dining spots or obtaining a FastPass+ for the most popular attractions, the expanded reservation window for resort guests is a huge advantage. Without this perk, I would likely not have been able to make an early morning breakfast reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table or a FastPass+ time for five of us to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

3. Each day, one or sometimes two of the parks have Extra Magic Hours in the morning or the evening (before the park opens or after the park closes). These Extra Magic Hours are outside of the regular park hours and are only available to Disney World Resort hotel guests.

4. Disney provides complimentary transportation from Fort Wilderness (and all Walt Disney World Resort hotels) to destinations all across Walt Disney World property.

"What's Fort Wilderness camping like?"

Fort Wilderness Camping - Hook Ups

Like the rest of Disney World, there is outstanding attention to detail at the Disney campground and cast members make an effort to keep everything in tip-top shape. Our campsite had a paved parking area and a large, well-packed sandy pad for pitching a tent or parking a pop-up tent camper. The pad is very solid, as it took some effort to pound our metal tent stakes in place. Water and multiple electrical outlets are available near each pad and are disguised to look like a tree stump from the front. There are multiple comfort stations spread throughout the Disney campground, so bathrooms and showers are never too far away. A camp store offers basic food and supplies. The check-in time for Fort Wilderness camping is a relatively early 1 p.m.

If you do not go into the parks one day, Fort Wilderness offers a number of activities that are not available elsewhere. You can take a horseback or carriage ride. Bicycles are available to rent, and there are areas for basketball and volleyball. Clementine’s Beach offers a fine viewing area for fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant. In the evening, the free Chip ‘n' Dale’s Campfire Sing-along is a great time.

While the cost savings of staying at the Disney campground at Fort Wilderness is the biggest plus when compared to other Disney resorts, there are a few drawbacks.

Fort Wilderness - Camper Food TruckFort Wilderness Camping - Horse Drawn Carriage

1. The Disney campground is very large, so if you choose to use Disney transportation, you will first need to take a bus from your loop in the campground to another location, either the boat dock for a ride to the Magic Kingdom or another bus area for transportation to the rest of Disney World. After doing this for one morning, we decided it was quicker and easier to just drive to the parks, especially since we always arrived well in advance of park opening. Alternatively, if you have the space, you can bring your bicycles or rent an on-site golf cart to get around the Fort.

2. Fort Wilderness is a natural setting, and as such, there are wild animals on the grounds. One night we awoke to find that an opossum had crawled under the side of our tent and was rummaging around. The Fort's squirrels are notorious thief, too. On the flip side, watching baby turkeys meander and hearing the birds sing in the morning is very cool.

3. You are exposed to the weather. We were fortunate that it did not rain while we were there at the end of November, but it did get down to 40° one night. We had brought an electric heater, which worked well for us.

4. Since you will need to use the comfort stations for the restroom and shower, you may need to wait if they are full. We did not have any problems with this, but it can happen.

Even with these drawbacks, the cost advantage and other activities available while camping at Fort Wilderness far outweighed the cons for my family. Fort Wilderness camping will require packing additional items, so you have to plan that out. For five of us, we removed one middle row passenger seat from our minivan and were able to pack our tent, tent poles, two cots, a collapsible bed frame for an air mattress, five sleeping bags, clothing for eight days, winter coats, food supplies, several 12-packs of pop, a heater and other miscellaneous items. It was like a Tetris game getting everything packed, but we were able to do it.

Fort Wilderness - Fireworks on the Beach

Fort Wilderness is popular, with many returning visitors. If staying at the Disney campground is appealing to you, you will want to make a reservation as far in advance as possible. If you have not gone camping before, or rarely do so, one recommendation I have is to take a “practice” trip somewhere before going to Fort Wilderness. We did this, and it was quite helpful because we were able to practice packing the van and make notes about items we decided we needed to bring with us.

For those of you who aren't quite ready to rough it in a tent or camper, Fort Wilderness also has a number of cabins that sleep up to six. The cabins come with one double bed, one pull-down double bed and one bunk bed.

What questions do you have about camping at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground? Leave any of your thoughts or comments below! And check out the Where to Stay in Orlando page inside our Orlando Planning Timeline for more tips!

Related: Tips for Preparing to Visit Disney World with Kids

Related: Ultimate Guide to Fort Wilderness at Disney World

Vern and his wife are the parents of two boys and a girl that all love Disney’s animated movies and shorts. He lives in Ohio and is employed as a mechanical engineer, which helps to explain his excessive attention to detail, organization and planning. His oldest son enjoys watching the animated shorts from the Disney Treasures series, his youngest son has the middle name “Donald” and he likes telling people that he was named after Donald Duck, and his daughter loves the Disney Princesses, especially Rapunzel and recently Elsa.

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51–76 of 76 comments
Feb 24, 2016 at 5:09 p.m. Shirley Says...

Great information here. How far in advance can you make reservations? Is it better to make them online or call the reservation line?

Feb 24, 2016 at 5:59 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Shirley,

You can make reservations 499 days in advance online or by phone.

Keep hopping!


Feb 3, 2016 at 3 a.m. maggy Says...

we are a group of 10. We booked the last preferred campsite for the days we are going. Does anyone know how the area where you stake your tent is? We need to purchase tents and not sure if we take 2 (10 person) tents or 1 large 15 person tent. Can anyone please help? I called WDW but they were clueless on how to answer this. Thanks!

Jan 14, 2016 at 8:11 p.m. Evil Stepmother Says...

We plan to bring a small Nomad camper and a tent. Will the tent/pop-up campsite accommodate us or will we need a full hook-up site? I have been unable to get campsite specifics from the official WDW page. Thanks!

Jan 11, 2016 at 2:43 p.m. alycurry Says...

Looking carefully at pros/cons of tent camping vs rv/popup rental for FW. Have you guys ever tried any of the local rv rental companies? Our dates are in October and I'm a wimp with hot/humid weather & tent camping. Here in KY, no prob but FL is a different story. LOVE your tent btw. Room to move.

Nov 13, 2016 at 1:14 p.m. Beccam Says...

Hello Fellow Kentuckian!

I was curious of what your family decided to do. Did you tent camp or rent an rv/pop up? If you rented, do you mind to share some of the details?

I am considering making a late October/early November reservation. How was you weather? Any certain advice?

Thanks so much!

Jan 1, 2016 at 1:47 a.m. edward jefferson Says...

Towing a trailer in disney fort would decrease the expenses, plus you can also spend time overnight with the family.

Dec 27, 2015 at 2:51 a.m. Says...

Sooo starving showed up at pioneer hall at 9:39 to eat the buffet only to find all cold salad and apps already put away??? Confusing?? Really what are we paying for some meat and veggies what's the purpose of having a buffet? Really lately Disney has been disappointing Restaurant closes at 10 PM

Nov 20, 2015 at 2 a.m. Mary Ann Says...

The only reservation available during our available time is a tent/popup site. Is it ok to park a small rv on that site?

Nov 20, 2015 at 10:06 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Mary Ann,

I would contact Disney directly, and maybe others would chime in, but I don't think so.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Nov 11, 2015 at 3:50 p.m. Linda Says...

Thank you for the great info. We leave on Saturday for Ft. Wilderness. I'm used to backpacking so it's weird taking so much. We're taking our kids or the first time and they still don't know. We have an educational behind the scenes thing Tuesday morning at 8:30 at Epcot. Should we plan on driving that morning?

Nov 19, 2015 at 2:15 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Linda,

If you'll have a car, that is always faster than Disney transportation.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Nov 25, 2015 at 10 p.m. Tim Says...

Sure but you pay for parking.

Dec 31, 2015 at 6:33 a.m. Stacey Says...

You don't pay for parking if you're a resort guest.

Nov 8, 2015 at 1:49 p.m. Sharon Brown Says...

I have a Rv and would like to know the price to hookup on Disney wildness also is it the same price to visit the parks as if you were buying a one day pass

Nov 6, 2015 at 11:09 p.m. Barbara Says...

Hello - Is there a way to get a hard copy map of FW? Thank you

May 14, 2020 at 4:07 a.m. Shirley meyers Says...

Do y’all have any open for October 25/31/2020

And could y’all send a map camping ground

May 14, 2020 at 10:22 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Shirley!

You can find more information about reserving a cabin here! If you're interested in a campsite, you can find out more about campsite reservations here. You can find a map of the campground here. Hope this helps!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Sep 15, 2015 at 8:54 a.m. box trailer kits Says...

This is great info! We stayed really close (boyd lake) last year for our first time, so now want to venture a little farther away.

Sep 3, 2015 at 1:12 p.m. Deborah Brannon Says...


We have stayed in the cabins before but this Jan we have rented a camper and are super excited! We had to reserve a PREMIUM site as that is all that was left, any recommendations for a loop request? Which premium loop do you think is best and why? TIA

Sep 3, 2015 at 12:55 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Deborah,

Congrats on the upcoming stay! All of the premium sites offer pretty good locations. Loop 400 and 700 put you closest to the Settlement area, including dining, the beach and boat launch. Loops 600, 1000, 1300 and 1400 are good picks near the Meadow area, which has the main pool, sing-a-long and country store. Loops 600 and 1400 are on the north side of the Meadow and pretty close to the Settlement, so they are the best of both worlds. It's really up to you and what you think is most important!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Aug 15, 2017 at 6:41 p.m. Jean Says...

Which spots are pet-friendly and close to boats, buses and comfort station please

Aug 15, 2017 at 1:46 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jean,

Our post, The Ultimate Guide To Fort Wilderness, has all of that info, and so much more!

Hoppy Planning!

Mommy Frog

Sep 1, 2015 at 10:10 p.m. Mike McKenzie Says...

Neat trick for reservations!

We are annual passholders, have motorhome and visit once or twice each year for a couple of weeks each time.

Making a reservation for a week or more is never possible, however if you can call and get one, two or more in the period you want, this will get you"in the door". Then the effort begins to get all the days you need by calling each day and adding to you existing reservation one or two days in the front of your days or the back. Don't give up on the calls. We usually can get two weeks put together after about ten or twelve calls.

Best of luck and happy camping.

Sep 1, 2015 at 6:02 p.m. Barbara Says...

We have 3 families traveling together each with 3 different RVs. But we would like to camp together on the same loop. Should we book the reservations together or each family book separately then try to camp close to each other when there?

Sep 2, 2015 at 8:52 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Barbara,

If you can, booking together would be the best, but you can also add a room and amenity request in your reservation and then request a nearby campsite of your other party. Unfortunately, there is only space for one name. An alternate option would be to fax your reservation request to 407-824-3508.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Aug 26, 2015 at 5:15 p.m. Mark Says...

Our 1st

Stay at Fort Wilderness Campground

Walt Disney World Florida

I am not going to tell you what we did I am just going to tell you my discoveries.

1) Ice is at the bathhouse. $2.00 per very small bag. But you can get bigger bags at the Meadows Trading Post.

2) Take the Boat from the Settlement Trading post area to Magic Kingdom short ride.

3) The Buffett at Crockets tavern is very good.

4) The Mickey Bar-B-Q is expensive, but Beer and Wine are included, Drink up.

5) Laundry is at the comfort stations take a credit card.

6) Lots of wild life.

7) Rent a golf Cart this place is way too big to walk around. Especially after walking around theme parks and standing in lines all day.

8) This is just our opinion. August is way too hot and humid to totally enjoy Disney world to its full effect. Too many people.

9) This is the place where A select few American push (ride) the boundaries of the Americans with Disabilities Act. But when there is a person that is truly disabled Disney it the act to follow. I have seen them put truly handicap kids on rides, and watched them smile.

Aug 26, 2015 at 2:23 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Mark,

Thanks for sharing! This is helpful information.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Aug 24, 2015 at 6:56 p.m. Christine Says...

If we have 2 car-loads of people staying at the campsite, will we get free parking for both cars at the parks?

Aug 27, 2015 at 12:49 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Christine,

Yes, this shouldn't be a problem :)

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Aug 24, 2015 at 2:03 a.m. Stephanie Says...

So are the adorable tents that are in all the pictures provided?

Aug 23, 2015 at 8:07 p.m. Randy Schwartz Says...

GF and I in our 60's had a great time at Camp Wilderness, being able to go to the park, and come back for mid-day break was great....

We "camped" in a 36 motorhome, and the desk clerks could not have been nicer...blowout delayed our arrival but the lobby is open 24 hours... We had advance reservations but we did not reserve a particular spot, ( will next time ) so they gave us the best 1 they had left...WOW loop 200 a 1/2 block from the boats, 20 feet from buses, and 300 feet from the All you can eat restaurant....roast beef, peel and eat shrimp, loads of dessert, for $18.00 you should mention the restaurant.... after a long day at the park.... what a treat... and they are open late...

Went there mid April... and will be back next April... long trip from Wisconsin 1350 miles, but we stayed at the waysides and truck stops, to sleep no need to

rent a site each night... best vacation in years...

Sep 14, 2015 at 9:07 p.m. Sheila plummer Says...

Staying in Dec. first time there. Should we request certain area.? In a 30 ft RV with our twin 3 yr old grandsons.

Aug 2, 2015 at 1:48 a.m. Tim Says...

I would like to know more about renting a car and staying at fort wilderness. How far away from my campsite would I expect to park my car? Why is renting a car so useful vs using the disney transportation? Any thoughts about camping somewhere near disney instead of at fort wilderness?

Aug 2, 2015 at 8:46 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Tim,

The benefit of staying on-site is getting to make advance FastPass+ reservations, being immersed in the Disney magic and being right on property. Camping off-site is totally doable but lacks all of these things. Your car will be parked on your camp site at Fort Wilderness, so there is no need to worry about that.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Jul 7, 2015 at 9:04 p.m. caroline schott Says...

Is there free transportation between parks as if you stay in a hotel. Or is there need for a car? We live on the west coast and love camping. We want to try a European backpacking style Disney world trip.

Jul 8, 2015 at 8:10 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Caroline,

There is free transportation between the parks, and even guests staying off-site can take advantage of this. It's easy to get to and from the hotel or campground and the parks. Nowadays, we always rent a car, but we have used Disney's transportation many, many times, and it is very doable, and especially easy for first trips.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Jul 3, 2015 at 4 a.m. Barb L Says...

Hi, we're hoping to camp in Fort Wilderness the first 10 days in November 2015, but it seems it's already booked up! Since I've not had this problem in the past (having been there once), I'm kind of surprised no reservations this far out.

Is this business as usual? I was really looking forward to camping there.

Sep 18, 2015 at 9:32 p.m. Marg H Says...

If you like to camp, Fort Wilderness is the best ever! Hope you read the comment about reserving a few days for when you want your reservations and then just keep extending in either direction until you get what you need. We come every year for several weeks and we manage to piece together reservations every time. Disney are really good about helping you to extend once you are in a site and they don't make you move. I just checked the first 10 days of November and you can get a tent/popup site checking in Nov. 1 and out Nov. 7. That's a start if that type of site works for you. Cancellations happen 1-2 weeks prior to actual dates so you will likely luck out. Sometimes we extend a day at a time and other times a few days but you will get lucky. We have never had to move. We camp in a travel trailer.

Dec 9, 2015 at 8:30 p.m. Kimberly Crowder Says...

Hello Marg,

My husband and children enjoy camping out. However we have not purchased our own pop up tents etc. I am piecing together ahead of time all the things we would need to bring with us. I understand you can cook your own meals out there. Are you able to bring your own little grills or cook over a open fire? Does the camp ground allow this. How much is it per night to stay in a pop up tent site? Do they provide pop up tents or did you purchase your own?? Just want to save as much money as possible without the additional overhead.

Jul 7, 2015 at 11:45 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Barb,

So sorry, but it does appear that the camp sites are booked up! Since they are so affordable, the campsites are a popular option.

Mommy Frog

Apr 24, 2015 at 6:44 p.m. Lori Says...

Hi! How long did it take you to get to the cinderella royal breakfast from the campground? Did you take the boat or drive?

Mar 19, 2015 at 3:56 p.m. Isabelle Says...

Can you rent a tent and sleeping bags?

Mar 20, 2015 at 5:01 p.m. Vern Woodruff Says...

Hi Isabelle,

Fort Wilderness does not really advertise having tents and cots available for rental, but they do have some that are usually used for groups camping in the Creekside Meadow group camping area. However, if a group is not using the equipment and it is available, they may make it available for individuals to rent. I would recommend calling Fort Wilderness directly and inquiring about your planned visit dates. I do not know about sleeping bags, so you could ask when you call.

If that does not work out, you could try doing an Internet search to find if there are local businesses that offer this service. I know that RV's are available for this because on our loop at Fort Wilderness, we saw a pop-up tent camper that was set up by a local business and then was used by a family that rented it. A third option, depending on the size of your group, how you are traveling, and the number of nights you are staying, would be to purchase an inexpensive tent and some blankets when you arrive in Orlando. The tent could be used during your stay then discarded before your trip home. If you spent $100 for a basic tent and blankets (and maybe an air mattress) and stayed for 5 nights, it would only cost you $20 a night for your tent supplies. Hopes this helps.

Mar 8, 2015 at 2:29 a.m. Melissa Says...

my family is going to be camping at fort wilderness at the end of September! Where did you purchase your tent that is in the picture?! We have been looking for one exactly like that!

Aug 25, 2015 at 4:08 a.m. Joe Patterson Says...

Any chance you guys will be there around the 20th. We are in the 1500 loop from the 20 - 23rd.

We have a 5 year old daughter. It would be nice to meet someone there with kids.

We are not doing the Disney parks this trip. Just camping.

Mar 9, 2015 at 9:41 p.m. Vern Says...

Hi Melissa,

My family participates in Civil War reenacting, and the canvas tent in the picture is the wall tent we use at events. The tent is from Fall Creek Suttlery, a vendor that specializes in items for Civil War reenactors, especially tents. Do a web search for them, and you will be able to find their web page. Depending on what you need inside the tent for bedding, an item that worked great for us was the Disc-O-Bed bunk bed cot. All three kids were able to use it (the two smaller ones shared a cot), and it greatly helps out with space in the tent. An outdoor supplier like Cabela's carries them. Enjoy tenting at Fort Wilderness!

Oct 21, 2014 at 9:27 p.m. Vern Says...

Hi Ian,

We spent almost all of our daylight hours in the parks, so we did not spend time with the other families camping nearby. However, we did see kids riding bikes around the loop and there are a number of people that just enjoy camping at Fort Wilderness and do not go into the parks. There is a social aspect because some of the regular campers will do various things to decorate their campsites (Fort Wilderness does have a list detailing how you can and cannot decorate). We walked to the boat one evening and passed a number of sites that were decked out for Christmas, several with an extensive display. The most social activity at the campgrounds is Chip 'n Dale's Campfire Sing-Along held every evening. It is free and is the only place where a campfire can be held on the campgrounds (tip: if you attend and want to roast marshmallows or hot dogs, bring your own supplies to save on purchasing items there). After the singing, a Disney movie is shown. Another item many people rent or bring along is a golf cart. Because of the size of the grounds and virtually no general parking on the grounds, a golf cart is the best way to explore the area. As a pedestrian, you do need to watch for the golf carts because they are everywhere. Hope this helps!

Oct 21, 2014 at 2:28 p.m. Ian Says...

Did you spend time with the other families camping nearby? I would like to know if there was a more social aspect to the trip. i.e. did your children meet other children their age and have fun on the playgrounds?

Oct 22, 2017 at 3:31 p.m. Lauire Says...

We are heading home from Fort Wilderness right now. Our three kiddos played with the kids in the next site over. Everyone is super sweet and kind. Love Disney camping so clean. If you have never done Mickey's Not So Scary party I highly recommend it. Have fun!

Feb 15, 2018 at 3:10 p.m. Anne Says...

Hi Laurie, I read your post. What loop did you have? Was it “safe” and kid friendly? Was it close to kids activities?

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