Despite never having spent a single night in a camper or RV, we thought it was time we did.
You know, for the experience.
After all, we’ve stayed in every Disney World Resort – including the cabins at Fort Wilderness – but we’ve never tried the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds.
But if ever there was a year to give camping at Disney World a try, 2020 is it.
Here’s how it went.
Why did we decide to rent a camper?
Full disclosure: we aren’t campers. In fact, you can probably consider us more on the “glamping” end of the outdoors-y spectrum.
But after seeing so many people living their best lives in their RVs, we really wanted to give that lifestyle a try.
And – trust us: camping and RVing is a lifestyle. We discovered that within the first 5 minutes of our arrival to our campsite.
But if you’re like us and the closest thing you have to a tent is a pillow fort you built for your cat, you may feel like that wilderness lifestyle is out of your reach.
But guess what? It isn’t.
Across the country people are flocking to RV and camper rental sites as they yearn for a way to travel while minimizing risks. So we decided to jump on the camping bandwagon and give a camper rental at Disney World a try.
After doing a little bit of research we got in touch with Meacham’s RV Rental, and they were gracious enough to provide us with a promotional rate. Excited for the opportunity to give it a whirl, we were all in.
How to rent a camper for Disney World
We have more details about the process down below in the tips, but if you just want the nitty gritty of how it all works – start here:
- Secure campsite dates with Disney. If you have a particular camper size in mind, make sure your campsite selection will fit that camper size and make sure that camper is going to be available for your dates.
- Once you have your confirmation number, book your camper. We recommend booking with one of the Official Vendors like Meacham’s RV Rental.
- If you didn’t opt to book your golf cart with your camper provider, do that now. Disney’s golf carts book up fast. You can reserve one up to a year in advance.
Different companies have different procedures for your arrival and departure days, but if you booked from a preferred vendor you can expect it to look similar to this:
- On your arrival day, your vendor will drop off and set up your camper. This will include hooking up things like electrical and sewer.
- When you arrive, you’ll still need to check-in (which you will do at the drive-thru check-in lanes for campers), but that process isn’t any more complicated than checking in for any resort reservation. The keys for your camper will be at your campsite.
- On your departure day, be prepared to leave earlier than Disney’s official check-out time to allow time for your camper to be picked up. We needed to be out by 10 am (instead of Disney’s 11 am) to give Meacham’s plenty of time to get their camper picked up.
Camper rental tips for Fort Wilderness
Ready to learn more? Here’s some tips we have after our first camper rental.
Tip #1: Understand the booking process
Unlike booking a hotel, when you rent a camper you’ll actually be making 2 different reservations: a reservation for your campsite (which you’ll make directly with Disney) and a reservation for your camper (which you’ll make with a company of your choosing).
That means you’ll need to make sure that both are available.
That may take a bit of back and forth, but keep in mind that you’ll likely need a confirmed reservation with Disney in order to make your camper rental, and like all Disney World Resorts, campsites during popular times of the year can book up fast.
Planning ahead is key to making that entire process as smooth as possible.
Tip #2: Book with an official vendor
Lots and lots of people rent items like strollers and ECVs to make their Disney vacations easier. And, just like strollers and ECVs, Disney also has a small list of official vendors for RV and camper rentals.
And we can honestly say we don’t think we’d ever rent with anything other than an official vendor like Meacham’s again, and here’s why:
Official camper vendors for Disney have a huge perk that other vendors don’t: they can get your camper set up and ready to go on your campsite without you being there. Non-official vendors can’t do that.
Through our research we read about some (not all, but some) non-official vendors utilizing workarounds to skip the requirement that you be there for them to deliver the camper.
But for our trip, using an official vendor like Meacham’s meant that they could drop off and set up our camper before our planes even landed so that when we arrived we could head right to our spot. It not only saved us a ton of time but also a lot of hassle.
The entire process was stress-free and when we pulled up to our campsite, they had everything ready to go, including having our outdoor chairs set up, and our golf cart charging!
Tip #3: Rent a golf cart
We’ve stayed at the Cabins at Fort Wilderness without a golf cart and we hated it. We didn’t hate the cabin, we hated being there without a golf cart.
So when we decided to rent a camper, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t make the same mistake of skipping the golf cart twice.
Most of Fort Wilderness is inaccessible by car, and that means if you want to get around you’ll need to walk, bike, use the internal buses, OR use a golf cart.
And, to be totally honest, not only are golf carts an easy way to get around they are so much fun.
I don’t care if you are 5 or 50, zipping around in a golf cart with your hair blowing in the wind is a hoot. It may even be a hoot and a half.
Disney rents golf carts a year in advance and it costs about $63 per day (plus tax). It isn’t cheap, but we don’t recommend you plan a visit without one.
How to save money on your golf cart rental
We added our golf cart rental to our camper rental with Meacham’s instead of booking one with Disney.
That meant our golf cart was delivered to our site (if you rent one from Disney you’ll have an extra step of picking it up at the front of the resort) and it also meant we saved a ton of money.
Meacham’s golf carts come in at a very reasonable $215 for length of stay.
As a comparison, we would have paid $378 plus tax had we rented a golf cart from Disney.
That’s a huge savings, so keep that in mind when booking!
Tip #4: Save time for the resort
We often tell guests traveling to Disney World to make sure they plan some down time at their resort, but we think it is even more important that you do that for Fort Wilderness.
Even though not everything is open right now (including the very popular Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue at Pioneer Hall), there is still so much to see and do that you’ll want to save some time for fun outside of the parks.
Not only are there Segway tours and fishing excursions, you can do other fun things like rent bikes (if you didn’t bring your own), learn archery, take a trail or pony ride, rent a boat, kayak or sports equipment (like basketballs or tennis rackets).
And of course, there’s always the pool. Fort Wilderness has 2 pools: the larger Meadow Swimmin’ Pool:
And the smaller Wilderness Swimmin’ Pool:
You can also have fun washing rocks at the assay station or partake in our favorite past time: golf cart cruising.
Seriously – we spent time each day just cruising around in our golf cart with no goal in mind other than exploring. It was a such a relaxing change from our day-to-day lives and we loved it.
Tip #5: Rent a car if you aren’t driving down to Fort Wilderness
Renting a car is an extra expense, but we think it is worth it.
First of all, right now we recommend anyone visiting Disney World rent a car. It is an easy way to eliminate time in enclosed spaces and with buses running at very limited capacity, it makes it easier to control how long it will take you to get around.
Plus, parking at the campsites at Fort Wilderness is free. This isn’t true for the cabins at Fort Wilderness nor at any other Walt Disney World Resort. They all have parking fees.
Note: you don’t have to pay to park at the theme parks if staying onsite, you just pay to park at the resort.
Our favorite thing about parking at Fort Wilderness is that you can park your car or truck right at your campsite. That makes schlepping luggage and groceries so much easier.
If you don’t have a car and you’re staying in the campsites in a camper rental, you’ll have to figure out how to get your luggage and groceries, etc. from the front of the resort back to your campsite.
You can arrange for a shuttle when you arrive, but that is an extra step and can be a hassle if you have a lot of bags.
Tip #6: Plan your meals
Right now, the main dining option at Fort Wilderness is PJ’s Takeout, and while they are serving some similar items that you used to be able to get at Trails End or Hoop-Dee-Doo, you might get tired of eating the same thing.
Meadow Snack Bar is also open, however the limited menu there isn’t ideal.
But, with a camper, you’ll have access to a full kitchen and a charcoal grill.
That’s a huge money (and time) saver. And plus it’s just fun.
I’m not sure what the scientific reasoning is for food tasting better if you make it while camping, but that is a fact and we’ll argue with anybody that disagrees.
And everybody (including Burger King) knows that burgers taste better if they are flame broiled. Cooking over charcoal is the ultimate way to accomplish that.
Besides, when else is it socially acceptable to eat s’mores for dessert at every meal? (And yes, we mean breakfast too. No judgment.)
But, when you plan to do a lot of cooking outside of your home there are some things to remember.
First of all, when putting together meal ideas you’ll need to take into account things like condiments and seasonings, too.
Sometimes it might make sense to bring some items from home. And if you’re one of those people that hate to toss out condiment packets – this is your time to shine.
Toss your collection of ketchup and mustard packets in your suitcase and bring it on your camping adventure. Not only will it save you some money but it keeps you from wasting stuff that you’ll have to throw away after your trip is over.
We also found having a stash of paper plates handy. Campers don’t typically have dishwashers and not having to wash as many dishes meant we could get to the s’mores and wine faster.
You’ll have a couple of options for groceries. There are 2 places at Fort Wilderness where you can pick up some supplies: The Settlement Trading Post (smaller, currently operating with shortened hours):
and The Meadow Trading Post (larger, in the middle of the resort, open much later than The Settlement):
The selection isn’t huge – but you can get enough stuff for a meal or two. Think things like frozen pizzas, sandwiches, and breakfast fixings.
You can also have groceries delivered to Fort Wilderness, but that can be a hassle since you’ll have to make arrangements to get your bags from the front of the resort back to your campsite.
If you have a car, our preferred method to get groceries for a campsite is to order ahead and pick it up. That way you skip going into the store but you don’t have to worry about meeting a delivery driver and carting your bags back to your camper.
Both Wal-Mart and Publix have stores not too far away, and both offer grocery pick up.
And, don’t forget, if you plan to grill you’ll need to add charcoal to your shopping list and definitely make sure you grab some bug spray (more on that below).
Tip # 7: Bugs can be sneaky
Now, this one probably seems like total common sense and I promise we knew going in there would be bugs. But, what we didn’t know, was that we wouldn’t be able to get bug spray at Fort Wilderness.
Don’t get me wrong – they sell it. It is just that the 2 different days we tried (at both Trading Posts) to buy it, they were sold out.
And while most of the day the bugs weren’t bad at all, dusk was a little rough.
So, for us, bug spray was a must.
Learn from our mistake: either bring some bug spray from home OR pick some up when you get groceries. Don’t wait until it is too late!
Tip #8: Driving? Bring some outdoor entertainment with you.
This is a lot easier if you are planning to drive down to Disney World in your own car, but although there are tons of things to do at the resort, with the reduced hours at the theme parks you’ll likely find yourself with some time to fill.
And considering some of the fun stuff at the Fort closes at 5 p.m., unless you are into swimming you might want something to do in the evenings.
If you can easily transport bikes or scooters – both of those are great options. We even saw people skating!
Basically anything that you can do outdoors would be fun. A bottle of bubbles or glow sticks for nighttime or even a deck of cards would be good.
BUT – do not overpack. You don’t need to bring everything you own with you.
We can just imagine that if you have little kids and they see other little kids outside doing cool stuff, they’ll want to join in on the fun, too.
Tip #9: People at Fort Wilderness are serious about decorations
The holidays are a big deal at Fort Wilderness. And we don’t mean just the actual holidays – but the days and weeks leading up to the holidays are a big deal, too.
And out of all the holidays, the Halloween and Christmas seasons are downright spectacular at Fort Wilderness.
Families plan the entire year for their holiday displays and when we say they go all out, we mean they go ALL out.
It can be difficult to join in on the fun when you’re flying in to stay in a rental camper, but if you think outside the box there are some easy things you can do to deck out your campsite.
For example, we opted for flat things that pack easily for flying, like pennant banners and string lights.
Note: if you’re planning on hanging lights, be sure you bring an extension cord.
We also added some flair to the front of the camper and to our golf cart because golf carts are a big deal for decorating, too.
But – keep in mind that if you are renting you can’t use things that might hurt or damage the camper or golf cart.
We prepared ahead and opted to use zip ties to attach our decorations. That way nothing was permanent, we weren’t using tape, and it was all easy to remove leaving no damage behind.
Tip #10: Pet-friendly campsites and campers are a thing
Not only are there pet-friendly loops, complete with areas for walking your pets and even a resort dog park called the “Waggin’ Trails Dog Park”, Meacham’s also offers pet-friendly campers.
All of the same Disney pet rules apply (for example, you must be with your pet whenever they are outdoors and they must be on a leash) and proof of vaccinations are required but, if you meet all of those requirements, you can request a pet-friendly loop and rent a pet-friendly camper and bring your favorite pooch with you!
Note: Unfortunately pets aren’t allowed at sites without water, electricity, or sewer hook-ups.
Tip #11: Don’t be afraid of the Comfort Stations
Camper bathrooms aren’t going to be like a resort bathroom or even like your home bathroom.
They are smaller and more compact and designed to take up as little space as possible.
And since campers can sleep 6, 8, or even 10 people, having 1 bathroom for large groups can make things a bit congested.
Luckily, all loops have Comfort Stations where you’ll find bathrooms and shower stalls and even laundry facilities.
Now, I’ve done my fair share of tent camping. Granted, a lot of that was when my kids were little but I’ve seen the inside of a lot of campsite bathrooms and they range from “perfectly acceptable” to “nope”.
Disney’s are definitely on the “perfectly acceptable” side of the scale, and, honestly, even a smidge further.
Keep in mind these are bathroom facilities in a campground so they aren’t going to look like what you’ll find at the Poly.
But, if you have multiple people needing to shower or use the bathroom, they can speed that entire process up.
Tip #12: Understand your transportation options
We highly recommend that before your trip you do some research on the way Fort Wilderness transportation works so that you know exactly how to get around.
This resort is HUGE and you could waste a lot of time if you don’t understand the process.
Fort Wilderness utilizes an internal bus system. This bus system has several lines and goes throughout the entire resort area. There are bus stops near all of the loops, plus stops at the Settlement (where Pioneer Hall, Crocket’s Tavern, and the marina are), and at the front of the park where the main bus stop is located.
There are plenty of maps posted near all the stops to help you navigate.
Theme park buses
The main bus stop for the resort is called the Outpost Depot and it located at the front of the resort. From there you can go to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Disney Springs. This is also where you can catch a bus to the water parks when they are open.
As we mentioned above, golf carts are the main way people get around. There are golf cart parking lots at all the major destinations at the resort, including at the main bus stop, the boat dock, The Settlement, the pools, and at both Trading Posts.
The main form of transportation to Magic Kingdom is via a boat (Green Flag).
The dock for the Magic Kingdom boat launch is located in a marina just past The Settlement Trading Post. When they are running, you can also catch a boat launch (Blue Flag) to the Polynesian and Grand Floridian resorts from here.
Tip #13: Embrace the experience
This is probably the best advice we can pass along: if you are new to camping, embrace the experience. Go all in. Dive headfirst.
Try decorating your campsite or cooking hotdogs over the fire.
Plan more time at the resort and less in the parks.
Drive around and check out the holiday decorations. Roast marshmallows. Drink hot cocoa. Tell ghost stories.
Drink wine out of plastic cups while you laugh until your sides hurt.
Basically, slow down and enjoy the adventure. On our visit as first-time campers, we definitely found Fort Wilderness the main focus with the parks a fun distraction for a few hours a day. The rest of the time we spent back at the resort enjoying just being there.
How much does it cost to rent a camper?
This is tricky to nail down to a single number because there are many things that factor into the cost, like seasonal fluctuations in prices, campsite preference, and even the size of the camper.
For an average family of 4, renting a camper isn’t going to save you a ton of money, and if you typically stay in 1 room at a value it probably will cost you more.
In general you can probably expect the cost to average around the same as what you’d spend for a Preferred Room at a Moderate.
If you want to run the numbers of a camper compared to staying at a Disney Resort Hotel, make sure you include the following things:
- Cost of the campsite
- Camper rental
- Golf cart rental
Although the price of the camper, campsite, and golf cart might be more money than you typically spend on your resort, keep in mind that many people will find that they make up that difference from the amount they save on food.
And, if you will have a car, you also won’t pay to park at your campsite (which is another savings).
But, the main thing to remember is probably this:
Camping at Ft. Wilderness is like adding a vacation to a vacation. It’s an experience in and of itself, not necessarily a way to save money.
Ways to save on a camper rental
Don’t forget to look for discounts!
Disney often has discounts on campsites and many private vendors will also offer discounts on their campers.
And remember, even if you book a Disney campsite now without a discount, if one comes out after you book you can try to modify your reservation to include it.
Review of our camper rental with Meacham’s RV Rental
When we first decided to rent a camper at Fort Wilderness we were flying high.
Camping and RVing had seen a huge surge in popularity and you couldn’t dip into any social media account without seeing people posting their Instagram-worthy photos from remote destinations all across the United States.
And we wanted that lifestyle. We wanted the foggy mornings with the cozy cup of coffee and the peace and solitude. We wanted it all, but we wanted to make it “Disney”.
And thankfully, Walt Disney World makes that easy to do with the gigantic (and we do mean gigantic) Fort Wilderness Campgrounds.
At just shy of 800 campsites and around 400 cabins, it is a sprawling mini-city complete with 2 convenience stores (aka Trading Posts), a couple of restaurants, a bar, an internal bus system, and horses.
Luckily our research into camper rentals led us to Meacham’s RV Rental.
A quick search for their business turned up lots of positive reviews so we reached out to them and they were kind enough to offer us newbies a promotional rate in exchange for us sharing our experience with all of you.
Why we loved our rental experience
From our first interaction, Meacham’s has been professional and more importantly, extremely helpful.
Listen – we had no idea what we were doing. Or even what we needed.
But thankfully they did, and everything was provided in the package when we rented. Things like folding chairs and an outdoor rug. They had even attached Halloween lights on our golf cart for us!
And this wasn’t extra stuff just because of who we are. Everything that was there for us is just part of their standard Fort Wilderness package, which includes:
- TV / DVD player
- Blankets, pillows and sheets for all of the beds – any bunks and the queen bed. If you need bed sets for the dinette and sofa let us know.
- A set of 10 – 14 bath towels, 4 hand towels , 4 wash cloths, and dish towels
- Dishes, mugs, glasses and silverware for 8
- Cooking utensils
- Set of basic pots and pans
- Cookie sheet and oven pan
- Electric skillet
- Keurig K-Cup Coffee pot, Filters, Folgers coffee and hot cocoa
- Dish soap, Hand soap, and cleaning supplies
- Roll of Paper towels , 4 pack of RV Toilet Paper
- Outside mat
- 4 camping chairs
- awning lights
- BBQ utensils
In addition to all of that, we had the option to add on a few things – and we took advantage of all of the add-ons except for the propane grill:
- Golf carts are $215 for the length of stay
- Disney approved fire pit is $35
- Wood is $10 per bundle
- Gas grill is $45 for the length of stay
Note: make sure if you’re considering booking with them that you review their current specials. You can often find promotions for things like a free golf cart rental or a percentage off your stay.
What’s living in a camper like for a week?
Our camper was definitely a lot more like glamping than tent camping and for being something you can tow behind your truck it was really quite roomy.
Is it as spacious as a villa or a cabin? Nope. But we have already had those experiences – we wanted THIS experience.
Now, if you had 8 people inside all at once things might get a bit tight. But, on our trip, our inside time was at a minimum and from the looks of the people around us, it was the same for them, too.
If you’re renting a camper you’re likely doing it for the same reason we did: for the Fort Wilderness experience, and that experience isn’t just what you find inside where your beds are.
It’s all the stuff that is going on outside, too. It’s the activities and the parks and the pool and the biking. It isn’t sitting inside watching everybody else outside having fun.
Just about everything we needed was there for us. The beds were comfy, and because it had 2 air conditioners, the inside remained cool.
The kitchen worked great – and we even had an outdoor kitchen that we made good use of, too!
The bathroom was a little tight but we got used to it. And, when we both needed to use the restroom, having a Comfort Station nearby made things very convenient.
It was easy for things to get messy inside – but we found our groove after a few days and that helped keep the clutter to a minimum.
We don’t travel light. With a total of 4 suitcases and 2 Owners Lockers (which are giant tubs) plus our laptops, we have a bunch of stuff.
But after we were there for a day or 2 we figured out how to get things put away so that we weren’t living on top of it all. Had we really wanted to get fancy we could have stored our empty suitcases in our car trunk. But since there was just the 2 of us that wasn’t necessary.
How was the location?
We splurged for a Premium Meadow Campsite, and it was a great decision. We were in loop 800 and since we backed up to a creek and had plenty of trees around us, we felt like we were in our own little slice of the Fort.
After a week of golf cart rides throughout the entire resort, we realized that we got lucky with our spot. It was a great location and having the creek behind us (instead of another campsite) provided us with an extra layer of privacy.
I’m not sure we would have liked our location as much had we backed up to other campsites. None of the spots are big – so trees are definitely a plus for privacy.
Can newbies do it?
Yes. Yes. Yes. I mean, look at us! We did it.
I will be honest: I did a lot of research before our trip and I watched a bunch of YouTube videos to get a grasp on how things work because the thought of a camper was a little intimidating.
I even reached out to an old high school friend that I knew vacationed in a camper regularly for help with important questions like “tell me the real scoop on how the bathrooms work,” and “are there outlets on the outside of campers?”
But my research (while helpful for my anxiety) wasn’t necessary because all of the big things were totally covered by Meacham’s.
Before our arrival they sent us videos that walked us through all those things and more. It was very comprehensive and we pulled them back up again for a refresher several times during our stay.
Did we high five each other after we got the oven lit? You betcha we did. And we did the same after we started charcoal for our grill, too.
None of that stuff was “hard” but it wasn’t in our wheelhouse of things we do regularly so it was kind of fun to test our adventuring skills like that.
Who would you recommend camper rental to?
If this is your very first visit to Walt Disney World, renting a camper at Fort Wilderness may not be the best option because your first visit or two to WDW is typically focused on the parks.
Now, if you are a regular camper and you just want to rent one down there as opposed to driving your own camper down, that might be different. But, many people that rent campers are first-timers or infrequent camper travelers.
So if you’ve never had the camper or RV experience before, unless you’re not planning to maximize your park days you might want to save a camper rental for a future trip so that you have plenty of time to enjoy it.
But, if you are like us and you have multiple visits under your belt and you just want to experience Disney in a different way and camping appeals to you – a camper rental might be a perfect way to have 2 vacations in 1.
Would we do it again?
Absolutely. Without a doubt we would do it again. In fact, we’re already thinking about how to plug-in another Fort Wilderness adventure sometime in the future.
Camper video tour
Want to see some more info on the camper we rented? Check out our tour in this video.