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Erin’s Fort Wilderness Trip (w/ accessibility considerations) – PREP 324

Erin’s Fort Wilderness Trip (w/ accessibility considerations) – PREP 324

Erin shares her experiences camping, seeing lots of fireworks, utilizing DAS, and following interpreters from park to park. They drove to Disney and had access to their vehicle during their long trip.

At the end of their trip, they spent time at Give Kids the World because Abby was a wish kid in 2015.

The Basics

Erin and her 12 year old daughter Abby had a wonderful 2-week stay tent camping at Fort Wilderness! Abby is medically complex and improves when she is able to go to Disney, so they make it happen when they can.

Their trip included one night at the Halloween party, Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue, and two dessert parties at Magic Kingdom. They were at Fort Wilderness from August 22 until September 3.

Departure (August 21)

Abby and Erin left their home in Pittsburgh and began their drive to Orlando. They stopped and stayed at a hotel right outside Savannah at a hotel with a taco bar in the parking lot. They started their vacation off right with tacos and a margarita for Erin. 

Arrive at Fort Wilderness (August 22)

Erin and Abby started their drive from Savannah to Fort Wilderness. They arrived around 12:30 p.m. They had already received their campsite reservation in the app but then received two phone calls to try and reassign them. 

Erin was still on the phone as she drove up to the campsites and was able to choose the more shady campsite. Erin was very excited about the tent she purchased and was able to put it up by herself easily. 

Erin was in the 2000 loop and had a larger site that was more elevated. It made the site more dry, which is helpful with the rain. 

Erin and Abby had to take the bus to the front of Fort Wilderness to get their golf cart. They picked it up around 1:30 p.m. and went to the pool. They had lunch at their campsite and then made a run over to Target.

They picked up dinner at P and Js Southern Takeout. Then they took the golf cart to the campfire. Unfortunately Chip and Dale weren’t there but they did get s’mores! 

Mickey’s Not-so-scary Halloween Party (August 23)

Erin and Abby were able to sleep in a bit. This was originally supposed to be their arrival day and they had tickets for Mickey’s Not-so-Scary Halloween Party that evening.

They hung around Fort Wilderness during the day just swimming and relaxing. They left their campsite at 3 p.m. and arrived at the boat dock at 3:20 p.m. 

The boat was arriving as they were pulling up. They got on and they arrived at Magic Kingdom at 3:45 p.m. 

It was very crowded and the lines were long to get in for the halloween party. Erin noticed people around her talking about making Genie+ reservations – so they must have had park tickets for the day. 

If you already have park tickets, don’t wait in the Halloween party line! Go into the park and get your wristband inside. Only wait in that line if you do not have a park ticket and are only going to the party. 

They were inside getting their bags by 4:15 p.m. They went through the cut through area to the right of Main Street. They did the first trick or treat station there as well.

They were able to catch the last few minutes of the Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire which was perfect because Abby loves it.

They went right over to it’s a small world and got on that. The DAS was working for them right away. They used that for Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Tiki Room all by 6 p.m.

Around 6:30 p.m. they went to Space Mountain and used the DAS return time. While they were in the line, they paused the ride to do a reset for the party. They were one of the first rides with the party overlay. 

They got the Mummy Halloween popcorn bucket. They did Journey of the Little Mermaid and rode Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain again! They were able to use the DAS and got in person return times. 

At 8:30 p.m. they checked in for the Dessert Party. They ate some food and hopped out at 9 p.m. to watch the parade. It came by right around 9:20 p.m. in the wheelchair accessible viewing area. 

The Headless Horseman didn’t ride that night and the Spectral Bride was walking, not gliding due to weather. After the parade they went back to the dessert party area. At 10 p.m. they went to the fireworks viewing area. 

They were in the front row for the viewing area, which was reserved for wheelchairs for the fireworks. Erin liked having the dessert party during the Halloween party because it gave them a home base area to come back to. It was nice just for the two of them.

After the fireworks they went over to see the Country Bears and Abby danced with them. After that, they went on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain again. 

They’d hoped to see the midnight show but it was delayed and Abby couldn’t see, so they left as the show was starting. They were back at the campsite at 12:30 a.m. and went right to sleep. 

Magic Kingdom (August 24)

Abby and Erin slept in a bit and enjoyed a cooler morning. They got on the boat at 10:40 a.m. and arrived at the Magic Kingdom by 11 a.m. 

They had scheduled a DAS return time from 10-11 a.m. prior to their trip for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. They were told that they would expire but in practice they lasted all day.

When they arrived in the park there was a cavalcade and it was a lovely way to enter the park! They then went over to their DAS return time for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Erin had also made a lightning lane for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

In the meantime their DAS return time converted to an anytime pass because it was temporarily down. Thankfully, everything worked and they were able to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad 5 times this day! 

They did Splash Mountain next and raced the parade to get a spot to watch. It was a great spot but right in the sun. 

After the parade they went to their reservation for lunch at Skipper Canteen at 12:30 p.m. They took their time at lunch, enjoying the air conditioner. 

After lunch they caught the 2 p.m. show of Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire. Their next stop was Carousel of Progress. Abby loves it and they enjoyed the air conditioning. 

They went back over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. There had been some rain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was still down. They were waiting for it to come back up.

When Seven Dwarfs Mine Train went down, it never turned into an anytime pass. Erin thinks this is because it is usually an individual lightning lane. But even when they would have a DAS return time, it wouldn’t change when it went down. 

While they were waiting for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Erin and Abby discovered a squirrel that lives near Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and was stealing food from the ECVs! 

Next the went to it’s a small world and Pirates of the Caribbean. Erin tries to do Pirates of the Caribbean as little as possible because of the process for riding. They make you take everything off the wheelchair and then they take the wheel chair. 

Then Erin has to carry everything from the wheelchair and help Abby onto the boat. Abby loves Pirates of the Caribbean but it makes it very difficult. You cannot bring a wheelchair onto the boat and you must be able to transfer. 

They decided to do fireworks that evening. They started at 9 p.m. and they arrived at the wheelchair accessible area at 8 p.m. It was already very crowded. 

Erin was told that there is a line and people get in that line at 7 p.m. She also discovered that some people rent an ECV just to get a spot for fireworks. She suggests you arrive by 8 p.m. to get a spot.

You can also get in this area with a DAS pass. They are in the back behind the wheelchair area. Erin and Abby got their popcorn buckets filled to enjoy while they waited for the fireworks. 

Erin suggests that if you need to change the diaper of a larger child or loved one, you should go to the first aid centers in the parks. They will provide you an exam room to lie down to change them. 

They left the park at 9:46 p.m. and took the boat back to Fort Wilderness. The boats to Fort Wilderness are wheelchair accessible and she can ride right back up. 

Epcot (August 25)

Erin woke up and purchased an Individual Lightning Lane for Cosmic Rewind. They slept in a bit and drove to Epcot arriving at 10 a.m. 

With the accessible parking permit, Erin is able to park fairly close. She is able to go through wheelchair security. 

Their first stop was Spaceship Earth and Abby loves it. They went over to The Seas with Nemo and Friends next before making it over to Soarin’. They had a DAS return time for 9 a.m. that still worked. 

They did Mission:SPACE and used their Cosmic Rewind return time at 12:46 p.m. If you can transfer, you can walk to the ride. Abby really like this ride a lot. 

After that, they went to their 1 p.m. lunch reservation at San Angel Inn. They really like the theming and the food. After eating, they went to Gran Fiesta Tour.

After that they started around the World Showcase. They did Frozen Ever After with a return time. When you are using a DAS return time, you need to have the DAS recipient to scan in first. 

They did the World Showcase and ended up in Journey into Imagination because it was raining. It rained a lot while they were there. The water sometimes got up to mid-shin! 

When the rain got heavy, Erin would take the motor off Abby’s wheelchair. It’s miserable for everyone.

They went to Soarin’ again next. Abby loves Soarin’ so they try to ride it as much as possible. 

While Erin was getting on Cosmic Rewind at 1 p.m. she was able to get a boarding group to ride it again! 

They went back to Cosmic Rewind at 6:30 p.m. After that there was a storm coming. They did Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Then they went to the covered picnic tables in the American area. They were covered picnic tables in case it rained.

They enjoyed shopping and snacking around the World Showcase before finding a spot for the fireworks. They ended up near Port of Entry at the wheelchair area. It does fill up, but it’s not as crowded as other parks because there are two other wheelchair areas in the World Showcase. 

When they exited the fireworks, they go all the way left to go toward the Land to be able to walk without much of a crowd. You can leave in a peaceful way. Erin really enjoys this. 

Hollywood Studios(August 26)

Erin had hoped that Fantasmic would be open for their trip, but it wasn’t. So they spent the day at Hollywood Studios and hopped to Epcot to see Harmonious at the end of the day. 

Erin had a DAS return time of 8:30 a.m. for Slinky Dog Dash. They didn’t arrive to the park at 10 a.m. but they went straight to Slinky Dog Dash. They did that and then went to Frozen Sing-Along

After Frozen Sing-Along they rode Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Next they did Alien Swirling Saucers and then Toy Story Mania.

Toy Story Mania is a ride that you can either transfer or you can use your wheelchair. The vehicle that allows your wheelchair has a different device to shoot. This one just allows to just tap to shoot. It’s much easier for Abby to do this, so they ride in that vehicle. 

Their next stop was Star Tours and did that a few times. Next they had their 11:30 a.m. return time for Smuggler’s Run

After exiting Smuggler’s Run they went immediately to Docking Bay 7 and picked up lunch they had mobile ordered. 

After lunch they had a DAS return time for Rise of the Resistance. Abby is okay riding this only once – it’s not her favorite.

Smuggler’s Run allows you to use your wheelchair or transfer. If you can walk a few steps, the wait is not as long because there are limited wheelchair accessible vehicles.

Their next stop was their 2:10 p.m. Oga’s Cantina reservation. Usually they sit in a booth because of the wheelchair but this time they sat at a low spot at the bar. Abby loved it so much that she didn’t even drink her drink! 

They did Star Tours and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. They left around 4 p.m. and went to Epcot. 

They went to accessible parking but there weren’t any spots so they had to circle around looking for a spot. It can be very stressful to find an accessible spot if it’s not park opening.

Erin had an individual lightning lane for Cosmic Rewind at 7:40 p.m. They did the World Showcase, had some impossible meatballs for dinner, went on Cosmic Rewind, and got a spot for the fireworks. 

The fireworks were beautiful. And it was a great night. 

Animal Kingdom (August 27)

The interpreters will be at Animal Kingdom today, which is why they chose it. Abby loves the Festival of the Lion King with the interpreters.

They had a Na’vi River Journey DAS return time for 9 a.m. and arrived to the park at 10 a.m. They rode Expedition Everest first because Abby loves it and it often goes down because of weather. 

They didn’t have a problem getting on Na’vi River Journey. She already had a lightning lane for Na’vi River Journey as well. 

Erin says if you had a DAS return time and a Lightning Lane, they will use the lightning lane first if you ride the attraction twice. 

They didn’t ride the Safari this trip, but Erin said that they do allow one wheelchair per vehicle. It is a really good option for Abby to stay in her chair.

They did Flight of Passage next and it is Abby’s favorite ride. After that they did the 11:30 a.m. Finding Nemo: Big Blue and Beyond. The interpreters were there for this show. 

Erin requested to sit in the front rather than the back for the wheelchair section. This gives her the opportunity to see better what is happening and watch the interpreters. 

Next they rode Na’vi River Journey and Flight of Passage before stopping for lunch at Satuli Canteen. They crossed the park a few times between Pandora and DINOSAUR riding Flight of Passage and DINOSAUR several times. 

Erin did a lot of walking back and forth! 

The 5 p.m. Festival of the Lion King was interpreted. Because Abby needs to sit in her wheelchair during the show, she sits in the front area and positions herself to see the interpreters. 

They’d planned to go to Magic Kingdom next but knew they wouldn’t get there until late, so they made peanut butter sandwiches in the car on their way to Epcot! 

They walked around the World Showcase, rode Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, and watched Harmonious before heading back to the campsite. 

Magic Kingdom (August 28)

Today they rode the golf cart around in the morning and got on the boat at 10 a.m. They got off the boat at Magic Kingdom at 10:25 a.m. 

They did Splash Mountain first and you need to be able to transfer from your wheelchair to the vehicle. They saw the 11:25 a.m. Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire. It was very hot, but Abby loves it so much that they catch it when they can. 

After that they went over to it’s a small world to get some air conditioning. They were able to get right on without a wait. 

Erin mobile ordered lunch at Pinocchio Village Haus and it took a little bit, but thankfully they were able to get a table while they waited. 

After lunch they did Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain again. It was around 1:30 p.m. and Abby was getting tired. They were taking a rest and a cavalcade started! They watched that before going over to Journey of the Little Mermaid.

From there, Erin made a lightning lane to meet Mickey and Minnie. Abby loved it – Erin says it was the highlight of her day. The automatic photopass camera took horrible photos, but Erin was able to capture a lot of great ones. 

They went to Space Mountain next and it started to rain. All wheelchairs go up the right side because the right side track is accessible. Abby doesn’t like getting off this ride. 

It was raining so hard and Carousel of Progress was closed, so people were everywhere. Erin asked if the boat would be running and was told yes. The boats were going to Wilderness Lodge before Fort Wilderness

They left Magic Kingdom at 4:17 p.m. and were back at their campsite by 5 p.m. They had time to get freshened up, put on dry clothes, and get to their 6:15 p.m. Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue reservation. 

Erin had prearranged for an interpreter and wheelchair access. Erin was told that you can request a specific interpreter if you want to. 

They took the golf cart to Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue, being careful to keep the wheelchair dry. Some of the other interpreters knew ASL and were using it to communicate with Abby. 

It was a fun show. After the show, they hoped to catch Chip and Dale at the campfire but because it had rained, they weren’t there. 

Erin and Abby drove the golf cart around before going to bed. 

Epcot (August 29)

Erin and Abby had a later start and arrived around 10:30 a.m. They started at Spaceship Earth before doing Soarin’ and The Seas with Nemo and Friends. They had originally had Garden Grill reservations but didn’t want a giant meal in the heat. 

They snacked around the World Showcase, which is very difficult with a wheelchair. The logistics are difficult even without a wheelchair. Erin tries to find a close table and is able to leave Abby at the table for a few moments while she walks a few feet away to get the food.

They waited for macaroni and cheese and had a difficult experience. Abby was hangry and the cast member was not helpful. 

They rode Cosmic Rewind after lunch and got to see the JAMMitors. They stopped at Club Cool and went over to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. After that, they continued the France theme and had dinner reservation at Chefs de France

One of Erin’s friends happened to be in Epcot at the same time so they got some photos taken together before watching the Japanese drummers, Matsuriza

They saw the Native American art in the American Adventure Pavilion. They continued wandering around and went to Frozen Ever After

They finished the day with fireworks before heading back! 

Animal Kingdom (August 30)

It was interpreter day at Animal Kingdom today. They had new interpreters this day but they are all so good! 

Erin had a 12:40 p.m. lunch reservation at Tusker House for lunch. The photos of Abby with the characters before she was able to eat, she looks annoyed that they are interrupting her meal. After she was done eating, she was thrilled to see the characters. 

They did Flight of Passage again with the DAS return time. They were able to ride it three times each day! 

While they were waiting for the 5 p.m. Festival of the Lion King they did DINOSAUR, Na’vi River Journey, Expedition Everest a few times, and then they went to Nomad Lounge. The wait said 10 minutes and 30 seconds later, their table was ready! 

The service was unfortunately so slow. Erin just wanted to get a drink and cool off before the Festival of the Lion King. The show was amazing, as usual. 

They rode on Flight of Passage one last time before heading to Epcot to see the fireworks. They left Animal Kingdom around 5:30 p.m. There were still individual lightning lanes available for Cosmic Rewind, so Erin got one and also a lightning lane for Soarin’

They went over to Epcot and it took 25 minutes to find a parking spot. They had missed their lightning lane for Soarin’. Erin got a boarding group for Cosmic Rewind as well! They were able to ride twice. 

Between riding, they got impossible meatballs again. They got off of Cosmic Rewind at 8:55 p.m. and the line to get to the wheelchair viewing section. It was full and Abby was very frustrated. 

Thankfully a cast member was able to fit them in and a family made room for them so that Abby could see. Abby had a great time, but it was very stressful for Erin. This was the last time they saw Harmonious for this trip. 

Hollywood Studios (August 31)

Their first stop when they entered the park was Star Tours at 10 a.m. They rode Star Tours, Slinky Dog Dash, and Smuggler’s Run before their lunch reservation. 

They saw Chip and Dale on their way to their lunch reservation at Hollywood Brown Derby. They’d never eaten here before and it was really nice. It was quiet and Abby really enjoyed herself. 

They did Alien Swirling Saucers and Tower of Terror after lunch before the 1 p.m. Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along. Erin asked to sit in the front row wheelchair section so Abby could see. 

The interpreters for the show were very good and it was wonderful. Erin says that normally they tour with other deaf families following the interpreters, but the past few days they have been some of the only ones.

After Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, they did Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway before going to the 2:30 p.m. show of Frozen Sing-Along. This was the show that was interpreted that day. 

They did Rise of the Resistance at 3:30 p.m. and ended their Hollywood Studios day with Star Tours. They left Hollywood Studios and went to Magic Kingdom for fireworks. 

They had to go back to their campsite first to take the boat over to Magic Kingdom. They didn’t arrive to Magic Kingdom until 7:30 a.m. and people were already lining up for the accessible viewing area for fireworks that early. 

It was a bit more crowded because of Extended Evening Theme Park Hours. Erin and Abby weren’t willing to wait that long for a spot for fireworks so they rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain before coming back to get their spot. 

They got their popcorn first and got in their spot at 8:06 p.m. They enjoyed their popcorn while they waited for the fireworks. It started raining very hard during the fireworks so they did not stay afterward. 

They went out an exit near Casey’s Corner that was opened after fireworks. They went back to their campsite to dry off and go to bed. 

Magic Kingdom (September 1)

Erin and Abby entered the Magic Kingdom around 10:30 a.m. and immediately got to see the Dapper Dans on top of the train station! 

They started toward the castle and stopped for a cavalcade. They went over and used their return time for Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Splash Mountain

They watched the parade at noon before riding Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. They took their time riding attractions with return times and no waits. 

Erin was able to get a lunch reservation at Tony’s Town Square right after the parade. The wait was about 10 minutes, giving them enough time to walk over there. They had a nice lunch.

After lunch they were able to see a cavalcade before going to the castle for Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire. It was lovely but it was so hot and bright that Abby needed to borrow Erin’s sunglasses and it was very bright for Erin! 

Everyone cheered for the clouds – it was so bright! After the show, they did Journey of the Little Mermaid for some air conditioning and then rode on the carousel. 

Their next stop was at it’s a small world where they were told they didn’t need a return time and could just go down. While they went down the ramp, the line is very long. Erin was run down by a child on an ECV and she jumped out of line.

They went over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad without a wait. They went to Country Bears Jamboree next before going to Tomorrowland. They rode Space Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, and Carousel of Progress

At this point it was almost time for the fireworks and the dessert party. They checked in for the dessert party. Abby enjoyed the desserts! They went over to the accessible area to watch the fireworks. The area got smaller between the dessert parties.

Erin said there were more people for this dessert party as compared to the other night they did the dessert party during the Halloween party. They watched the fireworks and rode some more rides. They did Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain a few more times before calling it a night. 

Epcot (September 2)

Erin and Abby arrived at Epcot around 10:30 a.m. Their first stops were The Seas with Nemo and Friends and then Soarin’. They also finally got to ride Test Track – it had been down every other time they tried to ride it. 

They had a wonderful lunch at 12:45 p.m. at Space 220 Lounge. Erin really loves the lounge option! The view is great and you can order the same food as the restaurant. 

Erin had gotten a virtual queue and Individual Lightning Lane for Cosmic Rewind in the morning. After lunch they did Mission:SPACE and Cosmic Rewind twice in a row at 2:30 p.m. 

After Cosmic Rewind, they did Mission:SPACE again. They did Soarin’ again a few times and Living with the Land. After that it was raining a bit. They went over to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure

Abby really enjoyed the movie in the China pavilion, so they did that again before going to Gran Fiesta Tour. They were snacking their way around the World Showcase and got ready to watch fireworks. 

As they were getting ready to get into their spot, Erin saw a very concerning cloud. Erin checked the forecast and it looked like it was going to rain so they decided to leave. Everyone was shocked that they decided to bail on fireworks on their last night! 

They got back to their test and it wasn’t raining at all. Erin felt like it was a mistake, but the fireworks had been delayed until 10 p.m. and she was relieved that she’d made the call to leave. 

Erin says you can drive your golf cart to the beach to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks. The view isn’t perfect, but it’s not bad!

Departure (September 3)

They were up and Erin packed up a wet tent packed up by 11 a.m. They returned the golf cart and checked out. 

They drove over and got some souvenirs before driving over to Disney Springs for lunch. They had a reservation at Raglan Road. They really enjoyed the entertainment! 

After lunch they went to Give Kids the World Village. Abby was a wish kid in 2015. They did the carousel and found her star in the Castle of Miracles. Erin noted that they’ve added so many more stars in that area. 

Erin is a Make a Wish volunteer and gets to send families to the village, which is so fun. Abby got a Star Passport as an alumni. Her star is up in a tower that was previously empty but now is completely full! 

Abby and Erin got to see the newly rebuilt ice cream parlor! They enjoyed some ice cream before going swimming. Abby loved the pool and splash pad. She loves fountains and enjoys watching them. 

They watched a movie at the pool, which is awesome. The pool is zero entry so they can wheel or slide into it. 

They’d been in the pool for a few hours and Erin could see a storm coming in. They got out of the pool and got dressed before getting dinner. 

They had a nice dinner and noticed the dessert cart – a new addition! It started to rain during dinner but stopped just as they were leaving, which was wonderful. 

They drove to Savannah that night and then went the rest of the way home on the September 4. 

Key Takeaways

  • Review the interpreters schedule because they do not always have them at each park. 
  • If you already have park tickets, don’t wait in the Halloween party line! Go into the park and get your wristband inside. Only wait in that line if you do not have a park ticket and are only going to the party. 
  • You cannot request interpreters for the Halloween party but you can for the Christmas party. 
  • If you need an eyeglass repair kit, go to guest services. 
  • Bring an air conditioner for your tent if you plan to camp during the hot summer months.

Quick Tip

If you are park hopping and using Genie+. If you make your reservation at 7 a.m. for your second park, you cannot make another Genie+ selection until 2 hours after the second park opens. 

For example, if you are hopping to Hollywood Studios and make a Genie+ selection for Slinky Dog Dash, you need to know that you cannot make your next selection until 2 hours after Hollywood Studios opens. 

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