Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground

Address: 3520 North Fort Wilderness Trail, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

Dates Stayed: 08/25/2016 – 08/28/2016

Rate (Premium, Florida Resident): Thursday $70.50, Friday $70.50, Saturday $86, Average: $75.67

Location

Entrance To Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground
Entrance To Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground

This campground is on Disney property in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. To get there we went through the far right lane of the toll booth at the Magic Kingdom and then an immediate right onto the service road that led to the campground. If you haven’t been to Disney World, it is an enormous chunk of land with mature trees and lots of greenery. The campground is no exception, with tall trees and lots of grass. When we think about camping, this is the landscape we think of.

Check-In

Check-in Station. We didn't have to get out of our coach.
Check-in Station. We didn’t have to get out of our coach.

Checking in was a breeze. The first stop is a guard shack to present photo ID and then on to the chck-in station. We didn’t have to get out of our coach to check-in, all Amber had to do was open the driver’s side window. The Disney cast members requested that we turn off our engine, if we could, which we happily did. However, our generator was running to keep the coach’s house cool during the drive, which we kept on through check-in. We were handed a map and given directions to our camp site and off we went.

Camp Site

Campsite 1315 (Premium)
Campsite 1315 (Premium)

It was a bit of a challenge to back into the camp site. The road is pretty narrow and there are trees on either side of the road that made it hard to back in, but Amber did it pretty well. The camp site (1315) is a very level pad and our automatic leveling jacks had no problem leveling quickly.

Campsite includes 50/30 amp electric, fresh water, cable TV and sewer
Campsite includes 50/30 amp electric, fresh water, cable TV and sewer

The services included at the site are 30/50amp electric, fresh water (2 spigots), cable TV and sewer. The two spigots was nice for keeping the fresh water hooked up while cleaning the black water tank via the other spigot. There is cable television at this site and when we scanned for channels, we were able to receive numerous digital stations, including Disney stations, of course.

Our site had a picnic table and grill.
Our site had a picnic table and grill.

There is a grill and a picnic table at the campsite. Unfortunately, we were unable to use the grill this trip. We planned on grilling Saturday night and it rained, so Amber just cooked our steaks inside the coach.

WiFi & Cellular

Since we arrived during my work lunch break, I needed to finish working for the day. The WiFi is very strong and fast. As with any WiFi, the more people who are on it, the slower it gets and this is no exception. I noticed several disconnections and reconnections during internet sessions, but I did not have to use cell service at any time during the trip. When we have stayed in Disney hotels recently, we have had great WiFi and this was no exception.

Facilities

As you can expect, Disney does family activities right. There are lots of things to do at Fort Wilderness. We feel the campground itself can be a destination and, in fact, we plan on returning during our annual pass blackout period to simply enjoy all the campground has to offer.

Being so close to Magic Kingdom, there is boat service directly from the campground to the park. That is not the only transportation, however. Since the campground is so big, there are buses that will take you to various stops in the campground itself, as well as to the front entrance where you can get a bus to other places on Disney property. Some trips are not direct routes and you have to go to one place and switch buses. We found Fort Wilderness to be very centrally located, so trips to Disney Springs and Epcot were very quick bus rides.

Just before we checked out of our camp site and I was cleaning our gray and black tanks, Christopher had to go to the bathroom. Amber took him to the comfort station just a quick walk from our site and she reported it to be very clean and in great condition.

Disney does a great job with pools for kids of all ages. Fort Wilderness has a large pool with winding slide and a smaller kids splash area. Life vests are provided for kids who are not strong swimmers, this allowed Christopher and I to go down the slide separately without Amber having to be at the bottom of the slide to help him swim to the side.

There is a general store with various groceries and Disney items. As usual, prices are high, but they have things that everyone needs. Driving off property to save a few dollars is a tough sell since it would be a hike with traffic.

As far as activities go, there are quite a few. We went to the nightly fire lighting where you could roast marshmallows and make S’mores. We stayed at the Contemporary Resort and they provided marshmallows, but Fort Wilderness does not. We learned when we got there that we had to bring our own or buy a S’more kit at the store. Needless to say, Christopher was pretty upset. There are more activities available. If you are planning on staying at Fort Wilderness, check out what is being offered during your stay.

Conclusion

As mentioned earlier, Fort Wilderness Campground is what we see in our minds when we think of camping. Christopher struck up a conversation with a family from Canada and they mentioned that it was a very economical way to stay at Disney and we’d have to agree. For what it offers, Fort Wilderness is a great value.

If Disney is your destination, this campground makes a lot of sense. We looked at other campgrounds in the area and they are nearly as expensive and offer none of the activities. There are much cheaper campgrounds that offer nothing but a place to park. If you do stay offsite and plan on going to the Disney theme parks, you will have to drive, park and take a tram to the gate. At the Magic Kingdom, you have to take the tram to the transportation and ticket center, then take more transportation to the gate. Getting around is much less stressful when you stay at Fort Wilderness. If you really want to take a vacation and avoid the stress of getting to and from theme parks, Fort Wilderness is for you.

If your destination is not Disney World, then it may be cheaper staying at another campground. However, you will still have to drive to other areas of interest. We have done this many times with hotels and if you know the area, it’s not that bad, except at time with heavy traffic or rain storms.

TireTek Truck-Pro Dual Head Tire Pressure Gauge, Heavy Duty – 160 PSI

RV tires are a big deal. Take a look at any forum and you will see horror stories from people who have had blowouts. Making sure your RV tires are properly inflated is a must and doing this means you have to have a tire pressure gauge. It’s a snap to check tire pressure with this gauge. I confirmed we are at our desired pressure by having our coach weighed on the way home from our last trip and by looking up the recommended pressure for our load on the tire manufacturer’s tables.

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Our New Motorhome Pad

For two months, we have parked our motorhome in a RV storage lot close by our home. I felt like I was wasting my money by paying for a parking spot. We couldn’t plug it in and keep the A/C running and it was inconvenient for taking trips. We had to fill the car up and take loads of things to the storage lot to put in our coach. I decided that I could use the money I was paying every month for storage to have a concrete pad poured at our home and a 50 amp electrical outlet installed for preparing for trips.

I researched Pinellas County ordinances to make sure we are allowed to park our coach at home. After a couple of phone calls to code enforcement and some web searches, we were confident we would not be breaking any laws doing it. We will be bringing Irving home in two days. We had to let the 6″ thick pad cure to support the weight of our coach. We can’t wait to have him home to prepare for trips.

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Progressive Industries EMS-PT50C

I have heard numerous stories on RV forums about protecting your RV from low/high voltage and surges. Since you never know what the state of the electrical connection is at a campground and, especially during the summer months where thunderstorms can pop up, we wanted to feel safe that these situations would not damage the appliances and electronics in our new coach. Our coach uses 50amp service, so if yours doesn’t, you will need to purchase the correct one for your RV.

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St. Petersburg / Madeira Beach KOA

Back-in, Full hookup, 50 amp
Back-in, Full hookup, 50 amp site that backs up to Long Bayou.

Address: 5400 95th St N, St. Petersburg, FL 33708

Dates Stayed: 07/29/2016 – 07/31/2016

Location

This KOA is located close to lots of restaurants and only a few miles from Gulf beaches. There is a lot to do near this campground.

Getting here should not be a big problem even for large RVs since the campground is close to a major roadway (Bay Pines Blvd.) However, the road that leads to the KOA entrance (95th Street N) is very narrow, cutting through an industrial-type area. I was a bit worried turning onto 95th street, but I took my time and turned the way I was taught in the driver’s confidence course we took. No incidents.

Check-In

There are a few lanes in front of the main office where you check-in, big enough to park even big rigs. Amber checked in while I waited in the coach and it took about 5-10 minutes to get checked in. Keep in mind that we checked-in at about 1:00pm on a Friday, so if you are checking in during a busier time, you may have to wait longer.

Amber came out and told me that someone would be coming to escort us to our camp site. He arrived in a few minutes and off we went. I thought this was a nice touch since this was the first time we stayed at this campground. Amber and I checked out the map before heading out and told the escort how we wanted to show up to the site so we could park how we were taught. He obliged and off we went.

Camp Site

It was a bit of a challenge to back into the camp site. There are people that live at this KOA and some have erected permanent lawn structures that were in the way when I tried to back in. Even with that hiccup, I backed in pretty well.

The camp site (DW2) is gravel with a very hard base that backs up to Long Bayou. There is a cut out in the tall bushes at each camp site for putting a boat, kayak or canoe in the calm bayou water. We could see little crabs scurrying at the shoreline and fish jumping out of the water.

The services included at the site are 50amp electric, fresh water (2 spigots) and sewer. The two spigots was nice for keeping the fresh water hooked up while cleaning the black water tank via the other spigot. There is no cable television at this site, but we were able to pick up numerous over the air (OTA) digital stations.

We were disappointed that there is no grill at the campsite. We were actually looking forward to grilling out one night.

WiFi & Cellular

Since we arrived during my work lunch break, I needed to finish working for the day. The WiFi was great that afternoon. Not incredibly fast, but good enough for me to work effectively. As the weekend brought more campers, the WiFi became nearly unusable. I ended up using my iPhone as a hotspot (AT&T) and even though I was seeing two signal strength dots, the hotspot was much faster than the campground WiFi.

Facilities

In addition to being able to partake in water sports in Long Bayou, the campground has a few other amenities. Since this was the first time we had been to this campground and only the second time we had camped, we wanted to take advantage of what this KOA had to offer.

The pool has a shallow end and a deep end and is pretty big. We used it on Saturday and it was relatively busy. We were surprised that alcoholic beverages and smoking were allowed at the pool and since we are not smokers, we only stayed a little while. With loud music and some rowdy people, we don’t consider the pool very family friendly.

After the pool, we decided to try out the 9 hole miniature golf course. It’s a bit old, but Christopher loved it and we had fun. The game took us about 30 minutes and the cost was $2.50 for each of us.

Christopher¬†wanted to rent one of the four wheel bikes, so we rented one for him for an hour for $5.00. It was pretty hot on Saturday, so we didn’t use the whole hour, but he had fun. Renting or bringing a bike for this campground is a great idea since the awesome Pinellas Recreation Trail crosses the entrance to this KOA.

Conclusion

We learned two things during our stay at this campground. One, we are not “campground people.” What I mean by this is that we are not camping just to stay at campgrounds and take advantage of their facilities. We are camping to see the country and interesting places and sights. Two, this campground did not cater to us and that’s fine. Any business needs to cater to customers that pay their bills and they are doing a good job at that.

If you are looking for a campground that is close to a lot of restaurants, shopping and Gulf beaches, this may be the place for you. As far as price goes, as Florida residents, we can stay at a full hookup site at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground for the same or just a little more. There is way more to do and better facilities at Disney than this KOA. There is no drinking and smoking at the pool either.

Camco 40631 EVO Premium Water Filter

Clean water should be everyone’s concern when they are using water in a campground. If you want to drink water from the faucet in your RV, I suggest purchasing a water filter. There are disposable models available that work for a certain amount of gallons and there are cartridge models available where the cartridge can be replaced when needed. We started with a disposable model and just recently purchased this cartridge model. The advantage of a cartridge model is that it will help sanitize your fresh water tank and the water lines in your RV. Check your owner’s manual. Ours tells us how much bleach to use for each gallon of water.

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