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How To Do A Disney World Vacation On The Cheap.

Updated on December 6, 2018
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As the youngest of seven children and a father of two girls, I've learned a thing or two about keeping kids entertained.

A Magical Trip That Didn't Make Our Money Disappear.

My youngest daughter had a wish that the whole family would go on a camping trip. The number one problem with that is I hate camping. My wife came up with a plan that would satisfy the whole family. We embarked on a homogenized camping trip at Disney World, and we were able to do it at much lower price than if we stayed at a regular resort. It was like camping, but without all of nature's annoyances. Talk about a win/win.

It All Started With A Wish.

My youngest tenth birthday was in May, and she said her birthday wish was for the family to go camping. There are some problems with that. My oldest and I have asthma and terrible allergies. In fact, it's so bad I almost died going to wilderness camp in fifth grade. I had to go to the ER three times in one night to get my lungs opened enough for me to breathe. So you can see how this didn't appeal to me. I kept asking my wife when she and my daughter were going camping? She always reminded me it had to be all of us. Hmmm.

I think these unsuspecting campers are about to get eaten by the wildlife lurking behind them.
I think these unsuspecting campers are about to get eaten by the wildlife lurking behind them.

A Brilliant Idea

Knowing that allergies are a problem in our family, and wanting to avoid any chance of camping in oppressive heat, my wife came up with an idea. A long time ago we stayed at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort, but we stayed in the cabins. She remembered the campsites and how there were a lot of activities for the kids to do in the area. Our school system in Indiana has a Spring Break in March and a Fall Break in October. She figured Fall Break would be the best time to go, because the weather wouldn't be as hot in Florida.

This is a typical camping pad. Note: the tents are on rocks, so be sure to bring a cushion of some shorts. My brother-in-law only brought sleeping bags. Ouch!
This is a typical camping pad. Note: the tents are on rocks, so be sure to bring a cushion of some shorts. My brother-in-law only brought sleeping bags. Ouch!

Making The Plans

My wife logged onto Disney to make reservations. Rates fluctuate throughout the year and can be as low as $55. When we went, it was $80 for the camping pad. We planned the trip with my brother-in-law's family, so we shared the pad, knocking our price in half. It was large enough to fit two cars and two tents. We also rented a golf cart at $60 a day. Again, shared by two families makes it half price. You can take the bus system around the Fort Wilderness area, but a golf cart is a lot faster. If you pack bikes, it's cheaper and just as fast! But we're golf cart people. One note about golf carts, they book fast so do it before you go. If you decide, you want to get a golf cart when you get there, too late! They book up three months in advance. You don't want to be camping with regret. Regret is a bad camp-mate. You can plan on renting a bike, but at $18 a person a day, it's cheaper for a golf cart for a family of four.

Tips for a Successful Trip.

1) Reservation for campsite

2) Reserve your golf cart (this is optional but highly recommended)

3) Purchase a tent (if you don't already have one)

4) Plan and pack meals (Be sure to pack s'more kits)

5) Upon arrival purchase refillable cup

6) Have fun!

Here's a photo of the free pool and slide.
Here's a photo of the free pool and slide.

Gearing Up

Since this was our first time camping, we had to gear up. First we looked on Ebay and at Walmart.com, and found some good deals. Then we looked at Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, and found really good deals. I was able to find a 20x20 tent used three times for $50. If this is you're first time camping, there's nothing wrong with used stuff. Worked great for us, and we may actually use it again. Ah who am I kidding? Maybe the kids will.

We got this maharaja size tent for $50!
We got this maharaja size tent for $50!

Planning Meals

To save even more money, plan and pack your meals. Each campsite has a grill you can use, plus there many outlets incase you need to plug any cooking or blending accessories. Dining at Disney can be quite pricey. They do have restaurants in and around as well as general stores that sell food of all types. It's kind of like going to a local convenience store, only three times the price. When you get there, you're going to want to pay for the $20 souvenir mug. But why?, you ask. I thought we were saving money? Oh, this you'll love. Just buy one, and you'll get endless refills on sodas, ice (they have the crunchy nugget kind) and coffee. Fill it up and pour into extra cups. You can also make s'mores and roast hot dogs in the evening at the Chip and Dale Sing-a-Long. They have two open fires going.

Free Things to do While You're There.

While there is plenty of opportunity to pay for activities, we're here to save money with the free stuff.

1) Watch Magic Kingdom fireworks from the beach: they pipe in the music for added enjoyment.

2) Pool: It has a water slide, and they have games and activities all day.

3) Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-Along.

4) Fishing: bring you're own rod and reel.

5) Movies Under the Stars

6) Electric Light Parade: after the fireworks stay as the light parade goes by the beach.

Baby, there are fireworks! Not bad for the price.
Baby, there are fireworks! Not bad for the price.

Our Experience

I had a lot more fun than I thought I would. The camp ground is a place that's very social and alive with energy and activity. We spent the first day playing in the pool and wondering around Frontierland. My daughter won two trivia challenges at the pool, and both kids participated in making crafts and playing other games. I cannot tell you how many times we refilled our cup, but we got our money back for sure. That night we went to Chip and Dale's Sing-a-Long and then went to the beach for fireworks.

The second day, the kids played tether ball and did more swimming at the pool. We spent the second half of the day at Disney Springs (used to be Downtown Disney). We took the free bus ride over, hung out, met friends for dinner and took free bus ride back.

We never stepped foot in the park. Of course, we have been there countless of times, but we're always focused on spending time in the parks that we never take full advantage of what the resorts have to offer. The best part of all is this trip was cheap, and we can count it as another visit to Disney World. Score!

Someone's wish came true. Is it me, or is the girl in the background on the right giving me the stink eye?
Someone's wish came true. Is it me, or is the girl in the background on the right giving me the stink eye?

© 2018 Jeff Huser

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    • Believe in USA profile image

      George Johnson 

      18 months ago from San Antonio, TX

      I never knew that there were campsites around Disney World. It’s looks like a great way to get some Disney experience without breaking the bank. I prefer the more laid back calming style vacations

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