Because I’ve had several ask the same two questions…I thought I would just write it down for all to see and share as needed. Those two questions?
How is the camping at Disney?
Did you feel safe?
Fantastic and yes. The end.
Did we feel safe? Yes, yes, yes. Almost annoyingly so. Because Disney clearly knows that their bread and butter depends on open parks – they are overly cautious in order to keep them that way. I cannot tell you the number of times I heard reminders either over the speakers or from cast members on proper mask usage. Leave your excuses at home – you either wear a mask correctly and constantly or you have the best day ever elsewhere. Disney would rather lose a few fans out a secret back door than risk a park wide outbreak. And I really didn’t see very many infractions – I can count on one hand where a cast member called out specific guests to put their mask back on correctly. The guests were very, very, very vigilant – which was awesome as I know in my non-Disney life, many folks are not. Typically when spoken to, said guest would present a quick look of ‘oh shite’ as they realized they’d just forgotten to redress after a drink or snack. I never felt frustrated or annoyed or paranoid because someone near me didn’t understand proper mask usage because everyone around me did. Which makes me feel like my year long suspicion that mask wearing is not brain surgery might actually be correct. I never heard once a retort with a list of excuses of why I can’t wear a mask or my whole friend group has different afflictions preventing mask usage and we just happened to end up all knowing each other and randomly came to Disney at the same time.
It was impossible NOT to keep your hands clean. There were endless sanitizer stations – always full – it truly is the most magical place on earth in that it never runs out of sanitizer, thus eliminating that deflated feeling of pushing the I Want To Be Clean! button only to feel a sad puff of barely moist air. And I think Disney may have cracked the hand-sanitizer-to-hand-dryness code. I did not feel like my skin was turning into dry leaves despite hours of pump usage.
Entry into any park at any time required a temperature check – even if it was your fifth park of the day. It is a nerve wracking five seconds as you pray that you didn’t pick up something terrible through your Baby Yoda mask on one of busses. I really can’t imagine being the owner of the thermometer that requires a whole family to be turned away for running hot. Which brings me to the recent addition of Park Hopping. It is newly available and it is different and I did not pay attention to what my travel organizer told me. In order to Park Hop this year – you make a reservation at your first park of the day. You then have to go and stay at that park until 2pm when the free for all begins. Key words here – GO and STAY. We skipped our first park the first day and then were turned away at the next one because, basically, we weren’t in our first park when attendance was taken. Disney keeps a close count of the daily population – if you don’t sign in, your spot may disappear. And stay because we sent our child to another park (he wanted some alone time) before 2pm and after a twenty minute walk, thirty minute skyline ride, and another twenty minute walk, he was turned away because it was only 1pm. He reversed the whole traverse to find us and let us know how he felt about that misfire.
The parks we visited were not crowded at all – unless you’re 15 and grumpy because your parents sent you to another park too early. As my child said – sure, it’s at limited capacity, but that whole capacity is 100 percent. Uh, what?. I would pay actual extra money for matrix going forward. There were no sweaty bodies bumping into ours while we were pushing through crowds to get a glimpse of where we were going. We visited Galaxy’s Edge thrice, Epcot thrice, and Animal Kingdom once. Animal Kingdom has never been an ugh, this is too many people experience for me and this year was no different. Epcot’s oddity was that most of the one-off food counters were not open (cheesy bread bowl in France, I’m talking to you) nor were most of the little stores in the individual countries. I don’t know if that was a Covid thing or a Festival of Arts thing, but it was a bummer (yet money saving). I guess the summary is – any enclosed space that would cause visitors to breach the six-foot-boundary was not opened for business. Galaxy’s Edge required a line to get into its outdoor market, which was also a bummer – but once in, we basically had a private, take as long as you like pass to shop and look around. We saw so much more than last year when it was shoulder to shoulder sweaty people.
Across the board, there were no express lanes. Or at least not for us. The express pass marques were lit up, so it’s possible that residents or annual pass holders still have access to skip the lines, but not for the schmoes like us. It wasn’t a real issue though as the lines all moved very quickly and the estimated times were always completely exaggerated. The longest wait we had was for Avatar in Animal Kingdom and we never actually stopped moving. The lines looked long – but then you realize that everyone is placed and stays six feet apart, you realize the line is deceiving. It’s not the line that’s long, it’s the spacing. The only ride that did require a ‘reservation’ was Rise of the Resistance in Galaxy’s Edge – something we failed to achieve last year at which time you had to be in park to get in the virtual queue (at the crack of we don’t get up that early). This year, the first virtual queue only required a presence on any Disney property (ie…Fort Wilderness), but we didn’t make that one either. We did, however, make the second queue of the day which started at 1pm from inside Hollywood Studios – because of that, we got to hear whoops! around us from other guests who also made the queue, which was pretty cool.
While we didn’t have any interest in character greetings, I also didn’t see them. I can’t confirm that they are not happening – especially over in Magic Kingdom – but I definitely did not reunite with Chewbacca this year. I hope he’s not mad. We also did not do any of the shows this year – again, just weren’t interested and never felt the need to take a break from the melee because it was more of a meloe.
Restaurants? The trade off for social distance rules was planning counter service meals well ahead of your hunger. All meals were to be ordered ahead of via a mobile app (very easy to navigate), picked up when prepared, and then carried around until a table was located (less easy to navigate). Biggest mistake? Planning our meals at traditional times or without enough notice to our growling stomachs. Eat thirty minutes later and the lines are basically gone – but make sure you let your stomach in on the plan. Nobody likes a hangry mouseketeer. The pro-est tip is to eat around that 1:30-2:30pm window when visitors are in the process of changing parks. The reservation restaurants really didn’t seem much different – in normal years, you had to book early and nothing’s changed now. In the past, we let fate guide us – if there was availability, that’s where we’d eat if we were in the mood for something more ‘formal.’ We did the same this year and got some very nice (and quiet) meals in some unexpected places.
Transportation between parks was great. Busses were not a stressor at all as everyone was super compliant with masks, seats were numbered and partitioned – drivers given the extra task of collecting party numbers and coordinating seating. There was no standing this year, hanging on for dear life, nor would we have had to as the busses were never full enough to warrant it. Wait times were totally normal, so I suspect they’ve upped the number of busses in exchange for limiting the number of passengers per bus. The Skyline was one group per car, which was AWESOME.
But what about the other stuff?
Okay, campground. We vote yes. If you look at a map of Fort Wilderness, you will see an unbelievably large collection of sites – so many that there is a bus service to take you from one end of the campground to the other. This is very intimidating as crowded campgrounds are generally a frustrating pain in the butt. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we did not feel crowded, despite a full house at Fort Wilderness. But, we did not get that feeling under after we were backed in and attached to our utilities.
Entry to the park passes through two checkpoints – the first to see if you are actually registered and the second to finish registering. That whole mobile key card? Not a real thing. You still have to stop and answer thirty five questions at the gate. A gate which can easily be side swiped if you are pulled to the registration booth on the passenger side of your 75 foot wide RV where driver visibility is limited. After a many hours drive, that was not ideal – but the cast didn’t bat an eye, so I’m assuming the scratches are repainted frequently. After you bump your way out of registration you head into the eternity of sites via the usual method (wife trying to read a map while the husband drives too fast for her to read the signs). We found our loop and turned in and then had to go all the way through the loop as our site was actually the last one before the exit. The loops are tight, yes. The loops are full of golf carts whose owners have forgotten the challenge of driving an RV through a loop full of golf carts. The sites are back in. The utilities are fairly oddly spaced. We ended up with two wheels on the a concrete pad, two wheels on blocks and a twenty foot span between the electric box and the water hose, which the sewer sitting in the middle.
I’m not sure who told Uncle Walt that that would work – but, if you’d like to avoid a twenty minute exercise of pulling forward, back up, pulling a little to the left, file divorce papers, backing up, back to the right, pulling forward, a little close to the concrete, well, just bring a double length of electric, hose, and sewer. Once we were officially there and reunited as a parental force, we were able to see just how well laid out the sites are. I would say it just touches the edge of State Park spaciousness – meaning from most windows, we could not see (or hear) our neighbors. And we had neighbors – we knew this because when we were choreographing our parking position, one of them thought it the perfect time to whip out his leaf blower so that my husband had no chance of hearing any of my encouraging words.
Bus Service? Yes. I’m not sure how many restaurants Ft. Wilderness actually has (in a normal year), but this year, just one was open – at the very back of the campground. Without a golf cart (we did not have one), or a bike (we did), or the bus (Option C), we likely would have requested a grocery store delivery in lieu of the long walk for meals. This is primarily a golf cart campground. They are everywhere (cars are not allowed past the front gate except for hookup) and, as with most golf cart campgrounds, follow rules that are only given out to their owners in a secret club meeting. There were a few other bikers and none of us seemed to know if we were to ride on the path or the road, so we picked based on whether we wanted to dodge people or battery powered mosquitoes. The buses seemed to be everyone’s last choice as they were typically empty.
Bus Service II? Yes. To get to the parks, you take a different bus than the campground bus. The main depot for those is at the front of the park, near registration – so if you are biking and can acquire an ‘up front’ spot, do it. Then bring your own breakfast so you don’t have to backtrack two miles for your coffee and donut before departure. Honestly, after schlepping the parks all day and then bussing back to the depot – hopping on our bikes to return to our camper was quite refreshing. Would we have done it with little kids? Hell, no – for sure would have gone with a golf cart rental.
I think that about covers it. My recommendation is GO! I’d go back tomorrow just for the relaxing piece (Can you do that? Just stay at the campground and not go to the parks? Do you have to take the kids? Asking for a friend).