newbie to camping and fort wilderness - with toddlers - lots of questions! :)

ebandive

Earning My Ears
Joined
May 5, 2013
Hi!

I'm sort of new here. I've been lurking for awhile, but honestly I'm kind of overwhelmed by this site and still trying to find my way around. I'm a member on similar forums (cruisecritic and diaperswappers) so I know once I find my way around I will love it here. :goodvibes:

I grew up tent camping in Wisconsin, and also spending a week at Disney every year. However it's been 15 years since I've done either. Now I have a 2 year old and a 3 month old and I really want to get back at both. And I'm totally overwhelmed. Please help! Posting Trip Reports is one of my favorite things ever, so I promise to return the favor by posting a lengthly review with lots of pictures upon our return from our first successful tent camping disney trip!

We don't plan on actually buying park tickets. We are FL residents and plan to make this a trip every year or two, and my oldest doesn't have a clue who disney characters are yet. We'll do it in the future. This just wets our appetites a little bit for Disney.

General camping questions:
1. we are tent camping and plan to buy a coleman prairie breeze (cabin style) mostly because my DH is 6'4" and we plan on having more kids, so the space will be needed. unless you can talk me out of it or recommend something else.

2. favorite websites for general camping tips? Since I only camped as a kid I'm having a hard time remembering the tips that make everything so much easier.

3. my kiddos will be 2 1/2 and 10 months at the time of our first family camping trip. favorite camping double stroller that is sand friendly and also won't break the bank? I'd love a BOB but I know it's unrealistic for our budget, so I'm looking at a babytrend. Any other tips for camping with toddlers?

4. Give me your most important camping packing tip - the thing that a newbie probably wouldn't bring but that makes things a lot easier.

5. If you have camped at other places in Florida, especially with toddlers, what are your favorites and why? Requirements include electricity at site, swimming/beach, NO crazy wild animals that might wander onto our site (ie bears), playgrounds would be great too.

Fort Wilderness questions:
1. Looking at reserving loop 1500, even though from my reading I know loop 2000 has bigger sites. It looks like it is really close to the meadow - close enough to walk? Estimated time it would take to walk from the loop to the meadow pool or playground? Exactly how long does it take to walk the loop? I have digestive issues and sometimes need to get to the bathroom fast :cool1: so, at farthest, how far away are the comfort stations? Neither DH or I love to bike, so we probably wouldn't take one unless necessary.

2. At first I thought I wanted to request a canal site - but perhaps a bad idea with two young ones? Obviously I'd have to keep a close eye so especially the youngest doesn't fall in - but would the kids be able to play in the canal or is it too dirty? I know my 2 year old would LOVE it! I already know if I hope my request to be honored to book early and to arrive early. Looking at booking the first week of March.

3. Favorite things to do while at FW with toddlers? My plans so far include to use the pool and the playground (can babies use the pool in a swim diaper?), the marina for the electric water show and pony rides, and take the boat and explore the contemporary and fort wilderness resorts, and then take the boat from POR to DD one night too.

4. I've read here and there that there are walking trails that connect FW to other resorts - anyone have a map or list of which are within walking distance?

5. My oldest will turn 3 during this trip. Will they do anything special? We plan on making all our meals on site, but if we do go out it will be to celebrate his birthday meal. So - if you had to pick one restaurant to celebrate a toddler birthday at (who doesn't know disney characters yet), which one and why? Sell me! I remember going to the hoop-de-do review a a child and I loved it - but I'm thinking my kiddos will still be too small and it costs SO much money for one meal!

Phew. I think that's it for now, but I'm sure I'll think of more. Thanks for all your help new Disney friends! :grouphug::disrocks:
 

Jedana

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 27, 2011
A few answers:

1. We have a Coleman http://www.coleman.com/product/weathermastertrade-10-with-hinged-door/2000001598?contextCategory=CabinTents#.UY_1ZX3D9pg

Love it!

2. Try these:
http://www.thecampingguy.com/first_campout.html
http://www.cdc.gov/family/camping/
http://www.overthebigmoon.com/camping-tips-tricks/
http://www.lovetheoutdoors.com/camping/camp_cooking_tips.htm

3. When our daughter was little, we camped and used a screen tent. Like a popup, but it came with a floor and screen sides. Not sure if they make them anymore (this was almost 18 years ago), but it helped with keeping her from eating the dirt. :lmao:

4. I am overly organized. I use a pop-up garbage can in the tent (with a laundry bag or garbage bag) to hold all the dirty clothes. We use a 2nd tent to hold gear (kitchen stuff, food, coolers, the dirty clothes, etc), so the main tent isn't crowded and stays neat.

5. Can't help--only camping trips in FL have been with the Cub Scouts.
 

DisneyDiva8401

Mouseketeer
Joined
Feb 15, 2013
We pack our clothes in plastic totes instead of suitcases. You can fit more and it's ok if they get wet. When we tent camped we also put our bed sheets in the car while we were in the parks because torrential disney downpours can cause even the best tents to leak and nobody wants to come home to a wet bed. (Also why we upgraded to a pop up, which still leaks on occasion)
 
  • DisneyDiva8401

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Feb 15, 2013
    And don't forget the nightly movies and chip and dale sing a longs (free!). You can roast marshmallows and stuff too.
     

    North of Mouse

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 31, 2011
    :welcome:

    We are not tent campers so will let those that are try to answer your questions about tenting. I just know how much you will enjoy FW with your family!

    Trails End Restaurant has a 'very' good buffet for the dinner meal. Doesn't have characters, which you say are not a priority now with little ones. We really enjoyed it on a recent trip at FW.

    You 'will not' want your little ones in the canals there. Don't think it is allowed anyway. Am sure it has its share of 'creepy crawlies' (snakes,etc.) and does not look inviting at all! :scared1: You would probably be wise to choose a campsite 'far' from them for safety's sake. ::yes::

    Have a nice trip!
     

    SunshineCamper

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Feb 25, 2007
    *My best camping tip: do not forget scissors and a can opener. I have mine always packed in our TT but if I had a dime for every time a camping neighbor asked to borrow these two things I'd be rich.

    *I'm not sure where in FL you live but our favorite state park is Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine. It's on the beach, close to the lighthouse and a few miles from historic St. Augustine.

    *1500 loop is perfect if you can get it. It's walking distance to the Meadows pool. The comfort station is where the bus stop is for the loop.

    *I don't suggest the canals for playing these are man made and not natural. I've seen gators, snakes, and all types on "things" in these canals.

    *Yes, swim diaper is a go.

    *Younger children suggestion: bring chalk to draw on the road, bike, wagon (for toting your kids and stuff to the pool).

    *Walking trail-from the campgrounds to the Wilderness Lodge. It's paved and the toddler probably won't make the entire distance walking-so I suggest a stroller. We usually walk the path and then hop on the boat back to the campgrounds.

    *The best character meal I can suggest would be Chef Mickey at the Contemporary for BREAKFAST. You don't need a park ticket and its a boat ride from the campground. The character meal would be cheaper since its breakfast and the main characters will be there. They will come to the table, take pictures with the kids and you, sign autographs, etc. No its not cheap and we've only done it once.

    *Don't forget the movie each night and campfire. Of course, nothing beats ice cream from the trading post...(both trading posts) for younger children.

    *My kids are 13 and 15 now and we still order take out at Trails End. We sit outside and watch the kids play on the playground, play checkers, and any other game they are playing. Take out is a 1/4 of the price of the sit down meal.

    *My favorite Disney tip: I decorate our site with the help of hubby and the kids. Disney and non-disney items...depending on the holiday. It's fun and the kids have grown to help me find new items for decorating the site.
     

    Elianor

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 2, 2010
    :wave2:

    I've been camping with babies for 10 years now, although this August will be our first time camping at Disney.

    Tips, the wagon is a fabulous thing. I have an old fashioned one with rails that we padded with sheepskin and our daughter slept in it until she was almost three. It's also nice for carrying laundry to and from or a picnic lunch down to the park. Look for one with air filled tires.

    A pack and play was critical when our son was very little- he could play in it and sleep safely in it. They are not too expensive and fold down to about cot size.

    We also pack in rubbermaid totes that slide under the cots/bed (I have a camp bed made of plywood that slots together and had a high density foam mattress which is made of awesome.)

    The thing that has me wired about packing is that our camping never includes electricity so I'm excited about taking an extension cord. I'm planning to take a fan, a kettle for hot water, and a mini dvd player for the kids to watch their favorite movies on. I'm also trying to figure out if I can fit a hammock in the van!

    The main thing about camping with really little children is making sure that they are eating and drinking appropriately- watching them for bug bites and other issues like rashes- and having a well stocked medical kit for things like bug bite, sunburn, and diaper rash. The other thing is to stay relaxed and calm. I know people try to wrap their kids in bubble wrap and spray them down with anti-bacterial santizer- don't worry about it and just have fun. The kids will get a kick out of the boats, the monorail and all the activities at Disney that *don't* include the parks.

    Oh, an as for the canals. Don't let your child play in them. The water there is standing- as in it doesn't flow through like a river or a creek and it's a breeding ground for bugs and bacteria such as e.coli and n. fowleri. While I advocate letting kids play in the dirt, it's safer to *swim* in the pool. :thumbsup2
     
  • bjschil

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 8, 2013
    Ebandive, we are also harsh campers from Wisconsin, still dairy farm there, but graduated from a tent to a 5th wheel. No canals, too many creatures. So much to do at the Fort to keep your little person occupied, and just being there is wonderful in itself. You have lots of great people to help you on your quest. Have a great time when you go. It continues to be a magical place in our hearts.
     

    chartle

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 10, 2008
    Others have some good tips. Here are a few of mine.

    If you are cooking at your site, plan out all your meals and then pull out every kitchen tool you will need. If you plan to camp a lot go buy ones just for camping. We have hot dogs tongs that are in a tote somewhere that are just used for camping.

    If you make mac and cheese, do you have a strainer? Using the ill fitting lid on the pot gets a little old after you dump all the pasta into the fire ring 2 or 3 times. :mad:

    Do you have a can opener and not the one on a pocket knife or mutli tool. Which leads to the next question. Do you have a sharp knife, not on a pocket knife or mutli tool? We have one just in our kit that has a plastic cover.

    Other things forgotten, corkscrew, ever try to get one out with a screwdriver? (Note this was pre internet when you could type "how to remove a cork without a corkscrew" into your phone in the middle of the woods)

    Other nice things. flexible cutting mats to use as cutting boards and serving plates. These pop up screen tent things to put over your food to keep the bugs off.

    A camping oven to make fresh homemade buttermilk biscuits from scratch. OK maybe too much. :goodvibes

    Things that never work. Citronella candles :confused3
     

    chartle

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 10, 2008
    Things that never work. Citronella candles

    AMEN!::yes::
    This got me thinking I'm going to put a list of everything that I have seen or used over the past 50 years of camping (my family camped with kids of all ages including my 5 month old sister) that just doesn't work or or not as useful as they seem.

    I'm going to start with a controversy of sorts, Screen tents over the picnic table.

    All the unzippering and zippering would drive me crazy and they make the area around the table quite small. Some State parks we go to have 8 to 10 foot long picnic tables.

    To counter this things that are under the category of "How did we ever get along with them?".

    Chairs with backs aka fold up canvas "camp" chairs. We were a family of 6 so not a lot room for those web strap chairs back in the day. We had the picnic table, the tailgate of the truck and any big rocks or maybe a log. :goodvibes
     
  • ebandive

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    May 5, 2013
    A few answers:

    1. We have a Coleman
    Love it!

    2. Try these:

    3. When our daughter was little, we camped and used a screen tent. Like a popup, but it came with a floor and screen sides. Not sure if they make them anymore (this was almost 18 years ago), but it helped with keeping her from eating the dirt. :lmao:

    4. I am overly organized. I use a pop-up garbage can in the tent (with a laundry bag or garbage bag) to hold all the dirty clothes. We use a 2nd tent to hold gear (kitchen stuff, food, coolers, the dirty clothes, etc), so the main tent isn't crowded and stays neat.

    5. Can't help--only camping trips in FL have been with the Cub Scouts.
    Thanks for your help! I was also looking at the weathermaster, but am leaning towards the prairie breeze because it is 7' high throughout and has no sloping ceiling.

    thanks for all the websites!

    started searching for children's pop-up screen tents and came across this on amazon - this looks perfect for the kids to play in! And so easy we can take it to the beach too - provides shade and bug relief. Was it something like this you are referring to?
    - ok - I'm too new to post links - but search "sansbug tent" on youtube and natureforkidsnet has a nice video.

    overly organized is good. I love the tips! :thumbsup2:

    We pack our clothes in plastic totes instead of suitcases. You can fit more and it's ok if they get wet. When we tent camped we also put our bed sheets in the car while we were in the parks because torrential disney downpours can cause even the best tents to leak and nobody wants to come home to a wet bed. (Also why we upgraded to a pop up, which still leaks on occasion)
    And don't forget the nightly movies and chip and dale sing a longs (free!). You can roast marshmallows and stuff too.
    I saw a photo on here of someone with all their clothes in the plastic "dressers" - such a clever idea and way more practical than rummaging through a suitcase! Thanks!

    And yes, so excited about the campfires with chip n dale and the movies!
     

    ebandive

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    May 5, 2013
    :welcome:

    We are not tent campers so will let those that are try to answer your questions about tenting. I just know how much you will enjoy FW with your family!

    Trails End Restaurant has a 'very' good buffet for the dinner meal. Doesn't have characters, which you say are not a priority now with little ones. We really enjoyed it on a recent trip at FW.

    You 'will not' want your little ones in the canals there. Don't think it is allowed anyway. Am sure it has its share of 'creepy crawlies' (snakes,etc.) and does not look inviting at all! :scared1: You would probably be wise to choose a campsite 'far' from them for safety's sake. ::yes::

    Have a nice trip!
    Thanks for the welcome! I am getting so excited about FW even though it is 10 months away!

    Thanks for the tip about Trails End - I'll look into it! DH LOVES a good buffet.

    noted. do not request a canal site. I thought maybe disney magic made even canals nice. :giggle2:

    *My best camping tip: do not forget scissors and a can opener. I have mine always packed in our TT but if I had a dime for every time a camping neighbor asked to borrow these two things I'd be rich.

    *I'm not sure where in FL you live but our favorite state park is Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine. It's on the beach, close to the lighthouse and a few miles from historic St. Augustine.

    *1500 loop is perfect if you can get it. It's walking distance to the Meadows pool. The comfort station is where the bus stop is for the loop.

    *I don't suggest the canals for playing these are man made and not natural. I've seen gators, snakes, and all types on "things" in these canals.

    *Yes, swim diaper is a go.

    *Younger children suggestion: bring chalk to draw on the road, bike, wagon (for toting your kids and stuff to the pool).

    *Walking trail-from the campgrounds to the Wilderness Lodge. It's paved and the toddler probably won't make the entire distance walking-so I suggest a stroller. We usually walk the path and then hop on the boat back to the campgrounds.

    *The best character meal I can suggest would be Chef Mickey at the Contemporary for BREAKFAST. You don't need a park ticket and its a boat ride from the campground. The character meal would be cheaper since its breakfast and the main characters will be there. They will come to the table, take pictures with the kids and you, sign autographs, etc. No its not cheap and we've only done it once.

    *Don't forget the movie each night and campfire. Of course, nothing beats ice cream from the trading post...(both trading posts) for younger children.

    *My kids are 13 and 15 now and we still order take out at Trails End. We sit outside and watch the kids play on the playground, play checkers, and any other game they are playing. Take out is a 1/4 of the price of the sit down meal.

    *My favorite Disney tip: I decorate our site with the help of hubby and the kids. Disney and non-disney items...depending on the holiday. It's fun and the kids have grown to help me find new items for decorating the site.
    Added scissors and can opener to my list. :thumbsup2:

    EEEP! DH spent a few years of his early childhood being raised in St. Augustine and I have never been, but have wanted to go for years. I'll check out that campground. Sounds perfect!! We are in SW FL - Fort Myers specifically.

    Crossing my fingers for the 1500 loop. Doubly noted: do not request a canal site.

    Glad to hear the trail from the campgrounds to the resort is paved. and great idea to just take the boat back if we are too tired to walk.

    My family always stayed at the Contemporary growing up, so it has a special place in my heart. :love: I'll definitely check out breakfast there.

    And AWESOME tip about take out being much cheaper at Trails End! I would have never thought that.

    So many great tips from you - thanks so much!! :hug:
     

    ebandive

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    May 5, 2013
    :wave2:

    I've been camping with babies for 10 years now, although this August will be our first time camping at Disney.

    Tips, the wagon is a fabulous thing. I have an old fashioned one with rails that we padded with sheepskin and our daughter slept in it until she was almost three. It's also nice for carrying laundry to and from or a picnic lunch down to the park. Look for one with air filled tires.

    A pack and play was critical when our son was very little- he could play in it and sleep safely in it. They are not too expensive and fold down to about cot size.

    We also pack in rubbermaid totes that slide under the cots/bed (I have a camp bed made of plywood that slots together and had a high density foam mattress which is made of awesome.)

    The thing that has me wired about packing is that our camping never includes electricity so I'm excited about taking an extension cord. I'm planning to take a fan, a kettle for hot water, and a mini dvd player for the kids to watch their favorite movies on. I'm also trying to figure out if I can fit a hammock in the van!

    The main thing about camping with really little children is making sure that they are eating and drinking appropriately- watching them for bug bites and other issues like rashes- and having a well stocked medical kit for things like bug bite, sunburn, and diaper rash. The other thing is to stay relaxed and calm. I know people try to wrap their kids in bubble wrap and spray them down with anti-bacterial santizer- don't worry about it and just have fun. The kids will get a kick out of the boats, the monorail and all the activities at Disney that *don't* include the parks.

    Oh, an as for the canals. Don't let your child play in them. The water there is standing- as in it doesn't flow through like a river or a creek and it's a breeding ground for bugs and bacteria such as e.coli and n. fowleri. While I advocate letting kids play in the dirt, it's safer to *swim* in the pool. :thumbsup2
    Thanks for all the excellent advise! Definitely won't let my kiddos play in the canal water then. Yuck! I'm pretty laid back about dirt though - I mean, you should see my 2-year-old after just an hour of playing in the backyard - the kid eats dirt for lunch! Ok, not really, but almost. :rotfl2: At first I thought we'd do Disney tickets, but after just looking at how much FW has to offer, and knowing how much fun they will have on the boats and monorails, and even just walking around exploring, I don't think they'll be necessary this first trip. Next time though, definitely!

    Ebandive, we are also harsh campers from Wisconsin, still dairy farm there, but graduated from a tent to a 5th wheel. No canals, too many creatures. So much to do at the Fort to keep your little person occupied, and just being there is wonderful in itself. You have lots of great people to help you on your quest. Have a great time when you go. It continues to be a magical place in our hearts.
    Thanks! :hug:
     

    ebandive

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    May 5, 2013
    Others have some good tips. Here are a few of mine.

    If you are cooking at your site, plan out all your meals and then pull out every kitchen tool you will need. If you plan to camp a lot go buy ones just for camping. We have hot dogs tongs that are in a tote somewhere that are just used for camping.

    If you make mac and cheese, do you have a strainer? Using the ill fitting lid on the pot gets a little old after you dump all the pasta into the fire ring 2 or 3 times. :mad:

    Do you have a can opener and not the one on a pocket knife or mutli tool. Which leads to the next question. Do you have a sharp knife, not on a pocket knife or mutli tool? We have one just in our kit that has a plastic cover.

    Other things forgotten, corkscrew, ever try to get one out with a screwdriver? (Note this was pre internet when you could type into your phone in the middle of the woods)

    Other nice things. flexible cutting mats to use as cutting boards and serving plates. These pop up screen tent things to put over your food to keep the bugs off.

    A camping oven to make fresh homemade buttermilk biscuits from scratch. OK maybe too much. :goodvibes

    Things that never work. Citronella candles :confused3
    haha, love your tips - and glad to learn from your experience! I didn't know those pop-up food covers existed until I just searched amazon. Awesome! If we don't end up getting a big screen to cover our whole picnic table, we will definitely be getting some of those!

    Things that never work. Citronella candles

    AMEN!::yes::
    :goodvibes

    This got me thinking I'm going to put a list of everything that I have seen or used over the past 50 years of camping (my family camped with kids of all ages including my 5 month old sister) that just doesn't work or or not as useful as they seem.

    I'm going to start with a controversy of sorts, Screen tents over the picnic table.

    All the unzippering and zippering would drive me crazy and they make the area around the table quite small. Some State parks we go to have 8 to 10 foot long picnic tables.

    To counter this things that are under the category of "How did we ever get along with them?".

    Chairs with backs aka fold up canvas "camp" chairs. We were a family of 6 so not a lot room for those web strap chairs back in the day. We had the picnic table, the tailgate of the truck and any big rocks or maybe a log. :goodvibes
    love it! Ok - and this is why I don't already have a screened in tent - it seems that the constant zipping and unzipping is more of a hassle than it's worth. We do have a 10x10 shade tent that is not screened that I planned to use over the picnic table, but that didn't solve the fly-on-food situation.

    I think if I just kept the shade tent for over the table, and then bought some of those pop-up tabletop food screens, and bought the mini screened in tent for the baby to play in, that the rest of us can just use bug spray if needed.

    Thanks for saving me $100. :thumbsup2
     

    chartle

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 10, 2008
    love it! Ok - and this is why I don't already have a screened in tent - it seems that the constant zipping and unzipping is more of a hassle than it's worth. We do have a 10x10 shade tent that is not screened that I planned to use over the picnic table, but that didn't solve the fly-on-food situation.

    I think if I just kept the shade tent for over the table, and then bought some of those pop-up tabletop food screens, and bought the mini screened in tent for the baby to play in, that the rest of us can just use bug spray if needed.

    Thanks for saving me $100. :thumbsup2
    We have 12 by 12 tarp that we call a Dining Fly with poles and rope. Its what they sold before everyone bought Easy Up type canopies. What we have folds up into a very small bag the size of a small tent. It looks like this.



    With the screened in tents the issue is they say 12 by 12 or 11 by 11, well thats 12 by 12 at the floor with sloping sides so at say shoulder height its 10 by 10 so draw a 10 by 10 border around your table and when its closed up thats the path you have to walk to get around. I would be claustrophobic.
     

    ebandive

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    May 5, 2013
    We have 12 by 12 tarp that we call a Dining Fly with poles and rope. Its what they sold before everyone bought Easy Up type canopies. What we have folds up into a very small bag the size of a small tent. It looks like this.



    With the screened in tents the issue is they say 12 by 12 or 11 by 11, well thats 12 by 12 at the floor with sloping sides so at say shoulder height its 10 by 10 so draw a 10 by 10 border around your table and when its closed up thats the path you have to walk to get around. I would be claustrophobic.
    I now totally get what you mean about cutting off shoulder space. Yep, that will not work for us. I really like that your canopy is super lightweight. We have a coleman instant 10x10 canopy with LED lights that we got at Target for 75% off. :cool1: It has great reviews so hopefully it works well for us. I think with it being open on all 4 sides I won't have an issue with claustrophobia - really just wanted it for shade if we don't have ample tree shade at the site. My only concern was it not being screened in. But I think I'll be better of with just something to cover the food as needed and a small portable pop-up screen tent for the baby.

    Thanks for all your help!
     

    chartle

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 10, 2008
    I now totally get what you mean about cutting off shoulder space. Yep, that will not work for us. I really like that your canopy is super lightweight. We have a coleman instant 10x10 canopy with LED lights that we got at Target for 75% off. :cool1: It has great reviews so hopefully it works well for us. I think with it being open on all 4 sides I won't have an issue with claustrophobia - really just wanted it for shade if we don't have ample tree shade at the site. My only concern was it not being screened in. But I think I'll be better of with just something to cover the food as needed and a small portable pop-up screen tent for the baby.

    Thanks for all your help!
    Even with tree shade you will still want it. In fact more trees the more you will need it.

    I few times we didn't set it up the first day and we found that the trees put out a ton of dirt and we were wiping off the table much more than needed.

    The main problem with my setup is that there are two ropes at every corner so major tripping hazard.
     

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