Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Camping Escapades

I just got back from spending a 4-day weekend at Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground. I have some good things and some bad things to report.

First the good. Everyone had a great time! We enjoyed swimming, especially sneaking over to the Wilderness Lodge pool which is much bigger, has a slide, a waterfall and a pool bar! Something for the kids and mommy, too! We also discovered a second pool at the Wilderness Lodge called the springs pool. It has jets that shoot bubbles to the surface making it look as if the pool is spring fed. We enjoyed this pool the most because it was cooler, less crowded and more shaded. But what probably made it great was that we got to enjoy the pool amenitities of the $400 a night resort while paying less than $100 a night at the campground. Bonus!

Everyone in the family took their bikes to ride this time. We have rented a golf cart to motor around the resort in the past, but this time I thought we all could use the exercise (and I needed to save money). Whatever happened to walking? I mean our campsite was maybe two blocks from the main pool area and yet many campers felt they needed to jump in the golf cart to get there. We actually walked to and from the main entertainment area and we even walked one night all the way to the beach area to see the fireworks. And we all lived to tell about it. Although after a long, hot day, the walk was a little much for my youngest who fell down a few times from sheer exhaustion. Tears ensued. But I had no trouble convincing her to go to bed that night. Bonus #2!

Another good thing our newest members of the family joined us for the camping trip. My sister got married in April and her husband and his 16 year old son joined us while my sister worked. In fact, Zach (our new cousin), loved getting to hang with my teens for the weekend. Lots of positive family bonding. Bonus #3!

We were all having such a good time on Sunday that I asked my husband to take an extra day off from work so that we could stay overnight and leave on Monday. To my utter shock and surprise he did. He almost never takes an unscheduled day off. And he's not even a big fan of the Disney campground (it's a little too "nice" for his outback tastes). The extra day/night gave us a chance to take the Disney bus to the Downtown Disney area for dinner that night giving me a night off from campground cooking. Bonus #4! Which leads me to the bad news.

Despite the fact that the campground was not full (read crowded) the Disney folks seemed to be having some transportation issues. Now I know it is not easy to manage a bus fleet of over 300 buses but getting stuck on a bus for an hour and a half for a ride that should have taken half an hour is not so "magical". Part of the allure of staying on Disney property is not having to drive, pay for parking (that is if you can find it) when you want to visit other parts of the property. But getting stuck in a bus so cold you could hang meet for an extra hour of my precious vacation time was certainly not among my list of "A Year of a Million Dreams." Deduct 1 Bonus Point!

Did I mention that the campground was not crowded? Now we've been coming to this campground for nearly 4 years and I learned quickly that you needed to make your camping reservations in advance - far in advance - at least 4 months if not more. So I had made our reservation back in April and yet I would say about one quarter or more of the spots this weekend were empty. That's good if you don't like crowds (which I don't) but that's bad for the Florida economy. I mean if Disney's tourism is slow, imagine how slow the rest of the state must be! This doesn't bode well for our state in the coming year. In the last 10 years, Florida's tourism has taken hits from hurricanes and wildfires. Now the gas prices and economy are wreaking mother nature like havoc on our state's most valuable resource. Deduct 1 Bonus Point!

Speaking of Mother Nature, it was the kind of weekend only a native like myself could survive. The heat and humidity were at record levels. All you had to do was stand outside and you'd break into a sweat. Then most afternoons we were pummeled by raging thunderstorms which left the campground a soggy mess. We had to be flexible and take advantage of the outdoor things in the early part of the day and plan for some inside rest time in the afternoons. Good thing I brought lots of snacks and some extra towels and sunscreen! No Bonus Point Deduction due to the fact that I'm native!

All in all, it was a lot of fun. And if you're reading this might I suggest you come to Florida for vacation? You won't have to fight the crowds and you can make last minute reservations. It's the perfect time to spend some money in the Sunshine State!

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