Your Guide To Bringing An RV To Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World is the Most Magical Place on Earth whether you get there by plane, train, automobile, or, well, RV. These motor vehicles can be a terrific compromise for staying somewhere familiar when visiting Disney or just a more comfortable road trip companion for staying at a Disney World Resort hotel. No matter how you do Disney, this is your guide to bringing your RV along for the ride.

In some ways, going to Disney with an RV can be a cheaper choice, primarily if you utilize it in lieu of a proper hotel room. In other ways, it can be more expensive in aspects you may not expect. The hangups don't stop tons of pilots from navigating their rigs to the big mouse's house yearly, so they shouldn't stop you either. Even if you have never piloted an RV before, there are myriad ways to incorporate these homes on wheels at WDW, and plenty of people to help you along the way.

Stay at Fort Wilderness

The easiest (and perhaps most recommended) option to stay at Disney World with an RV is to stay at Fort Wilderness Resort. Disney World's official campground offers RV spots for camping and easy parking if you want to stay in a cabin or main hotel room instead. You can get free park transportation if you stay on the property, too, so you don't have to worry about lugging your RV to the parks day in and day out.

Campsites at Fort Wilderness are frequently the cheapest accommodation option on the property, even with an RV. Fort Wilderness is a beloved Disney property in part because of the inventiveness of their campers (see our note below about decorating your spot) and the tons of activities available, too, like bonfires.

Roughin' it in a tent or an RV is hardly embracing the outdoors with the nearby comforts that Disney resorts are known for. Even so, if you can manage it, you'll save so much money on the accommodation alone. And, let's be honest, staying in an RV for a fraction of the price of one of the all-star resorts is far more comfortable. From standard hook-up sites to "preferred campsites" that allow for an RV plus a small tent, sewage hook-up, and a spot close to the marina, there's sure to be a campsite at Fort Wilderness to fit your family's needs and budget.

Stay at an off-site private campground

If you plan on staying in your RV or tent camping, Fort Wilderness is not the only place to consider. Off-property campgrounds in Orlando offer similar amenities with, often, a smaller price tag. You won't have free theme park transportation, but you may be close enough to hear the nearby explosions of the various theme park fireworks. 

Another property that is lauded by campers is the Thousand Trails Orlando RV Resort, which one reviewer noted on TripAdvisor as "The number one alternative for Disney lovers." Around 15 miles from Magic Kingdom, you'll still be in relatively close proximity to the parks without paying extra costs for being on the Disney property. In fact, you'll be so close that "You can see the fireworks almost every night down by the lake produced by Disney World," another TripAdvisor reviewer explained.

Thousand Trails has several pools, playgrounds, a clubhouse, and many activities throughout the week for the whole family. There are also beaches along the petite lake on the property. Keep in mind that Thousand Trails is most popular from December through March because of the vast number of folks who go to Florida for the winter.

Consider staying at a state park

Being in the Orlando area, several highly cost-effective options via the state parks are nearby. Both Moss Park and Lake Louisa State Park will likely run you less than closer campgrounds, though Moss Park and several of the sites at Lake Louisa State Parks don't offer sewer hookups for RVs. Moss Park is about 25 miles from Walt Disney World, and Lake Louisa is roughly 13 miles away (and may require a toll). If you don't mind the daily commute to the parks, this is certainly a terrific way to save money on accommodations.

Although the sewer hookup situation is a bummer, they have nice and clean bathrooms you can use instead. "Restrooms are spotless," one Moss Park reviewer noted on TripAdvisor. Camping at these spots is a little less convenient than other RV camping areas. However, you'll save so much since parking at these parks typically costs less than $30 a night. These options are probably best suited to folks who prefer more natural surroundings, removed from modern amenities. It could be a great idea if you need to decompress after a long day surrounded by thousands of people at a WDW park.

Parking at the theme parks

As previously mentioned, parking at the four Walt Disney World theme parks is possible — even with your RV. That said, the oversized spots may fill up quickly, which may force you to park further away from the entrance. Parking fees for the RVs (and other oversized vehicles like camper trailers and busses) are $35 per day — slightly higher than a standard vehicle —which is worth considering if you are going to stay off-site without free park transportation.

Granted, parking lot shuttles can get you to the entrances of the theme parks, so you don't have to do so much additional walking, but that's just one more thing to have to wait around for. You could also drop members of your party off closer to the front of the parking lot area or the theme park gates before parking the RV. Just don't be that guy and park in the bus parking area. You may be surprised how often cars just idle in bus parking.

Parking at Disney hotels

Walt Disney World hotel guests get free parking at the hotels, even if they drive an oversized vehicle like an RV. That said, like with the theme parks, the parking lots weren't necessarily built to accommodate RVs. You may need to park further away from your room, but all of the hotels have large enough parking lots to fit RV-driving guests. There will be more parking options at value and moderate hotels since they have larger parking lots.

Each Walt Disney World hotel has a drop-off area, so after a long day at the parks, you can just drop off most of your party at the front of the hotel and park the RV. If you're at a large property like Caribbean Beach, you can also drop party members off in your designated hotel area before returning to the parking lot.

Being able to drop folks off closer to the room is such a blessing at specific hotel properties. The walk from the front of Caribbean Beach to the Jamaica or Aruba areas of the resort can be 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how quickly you walk. After walking 20,000 steps at EPCOT, that walk feels like a marathon.

Bring the pets

Generally, campgrounds are pet-friendly, though Disney World properties can be an exception. Fort Wilderness, however, has areas referred to as pet "loops" in the campground where dogs and cats are more than welcome to join you on your RV adventure. The best part is that during your theme park days, your pups are welcome at Disney's Best Friend's Pet Care for the day so they can enjoy the magic, too. 

Pets aren't allowed in the tent or pop-up camping set-ups at Fort Wilderness, though they're allowed in much of the rest of the resort area, including the cabins. Most of the camping areas seem to be pet loops now, though you still need to notify the resort if you're bringing a furry friend or two. Although they're allowed, Fort Wilderness still charges a fee. Fees for campsites are much lower than for cabins. Dogs are also allowed in certain other hotels like Port Orleans Riverside, Yacht Club, and Art of Animation, with varying pet fees.

Avoid the summer

Disney World is a beautiful destination any time of year. However, anyone who has visited in the dead of summer knows that Florida's heat can be unforgiving. If you plan on spending a lot of time in the outdoors, even RV camping, consider visiting in the off-seasons and avoid the broiling summer temperatures at all costs. The last thing you want is to overwork your RV's air conditioning when the temperatures exceed 100 degrees.

In Orlando, wintertime tends to have much lower average high temperatures in the comfortable 70s. Although part of the winter is considered a low season, mid-January to early February, in particular, can be a busier time for camping. Snowbirds show up to WDW in droves, often bringing their RVs. So, if you want to take advantage of some of the cheapest times to visit Walt Disney World, you need to book your spot at Fort Wilderness well in advance.

Rent a golf cart if you're at Fort Wilderness

Camping at Fort Wilderness is a whole other level of Disney magic. Campers decorate their sites to the nines, and it isn't uncommon to see other campers whizzing around in golf carts to do some sightseeing. You can rent an electric golf cart directly from Fort Wilderness at the Reception Outpost to make getting around the over 800 campsites much easier. And yes, you can decorate the golf carts, too. Don't be afraid to get creative!

Having a golf cart at Fort Wilderness is also a terrific idea for just getting around the resort. There are plenty of golf cart parking areas throughout the property, so you don't have to trek for some food or a swim. Even the marina area has cart parking for those firework-filled evenings. It's also the easiest way to get to Pioneer Hall for the celebrated Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner theater — a frontier-style stage show located in Fort Wilderness where the performers will entertain you as you indulge in some Southern comfort food.

Rent an RV through a Walt Disney World vendor

Only some RV campers want to lug the RV across the country. It's possible you've never driven one and have no idea how to set it up yourself. Not to worry — plenty of Walt Disney World vendors, like Meacham's RV, will rent you an RV for your vacation, deliver it to your campsite, and set it up for you. That way, your trip stays stress-free, and you can still enjoy an RV camping experience.

Renting an RV isn't the most cost-effective way to do WDW. When you add up the rental and campsite fees, it can be more expensive than staying at one of the value resorts per night. Even so, it may be worth it if you really want that experience. Rental costs also vary depending on the length of rental, the time of year, the kind of RV, and the place you rent from.

If the convenience of RV camping at WDW is what you really want via renting, give yourself time to price out all the different options. It will be cheaper far in advance than at the last minute.

Keep an eye out for gas stations and their prices

Despite how many things there are to do within the Walt Disney World property, only three gas stations technically reside on it. One gas station is on World Drive near the Magic Kingdom parking lot, and two are on Buena Vista Drive — one near the Boardwalk Resort and another at Downtown Disney across from Pleasure Island. 

Since there are only a few gas stations on the property, and because it's Disney, gas prices are frequently more expensive. Grabbing gas before entering the Disney bubble is an excellent way to save money. At the same time, the difference can sometimes be a paltry five cents; every little bit helps when you're doing a WDW vacation, especially when you're driving a gas guzzler like an RV.

Using apps like GasBuddy can help you determine if going out of your way to refill the RV is worth it. Unless you're using the RV a lot though, you may not need to gas up during your vacation.