Strategies for a Comfortable & Convenient Disney Van Camping Experience
A trip to Disney World is a dream come true for many. The rides, snacks, and nostalgic feeling the parks have to offer certainly are wonderful. Why not load up your rig and head out to go van camping near Disney World so you can experience all of the magic for yourself?
Yep, Disney World is an absolutely fantastic place that you won’t soon forget. That said, there are some things you should know before you go. Here are our top tips for van camping near Disney World. Put these to use and you’re sure to have an awesome time!
Tip #1: Consider an Annual Pass
The first thing we recommend thinking about is how long you plan to be in Disney World. If you hope to stay for a relatively long time and will visit the parks often, it might be best to purchase an Annual Pass. This will allow you to visit as often as you want, and depending on how many days you plan to spend in the Disney Parks, it could save you a ton of money.
Note: While not a requirement per se, this works best if you are a Florida resident, as you can take advantage of the resident passes which are much cheaper than the Annual Pass option available to out-of-state individuals.
Tip #2: Know When to Visit When Camping Near Disney World
Next, we recommend thinking long and hard about when you want to visit Disney World. Summertime is extremely hot in the Orlando area, and the parks are generally packed during this time. Because of this, we highly recommend visiting during other times of the year. January is our top pick for low crowd levels, and the Florida weather tends to be great during the winter months.
Tip #3: Decide Where to Stay
Obviously, you will need a place to park your van each night. Unfortunately, most parking lots in the area do not allow overnight parking, meaning you will need to either seek out one of the few lots that do allow it, or pay for a campsite.
Below are some of the best options for van camping near Disney World.
Head to Cracker Barrel
The only parking lot we know of that allows overnight camping near Disney World is Cracker Barrel. The Cracker Barrel in Kissimmee on Irlo Bronson Memorial Freeway is your best bet, and while the lot is a bit unlevel, it is a nice enough spot if you’re only looking to stay for a single night.
Look to State, County, and City Parks When Camping Near Disney World
Of course, you can’t stay at Cracker Barrel for more than one night. For this reason, we highly recommend looking into other options. There are several state, county, and city parks in the area that provide inexpensive camping away from the hustle and bustle of the roadways.
Consider a Thousand Trails Membership
If you plan to stay in the area for a while—or if you live in your van full time—you might also find you can save a bit of money by buying a Thousand Trails membership. This allows you to stay at Thousand Trails Orlando, located about 20 minutes from the Disney Parks, and it easily pays for itself if you use it often enough.
…or Give Fort Wilderness a Try
Last but not least, we have to mention Disney’s own onsite campground: Fort Wilderness. This is an absolutely gorgeous RV park with all the bells and whistles. Of course, it does cost a small fortune to stay there, so this isn’t the best option for the budget-minded traveler, but it is a super fun place to stay for a short while, especially if you want to immerse yourself in the magic.
Tip #4: Have a Way to Keep Cool When Camping Near Disney World
Even in the winter, Florida can be hot (and it’s pretty much unbearably hot during the summer). For this reason, it’s incredibly important that your van has air conditioning. If you plan on dry camping, you will want to make absolutely sure you can run the A/C using a generator or your batteries.
Tip #5: Respect the Campfire Rules
Most of the Orlando-area campgrounds and RV parks have very strict campfire rules. Guests are generally not allowed to have wood campfires at all, and in some cases, even propane fire pits are very closely regulated. If you really want a wood campfire, head to the nightly campfire at Fort Wilderness. This is totally free and includes a fun sing-along show and a character meet-and-greet.
Tip #6: Drive Your Van to the Park
Obviously, you will need to get to the parks somehow. Even if you have a smaller car or access to the bus, we highly recommend driving your van to the parks. Yes, you will have to pay the ridiculous parking fee ($30 a day unless you have an Annual Pass) but you will be able to return to your van to cook and eat meals and take mid-day rests.
The exception to this is if you happen to be staying at Fort Wilderness. In that case, you might be better off leaving your van at your campsite and just taking the onsite transportation back to your van whenever you need food or a break.
Tip #7: Watch Fireworks From Your Van
Okay, one of the coolest things about having your van while in Disney World is the fact that you can watch the Disney World fireworks from the comfort of your own home-on-wheels. Head back to your van before the nightly fireworks show and watch from the Disney Parks parking lot, getting a head start on the mad rush to leave the lot when the show ends.
There you have it, these are all of our top tips for van camping near Disney World. Hopefully, these bits of wisdom help you plan the trip of a lifetime so you make magical memories that you carry with you for the rest of your life.