I first heard about runDisney sometime in 2014, before running was a part of my life. It sounded fun, but I couldn’t imagine running 13.1 miles, let alone through Disney World. I told myself it wasn’t for me, because I wasn’t a runner and I’m not a devoted Disney fanatic. Fast forward two years later, I’m running regularly and am having a blast picking outfits that match the theme for my race events. I found a fellow MRTT runner who has done several runDisney events and drilled her for info when we met up for the RibFest 5-Miler back in June 2016.
She gave me some recommendations for hotels to stay in (ie: on property, for the shuttles), and she gave me a heads up about registration. That was kind of it. I am a planner… this wasn’t enough for me. Everything else I’ve been figuring out accidentally or by trolling other blogs.
In an effort to help you avoid your best sad princess impression, here is some of (what I would consider to be) the most important stuff that no one tells you about planning a runDisney trip:
- Your trip is going to be so expensive. Speaking from newbie experience, I’ve dropped around $2000 so far on race registrations, Race Retreat, airfare, hotel, and park tickets. I haven’t tallied up the cost of the bits and pieces of my costumes yet, but I’d guess it’s between $50-$100, so throw that in there. Don’t forget that you’ll need to eat while you’re there… so there’s that. And any ground transportation (rental car, Uber, etc), non-Disney activities… the list could go on. By the way… I’m traveling alone. This is $2000+ for one person.
- NO, park tickets are not included in your race registration. You’ll have to pay for those separately.
- Don’t feel pressured to buy tickets the way the Disney system wants to you buy them. When I booked my hotel, I was going to book my park tickets at the same time. Since the hotel reservation is for arrival on Thursday and departure on Monday, I was being offered tickets for five days. I’m arriving at 8:45pm on Thursday, and departing at 10:00am on Monday. I won’t be in the parks those days. So I booked my hotel and park tickets separately, but was able to link them up to a single reservation.
- Consider park hopper tickets instead of single-park tickets. Why force yourself to spend a whole day in one park when you can go anywhere you want, whenever you want? I purchased 3-day park hopper tickets so I can bounce from park to park to my heart’s content.
- On-property or off-property hotels, that is the question. I decided to stay on property because I’m traveling alone. Because of this, I wanted to be surrounded by other runners. I didn’t want to hassle with a rental car, or parking, or getting lost driving around the Disney compound. As a result, I chose one of the budget resorts on property that I knew would have the shuttle service to the race start. The convenience of being able to walk out the resort front door and board a shuttle that will prevent me from needing to think more than I have to between the hours of 3:00am and 5:30am was highly appealing. That said, off-property might be better for you. I’ve read that parking and getting around isn’t really an issue, so you should be just fine.
- The shuttle doesn’t go to all Disney properties. If you are counting on that shuttle, do your due diligence and figure out which resorts have the shuttle service. For example, Art of Animation doesn’t get shuttle service, but it’s a short walk across the Generation Gap Bridge to the Pop Century resort (haha… cute). Some other properties don’t even have that kind of access, so be sure you do your research.
- There’s a complimentary shuttle from Orlando International Airport to Disney. It’s call the Disney Magical Express. I didn’t notice this as an option when I booked my hotel, so I had to call after the fact to add this to my reservation. FYI: on your depature date, the shuttle picks you up THREE HOURS before your flight, because it takes an hour to get to the airport (my guess is it takes an hour to drive around and pick everyone up who is also going to the airport), and they want you to MCO two hours before your flight. They deliver your luggage to your room, as well, so there’s this whole thing about luggage tags that get sent to you ahead of time, and a tip about not packing your MagicBand in your luggage, which brings me to…
- If you’re staying in a Disney resort, you’re going to get this MagicBand thing. I didn’t see anything about this when I booked my hotel. I saw a rubber bracelet with Mickey’s head stamped on it on a colleague’s backpack and asked her about it. She said “It’s your room key, and they ship it to you a few weeks before your trip.” What? I dug around and figured out that this radio frequency bracelet is not only your room key, it’s also your way into the theme parks, it lets you check in at attractions you’ve booked through FastPass+, it will help you find any pictures that are taken of you in the parks, and you can pay for food with it. It turns out, they’ll automatically ship you a grey one, but if you go into your account early enough, you can change the color (there are a few colors that are free) and have your name imprinted on the inside, or you can order a special character one. I’ll take the free one, thank you very much. This trip is expensive enough. Anyway, the point of not packing it in your luggage is that you won’t be able to get into your room without it, so be sure to throw it in your carry on and put it on when you arrive in Orlando. Also, you can set it up with a PIN so that your cards on file are safe in the event that you lose your MagicBand – guest services can deactive the lost band and provide you with a replacement.
- You have to make reservations for the restaurants way, way ahead of time. Since I’m traveling alone, I figured I’d just pop into whatever restaurant I want whenever I feel like it. I’m not planning on character meals or anything like that. But if you want character meals, I’ve read that you need to book them ASAP. Some of the more popular meal times book months in advance. That said, if they don’t have your meal time available, you can consider a different time (popular hours are always breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so consider reservations at atypical times between meals), or keep checking to see if a time has freed up. I’ve read that guest services is really good about helping out here, so don’t feel like you have to struggle through it alone.
So this is the most important stuff that no one tells you about planning a runDisney trip. Now go do your research and find the hotel and your dreams!
In case you missed it, go read my post about the stuff no one tells you about registering for a runDisnsey event.