I LOVE this post that Hannah put together! Running a runDisney is very different from any other race you will run because guess what?? YOU’RE GOING TO DISNEY!! If you are making the trip to The Happiest Place on Earth, you know you are going to want to get some park touring in there, but where to start?! It can be super overwhelming. Good thing Hannah is here to break it all down!
Now that you’re officially registered for a runDisney race, you get to do the fun part. I’m talking about planning your Disney Trip/RunCation!
Planning a Disney trip (Walt Disney World or Disneyland, or any of the other Disney parks) can be incredibly overwhelming. When you add in a race, that can just make things even more difficult. If you’re a newb, this blog should help you get started, but feel free to reach out to me directly if you have specific questions. I love talking Disney and my family is pretty sick of hearing about it at this point.
Later in the year I will talk more about packing for a runcation, this post is dedicated to the planning portion of your trip.
Here is how I typically plan my runDisney runCation.
Start daydreaming. Yup, day dream. Plan your trip, research rides and show and all the fun stuff. Figure out your “must-do’s” and your “can miss” attractions. My personal favorites — Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Muppets 3D, Toy Story, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, Lion King Show, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Mission: Space, and Soarin’.
12 months out (or as soon as possible)
Plan travel dates:
Right now, our travel dates are a bit up in the air. But, I do have a general idea of when we’ll be going and how long I want to be there. If you have specific dates that is best.
NOTE: Make sure you check the expo schedule and arrive in time to attend and pick up your race packet. You will likely need to arrive one or two days before your race in order to this. I highly recommend you plan to arrive a day or two in advance, or more, to allow yourself time to adjust to the new location regardless of the expo schedule.
Book a Room:
For those familiar with Disney, you know how difficult a task this is.
First you’ll need to decided if you’re staying on or off property. On property means you’ll be staying at a Disney resort hotel, which provides some extra perks (transportation, extra magic hours, etc). Off property means you’ll need to find your own transportation, but it may be cheaper. For me there is no question that I’ll be staying at a Disney resort. You’ll next need to decide what “level” of resort you want to stay at. There are basically three categories — Deluxe, Moderate, and Value. Deluxe also offer Deluxe Villas (like the Disney Vacation Club Villas). You can also rent Disney Vacation Club points and book your trip that way, but I don’t have personal experience with that (although I did consider it!). Once you know what level, take a look at the resorts in that level and pick the one that most interests you. I tend to look at food options, search online for photos and browse transportation options. You can book your trip online, but I like to call Disney reservations and talk with the kind Disney folk who help me make a final decision and get everything booked. You may also wish to check out a travel agent, but be sure you find one who is qualified and really knows Disney!
If you are staying off property, I have had great success using Priceline’s name your own price tool to book a hotel at various locations around the country. My advice for doing this is to review the hotels in the area and make sure you are comfortable with a star level. Review what the hotel prices are and bid accordingly. I tend to bid low at first and increase after that. Read the rules to understand the process a bit better.
6-7 months out
Figure out dining. If you book with Disney you can book Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) 180 days out. I tend to make a chart with each day that I’ll be at Disney and then each meal of the day, and fill in as I go. I also browse Touringplans.com (one of my fav’s) for crowd calendar. Since we don’t park hop at WDW, I like to plan which park I want to visit each day. We will likely change our minds, but its good to get a rough plan together in advance to work out your dining.
When planning make sure you know yourself with regards to running. I tend to plan to not be in a park the day before a race. This allows me time off my feet so they aren’t tired for the race. I wear a fitbit in the parks and can rack 5-6 miles on a “easy ” day without feeling tired, but man…that can add up if you have to run 26.2 the next day! I also like to plan to be in the “easy” parks (Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom because they are smaller, or a park I am visiting twice) on the days surrounding the race.
NOTE: You can book Advance Dining Reservations 180 days before your first day (and for ten days after that). I will either call or be online first thing in the morning to get my ADRs booked, especially if I want hard-to-get reservations.
3-4 months out
If you need to fly in, this is your window to book flights. If you can start browsing costs before hand, that will be helpful in determining if you’re getting a good deal. I personally like using Bing.com’s travel search tool to get a baseline. Once I find an airline price, I tend to book directly with the airline, unless there is an opportunity to book cheaper at a reputable location elsewhere. Any search for “how to find the cheapest flights” will tell you 3-6 months is the best window and that searching Tues afternoon is the best time of the week. I tend to start looking around 6 months ahead of my trip and as I get closer to the 3 month mark, I do a quick search each day.
Once your flight is booked, call and set up your Disney Magical Express or look into getting a rental car.
NOTE: There does not seem to be a lot of change in flight prices lately. Also, make sure you are flying into/out of the correct airport. Orlando has TWO airports. Orlando International (MCO) is the one that has Disney Magical Express transportation. Orlando Sanford does not…you gotta find your own want to the world.
2-3 months out
Make sure you have your Magic Bands picked out. At 60 days before your trip, you can book your FastPass+ reservations. Take a look at all the options before hand so you know what you want to do. This is especially true if you are a)not a once-a-year Disney traveler; b)traveling with kids; or c) traveling with complicated people (people who can’t ride certain things, or need special accommodations).
Anytime (anytime before the 45 day cut off for travel change fees)
Change all your plans. Okay, that’s not really a necessary step, but I am putting it here because it’s what I usually do… I tend to book a room and then call and change it a few weeks later because I’ve changed my mind or decided to bump down a level in the resort, or my dates have changed…who knows. I just wanted to take a moment to let you know it’s OKAY to change your mind. Disney has a great policy where if you book a vacation package you can change or cancel up to 45 days in advance without a charge. So go ahead, change your mind!
Here’s my August Running Training Plan:
6 – Week Aug 4: Tuesday and Thursday 45 mins; Saturday 7 miles
7 – Week Aug 11: Tuesday and Thursday 45 mins; Saturday 3 miles
8 – Week Aug 18: Tuesday and Thursday 45 mins; Saturday 9 miles
9 – Week Aug 26: Tuesday and Thursday 45 mins; Saturday 3 miles
Hannah is an attorney from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She started running in 2011 while preparing for the Bar Exam as a means of helping her focus on her studying. Hannah completed her first half marathon in October 2011 at the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. In 2013 she completed 13 running events including 5 half marathons, 2 10ks, 3 5ks and 3 fun races (2 color runs and a zombie run). She enjoys setting goals and crossing things off of her “bucket list.” Follow Hannah at www.workorrun.com, where she blogs about her everyday goals and challenges.