Planning a runDisney Princess race weekend with friends? Check out our best tips for having the time of your life.
Running the runDisney Princess 10K for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for four years in a row is one of the things I am most proud of in my adult life. I ran-walked the 10k with my team to raise over $15,000 for St. Jude over the years.
I know first-hand how running your first runDisney event can feel so overwhelming before you go. There are just so many questions! It’s hard to know where everything is or what to expect.
Now that I’ve been through it so many times, I understand why people are so loyal to these races. As much fun as I had during my runDisney Princess Half Marathon Weekends, I always know the next time could be even better.
Running Disney really can be quite addictive, you just have to survive the first race first!
Today I’m sharing my advice for anyone heading in for their first runDisney event. I hope this helps you plan for an amazing stress-free run weekend with your friends.
9 insider tips for planning an awesome runDisney weekend:
1. It all starts at the beginning.
Registration for the Disney Princess run is competitive, have a plan:
If doing a runDisney event is on your wish list, pick your race event and plan to be at your computer 5 minutes before registration opens. Races sell out within hours, not days. You have no time to waste.
If you want to register as a team of friends for a specific race, everyone needs to be ready to register themselves at the moment it opens. You will not have time to register one person and then go back to get other members of your team.
We were able to register in a more relaxed way because we ran for one of the official runDisney charities. By running for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, we got exactly the race we wanted and an awesome charity to support in the process.
2. Plan to arrive early for your race weekend:
This may not be feasible with your schedule or budget, but if at all possible, I highly recommend arriving no later than Thursday at noon for your race weekend so that you can hit the runDisney Expo before the crazy crowds arrive on Friday.
We got into Orlando at 3:30pm on Thursday and headed straight to the Expo even before checking in to our hotel! I am so glad we did. By the time we left the expo hall at around 5 pm, the line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot was insane and the crowd levels inside had ramped up considerably.
Getting early access to the Expo allows you to snag any of the official merchandise you’re wanting before it is sold out. It also gives you plenty of time to pick up your bib and deal with any issues that may come up.
Get all the “business” done on Thursday and you can relax the rest of your weekend!
3. Take the day before your run a little easy:
We spent the entire day before our run at Universal walking ourselves silly. Not the best choice for the day before the run.
I get it though, you’re excited to be at Disney. You want to see all the things. But just know, there are so many fun things to do that don’t require insane bits of walking.
Try Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf, the Splitsville Luxury Lanes in Disney Springs for some bowling. If the weather is nice enough, lounge poolside at your hotel and do a light trip to Disney Springs for shopping and dinner.
4. Plan to get to bed EARLY the night before your run:
First time runners at a runDisney race event may be shocked to discover just how early you need to get up in order to catch the bus to the race.
For the 10K on Saturday, we went to sleep at 8:30 pm the night before and got up at 3:00 am for our run. I did just fine with 6 hours of sleep the next day and felt plenty rested . . . until we crashed hard at 7 pm the next night.
Double check before you go what time the hotel will recommend you be at the bus stop for your race transportation. There is usually a cut-off time where they can no longer guarantee the bus will deliver you in time. Lines can be long, don’t push the window.
5. Yes, absolutely bring your phone for race pictures:
Most of my favorite pictures from race morning were taken with Tim’s cell phone.
There are official race photographers taking your picture towards the finish line as you are running, but they are fairly expensive to purchase and may not be as flattering as you want.
I loved our more candid snaps while we were waiting and our group shot afterwards. Tim even shot a little video of us running through EPCOT and we snagged this video of the start line:
6. Make advanced plans for your post-race meal:
You are going to be hungry and exhausted after your run. This is not the time to be wandering around trying to find a table at a restaurant. Before you even head to Orlando, know where you’re going to be having breakfast after the race.
After our Princess 10k, we were back to our hotel room showered and ready to go by 9:30 am, a 9:45 reservation at our hotel or a 10-10:30 am reservation somewhere else would be perfect.
Some of my favorite places to do a runDisney breakfast include:
- Kona Cafe at the Polynesia Resort: Get their amazing Tonga Toast–french toast filled with bananas and then deep fried. Yum.
- Akershus Royal Banquet Hall: Have breakfast with the princesses at this lovely character meal. Be sure to wear your medal for pictures!
7. Make early dinner reservations for the day before and the day of your race:
Disney race weekends are BUSY. You will struggle finding a spot to have dinner without a long wait if you aren’t prepared.
We don’t normally arrange our vacations around our meals, but in this instance you’ll be happy you did. At the very least, be sure to have reservations for dinner the night before your run and for the dinner the day of your race. Make sure both of them are early in the evening because you will be exhausted from your early wake-up time.
Race Day Celebration Dinner:
The first year I ran, my team enjoyed dinner at 4:40 pm the day of our race at Le Cellier in the Canada pavilion of EPCOT. With a big post-race breakfast at 10 am and a light snack in the early afternoon, we were ready for a nice dinner early in the evening so we could go home and crash.
Race Prep Dinner:
We love the restaurants at Disney Springs for the night before the race when we don’t have park passes for the day.
Some of my favorites include these two delicious seafood restaurants on the water:
8. Pick your post-race Disney park carefully:
Our plan all along was to spend the evening in EPCOT after our run. Since our first trip was just a party of 4 adults, we loved spending time in the World Showcase strolling, riding a few rides, and sipping on beers/wines of the world.
EPCOT is so much more laid back than the other parks, in my opinion. It is the perfect place to be part of Disney without pressure to be running around too much. So much good food, beautiful scenery, lots and lots of benches for sitting when you feel like your legs are going to break. Hmm, just me?
9. Most Important: Plan to stay at a Disney hotel:
If you splurge on one thing for your Disney Princess weekend, this should absolutely be it. When you stay at an official Disney hotel, you’ll be closer to the race so you don’t have to get up quite so early. You’ll be surrounded by other runners and feel part of the run community. The hotel staff will understand exactly what you’re going through and be able to support whatever you need.
When you stay at a Disney hotel you’ll receive:
- free transport from the airport
- free transport to and from the EXPO
- free transport to the parks & Disney Springs
- a free Magic Band to access the parks and easy payment for dining and shopping during your weekend
Our favorite Disney hotel for the Princess 10K is the Caribbean Beach. It has the shortest trip over to EPCOT and has such a fun vacation-themed vibe.