Four Phases of Planning a RunDisney Family Race-cation

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Many RunDisney fanatics consider 3-4 day race weekends as a race-cation option, but some of us with families wonder if it is a good idea to bring the kids…and maybe even our spouses. How do you balance your races and early start times with park visits, advanced dining reservations, and other entertainment? Is it even possible to do it all, or is “Family Race-cation” a paradox of epic proportions?

It can be argued that any Disney trip requires 3 important factors: research, planning, and communication. Lots of it.


The research part is easy. Pick up The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (a new edition is released every year), and A Runner’s Guide to Walt Disney World (also updated annually). Read as much of them as you can and the earlier you do this, the better. I have never planned a Disney trip without an Unofficial Guide and we’ve had tremendously successful trips — we’ve seen everything we want to and still have time for an afternoon break. Megan Biller’s book offers the runner more race weekend specific information.

The other research part is read RunDisney’s Virtual Event Guide as soon as they are released, which is typically 2-3 weeks out from the event in question. Pour over this document cover to cover as it has everything you would ever want to know about your race weekend. Even if you have participated in RunDisney events before, the organizers may make changes due to security or construction, so make sure you know what is happening before you even arrive.

You might also do some research at my YouTube Channel’s RunDisney playlist, and the Unofficial Guide has Touring Plans for lots of up-to-the-minute news and information. Consume as much information as you can stand. Then begin the next phase: planning.


Start asking your family questions about what they hope to do while at Walt Disney World, and lay out your expectations as well. The runners participating in the races will likely have different considerations like walking time, nutrition, and hydration. The non-runners of the group, however may not have these things in mind, so make sure you communicate these things to them.  So it is important to set the expectations in the planning phase of the trip, and not when all of you are in a near meltdown state somewhere in Fantasyland.

Only you know your family well enough to make the call as to whether or not you make this a family vacation in the first place. The number, ages, and temperaments of your kids (and adult partners) are factors, as are budget restrictions. You also want to consider the number of runners you have in your family.

During the planning phase, decide which days you want to spend in which parks, what attractions and entertainment you want to see, and break and meal times. When we plan a trip, we each make a “Top Ten List” of must-see attractions. Each of us ranks them in order of importance, then we come up with a final list. We plug that list into Touring Plans customized plan feature (nominal membership fee well worth the price), and the algorithm spits out an optimized plan for that park on that day. We repeat the process for every day we expect to be in the parks.

This may seem like a lot of advanced planning and work, but if you signed up for a RunDisney race weekend, chances are you did so more than 6 months out from the race anyway. You could start this process before you even start training! Laying down a park plan for your race weekend is just as important as your training, so take the time to plan.

If your party includes 2 adult runners and kids who are not yet old enough to run, you might want to consider a few things. First, strollers and child backpacks are not allowed at any RunDisney race. Second, if both parents wish to run in an event for which the children are not old enough to participate, there are Child Care options available, such as Kids Nite Out. Please check the link in the description for more information, or call RunDisney for more details. The third option is to negotiate which runner participates in the weekend’s events.


During the planning phase you will also start communication. You want to set down some boundaries for yourself as an athlete. Early bedtimes and a lot of breaks are important you as a runner. It is hard to look at an expensive Disney trip and not want to suck the value out of every minute by charging through the parks from rope drop to close, but you do not want to remember your vacation as “that time we almost killed each other.”  

If you are a single parent, from one to another, I would suggest not attempting a RunDisney Family Race-cation without another adult joining you. If the responsibility of running your races and caring for your kids and park visits falls exclusively on you, it will be a long race weekend for all of you. Try finding a parent or friend to join you for your race-cation, or consider leaving the kids at home and making your trip a “grown-up” only visit.

In my case, my son is a runner, and loves the accomplishment of receiving whatever medals he can. While he loves the parks and the rides, he also finds the races exciting, and he understands that we are in bed early the night before a race, we stay off our feet. After our family runs together, we will hit the parks for a bit, but then we go back to the hotel for an afternoon break. If we have more races for the weekend, everyone understands that we may need more downtime in between races. You might send your family to go off for a few attractions while you sit on a bench and people watch.


Which leads me to the last aspect of the RunDisney Family Racecation: Be flexible, and identify ways you all can get what you need. The planning and communication pieces don’t end when you are on your way. In fact if there is a 4th piece of advice I’d give, it would be that all members of your party remain flexible and adaptable for the entire trip. If your family insists on staying together for every minute of every day during your vacation, none of you will get what you need. Allow time to split up in order for everyone to do what they like.

Lastly, yes there are opportunities for your non-running family to come watch you finish, but as the athlete who is out your hotel room door at 3:00 am, please do not expect them to be there the whole race. In fact, let other runners who need to be at the start line snag those bus seats first, and have your family head to the finish line later on. Meeting up after the race is a great idea. Your family can follow your progress through Runner tracking, and there is a family meet-up area near the finish line so you can all celebrate together.

So my question for you today is this: Have you done a RunDisney Race-cation with your family, and if so how did that work out?