runDisney on a Budget: Disney World Races Don’t Have to Break the Bank

Runners love to run, and runDisney is often a goal for many runners.

Whether you’re doing a Couch to 5K challenge or you’ve been a runner your whole life, runDisney can be a great event in which to participate.

However, if you thought a Disney vacation was expensive, hold on to your Mouse Ears because these runDisney races aren’t cheap!

Entry fees for adult races range in price from $65 for the Walt Disney World 5K to $610 for the Dopey Challenge, which is a combination of six races totaling 48.6 miles all in one weekend.  Wow!

This seems like a lot of money especially when combined with transportation and lodging that comes with even the most basic Disney World Vacation. However, I’ve come up with some tips on how to runDisney on a budget!


Deciding whether to drive or fly is always top on the list even for a regular Disney vacation, but when you’re going to be running once you get there, it’s even more important.

If you can drive to Disney in a day or less and gas will cost you less than flying, then driving is a no-brainer. On the positive side, you’ll have your own transportation once you arrive in Orlando, and you can pack whatever you want including a cooler and groceries, which can save you a ton on meals. However, you’ll have to deal with parking, road tolls, detours, traffic, and road closures due to the race.

In some cases it may be cheaper to drive to Disney World.
In some cases it may be cheaper to drive to Disney World.

Flying is usually faster than driving, and if you can’t take too much time off of work or school, it’s the best option. You can save money if you have access to inexpensive flights via budget airlines like Southwest and by taking only a carry-on unless you can get free checked bags. Flying works best when you can use public transportation to get to and from the airport or if a family member or friend is willing to drive you. Once you arrive at Orlando International Airport, you can take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express, which is a complimentary service for Disney Resort Guests. Of course, if you decide to stay off property (more on this later), you won’t have access to Magical Express.

Another thing to consider when deciding whether to fly or drive is when you’ll arrive and be able to get to the runDisney Expo to pick up your race bib. Disney won’t confirm that they have same-day bib pick-up, but many people say they’ve witnessed runners pick up their bib just before the race. Presumably, Disney doesn’t want the word to get out so they aren’t inundated with crowds on race day, which could lead to getting a late start or missing the race all together. The best thing to do is plan to arrive in time to get to the Expo to pick up your bib the day before the race. You can arrange for someone else to pick it up for you, but you’ll have to notify runDisney representatives and give that person your identification, which may be impractical.


Staying at a Disney Resort Hotel can get pretty pricey, but if you stay only one night in a Value Resort, it’s not too bad. Plan to arrive the day before the race, check into your hotel, run the race the next day, and request a late check out so you have time to shower and pack before heading home. Be sure to schedule your flight late enough that you have enough time to finish the race and pack up and so that your Disney Magical Express pickup isn’t too early.

Staying on property at a Value Resort may cost a little more than staying off-site, but you have to consider the complimentary Magical Express transportation as well as the use of the Disney buses to and from the race. There are even buses dedicated to runners so you’ll make it in time for the marathon.

Staying at a Disney Value Resort can help you save some money.
Staying at a Disney Value Resort can help you save some money.

If this isn’t enough to convince you that staying on property is worth it, you can stay off property, which can save you a ton. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to get yourself to and from the race. If you didn’t drive, this might be difficult, and renting a car can be expensive.

Whether you’re staying on or off property, consider sharing a hotel room with a friend who is also running, which can cut your lodging costs in half. If your friend is also budget-conscious like you, you can find free or cheap entertainment for the night before the race and then afterwards.

If you really want to save a buck, consider not staying at all. If you’re running an evening race like Tower of Terror 10-mile race or the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, you could, in theory, arrive the day of, run, then hop back on the plane or in your car and return home. Consider, though, that this means you won’t have a place to shower. If you plan to fly right after you run, you might want to invest in some compression socks to keep your blood flowing and avoid circulation issues especially if you’ll be sitting for a long time on a plane or in the car.


A sure way to blow your budget is to shop race merchandise. Fortunately, registration and merchandise are separate, so you won’t be tempted. However, if you know that your favorite vendors will be there, decide ahead of time what you will buy and how much you’ll spend. Keep in mind that whatever you buy, you have to get home; if you’re traveling with only a carry-on to save money on checked bags, you may not have room for your purchases.

You might be tempted to purchase official race merchandise too, but wait a minute. You’ll get an official event t-shirt with registration, and you’ll also get a medal for completion for most races. You can also keep your race bib as a souvenir!

Be careful with your budget for souvenirs.
Be careful with your budget for souvenirs.


Assuming you’ll stay for one night, you’ll probably want some kind of entertainment.

If you’re really on a tight budget, bring a tablet or book to read by the pool, which is a free amenity included in your resort cost. If you brought your own food, you can heat it up in the food court microwaves for free. The food courts in Value Resorts also have affordable meals and snacks if you couldn’t bring your own food.

You can also head to Disney Springs or the Boardwalk, both of which are free to walk around. If you are willing to spend a little bit, consider picking up some dinner at Wolfgang Puck Express or Earl of Sandwich. More expensive full-service restaurants like The Boathouse, and Rainforest Café are also available. At the Boardwalk, consider checking out Jellyrolls, but be aware that there is a cover charge. Don’t stay out too late if your race is early in the morning!

To save the most money on entertainment, skip the park ticket. Even a one-day park ticket can cost upwards of $100!

Do you think runDisney races are a good value?