So now that I’ve been to both Disneys, I thought I would provide some information that I have personally found very helpful. Learn from my mistakes and they won’t be quite so painful.
My Guide to Disney Races and Hotels (Updated 9/20/2012)
Background: Walt Disney World and Disneyland are two totally different situations and hotel scenarios. WDW provides a substantially larger number of on property hotels at a range of prices than Disneyland, which has three “Disney” hotels with the Grand Californian being the most expensive, Disneyland Hotel second, and Paradise Pier third and then you have what are called “Good Neighbor” hotels, ones that Disney has given its mouse ears of approval and that will offer shuttle services to the Disneyland Hotel for the race and expo.
Walt Disney World has lots of hotels, but for every race other than marathon weekend, only certain hotels serve as “hosts.” Why should you care? Because the “host” hotels are the only ones providing shuttle service to/from the expo as well as start and finish lines. In Disneyland, you could walk the streets of Anaheim and easily go pick things up for yourself depending on where your hotel is in the city–unless you’re a big fan of wandering Florida’s highways, you probably don’t want to take this approach in the World. The alternative is to pay for a cab ride or rent a car, with the cab costs depending on where your hotel is on Disney property. For marathon weekend, all WDW hotels provide shuttle service for the races.
Tip #1: Book your hotel as soon as possible. RunDisney will announce the host resorts under the travel details for each race and once they do, just book your room. Even if you’re not sure you want to run, BOOK IT. Just shut up and do it. Call central reservations (407-WDISNEY, yeah it’s a toll call) and make a room only reservation. This reservations requires a deposit of one night’s rate and then you owe them nothing until you get to the hotel and there’s no penalty to cancel/change until 24 hours before check in. It’s a lot easier to go from this to a package and make other modifications than it is if you start adding tickets and dining plans and the deposit is totally refunded if you cancel before 24 hours.
Why: Rooms fill up fast, so if you know which hotel you want and are set on it, putting in the reservation will assure you that you have the room you want. The price might not be what you want to pay, but all rates are adjusted for the next calendar year once Disney comes out with its rates schedule AND your room only reservation can be modified to accommodate any promotions Disney is running, typically announced 1-2 months before you’re scheduled to be there as well as a standing AAA discount you can apply to your room but ONLY your room, this can’t be used for packages. You can’t apply any outside discounts to a runDisney reservation, and be sure to comparison shop. Don’t assume runDisney’s discounts are the best–oftentimes, they certainly don’t appear to be.
For Disneyland, hotels also fill up really quickly, especially if the race coincides with other holidays like Labor Day (in the case of the Wine & Dine this year it coincides with veterans’ day and the end of the food and wine festival). The Disney hotels tend to fill up quickly, leaving the pricier rooms vacant and the same is true of Good Neighbor hotels.
Tip #2: The differences between a runDisney reservation and a central booking reservation.
RunDisney offers their own travel service (407-WDW-iRun)separate from the number you’d call to make a reservation to go to Disney whether you were running or not (407-WDISNEY).
- Are packages regardless of whether you just book a room or get tickets/dining included. This means you pay a fee if you cancel less than 45 days out from your reservation.
- Sometimes offer discounts off of the regular rate for hotel rooms. These discounts are not always the best, though, and you can’t apply any current promotional discounts (free dining, 25% room rate, AAA discount, etc) to these rooms. NONE. Shop around.
- Discount park tickets can be purchased separately from your room through runDisney, you don’t have to book them with your room.
- If you call 407-WDisney and they don’t have the room you want at a host resort, call the runDisney agents. They pull from a separate set of rooms set aside for runners and might have the room you want but with the aforementioned caveats.
- You can’t book a discounted room through this number if it is not a host hotel.
Central Book (407-WDisney):
- Have “packages” and also have room only reservations. Packages, which are what you book when you include tickets and dining, have the same cancellation rules as runDisney reservations. Room-only can be canceled without penalty up to 24 hours before your reservation. Packages require payment in full before you arrive (45 days), whereas room only you pay your deposit and nothing else until you arrive at the hotel for check in.
- You can apply current promotions to these rooms and to pre-existing reservations by calling the line, giving the agent your reservation, and asking them to apply the promotions. The amount of the discount will be deducted from your balance. There’s no guarantee you’ll get it–these promotions are subject to availability and require that rooms covered by the promotion are available.
- You can make these reservations for host hotels as well as non-host hotels, whereas runDisney only provides reservations to host hotels.
Further questions about hotel arrangements? Feel free to ask!
Discounted registrations for Disney races are done the same way discounts are done for other races: the earlier you sign up, the less you pay. The Disney race calendar basically runs from September, with the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon to May ending with the Expedition Everest Challenge. Registration for Disney races starts in January with the Disneyland 1/2, the Wine & Dine in March, Marathon weekend in April, followed by the Princess and Tinkerbell in early summer. Follow runDisney on Facebook to keep track of when registration opens.
This year, 2012, Disney Visa cardholders got an additional early discount and early registration for Marathon weekend, but aside from that what’s posted is what you’ll have to pay. Personally, I believe in registering early and paying less. If you’re considering Coast 2 Coast and need to register for the Disneyland races, do it quickly. Within 2-3 days of the race opening because it will close out fast.
If you miss out on registering and the race closes, consider running for charity or you can get a spot through certain travel agents. GET on the East and West Coast and Hsubu on the West Coast only. GET will require you reserve at least 2 nights in a hotel through them for your registration, Hsubu (which I used for Disneyland) charged $230 for the registration which included a 1 day, 1 park ticket, and didn’t really provide any hotel options. Stephanie Fluitt at Hsubu was great, I was indeed registered, and unlike GET they didn’t charge me an arm and a leg to get my ticket mailed to me ahead of time.