Run Disney Tips For Parents

Our Run Disney Tips for Parents will help you plan the ideal family runcation!
Our Run Disney Tips for Parents will help you plan the ideal family runcation!

Run Disney Race weekends are a highlight for Disney-loving runners! From the expo and merchandise, to the characters on the course, every detail is made to make you feel like magic running through the parks. As if the physical exertion and early wake up calls weren’t enough to burst your bubble, you may feel like this is a no-go for parents. Well, I am here to share my Run Disney tips for parents to make a Disney runcation a reality for you and your family as a mom of two myself!

  1. Set up childcare

To start off our Run Disney tips for parents, lets talk about childcare! Run Disney Races start as early as 5:30am. This means you’ll need to wake up in the 3am hour to catch a ride to the start line with plenty of time to get settled and in your corral. But what happens to your kids when you sneak out of a dark room at 3:30am? You have several options. Your first option is to bring a family member or spouse with you on the trip who will not be participating in the race. They can stay with your sleeping children while you run. If your spouse or traveling partner wants to run with you, then you’ll need to arrange for paid childcare. Kids Nite Out will arrange for a sitter to come to your room and wait while your children sleep and you run. I would suggest to leave money for breakfast, so that the sitter can take your kids to the hotel breakfast nook after they wake up, or have food in the room ready to go. The sitter often brings coloring books, card games and other things to keep your children occupied, but you can leave some of your own items or special directions for when your children wake up. Depending on which race you run, your sitter may be there anywhere between 3-8 hours, so plan accordingly. Read Kristi’s review of the service here.

With our Run Disney Tips for parents, you'll find it to be not only possible, but FUN, to bring your kids along!
With our Run Disney Tips for parents, you’ll find it to be not only possible, but FUN, to bring your kids along!

2. Be realistic about family plans- Spectators vs Sleepers?

I know a lot of parents dream of running a Run Disney race and having their family cheer them on from the sidelines on Main Street USA or in the stands at the finish line. The truth is these races are so darn early, and it is quite a big favor to ask of your family to wake up before dawn, on their vacation no less, to come see you. The beauty of the situation is there will be tons of Run Disney staff, volunteers, characters and spectators on the course- so you’ll have all the motivation and cheering you’ll need to make it through the race. You’ll never feel alone or on your own due to the nature of the Run Disney courses. If your family members are early risers or you have older children, and if you’re running a half marathon or full marathon, then meeting you out on the course may not be as big of a deal, since the end of the races will be later in the morning hours. But if your family needs their sleep and you have big plans for the day that include parks and touring, then you’ll want to let them off the hook and encourage them to get their rest instead. No one wants cranky kids, especially after a race when your energy levels may be a little flat, so weigh the pros and cons of your situation before trekking the family out into the darkness of early morning Run Disney hours.

Kids love to cheer on their running parents on the Run Disney course!
Kids love to cheer on their running parents on the Run Disney course!
  1. Participate in Kids Races

My kids were 1 and 3 when they completed their first Run Disney race! They were so thrilled to wear a bib, dress up in their Run Disney Gear and hit the course just like mom! The Kids Races are only $20 and are fun events with vivacious race announcers and fun music, plus characters like Mickey himself and race shirts! This gave my kids something to look forward to and call their own on a trip that was otherwise centered around my race schedule. They got to take home and wear their very own medals and show them off all over the parks. It really was adorable and fun. Additionally, it helped calm my nerves while I focused on the kids and all the fun they had with the sport of running! Not to mention the long-term health benefits of getting your kids involved with exercise and physical activity at an early age.

If your kids are participating in Kids Races, then you can also plan to go early for bib pick up for yourself AND your children as soon as the expo opens the day of the Kids’ Race, so you don’t waste an additional day getting to ESPN Wide World of Sports and fighting the crowds there for bib and race shirt pick up. We’ve done this in year’s past and the timing has worked out perfectly. We had 45 minutes in between getting all our bibs and making it to the track for the Kids’ Race. We didn’t feel rushed at all and were able to cut out running that errand on our arrival day. You also have several choices of days and times for Kids Races, so choose accordingly so that your race and your kids’ races don’t overlap and leave you time to participate in both.


3. Plan for an early night before race day

This may be one of our more obvious Run Disney tips for parents, but the night before your race, whether it be a 5K, 10K, half-marathon or full-marathon, is not the night to close a park down or enjoy evening extra magic hours! You will have to be out in the lobby of your hotel by 3:45am, so plan for the family to have an early dinner (or better yet- room service) and enjoy a family movie before early shut-eye. If you’re aiming for a PR (personal record time), or you’re planning an ambitious touring day after your race, you’ll need each and every minute of sleep you can get to bank energy for the day of the race.

4. Manage expectations of your race day including post-race activities

Since I have had babies and toddlers for my Run Disney races, I have always planned for my race days to be non-park days. If you’re running a short race, or plan to walk/jog, then you may feel like your energy levels are plenty to venture out into the parks. However, I like to relax and do a pool day, resort hop using Disney transportation, or play a little mini golf! I also go to bed early on race days due to the early call time many hours before. It is a good opportunity to recuperate and get the family to bed early in preparation for a firework show the next night, or plans to stay out until park close later in the trip. I also like to plan park days AFTER the Run Disney weekend takes place (if possible) since crowds typically thin out the following week.

5. Remember to relax and have fun!

Race weekends can be busy, tiring and nerve-racking, but they are also so much fun for the family. Run Disney is a well-oiled machine and they really do such a great job putting on their events. Remember to enjoy the course and leave room in your schedule for rest. Traveling to Disney for a race may make you feel like you should pack your schedule and visit every park during the trip, but race weekends should be a more laid-back tour plan keeping in mind lack of sleep, physical exertion, and expected soreness. Our race trips have always motivated us to find fun things to do outside the parks (resorts, Disney Springs, dining, recreation, etc.) which is not only great for traveling with small children, but it is also easier on the wallet. And hey- there’s no better time (or excuse) to indulge in a spa treatment! One of our top Run Disney tips for parents is to utilize the in-room babysitting service while you rejuvenate at any of the spas on Disney property. Contact your travel agent to book select treatments available at:

• Senses-A Disney Spa located at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
• Senses-A Disney Spa at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
• Zahanti Massage and Fitness Center at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
• La Vida Massage, Salon and Fitness Center at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
• Salon by the Springs at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
• Ship Shape Health Club at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts
• Ivy Trellis Hair Salon at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

So go ahead, sign up for that Run Disney race you’ve been eyeing and bring the family to join along in the fun!

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Jamie Lee McIntyre MS RDN is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and contributor to The Kingdom Insider for Disney food, nutrition and wellness - related topics. She is a practicing Dietitian with over 11 years of experience, and is a nutrition communications consultant providing content online and on air in broadcast media. You can find her online (, at the finish line of a Run Disney race, or in the parks scanning menus, reading labels and trying new foods!


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