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Budgeting Tips: How to Save Money for runDisney Races

For those of us with hefty runDisney addictions … yep, that’s me, and nope, I don’t plan on quitting any time soon … runDisney registration season for 2019 races begins this week! But a popular question we’re often asked is … how can we afford multiple races per year?

Well, speaking for myself … thank God both my boys received college scholarships! Plus my husband and I have always chosen to invest in fun experiences rather than new furniture and expansive wardrobes. But I also have several other tips and tricks up my sleeve that help me save money and budget for runDisney races!

Budgeting Tips for runDisney (or other Racecation) Races!

1.) Use a Southwest Visa for Free Flights

I love my Southwest Visa card. To stockpile points, we use it for nearly everything so it’s been a long time since I’ve had to pay for a flight! I also try to book when flights first become available, often at a cheaper rate, plus I’m constantly checking to see if rates have dropped. Thanks to Southwest’s awesome website, it’s easy to re-book at the lower rate, saving those points for another race weekend!

Interested in getting your own Southwest Visa card? I’d be so appreciative it if you used this link so I’ll be rewarded bonus points!

2.) Use a Disney Visa for Rewards

The rewards with my Southwest card are more beneficial, but we also use my Disney Visa and then I’ll transfer points to a rewards card right before my vacation. Plus I must admit, my card is so pretty!

3.) Ask for Disney Gift Cards for Presents

Speaking of cards, my family knows that Disney Gift cards are a well-appreciated birthday or holiday gift for me! I’m also super excited about now being able to pay for runDisney registration fees with a gift card. Just be careful to combine cards in order to cover all fees plus 6.6% since you’re only allowed to use one form of payment.

Bob and I also very rarely gift each other birthday or anniversary presents. We’d rather spend that money on trips!Oh, and speaking of gift cards…

4.) Buy Discounted Disney Gift Cards

My, my, how I love Target! Since Disney gift cards there are labeled as “entertainment cards,” you can receive a 5% discount when you purchase them with your Target Red Card. If you’re registering for the WDW Dopey Challenge where the fee is $623.61, ($585.00 plus 6.6%,) that’s a savings of $31.18! Paying for your resort, (if staying on site,) as well as using gift cards while in the parks can add to that savings.

For other awesome ways to get discounted gift cards, check out this post over on mousehacking.com.

Budgeting Tips: How to Save Money for runDisney Races! Click To Tweet

5.) Share a Room with Other Runners

The absolute BIGGEST reason I’m able to do so many races per year is because I share a room with other gals. I wouldn’t be able to afford multiple races if Bob or my kids went! (Things do get crowded sometimes but these room organization tips help!) We’ve often been able to score amazing deals by renting DVC points or staying at value resorts with discounted rates. For the Princess Half, there’s always at least one gal in our group who is a DVC member.

So how did I find such lovely roommates? Well, we all met in a small runDisney Facebook group and seeing as how runners are adventurous souls, we took the plunge. For the 2015 Goofy Challenge, I posted how I was looking for a roommate and Jackey invited me to join her. We then met Rob about a year later and the rest, for us, is history and I’m so thankful she made the offer!

Oh, and be sure to look for Discounted Room Rates! Signing up for the Mousesavers Newsletter is an amazing way to find out about sales and discount offers. Even if you’ve already made your reservation, you can call Disney and get the discount applied as long as there’s availability.

If chasing discounts isn’t your game, then consider getting a Travel Agent to take care of your booking. They will not only book your resort, fastpasses, and dining reservations, they’ll also re-book in order to take advantage of sales, saving you money. Our friend, Anne Densk over at Magical Adventures Travel has been a great help to us before!

6.) Register for One Race

In the past, this has always been a hard one for me to follow. I mean, you’re already going to be at Disney, right? Might as well sign up for everything and get all the bling! Plus, for me, runDisney FOMO was a very real and true thing.

But things have changed after we did the 2018 Star Wars Half Marathon. It was SO LOVELY doing only the half rather than 5k and 10k. The entire weekend was my most relaxed, chill runDisney experience yet and there was a point on Friday night when we all just looked at each other and laughed, grateful we could hang out late in the parks rather than head back early to the resort for bed.

Of course, it’s easy for me to be cured of runDisney FOMO considering all the many, many races I have underneath my running belt. But if you’re looking to save some money, registering for only one race is a great way!  You’d also be able to shorten your stay if necessary plus you’ll have less costumes to shop for. Oh, and speaking of costumes…

7.) Frugal Costume Choices

One thing that makes our runDisney weekends even more special is wearing fun costumes at each race! But costumes can get pricey, so we try to purchase items that can be reused for various outfits and keep our choices simple. DIY projects can also help to save money. For the most part, I always hand make our ears rather than buying more expensive ones from Etsy. (Go here to learn how to make your own!)

Seeing as how Sparkle Athletic skirts are the basis for most of our costumes, we also try to take advantage of sales as much as possible! They usually have a sale in July, (July 17th – 18th,) plus another one during the holidays. So it’s a good idea to plan out your costumes and buy your skirts, visors, leg and arm sleeves, etc., early.

For more costume tips, check out our previous posts!

8. Limit Table Service Meals

When Jackey and I take trips together, we save money by mostly eating less expensive counter service meals rather than at pricey sit-down restaurants. Our one must-do luxury is a celebration meal at Via Napoli, though! To us, their rates are very reasonable and the divine pizza makes it worth it!

9. Purchase a Disney World Annual Pass

Since I have been averaging about three runDisney races per year, it’s definitely been beneficial for me to purchase an annual pass! Yes, they’re pricey, but getting a discount at some select Disney restaurants and on merchandise does take a little of the sting out. (Not much, but some.)

If it’s not in your best interest to purchase a pass, there are many ways to buy safe, discounted tickets! The first (and only) place I’d go is Undercover Tourist via a link that is send out monthly in the Mousesavers Newsletter for additional savings.

I’d also recommend that you skip the Park Hopper option, especially if you’re runnning multiple races and doing a challenge. Not only will that save you money, but you’ll also save your legs! Or consider having a no-park day by visiting Disney Springs, doing a Monorail Resort Tour, or just relaxing by the pool instead!

10.) Take On Odd Jobs

I’ll gladly take on a side hustle if it means another runDisney race! I’ve done post-construction cleaning, web design, extreme couponing and I’ve held yard sales many years ago. (I’ve since sworn off yard sales. They’re too much work for too little money.) I’m now concentrating on starting a new business … details coming soon!

11.) *Try* to Not Overspend at the Expo

I must emphasis on TRY, here, because resisting yummy items for sale at the expo is really hard! But I’ve come to the general understanding that it’s a waste for me to buy an I Did It shirt since I rarely wear them. And I’ve long since given up my tradition of buying Dooney & Bourke Princess Half Marathon purses seeing as how I hardly use the ones I do have!

Magnets, cute mugs, wine glasses, and pins, though? They are my must-haves! Keep in mind that AP holders can get a discount or Disney Visa holders when they spend over $50.00. For runDisney merchandise, I also try to pay with gift cards bought at Target along with my AP discount for more savings. Every little bit helps!

12.) Pre-Order and/or Pack Drinks and Food

We often order cases of water, Smart Water, and Gatorade as well as soda, milk, orange juice and other perishables either through Amazon Prime Now or a delivery service such as Garden Grocer. This is much cheaper than buying drinks at the parks! Both have their pros and cons: with Amazon, you’re limited to what is available at the time plus you can’t purchase alcohol. Garden Grocer has a heftier delivery fee but has more options and you can order alcohol. Just don’t get carried away … we ALWAYS order too much!

If you’re staying on-site at a Disney property, don’t forget the gift stores! You can get a half-gallon of milk, soda, individual beers or six-pack, wine, etc. For those of you who have annual passes or are DVC members, you can also get a discount on most items.

Here’s some more tips on buying groceries at Disney World from the Disney Tourist Blog!

I also pack non-perishable food and snacks such as oatmeal, bagels, Nature Valley Granola Bars, microwavable popcorn, raisins, almonds, etc. I’ve tried packing those snack-sized containers of peanut butter before, but they always travel poorly!

13. Come Prepared with Emergency Clothing

Ah, Wine & Dine 2014 … aka, Splash & Dash. This was back when the Wine & Dine Half Marathon was held at night, (which I greatly miss,) and on that day, the weather forecast showed rain, rain, and more chilly rain. I was worried that I didn’t have enough layers for the afterparty, so my darling husband took me to Fit to Run at Disney Springs for another pair of leggings. Wells, seems like nearly every other runDisney runner was there, too, buying long-sleeve shirts, rain jackets, long pants, gloves, hats, and ponchos.

Flash forward to the 2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend where expected temps for the Frozen 5k was a freezing 28 degrees, sending unprepared runners to Wal-Mart and other stores for cold-weather gear.

Moral of the story? Come prepared for all types of unexpected weather by tossing rain gear and warmer clothes in your suitcase. Hopefully you won’t need them, but you’ll save money (and precious vacation time) if you do.

For more packing tips and a packing list, watch my video or go here!

So there you have it, my personal tips for saving money for runDisney races. Now it’s your turn!

QOTD: How do you save money and budget for runDisney races or other racecations? Please leave your best tips in the comments below!And as always, thanks for reading, take care and have a joyful day!

About the author: Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger, vlogger, mom of two college boys, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Ashley July 18, 2018, 11:37 am

    Thanks for the tips! Just took advantage of the Sparkle Athletic sale…Picked up skirts and arm sleeves for our Wine and Dine costumes!

    • Laura Bowers August 9, 2018, 7:32 am

      Nice!! Glad it was helpful and best of luck at W&D!!

  • Kelly July 18, 2018, 4:59 pm

    I’m in “runDisney jail” for marathon weekend and making sure I’m away from all internet access when registration opens! After Dopey and Wine and Dine in 2018, and Princess already booked for 2019, I’ll wait for Dopey 2020!

    I also buy kids meals at the parks. It’s plenty of food at a lower price tag!

    • Laura Bowers August 9, 2018, 7:30 am

      Yes, that’s a great tip, thanks! Jackey often does that as well so I’ll be sure to include this in our podcast chat on this topic! So glad you’re doing PHM and we might be joining you for Dopey in 2020! 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Kim July 19, 2018, 12:26 am

    Great tips! I’m hoping to do rundisney when they come back to Disneyland

    • Laura Bowers August 9, 2018, 7:28 am

      Thanks, so glad they were helpful! We’ll also be ready to sign up for any DL races as well! I’m staying positive and thinking they will com back. 🙂

  • Stephen Goldman July 28, 2018, 8:55 am

    I know that Disney Visa cards are kind of cool but there are so many other cards that provide more cash back!

    Oh…by the way…I have a Disney Visa card (but also a better cash back card that I use more often).

    • Laura Bowers August 9, 2018, 7:18 am

      There are! We do love our Chase Freedom and I could use those rewards toward Disney but it feels so great getting those free flights with Southwest. And I really should focus less on the Disney Visa. Maybe I need to reevaluate after summer is over. 😉

  • Heather McGowan August 6, 2018, 4:50 pm

    Anyone currently in or retired from the U.S. military can save by booking at Shades of Green. No magical express or magic band room keys, but dirt cheap rooms, no taxes or additional fees, larger rooms than most resorts, walking distance to Poly for the monorail or to TTC. Disney usually offers military salute tickets, 4 day park hopper was around $230ish (if you buy at an mwr location or at Shades they are tax free). Also, you can now link your Shades reservation to MDE and book advanced ADRs. Rooms typically have 2 queen beds and a hide a bed. The small PX has basic gift shop needs, and yes, tax free.

    • Laura Bowers August 9, 2018, 7:11 am

      That’s a great tip, Heather, thank you! We’ll include this when we do a podcast on this topic. 🙂

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