Disney Marathon: advice on where to stay and how to make the most of the experience

Question: I’ve signed up for the DisneyWorld Marathon in January. I was wondering if any of you have been…where you stayed, if you have any suggestions. Right now I have some stuff from AAA and it looks like some pretty decent deals. Luckily now with Jet Blue having a direct flight from Syracuse to Orlando, my travel got a bit easier. Anybody have any tips?

From me: Previous Disney advice, Eating at Disney, Port Orleans or Caribbean Beach, Disney World comments

Answer 1: Running the marathon will be cake compared to figuring out where to stay. I was in Disney 16 years ago, but since it has blossomed. Do you have any experiences with the ALL STAR resorts? Those are certainly the cheapest. Speaking of cheap, the best deal is the disney meal plan – you save tons of money. It is a 37$ a day service that entitles you to one snack, one counter service (a sandwich, burger, pizza, etc) (including food courts) and one table service dinner. These can be in the park you are in or any of the hotels. We grabbed water and an orange slush as snacks, had sandwiches at the Pinochio (sp.) Village Hause and a fabulous dinner at Ohana. I would say we saved at least $30 a day.

ALL STAR Rooms are smaller, but we found that we’re in our room so little it doesn’t matter too much. But it depends on what you want to do. If you want a bigger room, move up to moderate. More expensive, but bigger room. I’d suggest Port Orleans French Quarter. great atmosphere, great food court, nice pool, boat ride away from Downtown Disney, not far from much.

Answer 2: Stay outside the Disney property if money is an issue. There are some nice, less expensive places in the immediate area. If you don’t mind spending more, stay at the Grand Floridian in the park. It’s magnificent though very pricey. There are many more moderately priced places in the park as well.

Answer 3: I’ve been there about 20 or so times. I’ve stayed at mostly all of the resorts. If you’re looking at the Value resorts, I’d recommend Pop Century over any of the All-Star

resorts. It is newer, cleaner and has its own bus for transportation to the parks. The 3 All-Star resorts share buses most of the time. Lots of stops before you get off.

Answer 4: Just got back about a month ago and here are my tips:

– Take advantage of the “Magic Your Way” package – much quicker through the airport.

– Stay for AT LEAST 10 days – you can do one park per day in a week, but you’ll regret it. Spreading it out to 1/2 park per day makes it much easier, and gives you a chance to enjoy your resort.

– Disney is MUCH MUCH bigger than it looks on any map. 45 square miles serviced by 300+ busses – it’s a small city and those bus stops can resemble city bus stops at rush hour, so expect that. Still – I remember thousands of people trying to get the monorail at the same time back when I was a kid. I think there was one instance where we had to wait over a half hour to get loaded on a bus. Again – be ready for it – if you’re bringing kids, make sure you’ve got plenty of snacks on hand.

– Bring one backpack to load up with water, snacks, extra clothes etc. If you’ve got a kid under 6, grab a stroller.

– We stayed onsite at Port Orleans. Stunningly beautiful resort, but it was COLLOSSAL. A good 10+ minute walk to the office from our room. All of the resorts are big, and one way to save time is to find out where the busses pick up FIRST. If you’re at one of the last bus stops at your resort, you may wait a looooooong time for a pick up.

– PLAN. Have a plan every day. What attractions do you want to hit? Check for show schedules – ESPECIALLY in MGM – half that park runs on schedules. If you can, plan your day around the extended days for resort guests – that saved us a ton of time.

– Animal Kingdom was my favorite – but watch those park hours – that one closes up super early.

Answer 4: Regarding the meal plan, we didn’t get it. The food portions are gigantic. My wife and I split entrees much of the week, and we definitely came in lower $$$ than the meal plans, and we still ate at all the nice restaurants – even the expensive one’s aren’t that bad at lunchtime. (I heavily suggest the Cobb Salad at the Brown Derby in MGM). When we got there, we purchased cereal, milk and oatmeal. Breakfast in room before we’d leave for the day. (fridge in room)

Don’t miss Tower of Terror or the Aerosmith Coaster in that park either. If needed – use the ‘childswap’ feature.

Answer 5: Active duty or retired military: If you qualify, check out the Armys self supporting resort (R&R type) on the fringe of Disney World. Shades of Green. If I recall a PFC last year paid about $37 for a room and a Major paid $180 for the same room. Full resort, 36 holes, transportation links, etc.

Answer 6: While you are at Disney, don’t forget to take advantage of FastPass. FastPass allows you to ride the rides on a shorter line. You don’t need to sign up for Fastpass. All tickets can use the Fastpass system. Basically the most popular rides have ticket machines that give you a ticket with a one hour window during which you can return for the ride. You get to go in the Fastpass line, which bypasses almost everyone on the normal line. You just insert your park ticket into the machine near the attraction entrance.

My best advice is to buy the “Unofficial Guide to Disneyworld” by Bob Sehlinger. It has answers to every question imaginable, and the best advice for navigating the parks and avoiding lines.

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  1. Ruth says:

    Try http://www.allears.net for specific Marathon info. They have a blog written especially for runners/marathoners. Here’s the direct url


    One of the allears blog writers, Mike Scopa, also hosts a podcast: http://www.wdwtoday.com. Here’s a link to all the shows they have done that deal in some way with the marathons. Len Testa, another podcaster with WDWToday and a runner is coauthor of the Unofficial Guide.


  2. chris says:

    i ran the race in 2001. The Disney resorts have bus service to the starting line. A good place to get questions answered is disboards.com

    We stay at the old Key west resort and you can walk to the start from there. bring disposable stuff. We were waiting in 30 degree weather.

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