So, you’re about to embark on a vacation to Walt Disney World Resort, and you couldn’t be happier. There’s just one pending matter threatening to, quite literally, rain on your parade—your upcoming trip just happens to align with an oncoming hurricane! As you carefully check and recheck all the latest alerts and developments from the National Weather Service, you’re personally debating on whether or not to scrap all your plans or ride out the tropical storm at large. Well, to help you along in your final decision-making, here’s everything you need to know about what happens when a hurricane threatens Disney World.
Disney’s Hurricane Policy
The Walt Disney Travel Company is first and foremost committed to the well-being and comfort of any Guests visiting Walt Disney World Resort, as well as other Disney destinations. That’s why they have an excellent policy in place for dealing with the uncertainties of Florida’s hurricane season. If the National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane warning within seven days of your intended trip for either central Florida or even for your own home region from which you are traveling, you have the opportunity to either cancel all of your preexisting (Disney) reservations or reschedule without any accrued cancellation charges. This policy is also in place for vacations at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort (FL) and at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort (SC). In the event that you are rescheduling your now-canceled trip for a later date, do take note that any discounts or special offers that may have been applied the first time around will not necessarily be floated to your later trip.
Notify All Third-Parties
Assuming that you will be forgoing a hurricane-hounded vacation and seeing how Disney will personally take care of all aspects of the Disney side of things, you are still left with the responsibility of contacting all those other third-party services you may have opted for in addition. This includes any airlines you did not book directly through Disney, vehicle rentals or taxi services you may have planned out in advance, non-Disney hotel reservations that were made, travel insurance you already secured, etc. Depending on your unique situation regarding third-party suppliers, there is no way of knowing how much money you may end up losing or not losing.
Be Mindful of the Weather
Whether you choose to go ahead with your vacation or sit this one out, do be sure to pay careful attention to the emerging weather. This is well-rounded advice to keep in mind for any upcoming trip, hurricane or not. Monitor the weather leading up to your travels, and also be mindful of seasonal weather patterns for the area you will be visiting. This can be an excellent indicator in knowing what to plan on bringing along with you accordingly.
It’s also important to keep tabs on the weather for other reasons. Even if the conditions outside can’t stop you metaphorically, it’s quite possible that the airports, roadways, and other factors you are relying on will be significantly impacted and, in turn, stop you in your tracks literally! That’s just something else to consider in the final decision-making process.
When Visiting Parks
Against all odds, you’ve made it to Walt Disney World at last! And as you head for the first preferred Disney Park on your list, you’re discovering firsthand that even hurricane clouds can have a silver lining. In this case, it’s the fact that most Parks tend to be less crowded during these times of hit and miss—those “calm before the storm” times when Disney Parks are still open…for the moment, at least.
While braving the rainy weather, you will want to be rain weather ready. So, plan for a downpour accordingly with ponchos, raincoats, snacks (in the event food services become lean), and even plastic backs to pack inside your primary bags if things soak through.
It is quite possible that while you’re out and about at Disney Parks at a time in which there is an imminent hurricane threat that some of the outdoor attractions will close while indoor ones will remain in operation. If things do turn dastardly fast, you may be evacuated from the Parks or told to shelter in place at your Resort. In such events that the Parks close, while you are already in attendance Disney, will provide you with a refund.
When Things Shut Down
Florida’s hurricane season spans from June to the end of November—a pretty long stretch, to be sure. But despite all that, there have only ever been a couple of closures or partial closures at Walt Disney World Resort throughout its entire 50 years in operation. The earliest closure was due to Hurricane Elena back in 1985, followed by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. The year 2004 was a triple threat with Hurricane Charley, followed by Hurricane Frances, and then Hurricane Jeanne. Hurricane Matthew was next, back in 2016, with Hurricane Irma following suit a year later in 2017. Dorian was a force to be reckoned with as well, back in 2019. And Hurricane Ian is the latest to join the lineup of burdensome hurricanes to impact Disney World in 2022.
If Disney does close its theme parks, Guests will be given advance notification to evacuate and shelter in place accordingly. From providing Resort announcements in-house to updating their official website and apps, rest assured that you will not be altogether blindsided or caught off guard by a Disney closure.
For the most part, with a few exceptions, Disney Resorts are more than adequate in weathering the weather. Some specific accommodations are not suitable to shelter in place for obvious reasons, though. These include Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, the Copper Creek Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and the Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. Disney accommodates Guests staying in such lodgings accordingly if evacuations are needed.
While you will be well taken care of at your Disney Resort, some accommodations like villas and suites with full kitchens and kitchenettes are obviously more coveted in times like these. Not only will you avoid cramping around with family, but you can come into such situations beforehand having a fully stocked pantry. Of course, the food services at your Resort will still be in operation during times such as these, regardless. What’s more, even standard rooms have basic mini-fridge setups. So, the key takeaway is, whichever accommodation you are staying at, if you know you’re battling a potential hurricane, do stock up on food and snacks just the same.
Disney Magic Still in Place
Nobody wants the fun at Disney to be deduced to hanging around a hotel room. But fortunately, Disney Cast Members are forever ambassadors to the magic in all circumstances. And that means even when you are stuck around the Resort, they will often gift you with enticing activities and alternate entertainments to make the day (or days) a little brighter. There’s so much to enjoy around your Resort, and perhaps this is your moment to fully immerse yourself in the overall appreciation of a Disney accommodation that you may have overlooked.
Whether you “weather” the weather or postpone coming to Disney because of a pending hurricane, it’s wonderful how Disney gives you options that make either decision easy to come by. It’s never a sacrifice, whatever you choose, and that is perhaps what demonstrates Disney’s true never-ending magical appeal.