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Hurricanes and Walt Disney World

With Tropical Storm Bonnie passing close to southern Florida, although not currently targeting Central Florida, it’s time to check in on what you should do if Bonnie or any subsequent named storm should head a bit northward.

First check the National Hurricane Center and see if your destination is in the potential path of the storm. If it is, call your travel agent and see what the possibilities are for rescheduling. If you booked online, it’s important you check the fine print of your reservation regarding cancellation or rebooking fees.

If you are flying into central Florida during the Hurricane you may want to consider travel insurance. Read the policy carefully to make sure it covers rescheduling due to storms. Some airlines will let you cancel or reschedule ahead of the storm, but unless you’re paying full fare, you’re likely not eligible. No-frills airlines make it very difficult to change your plans without huge fees. The right type of travel insurance will cover this.

Staying on Disney property over the next few months? You’ll want to make sure you read the Walt Disney World 2010 Hurricane Policy to fully understand your options. Basically, if WDW is under a Hurricane watch and your arrival is less than a week away you may be eligible to rebook the Disney portion of your vacation without fees.

What to do if you are in Orlando on vacation already and a storm comes through? Follow safety instructions provided by the hotel is always the first step. Generally, you’ll want to stay indoors with the window and shades closed for the duration of the storm. You may be asked to gather in an interior room (often a ballroom, as they seldom have windows).

Be prepared with 3 days of packaged food and water for everyone in your party. Some glow sticks or flashlights are a good idea in case the power goes out (especially if your room opens to an interior hallway) and a battery operated radio as well. Of course, you’ll want some thing extra to entertain yourself and the family during this extended down time. A deck of cards or a book of word games can go a long way to help pass the time. If you’re on property without a car, I recommend making your way to either a DVC property where they have a little store near the lobby, or one of the two Hess gas stations on property. There is one walking distance from the Boardwalk inn.

Disney takes safety seriously and may close its parks for part or all of a day just to be extra cautious and allow staff to be with their families when a storm impact is imminent. If the storm doesn’t in fact pass over central Florida, Disney has usually been quick to open at least one park. When there is a storm that has a direct hit on Central Florida, expect Animal Kingdom to be the last to open and EPCOT to be the first. In either case, you’ll enjoy some of the lightest crowds ever at the parks as many will have rescheduled their vacations. You’ll also see a lot more character interaction, which Disney will sometimes bright out right to the resorts if the parks are closed. After safety issues are taken care of, Disney really sees this as their chance to shine with exceeding guest expectations when times are the toughest and the usually do a great job.

9 thoughts on “Hurricanes and Walt Disney World”

  1. Best day at Disney world was when we evacuated from Tampa to Orlando for Hurricane Charlie. Of course the storm came to Disney instead of Tampa, and the parks closed early. But the morning before they closed early, the MK was practically deserted. It was awesome. Good tips!

  2. We were at Disney World in August 2008 during tropical storm Fay. None of the parks were closed, but the rain was intense! Still the majority of rides remained open, and we experienced extremely light crowds. If you don’t mind getting wet (take an umbrella, rain coat and change of clothes/shoes) stormy days can be a great time to visit Disney!

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