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What you need to know about Hurricane Irma’s impact on your Walt Disney World vacation

Hard to believe, but it has already been more than a year since Hurricane Matthew zoomed by Central Florida, largely skipping the attractions area, but doing some damage along the east coast of the state. As you might have heard, it’s time to start paying close attention to severe weather forecasts again. There’s a good chance that Hurricane Irma will strike the state next week, but there’s also a good chance it will miss the state entirely. Either way, if you have a Walt Disney World vacation planned in the near future, it’s a good time to make yourself away of the Walt Disney World Hurricane Policy.

If you booked your vacation via Disney or an authorized Disney travel agent, then you’re eligible for some protection. If the National Hurricane Center issues a warning for the Orlando area – or your place of residence – within 7 days of your scheduled arrival date, you can call to reschedule or cancel your vacation package and most room only reservations without any cancellation or change fees imposed by Disney.

Please note that third party suppliers like airlines, hotels, car rental, and insurance companies have their own separate policies. Many do not offer refunds. Also keep in mind that Disney only reschedules like-for-like reservations. If your discount or room rate was not available for the rescheduled date, you may be asked to make up the difference in pricing.

For Disney’s part, in the past they’ve been pretty good about preparing for storms. They do their best to keep park operation interruptions limited and keep the parks open. That’s how they make money. But they will put safety first and won’t ask cast members to come in if conditions are dangerous. Hotels and parks have what’s called a ‘ride out’ crew. This is the minimal number of employees required to provide guest safety and begin recovery after a storm. Because of that expect severely limited menus and long lines (all the hotel guests are at the hotel for every meal). During hurricane Matthew guests waited in lines around an hour long to buy a pre-made meal that was a ham and cheese sandwich and a bag of chips.

When hurricanes have struck in the past, Disney has done its best to clear the parks of debris and do damage assessments quickly. Often one or more of the parks is open the very next day. But don’t count on that if a major storm goes right overhead.

If you happen to find yourself at a hotel in Orlando, on Disney property or not, I recommend being prepared with fully charged external batteries for your phones, extra water for each person, snacks for your room (you will be in your room while the storm blows by unable to safely leave), and some games or other activities. It might be worth packing some glowsticks with you.

If the hurricane is not a direct threat, you might encounter one of those rare occurrences when you have the parks to yourselves. However, if the conditions are stormy, Disney can make some inclement weather adjustments, such as shorter hours and closure of some attractions. Sometimes the storm fizzles out and we just get a lot of rain, but just because Mother Nature is making a mess of things, doesn’t mean you’ll have a less than magical time. It’s a good time to enjoy the indoor attractions, character meet and greets, dining, and even some Disney Springs fun. Just don a poncho and some shoes with socks (bring an extra pair with you if you’re worried about socks getting wet) and go forth.

Hurricane season officially ends November 30th, so there’s a long way to go and the National Hurricane Center has predicted an active season. We’ll keep an eye on things from an Orlando perspective.

Read Disney’s Hurricane Policy FAQ here.

stacey-frost-headshotIf you would like more information on booking a Walt Disney World vacation, please send an email to Pixie Vacations authorized Disney travel agent Stacey Frost ([email protected]), call (407) 454-1477 or fill out this form for complimentary travel planning. Your use of this free service to book your travel will help support The Disney Blog. Thank you.