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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.

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

  1. There is a giant size 5+ hurricane headed for Florida. It is predicted that it will go straight through the center of Florida. I am high SURPRISED that there hasn’t been a warning for those who have booked their tickets to Disney World along with purchasing airline tickets to get into Florida. Why arn’t these thousands of people being warned to stay out of Florida and told to rebook or cancel?? This is totally irresponsible of the authorities of Florida and for the administrators at Disney World–are they more concerned about the hit to their pocket book than they are to the people who will be caught in this monster storm that may be hurt or killed? Speak out and warn the people–for heaven’s sakes what are you waiting for?!!!

    1. There were warnings today about South Florida and you’ll see more warnings for Central Florida Wednesday and Thursday. There’s still a good chance Irma will skirt Florida to the east or west. Be prepared, but hope for the best.

  2. We ended up riding out Charley at WDW several years ago. My biggest suggestion for WDW guests is that if they close the parks early in preparation for the storm, leave the parks about 90 minutes before they close. Go to your hotel and get a hot meal in the food court and at the same time pick up the grab and go sandwiches/chips/sweets/drinks. When we arrived at ASM, there was hardly anyone in the food court and by the time we were finishing our meal, just after the parks had closed, the line for the food court was literally to the check-in counter. When we got to the room – we filled the ice bucket, folded the plastic bag over the top and stored the cold food on top of that. It wasn’t as good as an ice chest – but it kept the sandwiches cold for a few hours.

  3. Why wouldn’t guests leave anyway? My gosh, will people sue Disney if their cars get damaged, they get hurt, they slide on slick sidewalks? What about alligators? Disney, please close. There are folks out there that will sue you all for their own stupidity.

    1. Many guests fly to Disney and Disney sends a bus to pick them up at airport. Many visitors are stuck there. It is not always easy to rebook a flight. I just pray everyone in the path of the storm stays safe.

  4. Thank you for posting this. As a former Cast Member, I was on the ride out crew for Hurricane Jeanne. Came home to a home that was soaked inside and no shingles on the roof. I still came to work the next day when the parks reopened. Most Cast realize there are people who have saved a while to come here on vacation and hate that a storm has ruined it, but also keep in mind they have homes and families they also need to worry about.

  5. We are currently at Port Orleans Riverside and OIA has already said they will cease operations Saturday at 5 pm. I checked and literally every airline is sold out. We were supposed to fly out on Sunday. I have no idea what to do now??!!! It’s 4 am and I’m a bit freaked out about what’s going to happen come Sunday check out time.

  6. Pingback: Hurricane Irma related closures at Disney and in Orlando | The Disney Blog

  7. Those Disney have a shelter o a safe place for their employees most of them are not from Florida and have no family in Florida and still working until closing time tomorrow

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