Most of the year, the Walt Disney World Resort is a magical place filled with sunshine, pixie dust and a whole heckuva lot of fun. (Plus, who can forget the decidedly less magical swarms of people?) However, hurricane season in Central Florida can often turn the magic on its Mickey Ears-bedecked head.
So, if you’re traveling to Walt Disney World during hurricane season, grab your poncho and read on as we break down everything you need to know, from tips and tricks on making the best of a stormy situation to the Disney World hurricane cancelation policy.
Hurricane season can be a turbulent time at Walt Disney World, and the weather situation, along with resulting attraction and/or park closures, can change quickly. Refer to the My Disney Experience app or speak to a Disney World cast member for the most current information.
Walt Disney World During a Hurricane – What to Expect If You Ride It Out
As talented as those Disney Imagineers are, they can’t control the weather. As a result, for folks heading to Walt Disney World, rain is often inescapable, particularly during the sticky summer months when showers and brief storms typically sweep through at least once a day to cool things off.
Sadly, while these daily rain showers often provide a welcome respite from the heat, another Sunshine State mainstay can really throw a wrench in your vacation. One of the state’s most popular travel periods also marks the start of hurricane season in Florida, which spans from the beginning of June and continues through to late November.
That said, a hurricane doesn’t have to mean that your trip to Disney World is canceled. In fact, as long as you pack appropriately and adjust your expectations accordingly, it’s still possible to have a magical time. Here’s what to expect if there is a hurricane at Disney World during your vacation.
Safety Is Disney’s Number One Priority
Believe it or not, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to ride out a hurricane than Walt Disney World. From icons like Cinderella Castle and Spaceship Earth to most of the Disney World hotels, structures at The Most Magical Place on Earth follow strict building codes and are built to withstand intense hurricane conditions.
This helps to ensure the safety of guests and cast members should they need to shelter in place, as well as prevent any damage. What’s more, Disney World also operates like a city within a city, complete with its own public works and a robust power production system. So, even if the power goes out elsewhere in Orlando, rest assured that Disney’s more than 500,000 solar panels, biogas-fueled Reedy Creek Energy Services and backup power generators will keep the lights on.
You can also count on Disney World to monitor the situation and adjust operations as needed, whether that means following local hurricane curfews, moving guests to a different hotel or temporarily closing the parks altogether. Frequent safety updates are available through the My Disney Experience app or via your in-room phone or TV for hotel guests.
The Theme Parks May Remain Open
Even with a hurricane knocking on Cinderella’s door, don’t be surprised if the theme parks stay open. In fact, prior to Hurricane Ian in 2022, Walt Disney World has only had eight hurricane-related closures since opening back in 1971. So, while you may need to deal with wet and windy weather conditions, there’s a good chance you won’t need to sideline your fun altogether.
Naturally, in the face of a hurricane, many would prefer to postpone their Disney vacation or cancel it altogether. Should the parks stay open, this can be a huge benefit to those who decide to stick it out. As long as you come armed with ponchos, umbrellas or rain jackets to weather the storm, intrepid guests will enjoy considerably fewer people and shorter wait times.
Still, even if the parks stay open, keep in mind that individual attractions may close, particularly outdoor rides that could be affected by heavy winds, rain or lightning. So, plan to check the My Disney Experience app frequently to stay on top of attraction closures.
Weather-Related Park Closures Do Happen
All that being said, Disney World will close the theme parks – as well as other outdoor destinations like Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach and the mini-golf courses, should conditions deteriorate considerably, with closures lasting as short as a few hours to potentially as long as several days.
If the storm is especially severe, Disney will close plenty in advance to allow both guests and cast members enough time to safely evacuate. Should Disney plan for a partial closure, be on the lookout for the planned closing time as you leave your hotel in the morning, near the park’s main entrance or on Disney World’s website, app or social media channels.
Expect the Disney World Hotels to Become Extra Magical
Should the parks close due to a hurricane, Disney World hotels become the center of the magic. As guests will be asked to shelter in place at their resorts, Disney rolls out the pixie dust to keep everyone entertained and to quell any hurricane anxiety.
Expect each hotel to arrange a slate of indoor activities, such as games, movie marathons and, if you’re lucky, Disney character meet-and-greets. You might even get to see some of your favorites decked out in spiffy rain jackets.
Not only will cast members make sure you’re having fun, but they’ll also help keep you fed and stocked with all the necessities. Hotel gift shops will be open for all the essentials, while boxed meals will be available (for a price) to take back to your room.
Tips & Tricks for Making the Most of Your Stormy Disney World Vacation
All set to stick it out for the hurricane at Disney World? Trust us, you’re in good hands. If (like the postal service) neither wind, rain, nor Category-3 hurricane can keep you from having fun at The Most Magical Place on Earth, here are some things you can do to set yourself up for vacation success.
Keep Calm and Carry On With the Fun
Walt Disney World is no stranger to hurricane season. Substantial plans are in place to help weather the storm, and cast members are ready to do everything they can to keep guests safe and happy.
Of course, it’s not a bad idea to go into a vacation like this with a bit of trepidation and vigilance. However, don’t stress yourself out so much that you can’t relax. As long as you plan accordingly and pay attention to any announcements from Disney, you can still have a great – albeit wet, windy and slightly unconventional – time.
Pack for the Weather
We recommend you come prepared for rainy weather no matter when you visit Walt Disney World. However, that’s especially the case during a hurricane. Most importantly, be sure to pack something to keep you dry, whether that’s a poncho, rain jacket or umbrella. This will be crucial in helping you to capitalize on short lines while other, less-prepared people are trying to stay dry. Sadly, even a poncho isn’t foolproof. Ziploc bags make it easy to protect valuables like your cell phone, money or any important documents while also making them easier to find in the event of an emergency. Plus, since it’s only a matter of time until your feet are uncomfortably wet, pack additional pairs of shoes and socks – store them in your bag or a locker – to change into when needed.
Stock Up on Snacks for Your Hotel Room
Should the parks need to close, you may choose to ride out the storm from the comfort of your hotel room instead of resort common areas. In that case, you’ll definitely want to ensure you have a steady supply of snacks. This is especially true for folks staying in the typically expansive value or moderate resorts, where guest buildings can often be a long, uncovered walk from main resort areas.
Pay Attention to the Weather Forecast
Hurricanes are unpredictable, particularly in the days leading up to landfall, and it’s normal for the storm to change in severity or switch its course. As a result, the closer it gets to your trip, the more you want to monitor the forecast. The sooner you decide to cancel your visit, the easier it will be.
Likewise, should you still choose to visit during the hurricane, you’ll also want to stay on top of the situation while you’re out and about. If you don’t have one already, consider downloading a weather app to keep you informed. Otherwise, refer to the My Disney Experience app or, if you’d rather, don’t hesitate to ask a cast member for any updates.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings If You Need to Take Shelter
This is another tip that can come in handy any time of year at Walt Disney World, but especially during hurricane season. As you’re exploring, keep an eye open for places you could go to hide out. Shops are a fun spot to get in some souvenir shopping while also staying dry. Or, if you’re hungry, why not stop somewhere for a bite to eat until the rain passes?
Disney World Hurricane Policy – Canceling or Postponing the Magic
Rather not ride out the hurricane at Disney World? We don’t blame you. Whether you’d rather reschedule your visit for sunnier months or want to cancel it altogether, Disney World has a hurricane policy in place to accommodate a variety of situations.
Best of all, in many cases, guests faced with a hurricane are not subject to the $200-per-package cancelation fee or $50-per-package change fee typically charged by Walt Disney World. That said, that sadly isn’t the case for all visitors.
For Trips Booked Through Disney
If a hurricane warning is issued within seven days of your planned arrival date for either the Orlando area or your place of residence, as long as the vacation was booked directly through Disney, guests are free to reschedule or cancel their visit without penalty, including both hotel packages and room-only reservations.
However, if you decide to postpone, remember that unless a special offer is still available, any discounted pricing you received when initially booking your trip may no longer be offered for your new range of dates. As a result, you would then be responsible for any increases in rate.
Planning to tack on a stay at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort before or after your visit? The same hurricane policy also applies.
For Trips Booked Through a Travel Agent or Other Third-Party Company
For those who booked their Disney World vacation with a travel agent, tour operator or other third-party company, we’re sad to say that you may be out of luck. Disney World’s no-penalty hurricane policy only applies to guests who booked their visit directly through Disney. All other guests are subject to the cancelation and change policies outlined by your travel agent or tour operator.
For Advance Dining Reservations and Other Disney World Experiences
What if you have a reservation for one of the Walt Disney World restaurants or a special experience like Savi’s Workshop or the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique? Typically, normal cancelation policies will be waived until the hurricane passes.
Have you visited Walt Disney World during a hurricane? Would you do it again? What is your favorite way to ride out the storm? Let us know in the comments! Then, learn how to save some cash on your next visit with our discount Disney World tickets.