Hurricane season in Florida is June 1 through November 30 each year. With that period comes an increase in the likelihood that a hurricane or tropical storm may occur in the Atlantic Basin. Recently, I was at Disney World during a hurricane, and I, like many others, have always wondered what it's like to be at the theme park when a storm occurs. Here's what I learned about staying safe at Disney World and tips to keep you out of harm's way when you visit.
Disney World During a Hurricane–What Is It like?
Disclosure: This post on staying safe during a hurricane at Disney World was not written for sensationalism purposes. If the storm were predicted to have been much stronger or severe, I would have made arrangements to leave and head home. Having written that, my family and I were much safer staying on property.
Hurricane Policy for Disney World
Walt Disney World has a policy in place for hurricanes. Here's the official notice:
“If a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area—or for your place of residence—within seven days of your scheduled arrival date, you may reschedule or cancel your Walt Disney Travel Company Disney Resort hotel packages and most room-only reservations (booked directly with Disney) without any cancellation or change fees imposed by Disney. Most room-only and vacation packages can be modified or canceled online, including changes to travel dates.
If you have products and services provided by third-party suppliers included in your vacation—such as air transportation, hotels, car rental agencies, or travel insurance companies—you will continue to be responsible for any non-refundable payments, as well as cancellation or change fees assessed by those suppliers. The policy does not apply to certain special events or dining experiences. This policy also applies to Disney's Vero Beach Resort or Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort in the event a hurricane warning is issued for those destinations.”
Staying at a Disney World Resort During a Hurricane
During my stay during Hurricane Idalia, I saw many families leaving early to get home ahead of the storm. I also noticed the cast members working with guests to make sure they were comfortable, myself included. When you're in a Walt Disney World Resort, there are at least ten dedicated Disney television channels, including one that offers park hours and weather 24/7. Before, during, and after the hurricane, the channel provided updates to the theme parks' hours and closures. Happily, only the water parks were closed due to the wind and rain we received.
We received only moderate rain and wind during Idalia, so there was no need to be concerned about taking shelter, although Disney World does have a shelter policy in place if we did have to take cover. As per any high wind and rain storm, staying inside our resort room and away from windows is required. Also, I learned that the structures at Disney World are very safe and undergo strength testing to ensure they have withstand wind resilience up to, and often over, 110 mph.
Why Did I Stay Instead of Leave?
As someone who road trips everywhere, sometimes it's safer to stay put than drive back home. First, the hurricane's path was literally in my road trip path. Second, I checked the hurricane forecast constantly in case of a massive change in Idalia's category and wind speed. Lastly, knowing it wouldn't be a massive hurricane in Central Florida, I wanted to experience it as I've never been in one.
I knew from reading about other experiences from hurricanes past that Walt Disney World is where the locals go to shelter in place until a severe storm passes. For Hurricane Idalia, the company offered a 50% room discount for locals who wanted to stay on the property instead of at home.
Knowing the theme parks may be closed during the storm, I was okay with it going either way. Another positive for driving: I visited a local grocery store a few days beforehand and stocked up on bread, water, peanut butter, and jelly just in case the power went out. I knew that Disney World had offered sandwiches and drinks in the past and was okay with that for a meal for a few days.
Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Hurricane Idalia
This might sound selfish, but I know that days before and after storms in the Orlando area are some of the lowest crowd-level days guests can experience. I love it when most rides are walk-on and temperatures are more moderate than sweltering hot. Should you hop in the car or on an airplane to experience a hurricane for yourself? Please don't. But as we were already here and had been for five days before the hurricane occurred, it made sense to stay.
Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a hard-ticket event I look forward to each year, and for good reason. It's filled with a touch of spooky ambiance combined with Disney magic, including trick-or-treating, live shows, parades, and fireworks. There was a slight edit to the fireworks show due to impending wind and rain, but it didn't stop our fun – only the location where guests were able to view them.