If you have tried to buy toilet paper in the last month OR you suddenly have a small child (or big child) clinging to your comfy pants leg every minute of the day, you probably know stuff is going down in the world right now.
It’s hard to find someone not impacted by the latest events and it’s no surprise that Disney World is feeling the effects, too. But if the closures weren’t enough, experts are predicting that Disney World may also have to battle another massive problem this year… .
Yep — a more-active-than-normal hurricane season has been predicted this year. (It has been a YEAR.) Here’s how Disney World — and Disney guests — need to prep for what could be coming in the months ahead.
Disney World and Hurricanes in 2020
While Disney will typically do their best to make sure every guest has a magical vacation, they can’t control the weather! And while we (obviously) don’t know for sure what this hurricane season will bring, we do have some predictions based on previous years.
Do We Expect a Hurricane to Hit?
We don’t have a magic mirror to ask, but we’re basing our predictions off of trends in recent years. It has been a tough stretch for hurricanes in Central Florida. In fact, Disney World experienced hurricane-related closures in 2016, 2017, and 2019. Granted, the 2019 closure was brief because Hurricane Dorian changed course before making landfall.
It seems that these closures are starting to form a “new normal” rather than just coincidence. As reported by AccuWeather, 2019 was the fourth year in a row with an above-average hurricane season. And, scientists are predicting higher-than-normal activity for 2020 as well. With the past 3 out of 4 years seeing a hurricane headed for central Florida and resultant Disney World closures, it’s looking like it’s definitely worth being prepared.
When Do Hurricanes Hit Disney World?
Technically, hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 30th, but of the seven hurricanes which have resulted in park closures, five occurred in September. The other two closures happened in August and October — so, historically, the months of August through October have been most likely to experience a hurricane-related shutdown, though storms earlier and later aren’t unheard of.
Luckily, since hurricanes form over the ocean and can take some time to make landfall, we generally have at least some notice before Disney World is affected. So, if there is talk of a hurricane around the time of your trip, be sure to keep an eye on the weather reports!
What Do Disney Parks Do in Hurricanes?
Luckily, we’ve seen how Disney has navigated this situation in the past, so we have a good idea of how this could play out. If a lower intensity storm comes through the area, we’ve seen Disney close outdoor attractions such as Slinky Dog Dash and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, while still leaving the parks open. Many outdoor seating areas are typically secured and restricted as well.
But, if a strong hurricane is forecasted with Disney World in its path, Disney may close the parks. Disney doesn’t have a policy spelling out exactly how strong a storm must be for the parks to close, but six of the seven hurricanes that triggered a closure were Category 4 or 5 storms (2004’s Hurricane Jeanne was the lone Category 3).
Disney has closed the parks at least one day (and maybe even two days) before hurricanes hit, but in the past, Disney has not required guests to leave property altogether and they were allowed to shelter at their Disney hotels.
How You Can Plan For Hurricane Season
Even if hurricanes in the past have usually hit August through October, that doesn’t mean you have to completely write those months off for your vacation!
Just make sure you’re prepared in case of an emergency. Here are a few tips you can consider:
Protect Your Vacation Investment
You don’t usually have to worry about your Disney World hotel reservations and vacation packages! Disney World has a hurricane cancellation policy that allows guests to reschedule or cancel their reservations with no cancellation or change fees if the National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane warning for the Orlando area within 7 days of the scheduled arrival date. (Note that many guests have wanted to cancel or re-schedule trips outside of the 7-day window due to potential hurricane activity and have had to pay the resultant fees.)
With that being said, Disney isn’t able to help with any third-party reservations like airline tickets, car rentals, or off-property hotel reservations. So, if you have a vacation planned during hurricane season be sure to take a look at weather-related cancellation policies for non-Disney reservations and consider purchasing travel insurance!
It’s a good idea to pack rain gear regardless of when you’re traveling to Florida. Don’t be fooled by its nickname of “the sunshine state.” Pop-up showers are common — especially in the summer! While you obviously shouldn’t be outside when a hurricane hits, the outer bands can bring some heavy rain and wind as well. Make sure you pack a poncho, umbrella, and extra shoes and socks in case yours get soggy (we learned the hard way)!
If you’re in Disney World while a hurricane is approaching, you’ll also want to have activities to keep you and your family busy while sheltering in the hotel room. Which reminds us…
Stock Supplies in Your Room
Disney World hotels are built to withstand hurricane conditions, but Disney may require you to shelter in your room. Be sure to have supplies including food, water, and medications easily accessible in your room. You don’t have to have a mountain of supplies, but it’s best to have enough to last a day or two, just in case!
You don’t necessarily have to pack bottled water and snacks from home if your suitcases are strapped for space. These items are available for purchase at the resorts; they’ll just be pricier than at the grocery store! If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, this is a great chance to use up some of those snack credits!
Keep an Eye on the Weather Forecast
The path of a hurricane can change quickly. Be sure to regularly check in on the forecast so you know what to expect! We have seen Disney send notifications through the My Disney Experience app regarding storm-related closures as well, including Advance Dining Reservations. So, while this won’t give you as much information as a weather report, it’s another way to get a feel for how things are progressing.
But it’s not all doom and gloom! Sometimes changing weather patterns can work in your favor! For example, in 2019, Hurricane Dorian was projected to pass directly through Central Florida. It changed course at the last moment and Disney World was spared from a potentially devastating storm. This also meant the parks were reopened sooner than originally expected. So, staying up to date on the weather might also make you one of the first guests back out and about if the coast ends up being clear!
See if Your Resort Hotel Offers Special Activities
We have seen Disney World Resort hotels offer special activities in the time between the parks closing and the projected arrival of the storm. We’ve seen rare character meet and greets, movie marathons, and games and activities offered in hotel lobbies and common areas!
So, if you do happen to be at Disney World while a hurricane is approaching, be sure to check with the Cast Members at your hotel to see if they have any special activities planned. You might just make some extra special memories with your family while riding out the storm!
It can be a bummer to work for months planning a dream vacation and have something outside of your control throw a wrench in things! (Gee, anybody feeling that way right NOW?!?) But be sure to stay flexible and know that any cancellations are for the safety of you and your family!
So, if the weather does interrupt your trip, look for fun new memories you can make with your family! Whether that means formal entertainment provided in your hotel, or just a game night back in your room, enjoying time with loved ones (and staying safe!) is the most important part of the vacation!
Have you ever ridden out a hurricane at Disney World? Let us know in the comments!