November 30, 2022

Bali Trip Villas

The Devoted Travel Specialists

Disney World closed for incoming storm: Here’s how the theme park handles hurricanes

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest information.


As Hurricane Ian hurtles toward Florida this week, residents are preparing for the storm by stocking up on necessities like food, water and fuel. Travelers headed to Florida for a visit to Disney World, though, may have a different list of decisions to think through, like whether they should cancel their upcoming vacation or what will happen if they get stuck at Disney.

Related: Disruptions to cruise ship itineraries grow as Hurricane Ian barrels toward Florida

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Hurricane Ian caused a hurricane warning to be in effect for the Disney World area and is making landfall as an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane that is close to the threshold for a Category 5 designation. While the Orlando area is not on the coast, the storm’s impacts are projected to hit the theme park capital of the world.

Extreme winds, heavy rainfall, flooding and power outages are all possible, according to local Orlando news station Fox 35.

Here’s what happens when a hurricane comes to Disney World.

Current Hurricane Ian closures at Disney

Along with other area theme parks, Disney World has made the decision to temporarily close its parks this week, as well as select resort hotels and other experiences as a safety precaution.

  • Disney World’s four theme parks, Typhoon Lagoon water park and the Winter Summerland and Fantasia Gardens miniature golf courses will close Wednesday, Sept. 28 and Thursday, Sept. 29
  • Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has been canceled for Thursday, Sept. 29
  • Disney Springs will close Wednesday, Sept. 28 and is anticipated to remain closed on Thursday, Sept. 29
  • Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser voyages departing Tuesday, Sept. 27 and Thursday, Sept. 29 have been canceled
  • Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, Copper Creek Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort will temporarily close Wednesday, Sept. 28 through Friday, Sept. 30
  • Performances of Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue have been canceled from Wednesday, Sept. 28 through Friday, Sept. 30
  • All forms of Walt Disney World Transportation are temporarily suspended

Reopening dates and times are tentative and may change based on Hurricane Ian’s impact on the area.

“We are monitoring weather conditions so we can make timely decisions for the safety of our cast and guests, including when it’s safe for cast to return to the site to prepare for reopening,” the company said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. Disney will provide further updates on its dedicated “Weather Updates & Information” page.

Guests are being asked to shelter in place at their hotel

Disney has requested that all guests check in to their hotel by 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28, and then shelter in place at their resort for the duration of the storm. They are also making guests aware that dining options may be “very limited” and dining reservations are not necessary at restaurants that are open.

Based on reports on social media, it appears that boxed meals are currently available in the Disney resorts with prices that range from $5 – $7 for sandwich and wrap boxes.

When restaurant dining is not an option, Disney offers guests pre-packaged food boxes with items like water, fruit and sandwiches, though lines can be quite long.

Disney still sprinkles in magic during a hurricane

ED PIZZARELLO/THE POINTS GUY

Believe it or not, “The Most Magical Place on Earth” can still be somewhat magical if you are stuck there during a hurricane. In the event of a hurricane, the parks may shut down, roads might be closed and you might be stuck at your hotel rather than frolicking around the parks.

On the rare occasion when this has happened, Disney’s first priority is the safety of guests and cast members, but the experience is not without a touch of Disney magic.

In the past, and during this current story, Disney often arranges for indoor activities at the resort hotels like movie marathons, complimentary arcade games and character meet-and-greets and games for guests staying on-site, according to Disney Food Blog. The characters may even don their rain jackets for the occasion.

While Disney can’t control the weather, they still want to make your vacation as magical as possible by keeping spirits high, providing fun activities to combat boredom (and hurricane anxiety) and bringing Mickey and his friends directly to you for as long as is possible.

Disney is one of the safer places to be during a hurricane

SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

If you are forced to shelter in place, there aren’t many better places to do it than at Disney World. Though far enough inland to dodge the most severe tropical weather events, Central Florida is no stranger to hurricanes and tropical storms. As such, Disney has a detailed plan for inclement weather and yes, even the castle is built to hurricane standards.

If necessary, they will close outdoor rides for guest safety or, if the situation worsens, they may close the parks early or for entire day(s) if warranted. If the parks do close, you’ll be asked to shelter in place at your resort (or return home if you live locally).

Most Disney resorts, save for Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, Copper Creek Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and the Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, are well-equipped to weather a hurricane. Those locations specifically are likely to move guests to other resorts during a storm.

Disney then provides frequent safety and operational updates via your in-room TV and phone), prepares boxed meals for guests at a fixed cost, has backup power generators and observes local hurricane curfew guidelines.

If you know ahead of time the weather may turn bad, you can stock up on necessities at the hotel gift shop, Disney Springs or a local grocery store. This is a good idea, as some hotel rooms at Disney require a walk outside to get to the lobby, which may not be possible during the worst of the storm when you need to ‘shelter in place’ in your room.

The parks aren’t as crowded

SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

When a hurricane is tracking toward the Orlando area, many guests will understandably cancel their trips or push them out to a later date. Even if a hurricane is downgraded or weather conditions improve, you could still be dealing with a few rainy, windy Disney days.

Related: What to do when it rains at Disney World

What you probably won’t be dealing with, however, are the large crowds of people that are common on a Disney vacation. You’ll want to come prepared with rain jackets, umbrellas or ponchos (don’t forget a rain cover for your stroller), but if the parks remain open — or once they reopen — you’ll enjoy something most Disney visitors never get to experience including short lines, wide open spaces and minimal crowds.

Disney will close the parks if necessary

Since opening in 1971, Disney has only closed eight times due to hurricanes. Closures can last anywhere from a few hours to several days, with the longest weather-related closure coming during Hurricane Frances in 2004 when portions of Disney remained closed for three full days.

Related: Disney World celebrates 50 years today: Here’s what has changed, and what has stayed the same

Disney will usually close the parks well in advance of an approaching storm to give guests and cast members ample time to evacuate the park and get to safety. If Disney does plan to close its parks, you’ll usually be alerted of the planned closing time as you enter the park or in the morning at your resort. Disney will likely also provide updates via their website and social media channels.

It’s also possible for Disney to close some parks and outdoor attractions, such as the water parks, even before closing the primary theme parks. In the past, Disney has provided guests with refunds if the parks close early because of bad weather.

Disney has a hurricane policy if you need to change your plans

WALT DISNEY WORLD

If after reading this, you’d still prefer to wait for sunny skies to return before you visit Disney World, Disney does have a hurricane policy in place to accommodate you. If a hurricane warning is issued for the Orlando area (or for your place of residence) within seven days of your planned arrival date, you can call to reschedule your Disney vacation package or hotel reservation without cancellation or change fees.

You will still be responsible for any rate differences, and discounts or special offers may not apply, but you will not be charged Disney’s standard cancellation fee: $200 per package if you cancel between two and 29 days prior to arrival (after that you are responsible for the full package price). Changes made 30 days or less prior to arrival are subject to a $50 per package fee.

Guests with tickets to the Sept. 29 Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party will be automatically refunded.

This, of course, only applies to tickets and hotels booked directly through Disney. If you purchased tickets through a third-party vendor or you are staying off-property, you would need to contact that company directly.

In addition, Disney will not be enforcing cancellation policies for dining and other experiences (like building a light saber at Savi’s Workshop or getting a princess makeover at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique) until further notice.

If you do have a partially used multi-day theme park ticket that is impacted due to the park’s closure, Disney is automatically extending the date by which you are allowed to use the remaining unused ticket days through Sept. 30, 2023.

Also keep in mind that regardless of what the parks do, the airports and roads can be seriously impacted by storms — and related evacuation traffic. So, factor that into your decision-making when a storm is forecast to come to Disney World.

Disney’s rooms currently unavailable for this week

If you’re looking for somewhere in Florida to ride out the storm that has better infrastructure than the average home, right now Disney’s hotel availability for new reservations this week seems to have been zeroed out for the duration of the storm as the theme park had to transfer guests from places like the Ft. Wilderness Campground to the resort hotels.

Bottom line

Disney World — along with other major area theme parks — will have its parks closed this Wednesday and Thursday due to the hurricane, though it will still care for the likely thousands of guests that are tucked into its resort hotel rooms.

While experiencing a hurricane while at Disney World is far from the ideal scenario, Disney not only has safety precautions in place, but they never totally run out of pixie dust … even during a hurricane. From lobby character appearances to the arcades switching on the ‘free’ switch, it’s probably the most fun you can have while weathering a storm.