Rain is inevitable at Walt Disney World, especially during those hot summer days where rain and possibly storms will come at least once a day.
But, a hurricane at Disney World is a whole different story.
Hurricane season in Florida typically ranges from June through November. It’s good to keep in mind that any vacations you book during these months may result in some nasty storms that could even grow into a hurricane.
Not only do we want you to be prepared when it comes to dining, using Genie+, booking hotels, and more, but also when there is weather (or potential weather) during what is supposed to be a magical trip.
So, what happens if there is a hurricane at Disney World? Keep reading to learn about if the parks will shutdown, if you’ll get a refund, Disney’s hurricane policy, and more.
Below we list details about the 2023 storm season and other historical details, specifically the different ways Disney World responded when Hurricane Ian hit central Florida and nearby areas in September 2022, along with other important hurricane-related information.
The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season:
- Tropical Storm Arlene: June 1-3
- Tropical Storm Bret: June 19-24
- Tropical Storm Cindy: June 22-26
- Hurricane Don: July 14-24
- Tropical Storm Gert: August 19-September 4
- Tropical Storm Emily: August 20-21
- Hurricane Franklin: August 20-September 1
- Tropical Storm Harold: August 21-23
- Hurricane Idalia: August 26-August 31
- Tropical Storm Jose: August 29-September 2
- Tropical Storm Katia: September 1-4
- Hurricane Lee: September 6-TBD
The 2022 Atlantic hurricane season consisted of the following:
- Tropical Storm Alex: June 5-6
- Tropical Storm Bonnie: July 1-2
- Tropical Storm Colin: July 2-3
- Hurricane Danielle: September 1-8
- Hurricane Earl: September 3-10
- Hurricane Fiona: September 14-24
- Tropical Storm Gaston: September 20-26
- Tropical Storm Hermine: September 21-25
- Hurricane Ian: September 26-October 1
- Hurricane Nicole: November 7-12
Like with most storms, updates continue to change and develop.
We suggest if you reside in the area of potential impact or are visiting near or at Disney World, you’ll want to keep a very close watch.
To keep tabs on any tropical storm or hurricane updates, we recommend following these weather organizations:
Twitter is also a great resource for timely updates.
Tips for what to do if there is a hurricane or tropical storm at Disney World
If you are visiting Florida during a Tropical Storm or Hurricane Watch or Warning, there are some extra steps you should consider to not only keep everyone safe, but also to keep your vacation from becoming a complete washout:
Before You Go
- Check the Forecast: Keep an eye on weather updates, so you can adjust your plans accordingly.
- Consult Disney Policies: When conditions necessitate it, Disney will activate their hurricane policy, so check to see if you’re eligible for any refunds or rescheduling options.
- Insurance: Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers weather-related disruptions. Keep in mind that most insurance needs to be purchased well in advance of your trip. If you’d like to explore your options, websites like InsureMyTrip.com are a fantastic resource.
- Pack Smart: Don’t forget to pack waterproof items like rain jackets, ponchos, ziplock bags (for electronics), and water-resistant footwear (or plenty of extra pairs to swap out with if your shoes get wet). Get all our suggestions on our Disney World Packing List.
- Stock Supplies: Have some essentials in your room like bottled water, snacks, and first-aid supplies. This is especially good advice if you are staying at any resort where you have to go outside to get to your dining options or the shops, etc.
While in the parks
- Flexible Planning: Be prepared to change plans on the fly. Indoor attractions and shows will be your best bet.
- Go Early or Late: Parks may be less crowded during undesirable weather, making early morning or late night a potentially great time to visit.
- Utilize Mobile Apps: Use the My Disney Experience app to check ride times, make last-minute dining reservations, and see any park announcements.
- Safe Havens: Know where the indoor areas are located in each park, so you have a place to retreat to during heavy rain. We have suggestions in each park for what to do if it rains at Disney World.
Dining and Shopping
- Advanced Reservations: Make dining reservations in advance for sit-down restaurants, as these will book up quickly if outdoor activities are rained out.
- Take Snack Breaks: Use the opportunity to try some iconic Disney snacks or treats that you can enjoy indoors.
- Shopping: This could be a good time to browse shops for souvenirs.
- Avoid Boats and the Skyliner: Stick to buses or the monorail as boat and Skyliner service may be limited or completely unavailable in bad weather.
- Expect Delays: Inclement weather can slow down all forms of Disney transportation.
- Listen to Cast Members: They’re trained to handle these situations, so follow any instructions for your safety.
- Stay Informed: Keep an eye on official Disney channels or local weather channels for updates.
- Have a Meeting Point: Make sure your group knows where to meet in case you get separated and phones are not an option.
- Stay Indoors During Warnings: In the event of a severe tropical storm, it’s safest to stay in your hotel.
When is hurricane season for Florida?
Hurricane season usually begins on June 1 and lasts through November 30.
What’s the difference between a tropical storm and a hurricane?
As defined by Weather.gov, a Tropical Storm is ” a tropical cyclone that has maximum sustained surface winds ranging from 39-73 mph (34 to 63 knots).”
However, a hurricane is “a tropical cyclone that has maximum sustained surface winds of 74 mph or greater (64 knots or greater).”
There is also a “Major Hurricane,” which “a hurricane that is classified as Category 3 or higher.”
Weather.gov also notes that “the number of tropical storms and hurricanes increases substantially in August, peaks in mid-September, and decreases towards a minimum by early November.”
What is Disney’s hurricane policy?
Disney does have a hurricane policy posted on the official Walt Disney World website.
Here is a breakdown:
Cancellation and change fees when booked directly through Disney
- If a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area — or for your place of residence — within 7 days of your scheduled arrival date, you may call in advance to 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.
- If you have products and services, like airlines, hotels, car rentals, or travel insurance, provided by third-party suppliers included in your vacation, you continue to be responsible for any non-refundable payments, as well as cancellation or change fees.
- The policy does not apply to certain special events or dining experiences.
Note: 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.
Cancellation policy when booked outside of Disney
- You should contact your travel agent or tour operator directly for information relating to the cancellation and change policies that apply to your package.
Special offers and rescheduling a trip
The following applies to a vacation booked directly with Disney and if a hurricane warning is issued within 7 days of your arrival date:
- Cast Members will be able to reschedule your vacation to your new desired travel dates if the same special offer is available. If the same special offer is not available, Cast Members will assist by looking for alternate offers during your new desired travel dates. All amounts you paid to the Walt Disney Travel Company for rooms, park tickets, dining plans, and other Disney products and services will be applied toward your new reservation.
- Any discounts or special offers applicable to your original confirmed vacation may not apply to the rescheduled vacation travel dates. You are responsible for applicable package pricing for the new vacation dates.
Sports or group package
The following applies to a vacation booked directly with Disney and if a hurricane warning is issued within 7 days of your arrival date.
- The policy only applies to Walt Disney Travel Company Disney Resort hotel packages, as well as rooms and packages for sports groups.
- The policy does not apply to rooms or packages for youth groups, other groups and special events. It also does not apply to meetings and conventions.
Rescheduling to a different date due to a hurricane warning
- If you are scheduled to arrive within 7 days of a hurricane warning, you may call Disney in advance to reschedule without a Disney imposed change fee. They cannot guarantee availability of similar accommodations for the new travel dates. All amounts you paid to Disney for rooms, theme park tickets, dining plans, and other Disney products and services will be applied toward your new reservation.
- Any discounts or special offers applicable to your original confirmed vacation will not apply to the rescheduled vacation travel dates. You are responsible for applicable package pricing for the new vacation dates.
- The policy does not apply to certain special events and dining experiences.
Tip: If you’re traveling during hurricane season, you can also book travel insurance. You can research trip insurance options using InsureMyTrip.com to compare various plans. If you choose to get trip insurance, you should buy it within 14 days of paying the deposit on your trip to make sure you get maximum coverage. Find out why we don’t usually recommend Disney’s travel insurance.
Are Disney tickets refundable?
Typically, no. Disney World tickets are nontransferable and nonrefundable. Keep in mind that Disney tickets also expire 14 days after their first use.
However, if a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area — or for your place of residence — within 7 days of your scheduled arrival date, you may call in advance to reschedule or cancel your Walt Disney Travel Company Disney Resort hotel and ticket packages and most room only reservations (booked directly with Disney) without any cancellation or change fees imposed by Disney.
What does Disney do with the animals during a hurricane?
It’s no secret that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is home to thousands of animals and an expansive range of species.
So, what happens to these animals if a bad storm or hurricane hits? Well, Disney doesn’t evacuate their animals. They remain on property.
Actually, a lot of them are moved backstage to their pens and barns that are built to withstand a Major Hurricane.
During the behind-the-scenes Up Close with Rhinos Tour at Animal Kingdom, we were told by one of the caretakers and trainers that the rhino area is one of the safest places to be during a hurricane or bad storm.
But, what about other animals? Where do birds go during a hurricane? Where do alligators go during a hurricane?
Some animals like alligators remain in their outdoor habitats since that is the safest place for them, while non-native Florida birds are brought inside to keep them safe.
You can rest assured that Disney has a plan for protecting their animals during a hurricane.
What if Disney World shuts down?
What if Disney World shuts down while you are visiting? What happens? Where do you go?
Basically, all of Disney World is on lock down and guests are to remain at their hotel. Disney typically organizes extra activities to keep guests busy and happy, like trivia, movie marathons, dance parties, character appearances, and more.
While guests are allowed to move about freely at their resort and enjoy the previously mentioned activities, once the storm arrives they are often required to remain inside their rooms for a designated time.
Disney is also known for handing out shelter-in-place instructions and items to guests, which is typically distributed by housekeeping.
You may be informed to fill the bathtub with water in your room as a precaution when it comes to flushing toilets and to have access to fresh water, if needed.
As you can see below, some of the emergency items guests may receive can include coffee, creamer, sweetener, toilet paper, cups, soap, a flashlight and batteries, and a larger trash bag.
Tip: If you know a hurricane is coming and that you’ll end up sheltering in place at your hotel, be prepared by ordering extra supplies for your room, like groceries and water. Disney may even have hurricane meal kits available for purchase that can be kept at room temperature or easily stored in the room refrigerator.
For guests camping in a tent or camper, Disney will mostly assist you in looking for alternative accommodations to ride out any bad weather.
Has Disney World ever shut down?
Yes, it has. The most memorable time Disney World shut down was during the global pandemic that started in 2020.
The resort has also closed due to hurricanes.
Here is a timeline:
- Hurricane Floyd: September 15, 1999
- Hurricane Frances: September 4-5, 2004
- Hurricane Jeanne: September 26, 2004
- Hurricane Matthew: October 7, 2016
- Hurricane Irma: September 10-11, 2017
- COVID 19 Pandemic: March 16, 2020 – July 11, 2020 (116 days; the longest closure in Disney World history)
- Hurricane Ian: September 28-29, 2022
- Hurricane Nicole: November 9-12, 2022
There were also several times the parks closed early or opened late due to hurricanes. Disney World also closed their doors early for guests safety on September 11, 2001.
Sometimes seeing how Disney has handled storms in the past can take the stress out of wondering what might happen if your vacation is set to overlap with an impeding watch or warning. Our most recent example is from 2022 with Hurricane Ian.
Hurricane Ian – September 2022
Keep in mind that Disney’s response, closures, and cancellations all vary based on the severity of weather.
Disney Resort Hotels
Guest spaces that typically would be the most affected by a hurricane were shut down. Disney contacted guests with current and upcoming reservations at that time and helped them figure out arrangements.
After Disney World opened in a “phased approach,” they announced that select resorts would still remain close for some time.
The check-in process was also adjusted as follows:
Not soon after, Disney updated the language regarding resort check in and clarified:
Disney also altered change and cancellation fees waiving them for select check-in dates (September 26, 2022 through October 6, 2022).
On-site resort dining
After the theme parks and Disney Springs closed, Disney released an available list of dining locations at resorts, along with where guests could purchase hurricane meal kits.
Eventually, resort dining returned to normal.
Theme Parks, Water Parks, and Disney Springs
Walt Disney World announced theme parks, water parks, and Disney Springs would close for Hurricane Ian on both September 28 and 29.
Partially used multi-day theme park tickets with a usage window impacted by Hurricane Ian related park closure were automatically extended to use the remaining entitlements through any date through September 30, 2023.
On September 29, Disney World Resort announced they would resume theme park and Disney Springs operations in a phased approach starting on Friday, September 30.
Hours for the parks and other activities shifted as part of the phased reopening, as noted below. Genie+, Individual Lightning Lane, and the virtual queue continued to operate as normal, despite the hour alterations.
- Early Theme Park Entry: 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
- All guests: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Early Theme Park Entry: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
- All guests: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Early Theme Park Entry: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- All guests: 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- Early Theme Park Entry: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
- All guests: 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
- Typhoon Lagoon water park didn’t reopen until Sunday, October 2.
- 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Fantasia Fairways Miniature Golf Course
- 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex
- 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for scheduled events
Disney Springs and Drawn to Life also reopened.
Enchanting Extras and Special Events
Select special events, including Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, were canceled.
Disney also offered refunds to affected MNSSHP event guests.
Dining, enchanting extras, and special events returned to normal, with some brief changes and cancellations.
On-site transportation stopped operating. Plus, there was limited service for Minnie Vans and Mears taxi service.
Transportation went back to normal and Disney also encouraged guests to use their own personal transportation, if possible.
Orlando International Airport
The Orlando International Airport also stopped operation on Wednesday, September 28 at 10:30 a.m.
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