August through November is a fantastic time to visit Walt Disney World for many reasons. Lower crowds, Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, Halloween festivities and most times, Free Dining. The down side however is it’s hurricane season and despite all the magical pixie dust Disney possesses, they have yet to imagineer a way to control the weather. So far.
When I was a kid, we only ever visited WDW in September, right in the thick of the hurricane season. In all the times I’ve visited in the Fall, only once did we encounter a hurricane. That was hurricane Gabrielle back in 2001. The parks didn’t close, transportation wasn’t affected and the crowds were non-existent. Of course outdoor attractions were shut down, but that happens often due to heavy rain anyway. We put on our ponchos and braved the elements, enjoying a virtually empty park (that’s us in the picture). But what if the storm was more threatening? There are some things you should know before you go ahead and book that autumn Florida vacation.
- If a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area or your hometown, up to 7 days in advance of your scheduled trip, you can cancel for a full refund or reschedule with no fee. While this may put your mind at ease, be aware that if you booked your trip on a promotional rate, it is not guaranteed to apply to your rescheduled travel dates and you will be responsible for the difference in price. Also, third party products and service such as airline tickets, car rentals other hotel stays and non-refundable items such as travel insurance and party tickets may not be refunded. There is a great FAQ page on Disney’s hurricane policy here: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/faq/hurricane-policy/
- If you are already on property when a hurricane rolls in, you may experience some attraction closings, entertainment cancellations and park hours may be affected at a moments notice. Rest assured, any decisions made by Disney to make schedule changes are not made lightly and are in the best interest of the guest’s safety.
- If you are a guest at one of the Disney resorts on property when the parks have been unavoidably closed, you will be asked to stay at your resort for your safety. In this case, Disney will likely amp up the fun at your resort, providing extra entertainment, movies, complimentary food & beverage to make it all seem less painful. They do a great job. In most cases you will be able to stay in your room, but in the rare case of critical danger, they may direct you elsewhere to a location deemed safer during the more severe weather events. Check out this video of some impromptu fun at the Contemporary Resort during a hurricane in 2016.
- If you are taking up shelter in your resort room, Disney will provide up-to-the-minute reports on any status changes. You will always know what is going on and be notified immediately when things will re-open.
Despite Orlando being far inland and at a lesser risk of receiving severely damaging storms, Disney has built their theme parks and resorts in accordance with hurricane readiness standards. In 2006 the National Weather Service deemed Walt Disney World a “Storm Ready” community. Not surprisingly, they were the first theme park in the nation to receive this status. It is because of this preparedness from the start, that the theme parks rarely have to close during hurricanes.
The benefits of traveling to Walt Disney World during the Fall season far outweigh the drawbacks of the slim possibility of encountering a hurricane so severe that it will greatly impact your vacation. October at Disney World remains my favorite time of year to visit. With the security of the hurricane policy, purchased travel insurance, the on-property procedures and the grandiose efforts of Guest Services to accommodate and alleviate any unavoidable inconveniences; there seems little reason to be overly concerned. If you are really concerned about being cooped up in your room during a storm, order some supplies to be delivered to your resort from Garden Grocer ahead of time just in case.