Just call me Hurricane Hannah. And I am not alluding to the Stormalong Bay version, either. Yes, I’ve ridden my share of tropical storms and hurricanes at the Most Magical Place on Earth. I’m still here to tell the tales (albeit with a few scars). As a survivor, my Wish is to share my tips on “How to Survive a Hurricane at Walt Disney World” with other brave (insane?) souls…
How to Survive a Hurricane at Walt Disney World
You can read my ode to the Cast Member Ride-Out Crew HERE. Never did they shine brighter than during the Hurricane Irma “experience.” No, I am not advocating to throw caution into those tropical storm force winds. If you can adjust your vacation around hurricane warnings (which I have also done many a time), please do so. Local resources are further strained when travelers flood the system. BUT, if your flight is suddenly cancelled, overbooked, or if the airport closes prematurely (ahem), you need to have a plan.
Many Guests complain that a stay at the Disney parks can feel too planned. Well, you will appreciate the mass-orchestration when it comes to times of crisis. I believe Disney resorts have listened to the complaints stemming from prior storms. Cast Members are now actively recruited to stay and work on-property. (That especially includes the characters folks!) Presently, there exists an extensive hurricane preparedness program. My, oh my, did we feel well taken care of…
Where to Stay
Shiver me timbers. In 1992 Hurricane Andrew prompted a revision of Florida building codes, but Disney standards demand more. Think wind load and glass safety. For me, staying at Disney’s wilderness Lodge truly was a refuge in the storm. Hurricane Irma was a Category 2 when it landed in Florida, but I slept through its entire path over Disney World.
The Reedy Creek Improvement District has its very own power plant, solar power facilities, and other utilities. Since they manage their own grid, we never lost power. Pretty magical. Honestly, I never felt safer. I don’t know if I would have the same confidence in off-property hotels, however. If you have a choice, go for the Disney Difference. (Especially during Disasters!)
The flow of information was constant (just turn on the TV!). We felt like Uncle Walt was watching over us the entire time.
In an unexpected dose of sparkle, we were offered to extend our stay (through the hurricane) at a discounted rate. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge also house many Florida locals during the two-day ordeal. This includes their pets. The lobby was a bit like a menagerie at times!
What to Eat (or Drink)
I had read horror stories about food shortages during past storms. May I say that I gained 5 pounds in 3 days?? Food was everywhere. We were comforted by non-stop comfort food! (and drink.) Honestly, to the point of feeling guilty. I had heard reports of empty shelves throughout Orlando, but not at the Disney Deluxe resorts. I can’t speak to the other level hotels, but if there is ever a need, head to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge!
Before it closed, the Magic Kingdom also sold basic snacks and water to all Guests.
All of the (indoor) hotel restaurants were open for business. While they did not offer a full menu, we did NOT go hungry!
What to Do?!
First? Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust!
The Cast Members did an outstanding job entertaining both big and little kids. Disney characters were everywhere.
And did you know that Big Al has the moves??
When sheltered in place, each building posted their own entertainment schedule. Games were supplied, others could be purchased and taken back to the room, and movies were shown.
Knowing the evening’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party had been cancelled (refunds were given), I was especially touched to see this sign. You KNOW that all the littles had packed away their bestest Disney costumes. Even if there is a hurricane at Walt Disney World, they need their chance to prance. It would have been tragic to never have the chance to take those frocks out of the suitcase!
Never saw them. Any. Not in the days leading to, during, or after. I would advise folks who bring cars into the resort to top off the gas tanks well before the storm gets close. The Speedway Stations on-property (remember the old Hess stations?) are actually cheaper than those in surrounding tourist areas. And they have a no price gouging guarantee. The station nearest the Magic Kingdom entrance was still pumping when the parks closed the day before the storm hit.
Pallets of water were everywhere on property.
If you are concerned over encountering a hurricane at Walt Disney World, you should be familiar with their cancellation policy before you go. Buying travelers’ insurance, such as Allianz, is always a good idea. (I have experience there too…)
Remember, Walt Disney World has only shut its doors five times in its long history. We shall see what Hurricane Dorian does to Mickey and pals. And I’ll (again) be your roving reporter to cover every bit of flying pixie dust!