Hurricanes and your Orlando vacation: 4 things to know
Given the fact that we’re now in hurricane season, it’s a good idea to keep the following points in mind as the Central Florida theme and water parks start to brace for potential weather disruptions:
1. You may be able to reschedule or receive a refund
Your safety is the top priority of every theme park in Central Florida. Due to this, they all have similar severe-weather cancellation policies in place.
With that said, however, none of the cancellation policies include airline tickets, car rentals, or vacation insurance; you’ll need to check with those specific parties for their own policies.
Walt Disney World hurricane policy
If a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area, or for your place of residence, within seven days of your scheduled arrival date, you may reschedule or cancel your vacation package and most room-only reservations (booked directly through Disney) without any cancellation fees. Select special events and dining experiences are not eligible for a refund.
Universal Orlando hurricane policy
If you are not able to arrive at Orlando due to an active named storm impacting your travel, you’ll be able to reschedule your vacation or receive a complete refund. This policy is for Universal Orlando’s hotels only and does not include theme-park tickets – but, in many cases, these tickets can still be used at a later date.
Reservations must have been booked a minimum of seven days in advance and cancelled before 6:00 pm the day prior to arrival.
Call the same number you used to book.
SeaWorld Parks hurricane policy
In the event a named tropical storm or hurricane approaches Orlando, Tampa, or your hometown, the parks will reschedule or refund any vacation package and/or individual park tickets booked through SeaWorld Vacations, Busch Gardens Vacations, DiscoveryCove.com, SeaWorld.com, Aquatica.com, BuschGardens.com, or the call center.
2. Outdoor attractions will close
Perhaps chalk this one up in the “obvious” category, but outdoor attractions at all of the theme parks will be closed in the event of inclement weather, while outdoor entertainment will be moved inside or cancelled.
Indoor attractions, including the haunted houses at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, continue to operate during severe weather. The only exception is the occasional occurrence of a queue or house flooding.
3. Theme parks may close
Busch Gardens Tampa frequently closes due to severe weather, but it’s extremely rare for the Orlando theme parks to do so. With this being said, it can happen if they are directly threatened by a hurricane.
The most recent example of this was Hurricane Irma in 2017; all Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, and Legoland parks closed early on September 9 and were completely closed on both September 10 and 11, with a few of those parks closing a few days earlier than that (and/or reopening a few days afterward). Just a year previously, Matthew’s presence in the area forced all of the theme park to close early on October 6 and remained shuttered for all of the 7th. A similar situation happened with Hurricane Charley in August 2004, and Hurricane Floyd prompted the parks to open late in 1999. Floyd ended up not having a large impact on Orlando; Charley, however, brought 145 mph winds. It would become the sixth most-costly hurricane in the United States’s history, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Prior to Charley in 2004, the last time Orlando took a direct hit was Hurricane Donna in 1960.
All of the theme parks’ attractions in Central Florida are designed with the threat of a hurricane in mind. This means that, if the worse came to fruition and the parks did close due to a direct threat of a hurricane, it’s unlikely for there to be a large amount of structural damage – the parks would reopen shortly after this worst-case scenario (as we’ve already seen).
4. You may be asked to take shelter at your hotel
If a hurricane is bound for Orlando while you’re staying at one of Disney’s or Universal’s hotels, you may be asked to take shelter in your room. Historically, the staff has done an extraordinary job at keeping guests calm and informed. They’ll ensure everybody is fed and will, likely, put extra entertainment in place. In emergency situations, guests may be asked to gather in a large, enclosed space with no windows.