What Is Disney World's Hurricane Policy? Irma Is Heading Right Toward Florida
The happiest place on Earth might be a big draw nearly year round, given the pleasant Orlando climate that Disney World enjoys — but not during a hurricane. With Hurricane Irma barreling through the Caribbean, and Florida preparing for the possibility that it will receive a direct hit further this weekend, there's a real chance that Disney World could implement its hurricane policy if the storm comes close enough.
Interestingly, Disney relies on the National Hurricane Center to decide when enact the policy. If the hurricane announces there's a hurricane warning in Orlando — or where you're traveling from — within seven days of your Disney vacation, the park will allow you to change your plans free of charge. The policy is described on Disney World's website in an FAQ fashion. The basic gist is that your trip's arrival date must be within seven days of the hurricane warning:
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 Magic Your Way vacation package and most room only reservations (booked directly with Disney) without any cancellation or change fees imposed by Disney.
One big thing to note here is that this only applies if Disney sold you your vacation. If you went through some third-party vendor, you'll need to contact them about the change. The same goes for any portion of your vacation not included in your Disney reservation, like a car rental. Airline tickets could go either way. If you bought your airline tickets through Disney, they will change the dates for you, but it's possible there could be a change fee. If you booked directly, you're dealing with the airline.
Should Irma hit Disney World and force the park to close, this wouldn't be the first time. Disney most recently closed during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. That was the fifth closing since the park first opened; four were for hurricanes. Given that the entire state of Florida is under a state of emergency ordered by Gov. Rick Scott, and that Irma has reached a Category 5, being cautious can't be a bad plan. Seeing Epcot isn't worth enduring hurricane-strength winds.
If what you read online isn't clear enough, give Disney a call at (407) 939-7675 and talk through your options.