It is inevitable during the late summer and early fall months, as tropical storms and hurricanes begin to form in the tropics, that those who have Disney vacations planned will start watching weather.com obsessively, hoping that their vacation plans are not disrupted by an unwelcome stormy visitor. After all, many of us plan for months…and more….in order to create a wonderful vacation for our families, and knowing that a hurricane or tropical storm is making a beeline for Florida can be more than a little stressful.
And so, as a travel agent, at this time of year the questions come from clients and potential clients: “What happens to my trip if a hurricane or tropical storm is on the way?”
First of all, know that Disney is prepared for these types of systems. If you are on a Disney Cruise, the good news is that a cruise ship is moveable….so while your itinerary may change, you can rest assured that the ship’s captain will be taking you someplace where the hurricane or tropical storm is not. As for Walt Disney World, the Orlando area is actually in a great location to get through tropical storms quite well: being inland, the central Florida area isn’t going to take the main brunt of the storm, and in fact, it is not unusual for those who live on the coasts to relocate to the Orlando area in anticipation of a hurricane’s arrival. (And according to a friend of mine who was staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge when a hurricane went through a number of years ago….many Florida residents head straight to Walt Disney World because they know how well Disney cares for their guests during tropical weather. )
Beyond that, Disney does have a policy in effect as to how they deal with tropical weather and their guests’ vacation plans:
If a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area or for your place of residence no more than 7 days before 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.
Of course, as with any kind of policy, it is important to read through all aspects of it, so if you want all the details, you can read the entire Disney policy as it relates to Walt Disney World here: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/faq/hurricane-policy/
Now you should note, this policy is in effect if there is a hurricane warning for the Orlando area…or where you live. If that’s not the case, this policy is not in effect. So if it’s “just” a tropical storm, Disney will not be waiving cancellation fees…and you can expect that, for the most part, the parks will be operating as close to normal as possible. Disney does take safety very seriously, so park hours may be adjusted, and there may be instructions issued for guests staying on Disney property, but as soon as things are safe, everything will be a go.
So then the question often comes up: what about travel insurance? Travel protection is something that I always recommend to my clients because a Disney vacation is a very sizeable investment to make, and….things happen. In my opinion, it only makes sense to do whatever you can to protect that investment. And I know, from past discussions on our Facebook page, that many of you agree with that philosophy. Many travel professionals agree with that recommendation as well including, MSNBC’s Travel Editor, Peter Greenberg.
Still, it’s important to remember that insurance is just that, and nothing is guaranteed. Just like with your car or homeowners’ policies, there are exclusions. So if something occurs that causes you to disrupt or cancel your trip, you can put in a claim…and it is up to the insurance company to determine if the claim will be covered.
Disney uses a very well-respected company, Travelex, to write all of their travel insurance policies, and the current cost to add travel insurance for a Walt Disney World vacation package is about $77 per adult, with children on the package being covered at no cost. If you are considering adding travel insurance to your Disney vacation, you can learn more here. And of course, you can always purchase travel insurance elsewhere: just be very careful and read all the fine print to make sure that you are buying a policy from a reputable insurance company. (One thing to note: many insurance policies … including the policy that Disney has ….do not permit travel insurance to be added after your final payment, and none are going to allow you to add once a hurricane is bearing down on Florida. So travel insurance is a “plan ahead” issue, and not something you can rely on for help at the last minute.)
Whether you are traveling during hurricane season, or any time really, an important part of planning for your Disney vacation should always include the “what ifs”, so that you are as protected as you can be, and as informed as you should be.