Every few years, a hurricane comes to Florida. For visitors to Disney World, Universal Orlando, and other local tourist attractions, that can mean vacation disruption. This post covers resources to help you answer questions about how your travel may be impacted. We don’t have the storm-specific information you need right here — but we can help you to find it quickly.
There’s one very important question that we’re not even going to attempt to answer, and that is whether you should change your travel plans. Every storm is different, so that’s a decision you need to make based on local advisories for the specific storm that may be affecting your vacation. Simply put, we can’t help you make a good decision about what to do — except by pointing you towards the up-to-date information you need — and we don’t want to even pretend that we can.
We’re going to run down the following topics:
- How to find information about the storm
- How to find out about transportation changes and disruptions.
- Theme park and hotel status and cancellation policies
- If you’re riding it out
How to Find Information About the Storm
For the latest “situation on the ground” from travel and storm advisories, make sure you are getting information from a reliable source.
- The National Weather Service at Weather.gov is run by the NOAA and has the latest forecasts and alerts.
- NOAA’s National Hurricane Center at nhc.noaa.gov has updates on hurricanes and major storms that are developing.
- Check the Florida Division of Emergency Management at floridadisaster.org/info/ for the latest press from the state about incoming storms and local responses
Of course, don’t forget local news stations on TV and radio in the Orlando area. If you’re still at home and don’t have access to Orlando local media, The Weather Channel usually has coverage of developing storms nationwide. It’s included in many cable packages and also has a (paid) streaming app.
Transportation Changes and Disruptions
Here, I’m going to define a change as something you initiate and a disruption as a change you have no choice about, such as a flight cancellation. If you have a trip insurance policy, make sure you know what it covers in either case. Don’t forget to also look into any travel protection benefits that you might have through a credit card that you used to book your trip.
If you need to make changes, your first stop should be your Travel Agent if you have one. But your travel agent is probably fielding a lot of calls right now, and you can get a head start on information. Knowing your options can help make your rebooking process more efficient whether you are using a travel agent or doing it yourself.
See whether change fees or fare differentials are being waived by checking with an airline’s travel advisories page. This page is usually the most reliable source of information. You can also contact the airline through their website – these will all have a phone number, but the chat that you’ll frequently find here may be more useful. Airline apps may also show notifications, or have options for you to message the airline and get an answer.
|Airline||Support URL||Advisories & Alerts URL|
|Southwest||Contact Southwest||https://www.southwest.com/ (look for a banner on the airline home page)|
If you’re traveling by rail, you’ll want to contact Amtrak.
Odds are good that if there’s a change to your flight, an airline will be notifying you. If you have the airline’s app you should expect to see notifications about any cancellations or itinerary changes there. Most airline apps also have a messaging feature that can be an easy way to get an answer.
However, I don’t have every airline app and I’ve had email and text notifications go awry before. If you’re concerned about the status of your flight you can check directly through the airline’s flight status page. JetBlue and Southwest only allow you to check 1 day ahead, so if you’re looking farther out than that you’ll need to use the airline’s customer support site.
- Delta Airlines Flight Status
- American Airlines Flight Status
- United Airlines Flight Status
- jetBlue Airlines Flight Status
- Southwest Airlines Flight Status
In addition, you can follow the local airports on Twitter to get updates about airport closures. You’ll find Orlando International at @MCO and Sanford at @SFB_Airport. For Orlando, you can also check the airport status page, and for Sanford, you should also check their weather advisory page,
Theme Parks, Hotels, Vacation Packages
If you change your travel plans, you’ll need to know how to carry those changes through to your vacation arrangements. For simplicity, I’m only going to cover packages associated with major theme parks here. If you’re staying off-site, you’ll need to contact your specific hotel. If you have a travel insurance policy, or travel protection benefits through a credit card, don’t forget to review these and see what they cover.
For details of your individual package, you should review the relevant policy at the appropriate site. And I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but if you purchased a travel insurance policy, review that too.
- Disney World Hurricane Policy (also applies to Vero Beach and Hilton Head, but does not apply to non-Disney hotels such as the Swan and Dolphin)
- Universal Orlando Hurricane Policy
- Legoland Florida Hurricane Policy
- Seaworld Hurricane Policy – I couldn’t find one that can be linked, but versions available in the past have been similar to other resorts. Contact your travel agent, or if you purchased directly from Seaworld write to email@example.com or call 407-401-8477. For park tickets, the Sunny Day policy applies.
These policies have a few things in common. Some also cover tropical storms and state of emergency declarations, and some only say that they cover hurricanes. They cover inclement weather either at your Orlando destination, or in your home area. And all have exclusions for certain group-related bookings (your group of 12 that spans 3 generations is not what they mean by a group), and some special events.
Another thing they have in common is that you’re only covered if you booked your package directly. “Booked directly” doesn’t mean that if you used a travel agent you’re out of luck, although you’ll still need to work with your agent to make any changes. This generally refers to aggregator sites such as Expedia and Priceline, or tour operators. You’ll need to work with them to make any changes to your arrangements and their policies may differ.
If you’re a Disney Vacation Club member who booked on points, you’ll need to contact DVC Member Services to make changes to your booking. For other Disney-specific details, you can also look at FAQ: Canceling a Disney World Vacation.
Last, but not least, don’t forget to modify or cancel other arrangements you’ve made such as airport transportation, dining reservations, etc. You’ll likely find that most of these can be managed online.
Parks & Resort Status Updates
Most of the parks and resorts will post updates on Twitter or other social media, and on their websites – some even have a dedicated page. Consult these for updates on park status. As with airlines, if the park or resort you’re visiting has an app, you may find updates or notifications there as well.
|Property||On the Web|
If you’re staying in a major resort, expect to receive information from your resort about any weather-related changes in operations.
If You’re Riding It Out
First things first: safety. Follow the direction of local officials or the management of your resort. Don’t assume that an instruction you’ve been given is unimportant just because it seems that way to you. Hurricanes can be deadly, and your resort staff have been trained to help keep everyone safe. Listen to them.
If you’re staying in a rental home, try contacting the owner or leasing agent. If you need to learn about hurricane preparedness, make sure your information is coming from a reputable source such as the Orange County official hurricane site.
If you’re riding it out, you’re very likely to find that there’s a period where you won’t be able to leave your room, even to go get food. This could be anywhere from a few hours, to days. You may be without light or electricity. Here are some things to consider to minimize the impact on yourself and your kids (if you have any with you).
Comfort for Kids
First, know that kids will take their cue from you. If you’re worried and stressed about the storm, they are more likely to be worried, frightened, and stressed about the storm. Explain what’s happening, but be calm about it. Know your kids: some kids can be enticed to think it’s all a big adventure by things that “break the rules” like M&M’s for dinner, while others will be happier by keeping things as close to normal as possible. Just remember: safety is the priority.
Safety is the most important thing, but boredom will be your enemy. Charge Everything. Phones, e-readers, laptops, tablets, handheld gaming devices, and external chargers. You will be able to use these devices during a hurricane, but they shouldn’t be plugged into electrical outlets until the storm is over.
Put devices into airplane mode to conserve battery, because once you’ve exhausted the initial charge and anything you can resupply from an external charger, they’re bricks until it’s safe to reconnect to a wall outlet. !Don’t forget! – since you’ll be using these devices in airplane mode (and may not have cell signal or WiFi anyway), make sure that you’ve got games or books on your electronics that you don’t need an internet connection for.
Plan to keep at least one phone with full charge. There’s no guarantee that you’ll have electricity when the storm passes and you can plug in again, and you may need it to communicate.
Many suggestions that you’ll find online about keeping kids (and grownups) entertained during severe weather assume that you’ll have an entire house to work with. But if you’re riding out the storm in a hotel room, the small spaces available might rule out many of these suggestions. We can take tips from other times when you might need to keep kids entertained in a confined space, even though we know you won’t be riding out a storm in those places. (Remember, safety first!)
Do you know one place where you might need activities that fit the bill for “I need to keep fidgety kids entertained but can’t let them run around”? Theme park queues! As a theme park blog, we know a little something about that.
- Ten Tips for Waiting in a Disney World Line with Your Preschooler
- Five Games to Play in Line without Your Smartphone
Car trips are another situation where you might need to keep people entertained in a small enclosed environment without a direct line of sight. If you routinely travel by car, you probably have some favorite car games already. If not, then hit the internet before the storm arrives.