In my 2016 trip to Florida we had the reality of staying on Disney World property through a hurricane; in this instance, Hurricane Matthew.
While we were very fortunate in that the hurricane diverted at the last minute, Disney were taking the threat very seriously and everything leading up to the hurricane itself was very real, with Disney closing the parks for just the fourth time in history.
I wanted to write this post to share my experiences of being at Walt Disney World during this time and to give my tips for anyone who has to go through something similar in the future.
Remember where you are and who is looking after you.
Disney take pride in their guest security and safety and this was made very clear throughout Hurricane Matthew. Even though the park closures ended up being unnecessary, Disney weren’t sure in which direction the hurricane was going and wouldn’t take the risk.
DO listen to what Disney are telling you
Disney World Florida has been in operation for over 45 years, so they know what they are doing when it comes to the threat of a hurricane. Listening to their advice is important; even if the weather outside looks fine, it can turn very quickly.
While you could join the queues in the hotel lobby for information, Disney were great at keeping everyone updated by leaving messages on the phones in the hotel rooms.
We were lucky that the hurricane diverted, but other areas were not and I know people whose properties saw serious damage. Not taking the risk seriously could result in injury, or worse.
DON’T stay late at the parks
We were just about to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, when the announcement came through saying that all Disney Parks were going to be closing early at 5pm and would remain closed the next day. Even though I had already seen on Twitter that this was likely to happen, it was still a strange feeling to hear it announced officially.
While the park closed at 5pm, I would advise to leave a lot earlier. Not only are you going to stand a better chance at getting supplies before the storm hits, spare a thought for the cast members who can’t get home to safety until all the guests have gone.
Don’t be THAT guest who starts queuing for a 90-minute ride at 5pm – remember the staff have families too who want them to get home safe!
DO prepare for the worst
While it was clear that some hotel guests were panicking and grabbing way more food from the hotel food court than was necessary, preparing for the worst is important.
Though queuing for food was a bit of a nightmare, as you can see from the video below, it was at least orderly.
Even though Disney should have plenty of supplies, make sure you stock up on water and any other essentials to get you through the storm.
In some instances you may not be allowed out of your room when the storm hits, so ensure you have enough of everything to keep you going.
DO stay updated using Twitter
Twitter is a valuable tool in any situation like this, especially if you know people that have experienced a hurricane before.
Everyone was great at providing recommendations on what to do, and thanks to Twitter I knew the parks were going to be closing at 5pm even before Disney formally announced it!
If you don’t know anyone in the area, simply look at the most relevant hashtag for the latest news. Usually this is the name of the hurricane, so #HurricaneMatthew.
DON’T take your frustration out on the cast members
I want to give a shout-out to all the cast members at Disney’s Saratoga Springs resort during Hurricane Matthew, who worked to help guests through the situation. They all have families of their own but many of them stayed at the resort overnight to ensure it was serviced to the best possible standards.
Remember, cast members can’t control the weather; it isn’t their fault that the parks have closed and that your holiday has been disrupted.
Disney were pretty good at not only managing the huge influx of guests at the hotel but also bringing in characters like Pluto to help cheer up families that were getting worried about the hurricane.
DO expect the parks to be busy
If the worst comes to the worst and the parks do end up closing, expect them to be busy when they reopen!
As the hurricane wasn’t as bad as predicted in Orange County, Disney were able to open some of the Disney Springs restaurants in the evening. However some of the queues were upwards of four hours and in the end we decided to just eat back at the hotel.
Equally, when the parks reopened the next day, they were all busy as most people were trying to make back a lost day of their holiday.
If you have the time, it is sometimes better to wait for the crowds to disperse before heading back into the parks or Disney Springs.
And one final DO – Stay Safe!
The most important thing to do during a hurricane is to keep safe. Don’t take any unnecessary risks, make sure you’re prepared and everything should be fine.
Staying inside a Disney hotel during a hurricane is one of the best things you can be doing – even some Floridians flock to the Disney hotels during a hurricane as it is safer than being at home!
More Tips for visiting Disney World:
When is the best time of year to go to Florida?
Should I stay at a Disney World on-site hotel?
What’s the difference between the Disney World Hotels?
A Guide to Disney World Transport