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Theme Parks and Hurricanes

Last Updated on December 30, 2023 by Themepark Freak

It’s almost September and Hurricane Idalia has been announced as the first hurricane of the 2023 season.

So what do you do if you’re supposed to be arriving in Orlando the day or two before the hurricane is supposed to make landfall? Or what do you do if you’re already in Orlando when a hurricane is announced? Is there anything you should do if you’re visiting Florida during hurricane season?

Lets take a look at these questions and see if we can come up with answers to help you out!

Planning a Vacation During Hurricane Season

Typically for the Atlantic seaboard, August and September are the two months that see the most hurricanes make windfall. However, hurricanes have shown up in as early as July and as late as October in the last 10 years. These are the ones that hit the east coast:

2014JulyArthur/2North Carolina
North Carolina
2019SeptemberDorian/2North Carolina
South Carolina

While a July hurricane hasn’t happened on the east cost in quite awhile (they tend to show up in the Gulf Coast and landfall in Louisiana or Texas instead of Florida) we did have hurricane Dennis as a July hurricane in 2005. I can attest how miserable it is to have NO air conditioning to get away from the 500% humidity after a level 3 hurricane passes by.

So as you can see from the chart above, planning an East Coast holiday in September might not be your best bet for avoiding hurricanes. But, this is the only time you can get off from work. What should you keep in mind?

Get Travel Insurance That Includes Cancellations Due to Hurricanes

When I go to Orlando to get my theme park groove on, I typically go for Thanksgiving. There’s only 2 recorded hurricanes that have made landfall in November (last one in 1985 and then 1861). So I’ve never actually checked if my own travel insurance deals with the chaos hurricanes can bring. I’ve no idea if travel insurance that deals with hurricanes exist.

However, after doing a quick google, it turns out it does.

According to this Forbes article, there’s 3 things you want your travel insurance to have strong coverage over:

  • trip cancellation
  • trip interruption
  • trip delay

You’ll also want to make 100% certain the travel insurance policy covers hurricanes as a reason for cancelling, covering interruptions or being delayed on your way to your destination.

Forbes also warns that you’ll want to buy your travel insurance earlier than later. As soon as a storm is officially named, it’s too late to buy insurance for your trip to cover hurricane related issues.

There ARE policies out there that allow you to cancel for any reason. There are also policies that cover interruption and delay for any reason. Once again, they are more expensive but you’re already shelling out a lot of money, what’s a few hundred more to make sure the magic still happens?

You’re Going to Share Your Vacation with a Hurricane

You haven’t left for your vacation destination yet, however, you just heard that a hurricane is likely to come over the top of your destination location. What should you do?

As someone who has weathered 7 hurricanes between 2000 and 2005, it’s not a nice place to be. You’re likely to lose power, water will possibly become unsafe and food will become scarce. You’re going to be stuck where ever you have to shelter and if you’re traveling with kids, there’s not going to be a whole lot to do.

If you’re able to rebook your vacation with your work, I highly advise that you cancel and rebook for another month.

5 Reasons to Cancel and Rebook if a Hurricane is Hitting Your Destination

  1. Everything is going to close down.
  2. If it gets bad, you’re not going to be able to easily evacuate.
  3. You’re not going to be properly provisioned to ride out the days without access to a grocery store or clean water.
  4. If you get hurt, or decide to go out and get stuck, you’re taking up emergency resources.
  5. After the hurricane passes it still will take a few days or weeks for the destination and attractions to clear up and re-open so your vacation will be wasted.

You’re asking me once again, what do I know about being somewhere when a hurricane hits? I worked at a juvenile detention program and was considered a mandatory employee. To keep my job I had to shelter in place with the kids and that meant sitting through every one of those 7 hurricanes. I actually saw someone go outside and get hit in the head with flying debris and pass out (luckily they were a little banged up but ok) and this meant two other people had to risk their lives to save them.

Starting July and until the end of October I kept the following in my trunk:

  • sleeping bag
  • 2 cases of water
  • 2 pound jar of peanut butter
  • crackers
  • case of MREs
  • flashlights with extra batteries
  • hand crank radio

At home we had a much more extensive hurricane preparedness pantry. From Jan until the first hurricane we were buying canned foods and other other non perishable items. By the end of July we’d have eaten most of what was in the freezer and we topped up our propane tank for the camp stove if we needed to boil water on the balcony (after the hurricane passed, of course).

So get that travel insurance and please, please, please cancel and rebook.

You’re at Your Destination When a Hurricane is Announced

If you decided to go somewhere that’s hurricane prone, then hopefully it doesn’t happen at the start of your holiday. I think that we need to look at what might happen if you just arrived and if you’re towards the end of vacation.

You Just Arrived to Your Destination

If you just arrived and it’s been announced that nearby hurricane landfall is imminent, then try to prepare.

Do you remember how the store shelves looked at the start of the pandemic? I remember seeing pictures and videos and my (dutch) husband asked me if that’s what it looked like in Florida when a hurricane is announced. Actually, yes, yes it is.

The things that will disappear off the shelves faster than you can blink (and sometimes go up in price, even though it’s price gouging and illegal):

  • flashlights
  • batteries of all types
  • bottled water
  • canned goods
  • peanut butter
  • crackers, cookies, chips
  • battery (and now usb) operated fans
  • generators (not that you’d be buying one for the hotel)
  • petrol/gas
  • propane
  • bagged ice
  • 5 gallon buckets
  • ice chests

It might be a little more expensive but you can always check out the CVS and Walgreens drug stores (along with everyone else staying within walking distance) or get an uber to get out to a Target, Walmart or some sort of grocery store.

I’ve found in general that fruits, vegetables, and deli items won’t go as fast BUT they will stop stocking them or making the food as the hurricane landfall gets closer. If you have a fridge, you can stock up on some deli goods for the first day or two and have some fruit/veg that don’t go bad as fast if left out.

What Do You Do If the Hurricane is Going to Be a Category 4 or 5?

Don’t get me wrong, category 1-3 can be pretty wicked storms. However, if they’re predicting the hurricane is going to be a 4 or 5, consider leaving again. As I mentioned before, it’s entirely possible for everything to take a week or more to open up.

There will be a lot of traffic infrastructure down not to mention debris to clear out of the road. All of the outdoor attractions will have to clean up and make sure everything is safe to receive guests again. This could take a few days on up to a week or more.

If you have travel interruption coverage or cancel anytime, I’d probably look at cutting my losses and getting out of there.

You’re Leaving a Few Days After the Hurricane Lands

If you’re going to be leaving the day of the hurricane landfall or a day or two after, look at cutting your trip a few days short. If you have interruption coverage, then you’ll get reimbursed for what you haven’t yet used and your travel insurance should cover costs associated with changing flights.

Why Shouldn’t I Stay and Ride it Out?

Besides hurricanes not being any fun to sit through? Here’s a few things to think about:

Delay getting home: depending on if you’re trying to leave the day the hurricane hits or a day or two after the roads might be closed. The airport might be closed. If the airport is open, EVERYONE is going to be trying to leave.

Taking up needed resources: there’s only so many spots in each shelter and there’s only so much in the way of supplies on the shelf. If you stay when you could have gotten out, you’re taking these resources from the locals who have to stay. Not to mention if you go outside during the storm and get hurt, now you’re taking up emergency resources as well.

I’ll also mention that in past hurricanes local hotels (including Disney) have offered rooms at reduced rates for the locals. This is especially important if they’re in mobile homes or other locations not safe to ride out a hurricane. So you being in a room means one less available.

Not having the supplies in your hotel room: likely you won’t have the supplies to ride out the hurricane in your hotel room. And remember, hotels may require you to stay in your room vs. going to the lobby or other areas of the hotel during the storm.

Do You Really Want to Ride Out a Hurricane?

At the end of the day, ask yourself if riding out a hurricane is something on your bucket list. I can personally attest that it’s not fun or interesting. Is it exciting? It can be but probably not the type of excitement you want.

So consider booking your holidays in the 9 other months that are very unlikely to see a hurricane.

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