Besides the heat, humidity, and crowds, there’s another downside to visiting Walt Disney World during the summer: it’s rainy season. Although hurricanes aren’t generally an issue (and even then, they only pose a potential problem late August through early October), regular storms are. While prolonged rain or storms has the potential to ruin a vacation, with some preparation, you can roll with the punches and have a great time, despite the weather.
What you need to know for rainy days versus during hurricanes and tropical storms is radically different. With the exception of certain attractions and entertainment that might shut down for regular storms, it’s business as usual for Walt Disney World during the rain. That’s not the case during hurricanes and tropical storms, when operations can be brought to a screeching halt. Luckily, that’s very uncommon.
Although the prospect of visiting during rain or hurricane season might be unsettling, there also is some upside, as you’ll read…so it’s not all bad. Here’s our advice for maximizing your enjoyment during the unpleasant parts of storm season!
There’s a real-world adage that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. If applied to Walt Disney World, that adage would probably be that the only certainties are a 3 o’clock parade and an afternoon shower. Short afternoon showers are fairly regular in Walt Disney World any time of the year, but during the summer and early fall, they are especially common. Plus, unlike the spring showers that might last for 10 minutes before the sun returns, summer storms can be marathon downpours that don’t relent for a few hours.
The prospect of rain should not keep you out of the parks (let alone from not visiting Walt Disney World during these months), as packing $.99 ponchos from Wal-Mart and maybe some waterproof shoes (or sandals) is all you really need to pack to make touring during rainy season a breeze. Plus, the rain will scare plenty of other guests away, so a nice afternoon shower might be just the thing to lower those crowds for you. (Although rain isn’t nearly as effective in Walt Disney World as it is in Disneyland–a light sprinkle there and all of the SoCal locals run for the exits!)
If it’s raining when you get up or the forecast is calling for a lot of rain on a particular day of your trip, we recommend going about your day as you normally would. We know, we know, this flies in the face of the “visit DisneyQuest” or “head to Downtown Disney” advice that many people parrot, but we think that’s simply not good advice. First, unless video game graphics from the 1990s are your cup of tea, you’re likely to be disappointed by DisneyQuest. Second, even putting aside our disdain for Downtown Disney, going there in the rain instead of a theme park doesn’t make a ton of sense.
Besides the huge World of Disney, which is approximately twice the size of Manhattan or something like that, you’re going to spend less time in each shop than you would in a single attraction. This means that there’s more walking around outside there than you’d have in a theme park! It’s not like the stores are connected via a network of underground tunnels. If you’d get wet in the parks, you’ll get wet at Downtown Disney. Plus, Downtown Disney is a waste of time (sorry, had to get that shot in there).
If we weren’t going to go to the regular parks, we’d go to the water parks. I mean, why not? You’re going to get wet there anyway, so what’s a little rain? We’ve been to Blizzard Beach when it started raining, and for some reason, the place cleared out! If you don’t want to go to a theme park or a water park, consider your hotel’s pool. If you really, really hate the rain, wander around your resort (have a meal?). Unless you’re from SoCal and are thus scared of rain, there’s no reason to let the rain completely derail your plans. If it’s raining, lots of other guests won’t be in the parks, so you’ll be able to do more than normal! If you do want to go to the parks, but don’t want to get wet, here are some things to do in the parks while it’s raining to minimize your outdoor exposure.
Basically, this is just a list of longer indoor attractions, with some twists. The list could also function as “places to go to nap” at Walt Disney World. Don’t be surprised to see it copied and pasted into a later post on that exact topic!
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Let me preface this by saying that I can only find evidence of hurricanes having caused Walt Disney World to close on five occasions. Ever. It closed in 1999 for Hurricane Floyd; in 2004 on separate occasions in a six-week span for Hurricanes Frances, Charley, and Jeanne; and, it closed in 2005 for Hurricane Wilma. That’s an average of about one closure per decade. The odds are against your trip to Walt Disney World being severely impacted by a hurricane, unless you’re using a DeLorean to visit 2004.
I’ve heard of some travel agents strongly encouraging guests to purchase travel insurance if visiting Walt Disney World in late summer or early fall. I can’t say that I agree with that advice, but then again, I’m not risk averse. We only purchase travel insurance when going abroad, and that’s only in case I get in a fight with a monkey and have to be hospitalized.
If the numbers above don’t ease your mind a little, Walt Disney World has a Hurricane Policy that will allow you to get a refund on any package booked through Disney. Of course, this won’t cover your airfare. Fortunately, recent storms have caused significant changes in severe storm policies among major airlines, so that shouldn’t be an issue, either. If that leaves any gaps in expenses you’ve paid for, any decent credit card will have you covered.
If you normally purchase travel insurance anyway, or you still want travel insurance specifically for hurricane season, make sure you get coverage that actually will do something for you in the event of hurricanes or storms. Most basic policies do not provide coverage for weather, so you’ll want to actually read the policy before you buy. In most cases, you’re going to have to purchase a more expensive policy that allows cancellation for any reason.
The closest we’ve ever come to a real tropical storm at Walt Disney World was during our August 2008 visit. Tropical Storm Fay made its way through Florida at the end of our trip, and although it only really affected us in terms of rain and some crazy skies (that photo above was taken just before the storm; it’s been edited, but the sky really did look a bit surreal), we did get to see some of Disney’s emergency preparedness firsthand. Based upon that experience, I’d have no hesitation to stay at Walt Disney World during a hurricane or tropical storm. In fact, I think it’s probably one of the absolute best places to stay.
For one thing, in terms of safety, Walt Disney World was built for strict compliance with hurricane readiness standards and has earned “StormReady” status from the NOAA. for this type of thing (regardless of how uncommon they are). In terms of preparedness, Disney is absolutely on the ball. You literally wouldn’t be able to leave your room without receiving a status update (on your door) of what’s going on, how operations will be affected, and what to do in case of an emergency. Likewise, the in-room televisions have more information than you’re likely to need on Disney’s information channels. Disney errs on the side of caution with this stuff, and you’d pretty much have to bury your head in the sand to not know what’s going on. Even then, if it’s a beach at one of the resorts (besides perhaps an abandoned beach at River Country), I suspect a Cast Member would approach and give you a flier with the emergency information. Probably a security Cast Member, as burying your head in the sand is sure to draw some sort of attention from them.
A good attitude to have when the weather gets bad (or when anything goes wrong, for that matter), is that a rainy day at Walt Disney World is better than a normal day at home. Roll with the punches, improvise, and have a good time. As you probably have gathered from the tone of this post, a little rain isn’t the end of the world. In fact, I usually hope that we get some rain during our trips! Not only does it make the parks less crowded, but it makes for some awesome conditions for photography. All of the photos in this post were taken before or after storms, and I think they really benefited from the conditions. There’s a silver lining in just about everything, if you look for it.
Do you agree with our mentality about visiting Walt Disney World when it’s raining? Which activities or attractions do you recommend when it’s raining? How do you feel about the controversial subject of travel insurance? Share any of your thoughts or questions in the comments!