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Hurricane advice and policies for Central Florida theme park visitors

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Disney wrapped the MyMagic+ entry points in preparation for Hurricane Matthew last year. Although safety is always first, just before and after a storm can be a good time to visit the theme parks for lower crowds. Just be prepared for rain and for some closures.

With Hurricane Irma on her way towards Florida, and Tropical Storm Jose following close behind, the Attractions team has assembled some hurricane policies and advice for visitors to Central Florida’s theme parks.

If you are currently in the Orlando area on vacation, or have plans to travel here this week or next, you may want to review the following information before heavy winds and rain arrive. The first and most important thing to remember is don’t panic. As of Sept. 5, 2017, the National Hurricane Center has not yet issued a hurricane watch or warning for the counties that are home to Orlando’s major attractions, though coastal cities Miami and Tampa are predicted to be severely affected. Make sure you are getting your weather information from a reliable source like NOAA Radio or the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Even if the storm does directly impact Orlando, if you are staying at a major resort, you can rest assured the staff has been trained in emergency procedures and will be prepared to keep guests safe (and even entertained) during and after the storm. And while the theme parks closed due to Hurricane Matthew in 2016, crowds were low immediately before they closed and after they reopened, with guests who rode out the storm enjoying short lines.

Each resort and independent hotel has its own hurricane policies and procedures. In general, all the major Central Florida resorts offer a severe weather guarantee, which allows guests to cancel or reschedule their vacation if the National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane warning for the Orlando area (or the guest’s hometown) within seven days of their trip.

If you booked your vacation through a travel agent, it’s a good idea to contact them now and ask about their weather-related cancellation policies on any travel insurance you may have purchased, and make emergency contact provisions if you are still traveling. If you booked your vacation or hotel stay directly through one of the major resorts, you can find their specific severe weather policies below; for third-party hotels, contact the property directly.

Walt Disney World Hurricane Policy

From June 1 to Nov. 30, in the event a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area or for the guest’s place of residence within seven days before the scheduled arrival date, the guest may call in advance to reschedule or cancel their vacation package without any cancellation or change fees imposed by Disney. This temporary policy also applies to most Walt Disney World Resort room-only reservations booked directly with Disney, as well as reservations at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort or Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort in the event a hurricane warning is issued for those destinations.

The temporary policy is effective in the event a hurricane warning is issued no more than seven days before your scheduled arrival date by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area or for your place of residence. It is also effective in the event a hurricane warning is issued for the Vero Beach area or Hilton Head Island area for guests traveling to those destinations. (Note: No such hurricane warning has been issued for Orlando as of Sept. 5, 2017)

Products and services provided by third party suppliers included in your vacation, such as airlines, hotels, car rental agencies or vacation insurance companies, are not covered and cancellation fees may apply. The policy only applies to Walt Disney Travel Company Magic Your Way packages and room-only reservations booked directly with Disney, and does not apply to certain special events or dining experiences; sports, youth, or other group or special event rooms or packages; and does not apply to meetings and conventions.

All amounts you paid to Disney for rooms, park tickets, Disney dining plans and other Disney products and services can be applied toward a new reservation, but any discounts or free offers applicable to your original vacation will not apply to the rescheduled vacation, and availability of similar accommodations for the new travel dates isn’t guaranteed.

Universal Orlando Hurricane Policy

If a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area or for your place of residence no more than seven days before your scheduled arrival date, you can call in advance to cancel or reschedule your Universal Parks & Resorts Vacations hotel accommodations and Universal Orlando theme park tickets without any cancellation or change fees imposed. Though no hurricane warning has been issued as of Sept. 5, 2017, Universal is currently allowing guests to activate this policy with “no questions asked” if any named storm impacts their travel plans. Additional elements including air, car rental or other theme park tickets are separate and not part of this policy.

This policy is in effect for travel from June 1, 2017 through Nov. 30, 2017. Reservations must have been booked a minimum of seven days in advance and cancelled before 6 p.m. the day prior to arrival. Waiver of penalties for cancellation or change applies to hotel accommodations and Universal Orlando theme park tickets only booked through Universal Parks and Resorts Vacations. All amounts paid to Universal Parks & Resorts Vacations for accommodations and Universal Orlando theme park tickets will be applied towards a new reservation for guests wanting to reschedule vacation dates, but additional elements including air, car rental or other theme park tickets and any non-refundable payments, cancellation or change fees assessed by these elements may not be available for credit or application towards such new reservation. Availability of same accommodations cannot be guaranteed for rescheduled vacations dates. This policy does not apply to guest staying at group rates; guests with group rates must contact their respective meeting/group planner directly for cancellation policy.

Legoland Florida Hurricane Policy

If the National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane warning for the Central Florida area — or for your place of residence — within seven days of your scheduled arrival date, you may reschedule or cancel your Legoland Florida Resort visit without any penalties or fees imposed by Legoland and/or Merlin Entertainments. As of Sept. 5, 2017, Polk County, where Legoland Florida Resort is located, is not under a hurricane warning.

This policy applies only to Legoland Florida Theme Park tickets, Legoland Water Park tickets and Legoland Hotel or Legoland Beach Retreat reservations booked directly with Legoland Florida Resort or Legoland Vacations, as well as partner hotel reservations and packages booked through Legoland Vacations. If your travel plans were arranged by third-party suppliers, including travel agents, travel-booking websites, ticket resellers and other businesses independent of Legoland Florida Resort and Legoland Vacations, you are responsible for any nonrefundable payments as well as any cancellation or change fees charged by those suppliers. Likewise, if your travel plans include products or services provided by third-party suppliers, such as airfare, rental cars or vacation insurance, you are responsible for any nonrefundable payments as well as any cancellation or change fees charged by those suppliers.

Guests who wish to reschedule a visit due to an NHC hurricane warning, or those with questions about their vacation, can call the Merlin Entertainments Customer Service Center daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern at 877-350-5346. For assistance outside business hours, e-mail LLF.Experience@legoland.com.

SeaWorld Hurricane Policy

Under the “Peace of Mind” Policy, in the event a named tropical storm or hurricane approaches Orlando, Tampa, or a guest’s hometown, the SeaWorld Orlando parks will reschedule or refund any vacation package and/or individual park tickets booked through SeaWorld Vacations, Busch Gardens Vacations, DiscoveryCove.com, SeaWorld.com, Aquatica.com, BuschGardens.com, or the call center. The parks will not apply any cancellation or change fees for this service. For additional SeaWorld information call 407-545-5550.

In addition, the SeaWorld parks offer a Sunny Day Guarantee policy. Sunny Day Tickets are issued if rides are closed for more than one hour due to inclement weather and the guest has been in the park for less than five hours. Guests who have been in the park for more than five hours may request a 50% off return ticket valid for one year from the date issued. Sunny Day Tickets will be issued at the Information, Reservations & Guest Relations area near the front of the park after one hour of ride closure until rides re-open. Guests must exchange their single day ticket before being issued a Sunny Day Ticket and may not re-enter the park. Sunny Day Tickets are valid for a return visit within 90 days from the date of issue. SeaWorld reserves the right to change this policy without prior notice, some restrictions apply.

Parking, Lockers, All Day Dining, Quick Queue, Signature Seating, and other park amenities are non-refundable and not eligible for replacement under Sunny Day Guarantee. Weekday Tickets will be eligible for a Weekday Sunny Day Guarantee ticket. Guests that have been in the park for more than five hours, Pass Members, complimentary ticket holders, guests who leave without exchanging their ticket on the day of their original visit, and guests who do not have their original admission ticket are not eligible; promotional/discounted tickets and Multi Day tickets such as Choose Your Adventure products may not be eligible.

Once you’ll finished your hurricane preparations, enjoy this flashback to Epcot’s former Stormstruck attraction:

StormStruck Hurricane Attraction inside Innoventions East at Epcot

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