Bracing for a Hurricane {at Disney World}

I have never looked forward to a vacation the way I have looked forward to my Disney vacation this year. August was a blur, September is my busiest work month of the year, but then came October … vacation at DISNEY WORLD! My son and I had a full week together in the happiest place on earth. We flew out less than 48 hours after I executed the largest conference of my career followed by six glorious park days then we’d be home the following Friday.

Whelp, that plan went out the window somewhere around Thursday morning, our last day in the parks when word of Hurricane Matthew went from “oh yeah, a hurricane could hit” to “a hurricane could very likely hit Orlando (and Disney World) specifically.” Things immediately got WEIRD.

The parks shut down at 5pm Thursday and were to be closed all day Friday. The fourth time in the history of Disney World that the parks would close (one of them being 9/11). Friday was also the day we were to fly home.

Final hours in the park before Hurricane Matthew!

Thankfully, we were flying Southwest and they are great about helping change flights. So we switched flights and added days to our stay without issue!

Around 3:30pm Thursday, Henry and I left the parks to head back to the resort for a nap and to grab a pizza for dinner and some other “supplies” to get us through a day and a half in a very small resort room. We hit the dining hall at the resort and it was a MADHOUSE. What I failed to consider (and so did those communicating on behalf of Disney) is that most guests were not from coastal states and had never been through a hurricane. Most resort guests were acting like straight up preppers. Hoarding milk (that will spoil in a power outage which those who have been through hurricanes know) and elbowing young children for chips all while complaining about almost anything you can imagine “it’s hot in here” “why isn’t there more milk?” “are we safe? should we try to get out now?!” You get the picture. This was all because so many guests didn’t understand what was actually happening with the weather. I took many opportunities to explain hurricanes: short, intense weather event; aftermath is the bad part; we could lose power; our resort buildings are cement blocks and will be fine, etc.

Well, I went on my way and ordered our pizza, picked up some of the box lunches that the resort prepared in light of the hurricane (a meal that wouldn’t spoil out of the fridge), filled up my mug of diet coke, and then I almost lost it. Henry kept trying to stand up in his stroller and I was moments away from either dropping the tray full of food and drinks or straight up screaming “Stop the madness! It’s not gonna be that bad!” Instead, a nice man offered to help! He offered to wait for our pizza and bring it to our room. ALL of the praise hand emojis!

Pizza and "Frozen" picnic!
Pizza and “Frozen” picnic!

Henry and I hauled it back to the room as we watched the line for food grow and saw the weather begin to get darker and damper … then the nice man knocked with our pizza (he restored my faith in Alabama fans)! We plugged in all devices and all of our portable chargers, drank the last of the milk, took baths, filled our water bottles, and watched “Frozen” on the iPad. Then it hit me. I popped up and opened the drawers and realized we had done everything right BUT I DIDN’T HAVE ENOUGH DIAPERS.

I immediately panicked. I knew how to prepare for a hurricane at home. I knew what to do at the resort that day, but what I didn’t know what to do was how to pack for a trip to Disney with backups in case a hurricane hit?! Cause, you know, that’s not how you prepare for a Disney vacation! Thankfully, I was connected to another resort guest through some cast members and was matched up with some extra diapers PLUS two extra days of park tickets at an unreasonably low rate.

All in all, vacation was great! Disney did an outstanding job of preparing for a hurricane, even if many guests didn’t realize it. The park and the Orlando area was largely spared, although areas of the northeast Florida coast and Georgia’s coast and the Carolinas were not as lucky. We had 8 park days and 10 days total at WDW this month … and I would argue that no one should ever spend that many days at Disney World; but if you do, be sure to pack enough diapers in case a category 4 hurricane possibly heads your way.

Breakfast with Mickey to kick off an eventful and long vacation!
Sarah Joy Hays is a native of Louisiana and graduate of LSU! She returned to Baton Rouge in 2015 after 6 years living and working in DC. She is a proud momma to an enthusiastic, red-haired toddler and is navigating all of this as a solo parent; fully relying on group texts with other moms, coffee, and Jesus. Sarah Joy, or SJ, has devoted much of her abundant spare time to the Moms on Campus, South Baton Rouge Presbyterian Church, and her newly founded Foundation that will focus on emergency disaster response. She claims to love to read, journal, and cook; but only manages one of the three out of daily necessity. SJ dreams of having a Target collaboration based on coffee mugs and dry shampoo one day… till then she will enjoy running her bakery CounterspaceBR and growing a consulting business!


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