Florida’s theme parks closing as Irma approaches

- FILE - The Spaceship Earth Sphere at Epcot Center Illuminated At Night at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida (Image: Big Stock Photo)

ORLANDO (AP/WTNH) — Florida’s major theme parks are planning to close as Hurricane Irma approaches the state.

Officials at Walt Disney World in Orlando announced Friday afternoon that its parks will close on Saturday and remain closed through Monday.

Universal Orlando announced on its website that it will close at 7 p.m. Saturday and will remain closed through Monday. Officials said they anticipate reopening on Tuesday.

SeaWorld in Orlando and Busch Gardens, which is in Tampa, also announced plans to shut down at 5 p.m. Saturday and remain closed through Monday.

How do you prevent a storm like Irma from impacting your travel plans? What do you do if you already had plans to visit an area in the storm’s path?

Experts recommend using a travel agent. This is someone who can help you not only plan your trip, but figure out what to do if the unexpected – like a hurricane – happens.

Noel Zanvettor owns Noel 4 Travel. She’s been working with families who had planned to visit areas impacted by Hurricane Irma, and are now trying to figure out what to do.

“I’m seeing clients who are very frustrated, very upset about trips they’ve planned for six months, a year,” she said.

Zanvettor recommends preparing for the worst when planning a trip. She says the best thing you can do is buy trip insurance, which can reimburse you up to 100 percent of the cost of the trip.

“[With] insurance, when you have it it’s nothing,” she said. “When you don’t have it it’s everything because you’re sweating it.”

Even if you don’t have insurance, there’s still help out there. Parks like Disney World will work with you.

Pino Parisi, who owns Pino Travel in Meriden, says reach out to your airline as well.

“They work with you and actually you can change your flight,” he said. “You don’t even have to pay the penalty.”

Travel agents say some people are determined to take their vacation when they had planned it, even if that means traveling shortly after the storm hits.

“The best thing for them is to cancel and reschedule, not to even try to go down there,” Parisi said.

Though it is possible to lose money or to have to change plans when Mother Nature steps in, experts say there are still options. They key is to be flexible.

“You may not get your ideal flight,” said Zanvettor. “You may not get your ideal time. You may be delayed, but you just have to have patience.”

If you’re buying insurance you’ll have to buy it early. You can’t add it on when you hear a hurricane might hit your vacation destination. Experts say it typically costs about 10 to 12 percent of the cost of your trip.

Last October, the theme parks also closed down for Hurricane Matthew, which skirted Florida’s southeast coast.