Hyatt Regency at the Orlando International Airport was a blessing for many fleeing Hurricane Matthew.
By Jacob Engels
As Hurricane Matthew was on it's final approach and still projected to hit East Central Florida as a Category 4 or 5, I decided to head for the Hyatt Regency to get a little further away from it's potentially catastrophic effects.
Thankfully, inland Central Florida dodged a bullet as the storm became weaker and shifted East on it's final approach, but waiting out a hurricane in a hotel was actually pretty neat.
Below are 5 reasons why we recommend it next time our area is at risk, some are strategic and others are creature comforts.
Backup Generators for the Backup Generators
Though this might not be the case for all hotel or lodging options, the Hyatt Regency had a unique advantage over several other options I considered.
Since it is embedded in MCO, one of the nation's busiest airports, hotel staff and TSA agents informed guests that even in a worst case scenario, power & water would more than likely remain on.
Backup generators for the backup generators as one staff member quipped "You won't have to worry about that."
And in a serious storm, having the ability to at least charge your cell phones, hook up your AM/FM radios (if you forgot batteries), and stay entertained on your iPad is a big deal.
Pet Friendly, All Shapes & Sizes
For those with furry friends that need our protection and comfort during a hurricane, this is an absolute MUST if you need to hunker down somewhere other than home or with family.
When securing a hotel reservation is your only option, it must be one that works for all members of your household. Dogs, cats, hamsters, you name it. Some hotels and shelters, even during a disaster have been known to turn away those who have brought their furry friends.
Thankfully, Hyatt Regency is already used to accommodating pets and waived pet fees for those evacuating the East Coast of Florida. Better yet, pets were given full access to the property, so pet owners did not have to leave them locked in the room.
Even at dinner at the iconic McCoy's restaurant and bar, staff allowed for me to bring my black labradoodle Jasper to sit with us. No one scoffed, not even other guests, or complained... we were all simply waiting it out together.
During my Thursday night stay, we saw dogs, cats, hamsters, and I think even a ferret. It was pretty cool.
Full Service Restaurant & Bar
This was a point of concern for me at first when we informed that everything would be operating at full-tilt, despite the storm. Would employees be stuck in the storm trying to get home, could they be hurt or stranded doing so?
However, one waitress informed us that the general manager of the Hyatt Regency had prepared the ballrooms and meeting spaces with beds, living room set-ups, and more for those who were taking care of guests during the storm.
Staff gets to continue working and earning money, guests get access to food and drink, and the hotel does not miss out on their earnings.
Lastly, the security level of MCO, which can be accessed from the hotel, is home to a Starbucks that was prepared to be operational for the duration of the hurricane.
Great food, full bar, and a Starbucks... sounds a lot better than no power, water, and those old MRE's your Uncle Mike dropped by doesn't it?
Safety & Security
As the night progressed I realized that MCO had retained a good force of TSA and security officers to patrol the grounds, keeping the airport and hotel safe.
It was also rumored among guests that they were using Hyatt Regency as a staging point for local first responders, and I soon witnessed over a dozen fire-fighters and EMT's holding court.
So, instead of being stuck somewhere that police and firefighters can't access, why not be situated at a place where they can easily help you in case something did go wrong?
The Bottom Line
What did it cost? Room rates varied based on our search of the hotels website and online booking services, but it was in the range of $220 to $400 nightly if you wanted some of the more exclusive rooms. Now, that does sound like a lot for most people, but think about it.
After you purchase the water, food, board up the house, etc... it is still an expensive process to be prepared.
One should not come in the place of another, however, your safety and those that you live with should be the utmost concern.
To have access to clean water, food service, and first responders on site if you had to wait out a Category 5? That sure beats being stuck in a shelter, fighting over limited resources, being exposed to scenarios where illnesses spread like wildfire.
Look, we live in Florida and if you saved $100 a month in a Hurricane Preparedness Fund, you would have more than enough money to prepare your home and check in to a hotel.
We usually only need 24-72 hours maximum to get through the more dangerous effects of hurricanes before you can head home and regroup.
Save your energy, relieve stress, and consider booking a hotel next time around.
At worst you get a staycation or save a little extra money you can re-allocate for something else!
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. His work through these publications has been showcased in hundreds of publications and news outlets in the state of Florida, the United States, and around the globe. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at email@example.com