About a year ago, we visited Disney World for the first time with our children. I had been to Disney World several times with my family growing up, but this was a new experience for me – not only because we were bringing our children along, but because we were visiting with food allergies.
I was very nervous about this, mostly because Baby Bee does have a true egg allergy that I carry an Epi-Pen for at all times. In addition to the egg allergy, my sons and I also needed to avoid dairy and gluten due to our intolerances. At home I prepare most of our meals, and when we eat out, we know the restaurants, we are comfortable with what we order, and we are near to our pediatrician, allergist, and a hospital if we were to need it (hopefully not!).
The idea of staying at a gigantic theme park for five days with tons of people passing through and eating all manner of foods made me very nervous. However, I knew that lots and lots of children and adults with food allergies and intolerances go to Disney all the time, so I did some research, got ready for our trip, and was ready to have a great time! If you’re heading to Disney World with food allergies, here are my tips and experiences.
1. If you are planning to eat at the sit down restaurants at Disney, whether in the parks or in the resorts, make sure to visit this Special Dietary Requests page. There is information here about what allergies they are able to accommodate, what restaurants are able to accommodate special requests,and how to make dining reservations. Once you make reservations, you will need to fill out the Special Dietary Request Form, which is available from the online reservation page, or can be emailed or faxed to you if you make your dining reservations by phone. For a complete list of all Disney dining options, go here.
2. There are awesome resources on the web from people who visit Disney all the time with allergies. I found Allergy Free Mouse to be a very helpful resource. I especially liked browsing through he restaurant reviews – it’s always helpful to have an idea of what other families have experienced at different restaurants.
3. Bring a lot of allergy friendly snacks for yourself in order to avoid paying a million dollars for a granola bar. (Not really, but you know what I mean). Since I was a nursing mom when we visited Disney, I really needed to have snacks with me at all times. After I would nurse Baby Bee, I always needed a snack. In the Florida heat, with all the walking , plus breastfeeding, my blood sugar would get really low if I had to wait around to find a snack. I packed a ton of Larabars, apples, and also Earnest Eats Bars for our trip. (Affiliate links).
We also packed gluten free pretzels and potato chips for my six year old. This meant that my son’s carry-on bag was a large backpack that was just for food. Yes, we did have one snack per day paid for on our meal plan, and yes, we did still buy the occasional extra snack, but I just did not want to have to search all over the park to find an overpriced allergy friendly snack whenever hunger hit.
4. Look at EPCOT Center’s World Showcase for some allergy friendly dining options. Since the World Showcase has so many different types of cuisine from around the world, there are a lot of options that may work for your allergy needs. We had a great experience at the Tangierine Cafe for a quick service lunch. The hummus, chicken, and salad was tasty and fit in with our dietary needs. We also made reservations for a sit down dinner at the San Angel Inn Restaurant. Since we can’t do dairy, we did have to make sure that we avoided cheese and sour cream, but the chips, salsa, guacamole, tacos, and tostadas were delicious. Update: A commenter pointed out that these restaurants are not run by Disney, and there may be a language barrier at some of them, so proceed with caution.
5. Be ready to talk to the chef or manager every time you order food. Yup, EVERY single time you order anything, you will need to speak to the chef at a sit down restaurant, and a manager at a quick service restaurant. This was comforting to me, because it shows that they do take the dietary needs of their guests very seriously. You will speak to the chef or manager, tell them what your needs are, and they will go over the menu with you in detail and tell you what they can make for you that will be safe for you to eat. The nice thing about Disney is that they are so used to dealing with food allergies that it is never a big deal. They do go out of their way to make your experience as magical as possible. At one restaurant when my son could not have any of the desserts on the menu, the chef made a special dessert with Enjoy Life cookies and rice milk ice cream for him. I really appreciated the extra effort that was put into making us feel comfortable.
6. However, mistakes still happen. We were eating dinner at the Whispering Canyon Cafe, and the chef there was so nice and attentive, and assured us that we could enjoy the chicken, veggies without butter, and roasted potatoes without butter. When our food was brought out, there was a big pile of creamy mashed potatoes on the special allergy platter. I was pretty sure that we were supposed to be getting roasted potatoes, so I had to flag down our server to figure out what was going on before we could start eating. She had to find the chef, and yes, the kitchen did indeed make a mistake. They whisked our platter away and made a new one for us with the safe potatoes. Mistakes happen, and it’s important to be alert, and ask questions if you are not sure! The manager of course came over and apologized for the mishap.
7. If you have a serious egg allergy, and are a nervous person, character breakfasts are probably not for you. I signed us up for a character breakfast knowing that there would be eggs served, but that they would be able to accommodate our allergy, and when I walked in and saw a busy room full of children and parents being served huge platters of eggs, I panicked. I knew that there were eggs everywhere in that room, and the idea of having Baby Bee in a high chair that probably had egg particles on it was too much for me. Baby Bee and I left while the rest of our family stayed and ate. I realize that might sound extreme, but as soon as I saw all the eggs, I knew I wouldn’t be able to relax and enjoy the meal, so it wasn’t worth it. If you don’t have a serious egg allergy, this probably won’t bother you.
That’s about it for the tips, but I will share some of the restaurants that we enjoyed while we were there:
Pecos Bill’s Cafe in the Magic Kingdom – This was a good quick lunch stop for us. They were more than willing to accommodate our allergies, and we ate lunch there a couple of times. It was best to eat lunch a little early or a little late to avoid long lines.
Plaza Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street – We were able to get dairy free ice cream here, and that was a big hit with my six year old.
Sanaa – We love our Indian food, and had a really nice sit down meal at Sanaa, located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas. It was easy to find options that were gluten, dairy, and egg free. I really enjoyed the Chana Masala.
Portobello at Downtown Disney – Everyone enjoyed their pasta dishes at Portobello. I was able to order gluten free pasta with garlic and oil, and it was fabulous. Truly delicious, and one of the best dining experiences we had at Disney.
The other spot that I really liked in Downtown Disney was Babycakes NYC, which had gluten free, egg free, dairy free, and refined sugar free baked goods that were really yummy. Unfortunately I just found out that they closed about six months ago. Boo! I’m hoping that Disney will put another allergy friendly meal or dessert option in its place.
I hope that this has been helpful! If you’ve been to Disney, please share your tips in the comments!
Linking up to some of these parties.
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