Dreaming of a family vacation? Seems everyone you know has visited Disney….but not everyone has a child with food allergies. Worried about how to keep your little one safe? What will they eat? Will I have to pack food for them? How will I be sure their food is being prepared without cross contamination? Believe me, I get it! I know the worry. I am here to tell you Disney is on top of it! Food allergies and Disney can go together!
I’m a mother to a three year old daughter and a five year old son with multiple life threatening food allergies. We go to Disney annually. Why? Well, for starters obviously the kids LOVE it. My son enjoys the rides and my daughter is really into all the characters. There is something so magical about it. Maybe it’s even more magical to me because it’s the one place that I feel I can relax a little. I can sit back and let someone else prepare a safe meal (food allergy families know how exhausting meal prep can be)! I also remember fondly our first trip to Disney after my son was diagnosed. We sat on the sidewalk of Main Street Magic Kingdom outside of Plaza Ice Cream Parlor. All four of us sat there eating chocolate ice cream (he downed his chocolate tofutti ice cream at record speed). To anyone walking by it wasn’t a big deal but to me it was a huge deal! I sat there with tears in my eyes. I was so happy he could feel like one of the other kids. He was included…that’s priceless to any parent.
Before your vacation, visit Disney online to learn more about their concern over keeping guests safe and how they handle special diet requests. You can even email Disney at SpecialDiets@DisneyWorld.com. When we first started visiting Disney we’d email and receive a form to complete with your allergies and your dining reservation numbers. That way when you arrive at any of your pre-booked table services/dining locations they already have your allergy noted in their computer system. Disney is truly that good! When we arrive at any sit down restaurant in which we have a reservation we tell the wait staff immediately that we have a food allergy in the party. A chef will then visit our table to confirm what allergies our son has and tell us what can safely be prepared for him. I’m telling you his food always comes out looking better than ours! They even have safe dessert options such as allergy friendly cookies, brownies, tofutti ice cream, fruit, and popsicles. My son has two favorite sit down/table-service locations . Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary where he can order “safe” mickey shaped waffles that look exactly like his sisters! The other location is Tappen Edo in the World Showcase/Epcot. This place is so much fun! They cook your food in front of you and really put on a show while doing so. My son’s food is prepared first on a clean grill. Everything is fresh and delicious.
Even quick service locations have many options available. Just make your way to the register to order and they will have a manager come out to discuss safe options. They typically have an allergy binder with all the food options including nutrition and ingredient lists. Tip: Allergy orders do take longer to prepare so you must have patience. Don’t wait until your child is having a complete meltdown over being hungry (yes, lesson learned).
If you are on the dining plan, on property resorts have quick service meal options. It’s best to approach a Disney cast member to ask how to order. Usually you speak directly with the chef or with the operating manager who will help you pick safe dining options. Many locations even have snack options for allergy guests (soy milk, enjoy life cookies, prepackaged gluten free brownies, fruit).
Disney also just rolled out allergy friendly menus at more than 100 restaurants in Disney World and Disneyland. They are meant to provide a convenient way for guests to manage their food allergies and to provide more food options that are readily available. These menus will not replace the chef or other trained cast member being accessible to guests. I’ve yet to see these menus but I’m excited to check them out on our next vacation in September.
Disney is a dream vacation for anyone traveling with allergies. They take pride in how they prepare meals and in all the options there are for their special diet guests. The first trip I packed so much food! Now I pack a few favorite snacks, Ritz crackers and a container of soy peanut butter. There are always options in their stores too. We love their prepackaged mickey shaped pretzels which are dairy, egg, peanut and tree nut free. I think you’ll be surprised at how much you can eat once you start reading their food labels.
Some of our favorite allergy friendly dining locations are listed below:
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café – quick service
Pinocchio Village Haus – quick service
Casey’s Corner- quick service
Plaza Ice Cream Parlor- quick service
Liberty Inn- quick service
Sunshine Seasons Food Court –quick service
Coral Reef –table service
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall – table service
Teppan Edo –table service
Backlot Express –quick service
50’s Prime Time Café – table service
Erin McKenna’s BabyCakes Bakery (vegan & gluten-free)
Restaurantosaurus- quick service
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review – Fort Wilderness Resort
Chef Mickey’s – Contemporary Resort
So what are you waiting for? Food allergies and Disney can go together! Book your Disney trip today!
Blog by: Danelle Matlack, author of Alfie the Allergic Alligator Goes to School
Danelle M. (Kressirer) Matlack has a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Cabrini College and an MBA from Alvernia University. Prior to becoming a stay at home mom, she worked in corporate communications and community relations. Her son lives with multiple life threatening food allergies and was the inspiration for writing her first children’s book. She resides in the Philadelphia suburbs with her two children and husband.
-Alfie the Allergic Alligator Goes to School is available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Mascot Books. Every food allergy family should have a copy of this memorable book.
Alfie is starting school. If that wasn’t nerve-wracking enough, now Mama wants him to wear an allergy alert bracelet. Why not just scream out, “I’m different! I have food allergies!”
Will Alfie have the courage to go to school, meet new friends, and share new experiences? Or will he stay hiding under his covers forever?
Alfie the Allergic Alligator Goes to School helps children learn about food allergies and how to cope with the diagnosis. Alfie experiences several emotions as he deals with starting school among his non allergic peers. This book will encourage discussion and help children, parents, and teachers promote food allergy awareness.