Some say a parenting right of passage is taking your kids to Walt Disney World. But, as we always do, it makes us consider parents of kids with food allergies. We turned to Sarah Norris of Gluten Free & Dairy Free at WDW for how to visit Disney with food allergies and dietary needs. She’s not affiliated with Disney, just a self-proclaimed Disney junkie (since age 2 1/2)! who is also a librarian (she knows how to research!), foodie and has several dietary restrictions. Here’s her insights and practical tips for planning your trip so it’s memorable in all the right ways. Thanks, Sarah!
The Allergy Info Kiosk at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.
When it comes to vacationing with special dietary needs, there is no better place than Walt Disney World. It truly is the most magical place on earth for visitors with food allergies, celiac disease and any other dietary need. Where else can you get fried chicken, beignets, and even Mickey-shaped waffles – all free of gluten and the top common allergens? Check out these Allergy Friendly Mickey Mouse Waffles from the Kona Cafe at Disney’s Polynesian Resort:
Here are some fun facts and tips to help plan your next vacation to Disney World with food allergies:
Contact Disney’s Special Diets Department: Disney has an entire department dedicated to special dietary needs? How cool is that? If you contact them by email, they’ll send you all sorts of helpful information, including reference sheets showing where to get your favorite food allergy products. They will also send you a form which you will fill out with your dining reservations and will be sent to Disney restaurants & chefs. The Special Diets Department can help answer any questions that you might have before your trip.
Meet with Disney chefs and managers: When it comes to providing safe options for visitors, Disney makes sure your experience is extra magical. The Disney culinary team goes through rigorous food allergy and cross contamination training to make sure that your meals are as safe as possible. They prepare food in dedicated areas and use dedicated equipment – including fryers for their allergy friendly chicken tenders and French fries! Just let a Disney cast member know that you have a special dietary need and they will get a chef for you (at a sit-down restaurant) or a manager (at a fast-food restaurant). You’ll always talk to someone before they make you any food, such as these Chicken Tenders and Fries from the Liberty Inn at Epcot:
Bring your own snacks: Did you know that Disney policy allows visitors with special dietary needs to bring their own snacks and meals into the theme parks? When you enter theme park security, just let them know you have special dietary needs and off you go! I frequently bring SunButter On-the-Go-Snack Packs with a banana or gluten free pretzels or make a SunButter and Jelly sandwich to munch on while in the parks.
Take advantage of hotel room refrigerators: Utilizing your hotel room’s amenities can be really helpful when vacationing. Not only can you save money on groceries by preparing some items in your room, like breakfast, but you can also ensure that you can still enjoy your favorite products or food routines while you travel. If you’re like me, that means packing SunButter’s Natural No-Stir Creamy with my favorite gluten-free and dairy free bread for breakfast.
Use grocery delivery service: If you do have access to a refrigerator or even a full kitchen, you’ll want to have some groceries on hand. If you don’t have a car or rental vehicle available or you want to spend more time in the parks, you can take advantage of grocery delivery services. The Orlando area has several, and even has one that specializes in food allergy and gluten free shopping – Orlando Theme Park Shoppers. They will make sure you have the groceries you need, when you need them!
Indulge in treats: When it comes to food and special diets, Disney can’t be beat! You’ll find all sorts of delicious food offerings available in the parks and resorts. If your kiddos crave chicken tenders, you can find gluten free and food allergy chicken tenders available at lots of locations. Looking for a pizza party? Lots of locations carry custom options and some locations carry up to four types of non-dairy cheese! And of course, who could miss the famous Mickey-shaped waffles? Disney makes a version that is gluten free and free of the top common allergens. Disney also carries treats from Babycakes NYC, the dedicated gluten free, dairy free, soy free, egg free, and vegan bakery – donuts, cupcakes, and cookies are always on the menu! And check out this Allergy Friendly Fried Chicken from Disney World’s 50′s Prime Time Cafe.
As you can see, Disney World truly is a magical place for visitors with special dietary needs. And this is just a small portion of the magic! You can find lots of information about visiting Disney with dietary needs on their website, as well as sites like mine: Gluten Free & Dairy Free at WDW. Some of my other favorite sites include: Gluten Free in Orlando and Allergy Free Mouse.
Will you be at Disney World this fall? You’ll want to check out the first Food Allergy & Celiac Convention held at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and Convention Center. Designed for those with food allergies and celiac disease, this event is set to highlight and celebrate awareness while providing samples, demos, workshops, information, and more! You can find out more information about the Food Allergy & Celiac Convention at http://celebrateawareness.com/.
Disney’s Epcot is full of more food allergy-friendly offerings all the time.