As most of my followers can sympathize, traveling with food allergies is not a simple task, not to mention extremely stressful and takes lots of advance planning. We travel quite a lot with our food allergic boys and although it has gotten easier over the years, it’s can still be challenging at moments.
Our family recently experienced our first trip to Walt Disney Word in Orlando, FL. It was a HUGE success and one of the most amazing vacations we have experienced as a young family!
This entire journey began a little over 5 months ago, when I contacted Lizzie, the author of http://allergyfreemouse.com and http://pixielizzie.com. Lizzie is a renowned travel agent specializing in “Allergy Safe Walt Disney Vacations.” It was literally music to my ears when I found Lizzie and started researching the concierge travel services she has to offer to her food allergy customers at Disney properties throughout the world. She has a daughter with life-threatening food allergies and understands the stresses food allergies puts on families during a vacation.
Since we only booked our trip 5 months out, it was crucial to get all of the logistics (ie. hotel accommodations, restaurant reservations, fast passes, etc.) booked ASAP. Lizzie was instrumental in walking me through this entire process which can be extremely stressful without the proper guidance. Additionally, she gave me several restaurant recommendations where she actually knew the chef personally and ensured me they would be able to cater to our boy’s life-threatening dairy, egg, peanut and tree nut allergies. When booking the restaurant reservations through My Disney Experience, I always carefully noted the food allergies for each reservation. Also, I sent an email 2 weeks before our departure date to: Special.Diets@DisneyWorld.com to make sure they had us “flagged” in their system for food allergy reservations. Because I’m a bit OCD, I called Disney 1 week prior to our departure to make sure they had our food allergies listed for every restaurant reservation. There were actually a few reservations which didn’t note the allergies and I was glad I called customer service to verify my online reservations. I quickly found that the key to a successful Disney vacation with food allergic children is careful advance planning, planning, and planning! Lizzie was a huge help with this as she provided me with check lists, email reminders, pages of allergy safe dining options, etc. We couldn’t have done it without Lizzie and all of her helpful resources!
We stayed at the Disney Polynesian Resort which was right on the Monorail and the most convenient location that met our family’s needs. The swimming pool was AMAZING! It was surrounded by about 8 lifeguards at all times which ensured our boy’s safety as they transcended down the water slide time after time! When Lizzie booked our accommodations, she requested a microwave be added to our room at no additional charge, “extra sanitizing of our room for food allergens prior to arrival,” and no down pillows. The room worked out great, as we were hardly in it. As a parent of kids with food allergies, I always travel with groceries that I keep in the hotel refrigerator for snacks, early breakfasts, etc. It’s always nice to have “safe” food on hand for my boys who are constantly hungry.
I have to note, upon checking in at the host desk at each restaurant, a ticket with our reservation was immediately printed. Our tickets always had the words written in bold red “ALLERGY” which was then placed on the table when we were seated. This was awesome and Disney really goes the extra mile to ensure the safe dining of their food-allergic guests. Additionally, I always immediately gave each of our servers my hot pink “Restaurant Allergy Card” that lists our individual food allergies and specifics about cross contamination. This card was also given to each head chef that came to our tables daily.
Many of my followers have requested restaurant recommendations that can accommodate food allergies and here are my detailed reviews.
Sit Down Restaurants (most require reservations through MyDisneyExperience):
Citricos Restaurant at the Grand Floridian: This was by far our favorite meal of the trip. Albeit a bit $$$ but well worth the experience in this Disney Signature restaurant. Chef Dave came to our table and our boys decided on the mickey mouse shaped pasta with marinara and broccolini. He even checked the gluten-free buns to make sure they were safe, as gluten free bread usually has eggs in it. They did not have eggs, and my boys were thrilled they could eat the bread at this restaurant and dip it in olive oil! This was our first WDW on-property dining experience and as a special surprise touch I pre-ordered an amazing chocolate chip mint dessert cake from Babycakes, Orlando https://www.erinmckennasbakery.com/orlando/. Our server brought it to the table with candles and our boys couldn’t have been happier! It was the perfect end to an amazing meal!
Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort: Our first morning at Disney we did the & Lilo and Stitch character breakfast at our hotel. It was a meal “choc full of carbs” but our children were delighted as they have NEVER, I mean NEVER been able to eat breakfast in a restaurant safely. Chef David came over to our table and explained that he “personally” cooks all of the allergen friendly meals separately. He even served the boy’s family-style breakfast to them which included: mickey shaped waffles, bacon, fresh assorted fruit, sausage, and delicious guava juice. It was an amazing breakfast and the icing on the cake was when our oldest son said, “Mom & Dad, I feel like a normal kid this morning.” It literally brought us to tears of joy! Thank you Disney and Chef David for your diligence and serving delicious allergy friendly meals! Special memories were definitely created!
Kona at Disney’s Polynesian Resort: Kona is one of the Disney restaurants that is piloting their new “allergy friendly menu” system. Our server brought out a separate menu for the boys which listed all of the ingredients for many appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Chef Karen came to our table and I presented her with our restaurant allergy card. I told her that our oldest son wanted a hamburger. I figured he would not be able to eat the bun so I actually had 2 pieces of bread in my purse that I brought from our hotel room. She said that was fine and we could assemble his burger at the table. She would also bake the sweet potato fries to avoid cross contamination. The boys also split the octopus salad for an appetizer and the veggie sushi rolls. The food was marginal but it was safe and we were exhausted that night, so it didn’t really matter.
Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios: Upon seating us, the host presented us with 3 different menus. An allergy-specific kid’s menu, allergy-specific adult menu and their standard menu. We typically all order off of the allergy friendly menu to make it easier for the chef when discerning our order. Raul, our server from Colombia, was very knowledgable about food allergies when I presented him our restaurant card. Our boys could again eat the bread here with olive oil which was a nice treat! The boys decided on the Vegetarian Pho entrée as an appetizer which was delicious. They each had the mickey mouse shaped pasta with marina sauce and steamed brocolini. What can I say, our boys are creatures of habit? We were all too full for dessert and wanted to rush outside to see the fireworks. I will note that Tofutti dairy free ice cream was on the dessert menu which I thought was AWESOME!
Toyko Restaurant, Japan in Epcot: I was a bit apprehensive about eating with our boys in Epcot due to pre-vacation research I had done on Epcot restaurants. From what I had researched, many of the restaurants in Epcot are not actually “Disney-owned” restaurants, and thus do not have the same Allergy standards that Disney has for all of their restaurants. However, we didn’t find this to be true at Toyko. From a peanut allergy perspective, Japanese cuisine is typically free of peanuts and most tree nuts. The manager of the restaurant came right over to our table and brought a huge binder that listed allergens in all of the menu items. She stressed that the sushi chef making our boy’s rolls would put on clean gloves and use a clean surface. Our boys each decided on edamame and the sushi veggie rolls. We had yet another delicious and safe meal at Disney and no one left hungry!
Koisks & Quick Service Stations:
—Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, Main Street U.S.A.: When we were in line, I handed one of the cast member our restaurant allergy card. She told us to stand over to the side. The manager then came out from the back room and told us they had Tofutti Vanilla and Chocolate. I made sure to explain to her the severity of our boy’s food allergies. She assured me she would scoop it in the back and all of the utensils would be clean and sanitized. Our boys each had a HUGE cup of Tofutti to cool them off during the hot afternoon!
—Food Kiosk near Tomorrowland Speedway: Our boys could have the Mickey shaped hot pretzels and the cotton candy. The cast members at this kiosk showed me the binder that listed the ingredients for all of the food products sold at this location.
Now that I have thoroughly reviewed all of our dining experiences I have to mention we took a decent-sized backpack into the park each day that contained the boy’s 4 epi-pens, inhalers and usually lots of snacks. I had all of the ingredients in our hotel fridge to make sandwhiches for the boys for a few days in the parks. We got sick of all of the junk food and tend to eat a pretty clean and healthy diet. Lots of snacks are key when you have growing kids that are constantly hungry. We always ate a nice sit down meal every night.
Overall, our trip to WDW in Orlando was a MAGICAL experience! It was so nice to feel “normal” and take most of the worry out of our dining experiences for a few days. Please fee free to contact me with any specific questions regarding this post or allergy free travel to WDW in general.