All during the month of June, I’m posting about safe and FUN vacation destinations for families with food allergies. Today I’m following-up to some earlier posts on planning a vacation to Walt Disney World in Florida.
I’m happy to report that my sweet family and I (two of us have food allergies) just returned from an absolutely FABULOUS, WONDERFUL, AMAZING vacation at Walt Disney World (WDW). We stayed out late every night taking advantage of the cooler evening temperatures and were up early to hit the most popular rides…with long afternoon naps in between. We couldn’t have had more fun if we tried!
Hands down, the coolest thing about this vacation was eating allergy-friendly food wherever we went. That’s right. Read that sentence again. It is a truly liberating feeling…and one that will spoil me for future vacation destinations. They aren’t kidding when they say WDW is the happiest place on earth…it’s the truth!
We made the long two-day drive from Texas. A two-day drive poses one problem, you will have to stop somewhere before reaching the safe allergy-friendly haven of WDW. So where can you safely eat and stay along the way?
Now stick with me here, because most of this entry will be about food. It’s not that I have food on the brain (well kind of I do) but I know that is the most difficult part of planning a vacation for a family with food allergies. So…I’m sharing my experiences with you to hopefully help you pave the way toward a safe and fun allergy-friendly vacation for your own family.
We stopped by McDonald’s and treated ourselves to breakfast before hitting the open road. My son who has peanut, tree nut, sesame, and chickpea allergies safely dined on pancakes and orange juice. I have celiac and enjoyed orange juice and a yogurt parfait minus the granola. It was a special treat as we seldom eat breakfast out.
For lunch we stopped at a Subway somewhere in Mississippi. My son enjoyed a kids Veggie Delight sandwich on wheat bread with a drink and chips (chips are in the bag so you can check the ingredient labels on each kind). I ate the steak and cheese salad which is steak and cheese atop any veggie you want. I always request just salt and pepper and oil and vinegar instead of dressing. (*It is a good idea to ask the servers to use clean gloves before making your meal to cut down on cross-contamination. Visit Subway’s website for a complete food allergen listing.)
Our final destination for day one was Destin, Florida. A beautiful beach town filled with great restaurants and fun things to do. However, after being in the car for almost 10 hours, the only thing we wanted to do was grab a quick bite and hit the gorgeous beach! So dinner was quick this night and the kids had chicken nuggets with fries and I had the chargrilled chicken garden salad with Thousand Island dressing. (*Be sure to visit Chick-Fil-A’s website for some special notes about peanut allergies and dining at Chick-Fil-A.)
We stayed at a Holiday Inn along the beach. Hotels are generally not as big of a challenge as food for our family when vacationing. I simply request a non-smoking, pet-free room. This particular hotel was a barrel of fun for the kids because they can sleep on bunk beds that face their own little tv/dvd stand and kids table. The adults’ bed is on the other side and they have their own tv and table as well.
To help cut our costs while vacationing, for the reminder of vacation breakfasts we ate the mini-boxed cereals you can buy at the grocery store and just added milk. It was satisfying, fast, and safe!
The next morning after dining on cereal, we hit the open road again stopping at McDonald’s in a little Florida town for lunch this time. The kiddos got chicken nuggets and apple slices OR the yogurt parfait minus the granola. Although McDonald’s offers gluten-free menu options on their website, I am not fond of those options…so I opted for a nearby Subway for another salad.
Finally that evening we arrived at The Wilderness Lodge, a hotel on WDW grounds. (I’ll sing their praises more in a later post.) After throwing our stuff in the room, we headed to Downtown Disney. We ate at Wolfgang Puck Express and it was wonderful. A staff member extremely well-versed in food allergies explained what our viable food options would be for my son’s and my allergies. She was patient, knowledgeable, and very friendly. Though we all had several allergy-friendly options, the kids opted for pizza and I had a delicious salad. Then we all ate some creamy frozen yogurt that really hit the spot! (*Special Note: Dining in WDW is not cheap, so we highly recommend choosing the WDW dining plan when making your vacation plans. It will save you a huge chunk of change!)
I’ve given you a lot to digest here (please forgive the pun), so I’ll break and include more in my next post.