Walt Disney World Vacation Part 2: Planning A Food Allergy Friendly Vacation…A Dad’s Point of View

During the month of June, I’m posting about allergy friendly vacations for the whole family.  Our family recently traveled to Disney World and had a fabulous experience despite the multiple food allergies in our family (peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, chickpea/garbanzo, and gluten).

During the next week, I’ll continue posting specifics about the specific restaurants of our Disney vacation to help those of you who are thinking of taking a trip there yourself.

In the meantime, I asked my hubby to do a guest post since he single-handedly did all the research and planning required for our family to have a safe and fun allergy-friendly vacation.  He did a FANTASTIC job and has some great words of advice.  I’m happy to share them with you in his own words…

Traveling with my family on vacation usually means eating at the same old restaurants that we know are safe.  Disney has so many unique places to eat that I didn’t want my family and I to miss out.

While researching Disney on allears.net (a great resource for Disney vacation planning), I found a great deal of information regarding dietary needs and food allergies.  I highly recommend you sign up for their weekly newsletter months before your trip.

Allears.net saved me hundreds of dollars because they advertised a Disney package deal that I might otherwise not have found.  They also have links to all the restaurant menus, restaurant reviews, and they list out which places are on the Disney Dining Plan (DDP).

Ok, back to the food.

Allears.net has a dietary section of their site.  While looking up gluten-free foods, I found information on who to email for any dietary needs.  I emailed them and by the next day, I had a slew of information about gluten-free foods and allergens in their foods. 

Disney was always quick to respond to any question I had.  The only thing they couldn’t provide me ahead of time was a list of all the nut free foods in Disney.  However, once we got to Disney, nut and peanut free options were always available (they paid close attention to the ingredient list and processing cross-contamination warnings) at each restaurant.

Disney also sent me a form to fill out that asked for all our restaurant reservation numbers, dining times, locations, family members and allergies.  Disney takes that forms and sends it to each restaurant’s chef ahead of time. When we finally made it to the restaurants, our reservations already showed that my kids and wife had allergies.  This prompted a very knowledgeable chef to come to our table and discuss our options…and there were tons of them!  Normally, most restaurants give you a couple of choices and maybe just one safe thing for the kids, but at Disney, my kids and wife were able to go thru the buffet lines and know what all was safe.  All our meals were enjoyable, filling, delicious AND we didn’t have one food allergy reaction of any kind.

Going back to the DDP, for anyone going to Disney, I would highly recommend going with the DDP.  It saved us easily a couple hundred dollars and we got to eat with the Disney characters on multiple occasions. 

The DDP we were on was the Magic your Way plus Dining Package (http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/vacation-packages/2011/dining/ ).  It gave each person in our family one table service meal, one counter service meal and one snack for each night of our package. Since we stayed 5 nights and have 4 people (2 adults, 2 kids) in our family, it came out to 20 table service meals, 20 counter service meals and 20 snacks that could be used anytime during our stay.  Being on the DDP does take some planning before you get to Disney, but the little time I spent making reservations and finding which restaurants we wanted to dine at was well worth it. 

Disney makes it easy to make online dining reservations but you can’t wait last minute or you’ll be eating dinner at either 4:30pm or 8:30pm.  The DDP is growing in popularity amongst Disney visitors which is a bad thing for those who don’t plan ahead.  With more people on the DDP, it means that more families will eat at sit down restaurants and character meals than ever before. 

Reservations are a must for sit down restaurants and character meals. Sometime reservation meals like Cinderella’s Castle with the princesses need to be made 6 months in advance! You are already waiting in lines for rides, why would you want to wait in line for a meal…especially if you have hungry children who are hot and tired?

Last thing to mention, if you have a smart phone, download the Undercover Tourist app (spend the $4.99 because the free one doesn’t do much). It shows all the restaurants, menus, and which one are on the dining plan. You can also call the restaurants from the app to make last minute reservations. Besides dining, the app also shows wait times for rides and parade times which is helpful so you aren’t walking to a ride just to know the wait is longer that you desire.

There you have it, my friends!  The above tips and suggestions took months and months of research and planning.  Hopefully Mark’s quick summary above will give you a starting place and help cut down on the hours you spend researching an FUN, safe, cost-conscious, and allergy-friendly Disney Vacation!

As Mickey would say, “Toodles!”

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