Disney…The Happiest Place On Earth: A Guest Post From Allergyfreemouse.com

Since beginning The Food Allergy Mom blog not quite a year ago, I’ve been fortunate to hear from so many wonderful people who support the food allergy community and do simply amazing things.  I have to confess, today’s guest post is from one of those wonderful people who provides a simply FANTASTIC resource for families with food allergies. 

As the mom of a family with food allergies, I used to think of vacations as something we would never be able to safely do.  Now, I know better thanks to the support and encouragement from people like Liz at Allergyfreemouse.com.  Just this summer my family and I visited Walt Disney World for the very first time and had a wonderful experience…even with multiple food allergies. 

I know you will embrace Liz’s story and marvel at the resource she is providing to the food allergy community.  Please take a moment to read her post and then head on over to Allergyfreemouse.com and check it out!

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We are so thankful to The Food Allergy Mom and the great information she shares with her readers on this website. This website is a great resource. We are also thankful that she shared her Disney dining experiences on our website, helping other people with food allergies discover the magic of Disney without the stress we all experience when we travel. We are very grateful for the opportunity to share our story here.

Our daughter was born with a severe dairy, egg, and beef allergy. She has outgrown the egg allergy and the beef allergy has gotten much better. However, her dairy allergy is still severe. In fact, she cannot even touch dairy! As anyone knows, as parents of food allergy kids, we have to be “on guard” all of the time. Kids eat everywhere these days – it keeps them quite, busy and complacent, but it also impacts our lives. Play dates, swimming pools, restaurants, parks, classrooms, birthday parties and other events keep us on high alert!

If everyday life posed such challenges, could we ever go on vacation? The thought of cooking and preparing all of her meals seemed daunting. Of course, I would do it, with a smile. But what if I didn’t have to? And what if we could go somewhere exciting and someone could actually cook a safe meal for my child? That sounded like a true dream vacation for the whole family.

A friend of ours went to Disney World and raved about how they treated her child, who has a peanut allergy. She is a pharmacist and convinced me that our daughter would be in great hands. I was skeptical, but she encouraged me to try. I planned our trip (not knowing much) and took enough food to cover our daughter’s meals, just in case I didn’t feel comfortable. We arrived at our hotel and I unpacked an enormous amount of food, only to repack it later to take it home at the end of our trip!

We had a wonderful time. The managers, the chefs and the wait staff really understood. The dining experiences were fantastic. However, we found other food contact issues that we didn’t expect. Our daughter’s first skin reaction (hives) was from sitting down (wearing shorts) on a bench where someone had been eating ice cream. Benadryl and baby wipes took care of that. Easy fix, but always scary. The next day she wore a dress with leggings and we wiped down chairs and tables at every stop. We eagerly went to meet Pooh and Friends at the Crystal Palace. She had pictures taken with them, they signed her autograph book and she received hugs from them all. Then came reaction number two – hives on her left cheek. Baby wipes and Benadryl again. I made a note to be sure to wipe her face after she hugged any Disney Character. The rest of the week went smoothly, with no reactions.

Knowing we were going to come again, I made a list of dos and don’ts for our next visit. I shared them with everyone I knew who wanted to visit Disney. I added our growing list of grocery stores, hospitals, the best restaurants, etc. to help others. Before I knew it, I had a great deal of information to share. Being a teacher for 20 years, I frequently find myself educating people about food allergies.

Amazingly, very few people know about the safe measures Disney has created for our little ones. We see this on every visit. I thought it would be great to create a website that is dedicated to Disney and food allergies, to get the latest information – a place where people share restaurant reviews, tips, and dos and don’ts for all food allergies. There are plenty of sites devoted to Disney and 4 or 5 websites for food allergy dining reviews. But no one focuses on Disney, and it is such a magical treat. Therefore, we created AllergyFreeMouse.com for Disney fans with food allergies.

I organized all of our information into logical groupings. Then my husband designed and built the site and made it very search engine friendly so people could find it easily. Plus, he helped write some of the content. It’s truly a family project. From time to time, I also post recipes to share on our blog. They’re not related to Disney, but they’ve been very popular for those with food allergies.

We’ve been back 3 times and love it more each time. So, our daughter has eaten at “the World” for a total of 21 days now, and only had two contact reactions. Oh – and we had FUN to boot!

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The Food Allergy Mom Currently Featured at AllergyFreeMouse.com

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that most of my June and some of my July posts were dedicated to fun and safe vacation destinations for food allergy families.  One of my favorite destinations is Walt Disney World in Florida.

To that end, the folks at AllergyFreeMouse.com asked me if I would mind doing a guest post.  AllergyFreeMouse.com is a site dedicated to helping individuals with food allergies safely navigate Walt Disney World and is crammed full of helpful tips and even restaurant recommendations.

I am honored to be featured on their blog and you can read my post at: http://www.allergyfreemouse.com/2011/07/multiple-food-allergy-disney/.  Be sure to stop by and check it out!

Hope you are having a fabulous summer!

Colorado, The Food Allergy Friendly State: Part 2

This will be my final post for my allergy friendly summer vacation destination series…and quite possibly my favorite.

So far I’ve covered vacation destinations popular for those that crave summer heat and the thrill of amusement parks.  After all that sweltering heat and fast-paced fun, I think it’s time to head north for some rest, relaxation, and cooler temperatures.  Don’t you?

Let’s do.  Onward ho to Colorado!

In “Colorado, The Food Allergy Friendly State: Part 1” I sing the praises of Colorado as a vacation destination for the food allergy family.  For Part 2, I’m sharing first-hand information on where to go and what to do when you get there.  And take it from me…get there as fast as you can!

Once you’ve crossed the state line, be sure to stop and visit the visitor’s center for tons of free information on any place in Colorado and don’t forget to sign up for your free baseball cap!  My kids loved them!

There are truly more wonderful places to visit in Colorado than I have time to write about, so I’ll narrow it down to my favorite three:  Colorado Springs, Denver, and Estes Park.

*A quick disclaimer here.  If you’re child has asthma or respiratory difficulties, please talk with your doctor about how to prep for before, during, and after your trip.  My son suffers from asthma, so I was careful to visit with his allergist about the dry air and increase in elevation.  Because we planned ahead and took the necessary precautions, he has had no asthma-related troubles during our visits.*

COLORADO SPRINGS

Colorado Springs is a seemingly HUGE city nestled at the foot of the mountains and is rated as one of the fittest cities in America.  (Side note:  It is also rated as one of the most pet-friendly cities in America so take care in finding a pet-free hotel if your child has allergies to common household pets.)

Hotels and restaurants are a dime a dozen here, though as stated in my previous post food allergies shouldn’t pose a problem for you.

Colorado Springs boasts a ton of tourist attractions filled with local flavor.  Some of my favorite attractions are:  United States Air Force Academy, Flying W Ranch, Garden of the Gods, Pike’s Peak, U.S. Olympic Training Center, Seven Falls, and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Special Notes:  1)  The Flying W Ranch is a fabulous family oriented event that serves a cowboy chuck wagon dinner buffet style.  I simply called ahead to alert them of my gluten-free diet and my son’s peanut, nut, sesame, chickpea/garbanzo allergies and they graciously accommodated us.  2)  The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is hands down one of the best zoos I’ve ever visited.  Be sure to take the tram up and walk down the mountain through the zoo.  Don’t miss the giraffes – the whole family can feed and pet them!  It’s a one of a kind experience!

DENVER

Denver is kind of like the gluten-free capitol of the United States.  There are many gluten-free brands such as Udi’s that are headquartered there.

The city boasts a zoo, great shopping, the arts, and sports.  There are more things to do here than there are hours in the day…and all of them are in great weather in the summer!

My favorite Denver experience was attending a Colorado Rockies major league baseball game.  Even if you’re not a baseball fan, you can’t help but enjoy the breathtaking scenery surrounding the open-air stadium.  In addition, (and this is my favorite part) Coors Field offers fans gluten-free fare at a dedicated gluten-free food stand.  I was able to enjoy a real stadium hot dog with sides and a dessert!  This was so exciting because an allergy friendly food booth is something we simply don’t have at ANY sports arena in Houston.  (Houston…we have a problem!)

ESTES PARK

This small Colorado town is a little slice of heaven.  It is a small, tourism-based town located less than 10 miles from Rocky Mountain National Park that is literally teeming with friendly locals, fresh mountain air, and amazing wildlife.

The main attraction at Estes Park is the great outdoors.  Although there are dozens of creek and mountain-side inns, our favorite is the Wildwood Inn located less than a mile from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.  They are a pet-free facility and will switch out the normal down bedding with more allergy friendly replacement bedding.  They offer several different sizes of cabins with a hot tub, kitchenette, and spa options.  All rentals have a spacious outdoor balcony for soaking up that refreshing mountain air and viewing abundant wildlife.  Almost every morning and every evening we were blessed to see elk, deer, fox, and chipmunks…all from our balcony.  Only a short mile away in Rocky Mountain National Park we saw coyotes, bear, badgers, and marmots!

We filled our days in Estes Park by shopping the main corridor, horseback riding, looking for wildlife, hiking, and picnicking at the park.  It was blissful to fall into bed exhausted from all the day’s activities and sleep with the windows propped open.

Special Note:  While in Estes Park, be sure to visit Yetserday’s Ice Cream Shoppe as they are more than willing to find some safe ice cream to serve up to families with food allergies.  We had a wonderful experience there!

WARNING:  The only bad part about vacationing in Colorado is the very real possibility that you won’t want to come home!

Consider Colorado for your next vacation destination and if you’ve already been, please take a minute to share your experience with my readers.

Colorado, The Food Allergy Friendly State: Part 1

My next two posts will conclude my allergy-friendly summer vacation series…and it’s quite possible these will be my favorite vacation posts to date.

So far I’ve covered vacation destinations popular for those that crave summer heat and the thrill of amusement parks.  After all that sweltering heat and fast-paced fun, I think it’s time to head north for some rest, relaxation, and cooler temperatures.  Don’t you?

Let’s do!  Onward ho to Colorado!

Colorado has been a summer vacation destination for my family for the past two years and for many years to come I hope.  I am more relaxed and at peace there than any other time and place during the year.  It’s a great time to get back into touch with nature and recharge my batteries.

No we are not gluttons for punishment, but we did decide to make the full two-day drive to Colorado from Texas.  As tedious as the drive can be, it’s easier on the budget than flying and we took in some truly gorgeous scenery.

Most of the fabulous scenery is either the rich, green ranching fields of Texas, the rocky hills and plateaus of New Mexico, or the majestic forest-covered mountains of Colorado.  My point here is that there aren’t an abundance of restaurants or gas stations in the small communities sparsely located along the highways and interstates.  This will require a great deal of planning for the food allergy family.

You have two options when on the road.  One is to take an ice chest packed to the gills with safe meal and snack options such as sandwiches, granola bars, fruit, and cereal.  The second option is to identify safe meal options and large-scale chain restaurants that can be found in most small towns (think McDonald’s and Subway).

On some of our stops in larger cities we dined at restaurants with allergy-safe menu options.  Three of my favorite places we visited were Chili’s, Red Robin, and Romano’s Macaroni Grill.  All of these establishments have online and in-house menus for each of the top eight food allergens and they offer a fairly wide variety of food.

Now, let me stop here and say the one thing  I hope you take away from this post – Colorado is quite possibly the most allergy friendly state in the United States of America.  Food allergies are the rule here rather than the exception – and that was the case for EVERY SINGLE place we visited.

In many instances when I spoke one on one with the waiters, waitresses, and head chefs, they were able to offer me additional allergy friendly options that aren’t listed on the regular menu.

Most Colorado dining establishments not only accommodate food allergies, they welcome the chance to provide you with a hearty and tasty allergy friendly meal.

Now that I have you salivating over the tasty food that awaits you across the Colorado state line, stay tuned for “Colorado, The Food Allergy Friendly State: Part 2” for more information on where to go and what to do when you get there.