Disney Dining With Allergies
Our most recent trip to Disney was a great family experience and as usual, DISNEY made my kids brim with a smile from ear to ear. My most challenging moments as a mom of 3 are the food allergies that 2 of my 3 children have. My one has food allergies that could prove fatal and must carry an Epi Pen everywhere, and my daughter can tolerate nothing with Gluten in it and has Crohn’s, making meals very limiting.
Dining out is a nightmare, but with proper planning anything can be avoided and in many cases we can dine out. The more I open my mouth, the more I ask, the more I learn. There are many of ‘me’ out there who feel like all they do is advocate for their kids, but that is your job. Just because most don’t have allergies, where is it written that those that do suffer from food alergies should not be able to dine out? We recently dined in both Universal and Disney and I have to tell you that Universal and Disney have their acts together with the dining. Here is the down and dirty on eating with allergies while on vacation, at Disney, as we lavishly lived our dining out loud, eating food, snacks and meals day long in the happiest place on earth.
The problem in Disney is not finding Gluten Free, Nut Free, Latex Free, Shellfish free food, rather it is the wait that is involved in ascertaining this food. In general the eateries that offer walk-up and stand in a line were the most cantankerous. I would have to announce to the cashier that we had a food allergy, and that was never a problem, but the line behind me and the wait that was about to occur, that was the problem. We would place our regular order, for my husband, one son and self and then the magical adventure would begin.
The food manager for the counter would come and speak to us(glad they did this). This point person would take our order, advise us of our options and then(and I am not kidding) at a minimum of a 15 minute wait and sometimes about 24 minutes we stood in a line while people bumped, pushed and shoved past for lack of any other place to wait. We waited for gluten free bread, special food handling, chips to be obtained from across the park(in Hollywood Studios), and it took forever. We were never able to eat together as the food was so staggered so if we got hot foods it was cold by the time the kids got their ‘special menu’ . It is possible to dine at Disney, but plan on ordering your food ahead in order to get the meals all at the same time. I appreciated the safety and the concern, but at some points it was just over-the-top with waits
While you might say, “Dana it is great they could do this and keep the kids safe,” is it great or is it alienating and upsetting? I have to tell you, that it is unnerving standing there waiting for food and your order not coming up while people listen to all your kid’s allergies, it really is NO ONE Else’s business! The kids were so frustrated at one point they just asked me to pass on lunch, because it was such a hassle. Vacations are supposed to be fun for everyone, and at points I felt like the dining was stressful and should not have been. The food itself was Disney amazing, but we the lines and people hearing what all we had to avoid was nightmarish.
OPTIONS & Where TO
The options are not well marked, and you have to inquire everywhere, there is no such thing as just Gluten Free menu, except in Animal Kingdom where there is a little walk up food booth that offers Gluten Free(Garden Kiosk) foods and for $5.50 you can purchase ONE cupcake or how about more for a bag of special chips and so on. At this booth, you can also find out all the special dining options that are in Animal Kingdom and then figure out where you want to eat in Animal Kingdom. There are binders with food ingredients at many of the places in Disney, but you don’t get access to these until you are ready to order. Why are those without allergies so easily able to access food and why did those with allergies have to wait to discover their options? Wouldn’t make more sense to have the food options, and ingredients ready and accessible on everyone involved from those standing in line to those taking the orders?
My suggestion in Animal Kingdom is to eat at the Garden Kiosk. We found hot dogs that offered potato buns, with packaged carrots, grapes and a water for my one son with all the allergies for about $7, and for my daughter we came up with a GF Turkey breast sandwich that had cranberry mayo on GF Bread. There was plenty of seating under cover and the kids were content(do not the birds that were around were definitely there to eat, so be prepared to share). We also found Edamame Beans between Africa and our walk to Asia. These were the most awesome treat we had on the whole trip! The beans were cooked to perfection and the little u-boat they were served in was super cute. I think we were at Mr. Kamal’s.
I can suggest, but I will say CHECK and double check: Popcorn was an item both children could dine on without problems throughout both parks and often we found fresh fruit so we purchased that often.
Dining in the Disney restaurants was not much easier. If you remember our trip to Tony’s Town Square was not a great ending to a long day. The waiting staff brought out a kitchen manager(chef) who took an order, that came out wrong and it really was not outstanding food, but the price was of course exorbitant. The idea that some of us could order immediately and the rest of the family had to wait, separate order and then wait extra time for their meals made it a bit less relaxing.
My One Suggestion To Disney, if you ever read my blog:
Bottom line: you can eat in these parks, but you have to plan ahead, and be prepared to wait longer than the normal consumer. I get the safety factor, and appreciate the concern, but with all the people dining with allergies(there are lots) you would think that the most magical place might simply open a dedicated line in every facility for Allergen Free Foods, Order Here. It would take out the wait and the kitchen might need to dedicate areas for food compliance.
The dining will create you to lose time waiting for the foods, but they do have the Gluten Free, Nut Free, Shellfish free foods available. It becomes a decision: a wait in line to eat, or a wait in line for food? The allergen free foods are delicious. Disney offers so many great things, I just don’t understand why they can’t have a few dedicated facilities where if you have food allergies, or a Gluten Intolerance, a place that you can just walk in, grab stuff and eat, like people without allergies do? This is the most magical place in the world, but the magic is not happening in the food for people with food and allergies. I do hope Disney will consider creating food kiosks dedicated to people with food allergies where food is walk up and set to go, for hamburgers, french fries in a dedicated fry only oil, breads, veggies, and nut free desserts without having to wait in lines.
Suggestion to those with allergies headed to Disney and all it’s parks: Bring in your own packed foods if you have access to a kitchen or foods that will carry well in a backpack as DISNEY is very allowing of bags. We did this a few days to help the kids out with their dining options, not only did it make dining easier, it made it so much more stress free on us and we all ate food at the same time.
Have questions? Hit me up, we dined in all the parks, at so many different places, and this is just a light overview. You can lavishly live life out loud and enjoy dining in all Disney Parks, you just have to query ahead, and ask, ask, ask while you are in the parks. Food in the park runs about the same cost as Gluten Free foods outside of the park. Get creative, ask for salads with meats to avoid buns, but make sure to ask what the meat was prepared on. Bring plenty of bagged snacks and carry a backpack that will allow you the possibility for light snacking in case lines are too long.
This is NOT A SPONSORED POST! My writing is based on personal experience, yours may differ, but this is what happened as we dined in Disney(Orlando)