We share article after article of all the delicious foods readily available at Walt Disney World. From snacks to entrees, you’ll find no shortage of every sort of cuisine you can imagine. We will say, however, our eyes were opened when Mike was diagnosed with Celiac a few years back. Those giant Joffrey’s donuts, Mickey pretzels, and churros all of a sudden were no longer an option. Gluten may be Mike’s nemesis, but the list of allergies for many doesn’t stop there. Nuts, milk, eggs, soy, shellfish – food allergies can be extremely dangerous if not handled properly. If you’re headed to Walt Disney World and have a food allergy, here are a few tips you’ll want to take note of.
Keep in mind, this list is based on our experiences over the past few years. For specific allergy questions and concerns, we highly recommend emailing Disney directly at Special.Diets@DisneyWorld.com. We also recommend reviewing this link on Disney’s website for further food allergy information.
1 – Disney Knows What They’re Doing
If you have a food allergy, you already know that eating outside of your home can be tricky and most of the time just isn’t worth the hassle. Sometimes restaurant servers and/or chefs aren’t familiar with the allergy enough to help. We’ve even had times when they think they are familiar, but cross-contamination gets in the way. Our experiences at Disney World, however, have been nothing but fantastic. Most of the time, you can find a knowledgeable Cast Member/server and/or a chef that truly knows what they are talking about. Disney is obviously prepared and ready to assist in their usual magical way to make your dining experience possible! Of course, Disney’s isn’t always 100% on point. There have been times when we’ve passed dining at particular locations because we find the occasional Cast Member that doesn’t seem knowledgeable enough to assist us. This is rare but does happen.
2 – Pack Medications
Most importantly, don’t forget to pack any doctor-recommended medical necessities such as an EpiPen or medicines for particular food allergies. First Aid locations at all theme parks can assist in the storage of these items if needed (even refrigerate) as well as help if an emergency does occur.
3 – Check for Menus In Advance If Available
Go ahead and check out restaurant menus in advance. This is a great way to see what may be available for you to select from. You can find menus on Disney’s website or try using the My Disney Experience App. Some restaurants have online allergy information available at the very bottom of the menu. Other menus are only available upon request in the restaurant or at the quick-service counter.
4 – Dine at a Disney-Owned Restaurant
When staying on the Walt Disney World property, it’s easy to think that every restaurant is owned and operated by Disney. This actually isn’t the case. For example, we’ve tried to eat at Nine Dragons located in Epcot’s World Showcase only to find a major lack of food allergy knowledge. There are multiple locations that aren’t Disney-owned. On the flip side, do your research because there are a few restaurants that aren’t Disney-owned but are absolutely spectacular with food allergies. Landry’s restaurants (Yak & Yeti, for example) are exceptional when it comes to allergy concerns. We’ve found reading reviews is extremely helpful to select from restaurants that are not owned by Disney.
5 – Add Your Allergy To Dining Reservations
When making dining reservations online, you’ll see there is an allergy section when completing your reservation. We highly recommend checking the appropriate allergy boxes so the restaurant staff can prepare accordingly. If making a reservation over the phone, you can advise the Cast Member to make this allergy notification as well. If you forget, no worries! You can let the restaurant know your allergy upon arrival. Typically this is not an issue, but by letting them know ahead is a good way to guarantee the restaurant will know how to prepare for your arrival.
6 – Talk with the Chef
Whether sitting down at a table-service restaurant or walking up to a quick-service counter, feel free to ask to speak with a Chef. When mentioning a food allergy, some locations with automatically bring out the Chef to your table or to the counter. In other locations, they may ask if you’d like to speak with the Chef. Don’t hesitate if you have any questions or doubts to speak with the Chef. They are always friendly and ready to assist.
7 – You Use Mobile Ordering
The My Disney Experience App has a Mobile Ordering option that allows guests to order and pay for their food right from their phones at multiple quick-service locations throughout the parks. Disney now has an “Allergy-Friendly” category within the menu section of the restaurant you are ordering from. After you click on that, you’ll then be shown six different allergy-friendly options: gluten/wheat, egg, fish/shellfish, milk, peanut/tree nut, and soy. This way, if you have that particular allergy, you can easily see what items work for you. If your allergy does not fall into one of these categories, you’ll need to order in person at the restaurant, so you can consult with a special diet trained cast member or chef about your dietary needs.
8 – Bring Snacks from Home
We’ve found that our least favorite part about having a food allergy at Walt Disney World is their lack of snacks. There are some prime locations like the Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC at Disney Springs (vegan and gluten-free bakery) that may work well with your allergy. For the most part, however, the snack options aren’t all that impressive. We recommend bringing your own snacks from home! Pack them in your backpack to have in the park with you so you can snack along with your family if you are unable to find an allergy snack option that will work for you.
9 – Don’t Rule Out Special Events
Editor’s Note: At this time, dessert parties at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT are not available. The Halloween and Christmas parties in 2021 have been replaced this year with After Hour events.
We’ve done numerous special events with a food allergy and have been super impressed! The Fireworks Dessert Party at Magic Kingdom, Star Wars Galactic Dessert Party at Hollywood Studios, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom are all excellent with food allergies. We used to avoid buffets like the plague until we learned of all the great options and careful cross-contamination planning. Even Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival has special food allergy options. Don’t rule out a special event because you are worried you won’t get enough to eat. You may be surprisingly impressed at all that is available to you!
10 – Know Your Own Limits
Last but not least, you know your own body better than anyone else. Listen to it and try your best to keep to a regular schedule. When Mike was first diagnosed with Celiac, we went a little crazy on trying all the tasty gluten-free options available at Disney because it was finally a trusted dining option outside of our home. He was uncomfortably full, which is never fun to do while exploring the Disney parks. Keep to your schedule the best you can so your special diet can keep your body in check. Exercise at home? Keep this up at Disney so your body won’t have that food/lack of exercise shock. Enjoy yourself, but know your own limits.
Do you have any food allergy tips while visiting Walt Disney World? We’d love to hear from you!
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