I got a call from my son’s school a couple of years ago. They’d had a treat day and the kids got ice cream. John Paul also got ice cream, but he has a dairy allergy and ice cream makes him break out in hives. I picked him up from school and the Benadryl was already working.
“Buddy, you know you can’t have ice cream,” I said. “What happened?” “I don’t know,” he said. “My brain told me to.”
My son JP was born with multiple food allergies. Through testing and some trial and error, we’ve figured our way around most of the can and can’t-have foods in JP’s life. Overall, we’ve been fortunate. He feels a little jealous on pizza day or at ice cream parties, but his allergies have never been anaphylactic and never affected his breathing. But he has developed a cautious palate. Specifically, the combination of the things that will harm and the things he doesn’t like or is too stubborn to try makes traveling a bit more challenging at mealtime.
Is Disney allergy friendly?
In my experience, yes. Very. It’s also one of the reasons we like going to Disney so much. We’re able to plan a Walt Disney World vacation, plan unique dining experiences and know that he’s not going to be left out. After a quick perusal through the various Disney menus, you’ll see entire allergy menus devoted to food allergies like soy or egg and clear markings of gluten-free options.
In addition, the staff has been well trained. My son’s allergies aren’t typical and sometimes explaining them to the staff can get … complicated. But whenever the wait staff has been concerned they can’t convey our needs, the chef has come out to the table and talked to us directly. With this in mind, I would say it’s easier to navigate food allergies at table service restaurants than the quick service restaurants. However, we’ve been able to do fine even when mobile ordering. Going a step further, all of the Disney parks are equipped with EpiPens at the park’s first aid stations. Also, cast members are trained on how to use them.
What about cross-contamination?
Disney will take steps to avoid cross-contamination when asked. That said, the parks do not have separate allergy-friendly kitchens.
My kid has food allergies, what can they eat at the Disney theme parks and resorts?
A lot. They’re going to have allergy-friendly food options. We don’t want to go into too many specifics here because recipes can change. The best thing to do is consult your My Disney Experience app and check the allergy-friendly menus.
Has it ever been difficult where to find something for your kids to eat?
Only once, when walking across the World Showcase in EPCOT. And that wasn’t Disney’s fault. For instance, there were several menu items he COULD have. However, several of the quick service locations did not have the right combination of things he could and WOULD have. Finding a place where we could all eat in EPCOT was proving mildly elusive until we reached Morocco and a quick-service restaurant that worked.
For example, my son likes raw veggies and several kinds of potatoes. Like every kid, he likes chicken nuggets and fries. He likes hot dogs, but most of those in the Walt Disney parks are beef hot dogs, which he is also allergic to. JP also likes a good pizza with vegan cheese and plain pasta with a tad of butter on it. Can he have spaghetti sauce? Reader, as long as it doesn’t have beef in it, he can. Will he? Nope. He prefers ketchup. We’re working on Impossible options and things like turkey burgers and other common allergy-friendly offerings, but he’s not there yet.
Are quick service or table service locations better?
In general, I would say table service may be better simply for the fact that it’s less of a cookie-cutter operation. You can interact with cast members to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Does Disney accommodate other special diets?
Yes. Disney has a Special Diets team at the ready. Contact them at Special.Diets@DisneyWorld.com in advance if you or anyone in your party has either four or more allergy-friendly requests, requires pureed meals or adheres to a medically restrictive diet. They ask that you don’t contact them sooner than 14 days before your arrival. The Special Diets team will assist you in navigating the dining process, which may include providing the restaurants you intend to visit with your information and requests in advance of your visit. If you have specific questions that you want answered before making a dining reservation, you can check the menu online or use the Disney chat experience on the website.
What was your best allergy dining experience?
One of our first times with a young John Paul in Disney, we were at Tony’s in the Magic Kingdom, and I wasn’t as efficient at explaining his various allergies and the waitress became concerned. I tried to ease that concern, but she was adamant that I talk to someone else to make sure we got it right. And so, the chef came out and kneeled at the table as we went through the various options of what JP could have until the chef was completely comfortable that the food his staff would serve would be ok. I was touched by that level of dedication.
Years later, we were in EPCOT. The boy’s favorite thing now is plain pasta with just a touch of butter. He loves it. So, we try to target restaurants with a variety of pasta dishes, where we know he can get something without sauce. Sometimes, however, the wait staff can seem a tad condescending with his order. So I was concerned going into Chefs de France that the staff – who are serious, professional waitstaff – might blanch at his unique request for ketchup to go with his pasta. However, our waiter was perfect, professional and never looked at the boy askance. He acted like it was the most normal request in the world, came back to talk to John Paul specifically about his pasta, and treated him with the grace and professionalism you’d hope for.
Can I bring snacks into Disney World’s theme parks?
Guests are allowed to bring food into Walt Disney World theme parks. However, you can’t bring food into the park and request the cast prepare it or even reheat it. There are some limitations. No alcohol. Glass containers – except small baby food-sized jars – are also banned as is loose ice. Coolers must be smaller than 24″ long x 15″ wide x 18″ high.
Does Disney offer Kosher or Halal options?
Kosher meals and Halal meals are available at most table-service restaurants and should be reserved at least 24 hours in advance. Options are also available at select quick-service locations. If you already made a reservation online, you can add your Kosher or Halal meal to your reservation by calling (407) 824-1391.
Is character dining allergy friendly?
We’ve never had a problem with character dining, whether it’s a breakfast buffet or a prix fixe menu fare. We’ve had breakfast with Mickey hither, thither and yon and dined with the princesses in various castles. We have never had a problem having JP’s dietary restrictions addressed. That said, if the menu doesn’t allay your questions about the allergy-friendly options, use that Special Diets team at the ready and always be your own advocate.
Do you have an allergy experience at Disney to share? If so, let us know in the comments.