Disney trip planning with food allergies

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One of the best-kept secrets at Disney World is their food allergy program, which is part of the Special Diets service. It’s not really a secret, and they don’t try to hide it, but it’s not widely known because they don’t advertise it. But they really go the extra mile to safely serve those who have food allergies.

Since you’ve already found Chip & Company, you may have also found information advising you to contact the Special Diets program at 407-824-5967 or via email at specialdiets@disneyworld.com. This is a logical first step to take, as they will send you information related to your specific food allergies. Here are some additional planning tips that will help you make sure you make the most of your vacation, safe and relatively worry-free.

Plan ahead
Use online resources like Chip & Company or buy a trip planning book about Walt Disney to figure out the things you want to do and see. If you have a severe allergy that involves avoiding contact with your allergen, we recommend visiting at off-peak times so that crowds are low. For a dairy allergy, it’s especially difficult to avoid contact during the warmer times, when ice cream is more likely to be in every little child’s hands – and on park benches and rides.

If you plan to stay at a Disney resort or participate in Character or Fine Dining, it’s especially important to reserve your accommodations and dining reservations about 180 days out.

Special dining or quick service
If you plan to dine with Princesses or other Disney Characters, or you plan to visit any of the excellent fine dining restaurants, pick the ones your want and start with those reservations. They may determine which Theme Parks you visit on certain days. If you are just planning to maximize your ride time and site seeing, you may wish to simply dine at the Quick Service restaurants. If you plan to do a mix of Quick Service and special dining, make a list of the special dining events, to use for your scheduling.

The Theme Parks
Next, decide where you’re going to have your fun and line up the schedule for each park based on your dining plans. Review the Theme Park calendars, firework schedules and Extra Magic Hours for any events you wish to attend.

The Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios have exclusively Disney-owned restaurants and Cast Members are all well trained in the food allergy handling best practices. However, Epcot has a lot of Operating Partner restaurants that are not owned or operated by Disney. Therefore, while they will make every attempt to accommodate your food allergy, they are not part of the same standard as Disney-owned restaurants.

In planning your Theme Park visits, if you have smaller children and are planning to dine with Characters, “park hopping” may not work very well. It just takes a lot longer to get around due to their size, energy level and the constant distraction of Disney magic, not to mention the stroller parking and navigation.

Making your reservations
Once you have it all lined up, start by making your reservations at 407-WDW-DINE or via the Disney World website within the Dining section. Either way, be sure to identify your food allergies, either via phone or using the reservation form. If you have multiple food allergies, Special Diets will send you a Guest Allergy Dietary Request form. Fill it out with your reservations and send it as soon as possible. This will allow them to notify each restaurant to be sure they have foods free of your allergen. Don’t forget to reserve your hotel, too!

Driving or flying
Like any travel with a food allergy, make sure to plan for meals while traveling. If you’re driving, it’s much easier to carry your own food. And don’t forget the return trip. Fortunately, there are a number or grocery stores and a Whole Foods nearby, to restock allergen-free foods for the trip home.

Accommodations within Disney or outside the park
If you’re staying at a Disney Resort or Hotel, their restaurants are also part of the Special Diets program. If you’re staying off-site, there are a number of grocery stores and even a few grocery delivery options. We have a full list on our website. Regardless of where you stay, be sure to request a refrigerator for your room, and clean it yourself once you arrive, just to be safe.

While at Disney
Before you leave home, be sure to make copies of your itinerary, hotel reservations and dining reservations. Keep one copy with you and leave a copy in your hotel room. If you need to change anything, it’s much easier if you have these with you.  Make sure to double-check the calendars for events, fireworks and Extra Magic Hours.

Most importantly: At each and every restaurant, be sure to identify your food allergy to the host or hostess and ask to have a chef stop by your table, or speak to the manager at Quick Service restaurants. The chef will discuss your options and will know the ingredients of every item. Don’t depend on the wait staff, no matter how well they know the menu. At Quick Service restaurants, they all have a book detailing the ingredients, and the manager is happy to review it with you. In fact, they will even review product packaging if necessary.

Visiting Disney is already a magical experience. And the Special Diets program really helps those with food allergies have a safe visit. We hope these additional tips help you effectively plan your visit in a way that allows you to make the most of your time at Disney World.

A quick disclaimer: All of the above will help you make the most of Disney dining with your food allergy. However, as always with a food allergy, you must use your best judgment while dining at these or any restaurant.

Liz & Jeff of AllergyFreeMouse.com – a website for Disney fans with food allergies.

  • New AllergyEats website helps people with Food Allergies at Disney World (chipandco.com)
  • I Won’t Be Able To Eat Anything – Special Dietary Requests at Disney World (chipandco.com)
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