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How to enjoy Walt Disney World with food allergies

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How to enjoy Walt Disney World with food allergies

With advance notice, Disney World restaurants will work with your food allergies

My preschooler has several food allergies, and it’s hard enough to make meals for him at home — imagine finding food he can eat when our family travels. We often bring food and beverages with us.

We love going to Walt Disney World, and fortunately, Disney World is great about tuning in to guests who have food allergies and intolerances. If you provide advance notice, chefs at restaurants around Disney World will make sure your meal is allergen-free. They may even provide alternatives to you that aren’t on the menu that guests regularly see.

It does take some planning and communication. Here is how I did it; you might find a different path.

1. Start by making a Disney dining reservation. You can call 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463) or make reservations online. I recommend the online option so you can detail your allergies in your own words. You can make reservations at Disney restaurants up to 180 days ahead of your visit. If you book your Disney travel dates well in advance, make a note for yourself 180 days from that time to get the dining reservations in so you get first pick! Restaurants can fill up — it has happened to my family. If there are less than 180 days until your vacation, then make your dining reservations as soon as you book your resort. Be sure to check the box if you have a Disney dining plan. And if you’re making reservations less than two weeks out, call 407-824-5967 instead (8 am to 5 pm, Monday-Friday).

2. List your allergies. When you find a restaurant you’d like to reserve, you’ll see a screen like this:

Let Disney World know about your allergies so chefs can be prepared for your meal

Check off your allergies. Don’t see yours listed? (I have a friend allergic to cloves. Another can’t eat lemon.) You can e-mail SpecialDiets@DisneyWorld.com with your request. You can also call 407-824-5967.

3. Fill out the special diet form. You may receive a form via e-mail to fill out and fax back. This form will ask for your reservation information again. Here, you can get more detailed than just the check boxes online, if you need to, with space to write in what you can’t eat.

4. Wait for, or request, additional food service listings. I’ve been talking about dining reservations, but you don’t need a sit-down dining reservation to eat allergen-free. When I got the special diet form in my e-mail, I also got a separate document that listed quick-service restaurants where alternate food options are sold. I printed this list and carried it with me in the parks. We found prepackaged Divvies brand treats at Main Street Bakery in the Magic Kingdom. At Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in the Magic Kingdom, we mentioned the alternatives to a server and were referred to a chef who told us he could serve our son something on special wheat-free bread. However, I had read that a rice-based ice cream was supposed to be available at a certain restaurant in Epcot, but when we got there, we were told to go to Norway’s Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe in the World Showcase. There, we found a kind of rice pudding — made with milk, which my preschooler can’t have. So not all servers are in the know about quick-service alternatives. If you don’t receive this quick-service list after making reservations, e-mail SpecialDiets@DisneyWorld.com.

5. Let your hostess/server/chef know about your allergies when you arrive at the restaurant. You already filled out the paperwork and did your homework, and now is the time to let them know you’re here. The chef can suggest menu items that work with your allergies, walk you through a buffet to point out items you can eat or prepare something in advance just for you.

6. Read any ingredient labels on prepackaged food. For anyone with food allergies, this is a given … I know you already are in the habit of doing this. Definitely don’t slack off on vacation!

For more details on food allergies and special diets, check out the Special Dietary Requests page on the Walt Disney World site.

As good as Disney World is about being careful and thoughtful to provide food for people on special or restricted diets, I still do bring food that I know my son can eat while we are on vacation. It’s good to keep snacks stashed in our resort room or vehicle, and in my bag, for emergencies or distractions. Disney World allows guests to bring small coolers into the parks, and we do — just in case there is nothing on a quick-service menu that he would like (ah, kids!), or if someone gives us the wrong information like we experienced at Epcot, or another problem pops up. It’s good to be prepared — then you can feel relaxed and have fun at Disney World.

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