Disney is the gold standard for serving kids with food allergies

Parents who have been dealing with a child’s food allergies for a while and who take big family trips probably already know this, but Disney is simply the gold standard in accommodating children with food allergies.

That said, many people still ask me whether or not Disney is safe with respect to food allergies and I often see this question posted on food allergy bulletin boards… so I decided it was time to formally add a post about it here.

Rather than re-state what other bloggers have already written so well, I chose to reprint a blog entry about Disney that my friend Ruth Smith of Best Allergy Sites posted a while back. If you’d like to visit the original post on her site, please click here.

The following is a slightly shortened version of her post entitled, “Walt Disney World Goes Above and Beyond for Food Allergies.”

———-

If you suffer from food allergies or have a child that does, you know how difficult traveling can be. Vacations are often planned around food allergies; at least in our house they are. There are just some places that are not safe for a multiple food allergic six year old.

So this winter we are planning our second trip to Walt Disney World. We went in 2006 and they were allergy friendly then, but boy have they stepped up their procedures.

If you are planning a trip to Disney as well, here are some steps you can take to ensure you enjoy your meals reaction free:

1. Make any table service dining reservations by phone by calling 407-WDW-DINE or online at http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/. When calling you can mention your food allergies then. When reserving online there is a section called Dietary Needs that you can click on. Here it will ask you what allergies or other medical conditions you have and whether you require special pre-order meals. (Keep in mind that special pre-order meals like Vegan or Gluten Free meals may have a cancellation fee attached to them for no shows). If you don’t require a special meal you just check off the allergens you are dealing with.

2. Email specialdiets@disneyworld.com to let them know of your upcoming vacation and your food allergies. They will email you back with several attachments and additional information including the following link: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services/special-dietary-requests/.

Attachments include:
Guest Dietary Letter: a welcome letter explaining their policies and protocols.
Food Allergy/Dietary reference sheet: lists the ingredients of several basic items like hot dogs, burgers, and chicken nuggets as well as locations that might be better options for those with dietary restrictions, and has a listing of allergy friendly products carried within the parks like Divvies and Enjoy Life.
Guest Letter Dietary Request Form: a form you fill out and email or fax back stating your names, allergens, any dining reservations you already have, and any additional information that needs to be relayed.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Many restaurants accept reservations 90-180 days beforehand. If there is a restaurant you would like to go to, you must make your reservations early. Walk-ins are typically not accepted at table service restaurants especially during peak season.
  • Disney does allow outside food into the parks. If you have any problems let them know of your food allergies and they will okay it.
  • Disney encourages guests to ask for a manager or chef at any table service or counter service restaurant to go over the menu and items. Things can change and this ensures you get the most up to date information.
  • Disney reminds you that you eat using your own judgment. While they go above and beyond to ensure food is safe via cooking and cleaning practices, they do serve thousands of people a day. Be sure to ask about ingredients, “may contains” statements, and ask that your dish be made in a clean pan.
  • Cast Members in Animal Kingdom often times carry peanuts to feed to the animals and birds therefore they may have peanut oil on their hands. (This stated in the above attachments from Disney).

Summary

Our trip in 2006 was fantastic. At every restaurant the chef came to our table before we could even ask. One even walked us through the Buffet at Crystal Palace restaurant to let us know what our son could and could not have.

With the increase in food allergies and the step up in the Disney policies, I expect this trip will be just as great.

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(Thanks to Ruth for such a great post. Please consider visiting Ruth’s site, Best Allergy Sites.)

My family has had two similarly positive… no, fantastic… experiences at Disney. EVERY time we ate at one of the Disney restaurants, the chef came out to speak with us – EVERY TIME!

Fundamentally, I would sum it up this way. Some restaurants will tell you which menu items your child cannot have. Better ones will tell you how they can modify menu items to make them safe for your child. Disney chefs come out and simply ask what your child would really like to eat. They then figure out, on the spot, how they can satisfy your child’s wishes and share with you their plan. This is a wonderful and unique approach I’ve never experienced anywhere else.

Truly a Magic Kingdom.

What have your experiences been? Do you share those of Ruth and I? Did you have a negative experience that “Disney lovers” should be aware of? The AllergyEats Blog thrives on discussion and dissention, so don’t be shy. Please click on Comments below to share your thoughts.

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I thank you for your support of AllergyEats.

Comments

    Author:
    Amber
    Written:


    We were in Disney for a week in Feb and it was amazing. A week full of meal after meal that would bring tears to the eyes of any food allergy mom. Every Chef was so helpful. Even outside the table service restaurants we had wonderful experiences. Soy cheese pepperoni pizza at AK, tofutti ice cream at the ice cream parlor on main street, Divvies readily available at various places. The list goes on and on. We never intended to be a family who went to Disney frequently, but after our experience there and in light of my son’s allergies we bought into the Disney Vacation Club and will make it a regular vacation destination.

    Author:
    Melissa
    Written:


    We agree that Disney does food allergies really well! We have been to Disney World nearly a dozen times in the last six years. We have always had great experiences. The chefs really make my food allergic son feel special. He loves that he can always have something, that the chefs come to the table to talk with him, to ask him what he would like to eat. It is not a matter of what he is able to eat, they let him choose what he would like to eat. All of the wait staff is knowledgeable about allergies too. They really do go above and beyond too. We’ve had them go to the Main St Confectionary to get candy for my son if they did not have any safe dessert, Mickey shaped Rice Dream ice cream, specially created meals, etc. We really feel safe eating out at Disney World – can’t say enough good things!

    Author:
    administrator
    Written:


    Two more interesting comments I pulled over from the AllergyEats Facebook fan page:

    Sally Horton Weber
    Allears.net has a lot of posts on Disney and how great they are with allergies. If you go into their dining section, you should be able to find it. Very hellpful.

    We just got back from Williamsburg and they were NOT the gold standard – we ate in the taverns to get the freshest, most homemade foods, but they were not gracious & kind at all. We managed, but not because of them.

    Diana Stapleton Sarlay
    Disney was AMAZING accomodating my daughter’s allergies on the WHOLE property! All the parks, the resorts, and even downtown did a wonderful job. Dessert too!

    Author:
    aeb
    Written:


    Disney was great. Even the small corndog stand outside our hotel (Boardwalk) had a binder of ingredients for all their foods. Was so happy my daughter was even able to have dessert a few times. One tip – if your child is extremely sensitive, have a wipe ready when you go in to the park since everyone has to put their fingers on those scanners now.

    Author:
    paula attridge
    Written:


    Walt Disney World. Yes, Disney is a jewel for those with any types of food challenges. We travel to Disney via Jet Blue annually to vacation. We have been Disney timeshare members since the late 1990’s. I meet with every Chef no matter where we eat to make sure that we can eat safely. If you would like to save some money (from table service) and eat at a food court, Disney Chefs at Pop Century resort are very, very helpful. Not only do they offer food from Divvies and other nut free vendors, they also offer pizza made on Ener-G dough. I have found Ener-G rolls for hamburgers at the Living Seas in Epcot and at Old Key West Resort. I have found other nut-free products as well at various table service restaurants. There isn’t a consistent food product at each location nor could I find a list of consistent food products at various locations. However, the Chefs are more than willing to accommodate any food challenges. We fly JetBlue to Disney because they are willing to not serve the peanuts/tree nut products. We have also been on a Disney Cruise and had a very pleasurable experience. http://www.mousesavers.com is a great asset to those who are interested in Disney. And this, is only the tip of the iceberg of information I have learned thus far. Have a great trip!

    Author:
    administrator
    Written:


    Great info here!

    Author:
    Mark
    Written:


    We have been to Disney many times with our family and they have bent over backwards for the food allergies our son suffers from. Having stayed at both the Contemporary, and Polynesian resorts the chefs at both places visited our table at every meal and made sure they were aware of the exact food allergies. I am also happy to say the same about Disney Cruise Line. They went so far as to even make a special cake for our son with some of the supplies I had brought along. Not only did they do that, but they also stocked their kitchen with his milk and ice cream (goat milk, and goat milk ice cream). Our waiter even made sure he brought it to Castaway Cay when we stopped there, and he whipped up a milkshake for our son there. I was so impressed I wrote a letter to Disney Cruise Line to sing their praises. I’m happy to second what everyone here has said about Disney, Disney Cruise Line, and also recommend Mouse Savers for not only info, but rentals on Disney Timeshares.

    Author:
    Carla
    Written:


    Disney was awesome. I wish every restaurant would be so wonderful with food allergies the way Disney was. My daughter could actually relax and enjoy her trip, as could we. The only park where we had a hard time finding snacks at that were peanut/tree nut free was Epcot so I would suggest packing your own snacks for here. Other than that, Disney was tops; even without a reservation.

    Author:
    Melissa
    Written:


    We just returned from another visit to Walt Disney World and I just wanted to share with you all the amazing experiences we had this trip. While the chefs and servers at Walt Disney World are always well trained and attentive, we had a few stand out experiences. My son was able to have his first pizza made by someone other than me at the Mama Melrose restaurant in Hollywood Studios which just absolutely thrilled him. We also attended a dinner at Ohana. The chef was very attentive and created the most amazing dessert for my son. The chef had taken Rice Dream ice cream, Divvies cookies, bananas, and pineapple to build this dessert. It looked like a sculpture and I could see the people at tables around us looking over in amazement. Finally, we attended the Magic Kingdom Dessert and Fireworks party. I had been apprehensive about this, worried when I booked it about how they would accommodate his dairy, egg, peanut and tree nut allergies although they had assured me that they could. I was concerned that while the other eight people in our party were eating an all you can eat dessert buffet he would be handed a bowl of Rice Dream or something. Well, boy was I wrong to worry! He received the most amazing platter which included two types of sorbet, three types of cake, a safe brownie, and tons of fresh fruit. It was well more than he could possibly eat and the manager was great about going over his allergies with me to make certain that everything would be safe for him. All in all, we had fantastic experiences proving once again why we go so often to Disney!

    Author:
    Emily
    Written:


    We have been to Disney World twice and were incredibly impressed with the food service both times. I am peanut, tree nut and milk allergic and my son is wheat, egg, milk, tree nut and peanut allergic and they were able to accomodate both of us with ease. We had no trouble eating at the sit down restaurants, but what surpirsed us most is that we could easily find foods at the counter service restuarants. Each time we went to eat, we would tell the cast member that we had food allergies and they would always send a chef to our table or the manager (if a counter service restaurant). We LOVE Disney!!!

    I also read an article recently about Dollywood. It stated that they have similar policies to DW, so we will check that out and report back.

    Author:
    Carly
    Written:


    Does anyone know if Disneyland is as accommodating? Also, is there a “special diets” e-mail for them?

    Author:
    Melissa
    Written:


    Carly,
    I couldn’t find an email, but I would be shocked if the folks at Disneyland were not just as accomodating as at Disney World. I found this info on the Disneyland website (http://disneyland.disney.go.com/faq/dining/)

    Can my special dietary needs be accommodated at restaurants at the Disneyland Resort?
    Special dietary needs — including vegetarian and medically restricted diets — can often be accommodated at select table-service restaurants.

    Please request special meals at least 24 hours in advance at (714) 781-DINE or (714) 781-(3463). Guests under age 18 must have parent or guardian permission to call.

    Author:
    NotMilk
    Written:


    Hey all – just wanted to put in my two cents. I am milk allergic and was INCREDIBLY apprehensive about my first trip 8 years ago. We were staying in the World at one of the resorts and I was sure I would go hungry. Boy was I wrong. By the end of the 2nd meal my father -in-law was calling me “princess” because of all the special attention I got! If I couldn’t eat something, the chef made me my very own. We have been back many times and purchase the dining plan because it is so very worth it. Every time I go, it is better than the time before. My personal favorite was the chef at the sci-fi dine in theater who offered to make me a shake. I told him he would be my hero, and he was. It was the most amazing thing, I almost cried.

    They are definitely the “gold standard.”

    Thank you Mickey!

    Author:
    Mark
    Written:


    I just wanted to update my prior posts about Disney World. Have now taken my food allergic son (gluten, casein, soy, peanut) twice this year 2011. Once at spring break and once in July. On both visits the staff once again bent over backwards for my son. We ate brunch both visits at Ohana in the Polynesian, absolutely perfect. Dinner on spring break was at Ohana and they did just as good as the folks at brunch, and it was topped off by the best view of the magic kingdom fireworks that Ohana could offer. They stuffed my son so full he couldn’t eat any more, as did the Yachtsman. On the July visit we had dinner at the Yachtsman steakhouse. Another outstanding meal. Wrote to Disney after the July visit to thank them and assure them we would be back.

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