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 email@example.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/.
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).
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.
(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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