Walt Disney World is world famous for providing extraordinary vacations for guests from all over the world. In addition to fantastic theme parks, shows, and attractions, friendly smiling faces are always there to greet you throughout the parks. The restaurants at Walt Disney World are just as magical as the rides and shows themselves. Therefore, it comes at no surprise that Disney readily accommodates guests with allergies.
Disney is often rated as one of the most allergy friendly vacation destinations. Unlike many other popular tourist hotspots, most Disney restaurants and resorts feature chefs and staff that are highly trained in cooking for guests with allergies, while still providing the same magical experience.
Take a look below at my 16 tips for visiting Walt Disney World theme parks with food allergies. Feel free to add some suggestions of your own in the comments below.
1. Bring your own food into the park. Walt Disney World allows guests with food allergies and intolerances to bring their own snacks into the park. Carry a backpack stocked with your favorite snacks and water (be sure to skip anything that will melt in the hot Florida sun). We have had no problem doing so. An employee will check your bag upon entering, and then you will be ready to go!
2. Email the Disney special diets department. If you have questions about certain restaurants at the parks, you can email The Special Diets Department at Special.Diets@DisneyWorld.com at least a few weeks prior to your trip. This is especially important in the case of multiple allergies, or in the case of individuals with rare allergies. Although restaurants can usually accommodate the most common allergens on the spot, multiple allergens may require advance notification.
3. Look up restaurants menus in advance on the Walt Disney World website. Every restaurant has a link to their menu available. You can conveniently sort restaurants by theme park, price, type of cuisine, and rating on the Walt Disney World dining website. Unfortunately, the menu will not always list the allergy free options. More often than not, you will have to specifically request the allergy friendly menu, either at the time or your visit, or preferably in advance through the email listed above.
If a particular restaurant’s theme looks appealing, you can always call or email in advance. The worst would be being excited to visit a particular restaurant, only to find out that they cannot cater to your needs. Certain restaurants are better than others at catering to those with special dietary needs. Find out in advance and save yourself some time and hassle.
4. Plan park meals for each day in advance of your visit. A little advance preparation can make your visit to Disney much more convenient. Not to mention, more of you time will go towards park activities, rather than wasted time searching restaurant menus and asking questions about allergens. Be sure to make all necessary reservations and inform staff of your allergies.
5. Dine at Downtown Disney. Downtown Disney is home to a large variety of nice sit down restaurants, most of which offer plenty of options for everyone. Some restaurants require advance notice, while others offer allergy friendly choices all the time.
Raglan Road, an Irish themed bar and restaurant, is one of the best choices for those following a gluten-free and/or vegan diet. Chefs make everything fresh on the spot, which means almost all dishes can be modified. You can’t beat gluten-free onion rings, fries, and fish and chips, all prepared in a dedicated fryer!
6. Make reservations for table side restaurants and inform a manger in advance of your allergies. Many restaurants inside the parks will gladly offer modifications with advance notice. Be sure to make a reservation and inform servers of your allergies so you can enjoy a smoother experience. If making online reservations, be sure to note your allergies. Or call (407) 939-3463 for reservations and be sure to mention special dietary requests.
7. Rent a condo with a kitchen. Staying at an off site condo (I recommend Windsor Hills) as opposed to a Walt Disney World resort hotel will not only save you money, but also allow you to take advantage of being able to prepare meals in your own kitchen.
Sometimes the best way to get what you want (free of allergens) is by cooking yourself. While no one wants to cook on a vacation, you can easily pick up a few great easy to prepare frozen treats from the grocery store. Why not visit the grocery store on your first day and load up on a few excellent treats from Amy’s Kitchen? Their gluten free burritos and enchilada dishes are amazing!
8. Treat yourself to a specialty Babycakes NYC dessert. While the Downtown Disney location is no longer open, these deliciously rare allergen free treats (vegan, gluten-free, egg free, & soy free) are still available at several resorts such as at The Gardens Kiosk at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Visit the Babycakes NYC Orlando page for a full listing of all locations which sell these tasty allergen free delicacies.
9. Familiarize yourself with park treats that are free of allergens. For example, Dole Whip (found at Aloha Isle in the Adventureland section of the Magic Kingdom) is a naturally vegan and gluten-free cool treat for hot summer days. Popcorn is also okay for those following a gluten-free and vegan diet. In addition, many restaurants and cafes offer OMG and Enjoy Life brand cookies and desserts.
10. If visiting a buffet, ask a chef to walk you through the line. Any chef at Disney buffets will have no problem letting you know which items on the line are okay. Initially you may think buffets are completely off limits, however, you would be surprised at how many items you can enjoy (fresh salad bars, steamed veggies, rice, meats, etc.).
11. For special events like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, be sure to bring your own treats so you do not feel left out. Unfortunately, there are not many options available during these special events. Concentrate more on the fun activities and live entertainment, rather than the special treats! After-all, you can always have treats at home, however, you cannot duplicate the park experience!
12. Skip the stands in favor of a sit down restaurant. Most sit down restaurants are more easily able to accommodate special dietary requests than quick service food stands. Most restaurants offer readily available substitutions for the most common allergens. Plus, you will be able to enjoy a healthier, more filling meal in a themed setting. While sugary, fried treats leave you feeling sluggish and tired, a healthier meal will give you more energy for walking around the parks all day!
13. Stay at a resort with allergy friendly options. Some resorts are better than others at accommodating guests. In my experience, emailing the general manager in advance is the best way to judge who is the most accommodating.
14. Dine at Victoria and Albert’s. This grand fine dining experience is well-known as being one of the premier dining experiences at Walt Disney World. With advance notice, the kitchen staff can prepare a prix fixe menu for anyone with any allergies. Don’t’ let the menu keep you away from this amazing restaurant. At first glance, it may look like there is nothing you can eat, however, the chef can personally create a great meal for any guest. Call 407- 939-3862 to make reservations and be sure to inform staff of your special dietary needs.
15. Be sure to visit Raglan Road, one of Orlando’s best options for gluten-free diners. A fantastic menu featuring favorites like Fish and Chips, most of which can be easily modified to fit a gluten-free guests needs, means hassle free dining for the whole family. Live step dancing performances on the weekends is another big plus!
16. Stock your hotel room with snacks. I keep plenty of readily available snacks like chips, pumpkin seeds, and crackers on hand. It’s always a great idea to have a few handy snacks in case it takes longer to find a restaurant, you need a quick hotel snack, and also to have easily packable snacks available for park days.