The "Know Before You Go" Disney Tips & Tricks: Food Allergies & Important Tips
Not sure what to expect when ordering a gluten free meal at Disney Theme Parks? Do you want some extra tips for your trip? This post should help you and maybe answer some of your questions. Disney does a wonderful job at accommodating guests with food allergens! They want to make sure that you are safe, happy, full and have a magical meal while visiting.
The most common questions I hear about eating at Disney Theme Parks with food allergens are:
Do they have gluten free churros? YES - but only at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom, and they are incredible!
Do they have vegan food? Yes -- they have a lot of vegan options!
Do they make gluten free Monte Cristo sandwiches? Yes - but only at Disneyland in Anaheim.
Can you bring food into the Disney theme parks? Yes -- just no glass or booze! Bring lunch, dinner, sandwiches, snacks and even sodas and water, too. More on this below.
Most Disney chefs, restaurants and quick-service locations can accommodate the following common food allergies:
Gluten or wheat
Milk or lactose
Peanuts and tree nuts
There is some information you should know before you go. It's a good idea to read THIS information on the Disneyland website which talks about Food Allergies and Special Dietary Requests. For questions and requests related to food allergies, intolerances and other special dietary needs, you can contact Disney Dining at Special.Diets@disneyland.com (for Disneyland) and Special.Diets@DisneyWorld.com (for Walt Disney World).
CHECK OUT MY GLUTEN FREE DISNEY GUIDES
With a variety of tasty options, there are a few types of dining experiences at the parks: Table Service, Quick Service, Buffets and Kiosks. While there is a good chance you can find all kinds of safe foods around Disney Theme Parks, here are a few tips to help you:
The easiest place to eat is at any table service restaurant. The majority of the table service restaurants can accommodate your food allergens. When making your dining reservations, please indicate any food allergies, intolerances or dietary needs that you might have. Reiterate that upon arrival to the restaurant and again to your waiter. More often than not, there will be an allergen friendly menu to order from which is very detailed, and the chef will come out to speak to you. From everything that I have read and experienced personally, the chef will prepare your specific meal to ensure all food allergen safety requirements are met 100%. If for some reason the chef does not come out and you'd feel more comfortable, request to speak to the chef prior to ordering your meal.
Disney's Quick Service restaurants work in a similar fashion. Ask for the allergen friendly menu. Place your order with the cast member and let them know you have food allergies. This will alert them to take the proper steps when punching in your order so that the chef knows. Every single time I have ordered from the allergen friendly menu, the chef has personally brought it out to the window to hand it to me. I spoke to a cast member once who said that only the head chef and the "leads" are able to make allergen friendly meals.
Buffets can be tricky, but they are doable. The chef will come out and speak to you. They will let you know what you can eat from the buffet, whether you serve yourself (from the buffet) or whether they bring it to you (from the back).
Kiosks are around the park and have limited options depending on your needs. However, depending on your food allergens, you might be able to grab a snack along the way. The easiest way to figure out what will work best for your family is to call (714) 781-3463 (Disneyland) or (407) 939-3463 (Walt Disney World).
QUICK TIPS FOR ORDERING:
Before you order, make sure your server knows about your allergens.
Always ask to speak to the chef before ordering - especially if you have questions about the menu. There is always a possibility that menus and ingredients can change.
Some places serve gluten free french fries that are cooked in a dedicated gluten free frier. Some restaurants have fries cooked in a cross contaminated frier. Ask your server.
Double check signs that say “gluten friendly” vs "gluten free” — some places might have gluten free options, but do have the possibility of cross contamination.
Don't be afraid to ask questions, check and recheck that items are gluten free.
Ask if there's a possibility of cross contamination.
MORE QUICK TIPS:
Always carry your epinephrine auto-injector: this is a must must must! If you have an anaphylactic food allergen then please carry your epinephrine with you! Do not leave it in the room or in the locker! Keep it with you all day long because it can save your life!
Plan ahead: have an idea where you will eat so that you don’t waste time trying to figure out where you will eat and what you will eat. I like to use my Notes app to list restaurants at each park along with snack options that are safe for me to eat.
Make a reservation: call Disney Dining to book a dining reservation, and let them know what food allergies you have. (Disneyland (714) 781-3463 and Walt Disney World (407) 939-3463)
Ordering on the app: you can order your allergy friendly food via the Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s magical app! How convenient! Be sure that when your food is ready to pick up at the window that you double and triple check that your food is gluten free (or free of your allergens), because, you know, technology can be your friend but also sometimes you want to punch it in the face.
Alert your sever: even if your allergen is noted in your reservation, it’s a good idea to remind them when you’re seated and ask for the allergen friendly menu.
Speak to the chef: Always ask to speak to the chef before ordering - especially if you have questions about the menu. There is always a possibility that menus and ingredients can change. Some places serve gluten free french fries that are cooked in a dedicated gluten free frier. Some restaurants have fries cooked in a cross contaminated frier. Ask your server -- don't solely trust the internet.
Double Check: you might see a sign that says “gluten friendly” vs "gluten free” — some places might have gluten free options, but do have the possibility of cross contamination.
Lastly, if you are unsure of finding snacks that suit your needs, wants and magical desires — you can bring your own. Bring safe snacks for the whole family in a backpack, purse or even get a locker to store your goodies. Just don’t bring any glass or alcohol. You can bring a whole bunch of sandwiches, snacks, waters, sodas, and a picnic lunch if you like. Do what works best for you and your budget. We often make a pit stop at the grocery store to stock up on a few snacks and a case of water for the hotel room. It’s not too far away, especially if you have a car. Otherwise, bring some from home, just in case. You can also use ordering apps such as Instacart and Amazon Prime Now to have stuff delivered.
There are many delicious options that cater to common food allergens at the Disney Theme Parks. Each food service location will have a food allergen friendly menu along with an ingredients list. DO NOT HESITATE TO ASK, CHECK AND RECHECK, because ingredients can change and menus can change. It’s better to ask and be sure rather than to get sick.
A few last minute, random, helpful Disney Tips for you:
Once you get your Disney theme park ticket, take a picture of the back of it. This way if you lose it, you can go to City Hall and show them the back of your ticket in case anyone else turned it in to Lost & Found and they can better assist you. (Note: depending on what type of reservation you have and if you are at Disneyland or Walt Disney World you may or may not have a paper ticket. You could be using the Magic Band or a digital ticket on the app)
Use the Disneyland and Walt Disney World APP to check wait times, show and parade times and so much more. Download it before you go and play with it before your trip so you are familiar with it.
If you are going with your kids, take a photo of them each morning in case you get separated or they are lost. This makes it easier for Disney security and cast members to help find them. If your kids are too young for cell phones, have them memorize your phone number.
Buy your tickets online. This can save up to 30 minutes (or more) of waiting in line that morning. Just buy them online, print them and take them right to the entrance.
Use the FASTPASS system because it will allow you to maximize your time at Disney. Not all rides have the FASTPASS system, but many do. The FASTPASS system allows you to insert your ticket at certain attractions, and you'll be given a pass which will give you a return time to come back and ride that specific ride. This way, you don't have to wait in the really long lines, you can use the ride's FASTPASS line during your specified time. To learn more about Disney's FASTPASS system click HERE for Disneyland and click HERE for Walt Disney World. Know that at Walt Disney World you can book your FASTPASS ahead of time.
Consider character dining. It can be expensive, but this way you get to eat and have the characters come to you rather than have to wait in a long ling to meet them inside the parks. Most Disney hotels offer a character breakfast and you don't have to be staying on property to enjoy them. Call Disney Dining (Disneyland (714) 781-3463 and Walt Disney World (407) 939-3463) and ask what is available during your trip. Also ask which characters are at the different restaurants to see what will be best for your family. Character meet and greet lines can be over an hour inside the park, but with character dining you can meet 3-5 characters in an hour while you enjoy a tasty meal.
Bring snacks & water bottles! You can carry them with you or put extra goodies in the locker to get later.
There are so many Disney tips I can give you, but honestly just be prepared with a game plan. Know which park you want to start in, what land you want to head to first and which ride you want to go on next. Use the time waiting in line to figure out what is next for you and your family. Consider booking dining reservations way ahead of time, as many restaurants book up fast. For Walt Disney World, dining reservations open 180 days before your trip, so plan ahead (yes that far ahead), and book your dining reservations as soon as you can.