If you’re headed to Disney with food allergies, you’ll want to prepare as best you can for a safe and fun trip! Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts do a great job in maintaining a good variety of allergy-friendly menus on property, as well as keep a presence of pre-packaged allergy-free items for purchase in their shops and dining locations. But what should you do BEFORE you arrive on property for your Walt Disney World vacation to make your stay safe, relaxing and enjoyable when someone in your party is a guest with a food allergy?
- Select the right room
Do you plan to do in-room food prep, cooking, or laundry while staying on property? Are you here for a long or short stay? Will you be mostly eating from Disney property dining locations? Start with these questions to begin the process of booking your trip to Disney with food allergies. If you need a kitchenette, you’ll want to stay at a value family suite or in a deluxe studio room. If you need a full kitchen, you’ll want to consider deluxe villas that can accommodate. If you’re planning a short stay or feel comfortable with eating most food prepared and/or sold by Disney property dining services, then a standard hotel room with a mini fridge will suffice. Of course, all these different types of rooms come at different price points and are in different locations spread across Walt Disney World property. A travel agent can help you decide and find the right hotel that will work best for you and your family’s budget.
- Request a deep clean of your room prior to arrival
Once your room has been selected and booked, you can call ahead of your arrival to request a “deep clean” service prior to your check in. Simply call the front desk of your chosen hotel in advance of your arrival day and inform the cast member of your party traveling with a guest with a food allergy and state that you would like a deep clean of your room. Mousekeeping does a great job across all the Disney hotels, but a deep clean service is done with purpose to make the environment as allergen-free as possible. They will follow a protocol to look for and remove potential food allergens that may have been left behind from the previous room guest. This has also been called “the VIP cleaning.” It is intended for people that have special medical conditions and makes sure that anything that can be done to remove potentially serious allergens is taken care of. We recommend being specific in your requests. When you request this, you will usually find that the carpets are deep cleaned (or floors have been steamed) and draperies are steam cleaned. Linens (like bedding and towels) are washed in detergent safe for those with allergies (free of fragrance or dyes), and there is a much more thorough, extensive dusting, over and above the excellent job that is already done by Mousekeeping cast members. On a separate note, we suggest that you do not opt out of regular Mousekeeping services for the current gift card promotion as your shoes will likely bring in allergens from the ground of the parks and resorts you’ve trekked through during the day and a daily cleaning will help keep the room safe from spreading those around the area in which you sleep!
- If bringing your own food supply, request an additional mini fridge
If you decide NOT to stay in a room with a full kitchen, and you plan to bring your own allergy-safe food items that require temperature control, you can (and should) request an additional mini fridge be placed in your room for adequate storage of these items. Call in advance of your arrival to request this since there is limited availability in each hotel. It should also be noted that you can bring your own food into Disney resorts, parks and dining locations, but you cannot have cast members prepare the food you brought in. Even if you don’t intend to bring groceries with you, it is likely you will find some pre-packaged allergy-friendly favorites around the resort that you’ll want to stock up on to enjoy during the rest of your trip.
- Flag your dining reservations with food allergen information
One of the most fun things to do when planning a trip to Disney is making Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs). First, decide on what type of cuisine you’d like to eat and where you’ll be touring each day of your trip. Then, check to see if the area dining options offer an Allergy-friendly menu. (Learn about allergy-friendly menus in Disney here). Do not worry if no predetermined allergy-friendly menu is available for the restaurant you have your heart set on because it is common for chefs at Disney-owned and operated restaurants to come to your table to discuss your allergen and level of comfort with cross contamination to provide you with a tailored menu meant to be safe and appealing to you. BUT we do recommend that you flag your reservation with your food allergen or special diet information prior to your arrival. You can inform a Cast Member of your dietary requirements when making a dining reservation over the phone by calling (407) WDW-DINE or (407) 939-3463. When reserving a table online, you should indicate all food allergies and intolerance at the time of booking. You can even email [email protected] for additional help in navigating the dining process at Disney with food allergies. We recommend contacting and working with Special Diets at least 14 days in advance of your arrival when there is more than one food allergy or diet modification that needs to be made. This goes for the top 8 food allergens, but also any other food allergy, metabolic disorder, or Phenylketonuria (PKU). Disney also has this written warning on their website “Please also note that our allergy-friendly offerings are reliant on supplier ingredient labels, and we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the contents of each food item. Allergen advisory statements (e.g., “may contain”) are not regulated and therefore not taken into consideration when developing allergy-friendly meals. It is ultimately up to your discretion to make an informed choice based upon their individual dietary needs.”
- Download the My Disney Experience App
The My Disney Experience (MDE) App is a smart phone app that can keep track of all your Walt Disney World travel plans including hotel stay, tickets, special events and dining reservations. Additionally, you can use this app for Mobile Ordering. Many quick service restaurants on Walt Disney World Property have their Allergy-Friendly Menu loaded into the Mobile Order section of the MDE app, which means you can order a gluten-free Grilled Chicken Sandwich from Cosmic Ray’s while exiting the Tomorrowland Speedway and skip the hassle of waiting in line to order at the restaurant. You’ll also see a green leaf icon for Plant-based menu offerings that are made without dairy, fish, meat, poultry or egg. A notification is sent to your phone when your order is ready for pick up, so you can grab a seat while you wait, or go straight to the Mobile Order pick up line to view the allergen ingredient binder and speak with a cast member about any food allergy concerns you have while they put your order together. Whether or not you should us this app for mobile food ordering is dependent on the severity of your food allergy and your comfort level with potential/possible cross contamination but can be a huge time-saver for those who are able to use it since allergy-friendly orders typically take a little extra time to prepare due to the precautions and protocols used to ensure safety.
A vacation should be a time to have fun and relax with loved ones, and the prep work suggested above is one way to alleviate some of the extra concerns that arise for food allergy sufferers when traveling. There are many happy guests visiting Disney with food allergies who stay safe. As always, practice caution and safety by reading labels and by keeping open communication with all dining cast members to best manage your food allergy when traveling to Disney!