By Ann Dunnington
For most families, vacations are a time of fun and excitement. For those of us who have to navigate the tricky world of food allergies, vacations can be more stressful than relaxing. Figuring out where to eat, what to eat, packing foods that are safe but also travel well… it’s a lot to keep track of. After spending 6 magical days at the Walt Disney World resort this past week, one thing has become very clear. Disney is taking GREAT strides in better accommodating their food allergy guests in a way that is “mainstreamed”.
So much so, that nearly every restaurant on Walt Disney World property now offers an allergy-friendly menu with food modifications that you can order without needing to talk to a manager or a chef. Don’t get me wrong, speaking to the chef about our allergies in the past did give us a sense of security. Knowing that they understood how to accommodate us (and doing so is still an option if necessary) was a welcome sigh of relief, but that would pull the chef away from what he was doing and unintentionally make us feel like we were being “high maintenance”, especially when non-allergy diners were eating with us, too. The addition of the allergy menus really helps to make allergy diners feel comfortable and “normal”, which is a treat!
Many of the gift shops are now even offering Disney’s own private label “allergy-friendly” snacks. In years past, this was my biggest complaint… the serious lack of allergy-friendly snacks in the gift shops was always a frustration. Apparently I wasn’t alone in thinking that this was needed, and Disney is really stepping up to the plate. Let’s take a look at a few of the new allergy friendly snack options that I found in numerous gift shops around the hotels and parks.
These chips are made by Way Better Snacks, and are free of the top 8 allergens, but are produced in a facility that also uses milk and soy. They are delicious!
These cookies are produced by the WOW Baking Company, and are made in a dedicated gluten free facility. Normally I can only find these at Target stores in my area, and I was so excited to see them at Disney World!! They’re soft, chewy, and a really fantastic treat.
The chocolate bars, ‘granola’ bars, seed/fruit mixes, and cookies are made by the Enjoy Life company. This company is known for being free of the top 8 allergens, and then some! I was so surprised to see the cookies in the Pirates of the Caribbean gift shop, right up by the register! Needless to say, we picked up some to keep us going through the Evening Extra Magic Hours!
In addition to this, the Erin McKenna’s NYC bakery at Disney Springs is a gluten free and vegan (which means no dairy or eggs there, either!) bakery that makes the most delicious treats that the whole family can enjoy! Their treats are also available around the various hotels and the Allergy Kiosk at Animal Kingdom in “grab and go” containers. I love the chocolate brownie mini-cupcakes!
We have traveled to the Walt Disney World resort 8 times in the past 9 years, and of those vacations, 4 of them were after a diagnosed food allergy. With the addition of the allergy-friendly restaurant menus, training of the Cast Members, and the availability of more and more snack options at most of the gift shops, there is no better vacation destination for food allergy guests! Regardless of what allergy you may have, you’ll have no problem eating safely at the Walt Disney World resort!
Do you have a food allergy? Tell us your ‘allergy dining’ experience on our Facebook page!