Sunday, August 2, 2015

Disney Vacation 2015....with Food Allergies

The hubs, me, grandma, grandpa, GirlyGirl, Cutie, Bubs, and Curls

After brainstorming of the many different locations we could go to for our summer vacation this year, we decided we would return to Disney World.  We visited there two years, and we were blown away with not only the typical magic of Disney, but also the availability of safe food for my kids.

I have four kids, two with food allergies.  We make and take their food everywhere with us. They don't eat anything that I haven't made or approved ahead of time.  So allowing them to eat actual restaurant food at an actual restaurant prepared by people other than myself was a little difficult.  Two years ago, my kids ate at three different restaurants at Disney World, and they were perfectly safe.

Yes, Disney World has a lot to offer as far as entertainment, magic, etc, but what my kids remember most from our vacation two years ago is that they got to eat at a restaurant.  This is one of the main reasons we decided to return again this year.  After all, that means less prep work and packing for me.  :)

I don't have any fun, new recipes that travel well to share with you.  We have found what works and what is simple, and that is pretty much our go-to "vacation food."  What the kids look forward to most, though, is the donuts.  I rarely make them, so they are an extra special treat.

Snickerdoodle, plain frosted, and chocolate donuts; pancake muffins

What I'd really like to share with you is our experiences at each restaurant.

Each morning we ate breakfast in our hotel.  We packed one meal for the day and ate the other meal at a Disney restaurant.

A little quality time with the mouse

The first day we ate at Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom.  While I knew the menu options would not be my kids' favorite after looking online, I still wanted to go, purely for the atmosphere.  What a beautiful restaurant!  The Beast even made an appearance while we were dining.  The kids each had a salad, steak, green beans, and french fries. And they ate surprisingly well based on the moans I heard once they knew what their options were.

 A feast at Be Our Guest

The next day we ate at Tony's Town Square Restaurant, also at Magic Kingdom.  We ate here last time, and we knew they had safe spaghetti and meatballs served with a roll.  The kids were looking forward to this place for months.  Even though I frequently make this meal at home, there's something special about getting to eat it at a restaurant.

Spaghetti and meatballs at Tony's Town Square Restaurant

The third day we visited Hollywood and ate at Hollywood and Vine.  Here the menu was quite limited for the list of foods Bubs avoids (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, soy, artificial colors).  This is a buffet style restaurant, and the chef offered to grill some plain chicken breasts.  This did not sound appealing to the kiddos.  After talking with the chef in more detail and touring the buffet line, we were able to come up with several options, including a plate full of rice, corn, green beans, and a salad.  They also managed to season the chicken which made it quite tasty.  While this wasn't the kids' favorite meal, they were blown away by the dessert.  The chef told me that they have Enjoy Life cookies for people with food allergies, so I asked for two cookies for both of my kids.  A few minutes later, they came out with a plate that had on it a giant brownie with strawberries and two packages of two cookies each.  I couldn't believe my eyes, and neither could the kids.  Normally I would never allow my kids to eat this much sugar at once, but this was, after all, a very special (and magical) occasion.

A magical dessert at Hollywood and Vine

Our final meal at Disney was at Akershus in Epcot.  We ate brunch here two years ago, and we knew it would be a success.  During our meal, the Disney princesses visited the tables and had a parade throughout the restaurant.  While the staff was excellent here, I have a few brand suggestions for this restaurant.  The allergy-friendly waffles they offer are frozen Van's waffles.  There are many variety of this brand of waffles, and at home we use the ancient grains variety which is Top 8 Free.  I can't remember which variety they used here, but it does contain soy.  While Bubs has a sensitivity to soy from which we rarely stray, we decided to allow him to eat these waffles since soy is not a life-threatening allergy.  (He ended up tolerating this quite well, actually.)  Also, they keep Bob's Red Mill pancake mix on hand, but this mix is processed with tree nuts and soy.  While we were lenient with the soy sensitivity, we are not so willing to take a chance with the tree nuts.  There are other wonderful pancake mixes available that I would recommend the restaurant keep on hand, such as Namaste or Enjoy Life Foods.  I did contact the restaurant after our visit with these suggestions.

Brunch at Akershus

Another exciting find was Aloha Isle, which I was actually keeping an eye out for since I had seen others enjoying this treat on social media.  The Dole Pineapple Whips are Top 8 Free, and they are absolutely delicious.  The kids kept asking to return to that counter for more. 

Dole Whips at Aloha Isle

We were only able to find Aloha Isle at Magic Kingdom, but we were able to find some frozen Minute Maid Lemonade that was safe for them at a few ice cream stands in Hollywood and Epcot.  

At each restaurant, the server was very inquisitive and attentive to my kids' allergies.  Then the chef came to our table to discuss our options.  They were all so friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable.  Not once was I made to feel like a burden for asking for food to be prepared in a manner that is safe for my kids to eat.

 We also spent a day at Universal Studios, but I had difficulty finding allergy dining information online ahead of time.  Not wanting to take any chances, we just packed our food for this day.  We did stop at a few frozen treat counters/stands looking for an allergy-friendly treat, but we were not successful.  One worker just looked at me like I was crazy for asking to see the ingredient list, and she had no idea what I was talking about.

Universal was a very fun place to visit, but they are just not up to par compared to Disney on the allergy dining.  As long is you know that ahead of time, it is a very cool place to visit.

An amazing vacation had by all!

All in all, this was another successful vacation, both in terms of food safety and fun.  We made lots of new memories that will last a lifetime.  Disney World truly is a magical place.