Planning a Disney Trip with a Special Diet: Long time Disney’ers with a new diagnosis

This Friday we welcome Heather, a multi-published author and mom who blogs over at Though she’s visited Disney many times in the past with her family, this was the first year they visited with a new celiac diagnosis (but with a bit of a twist). Check out the bottom of her post for more information about her, her books, and her blog loaded with Disney fun! We’ve inserted a few comments throughout the post in regards to Heather’s notes about managing a special diet!

This was an atypical Disney trip for us. Not because we went in the heat of summer, we’re old hands at that. There were a couple of other factors that made this trip unique. One difference from past trips was that my brother’s family of four met our family of five at Disney World. The All-Star Music Resort even managed to put us in adjoining suites – hooray! Being at the most magical place on earth as part of a big group added an extra layer of excitement to the trip. Also, this was somewhat of a transition trip for us. Our oldest son, age 14, was diagnosed with celiac disease over the summer. He didn’t have to totally cut gluten from his diet until after seeing a dietician, so this was his last glutenous trip to Disney World [but don't worry! He'll find plenty of options next time]. He made sure to get in some of his gluten-filled favorites while he still could. I, on the other hand, kept my eyes open for gluten-free options for future trips. After all, we’ll soon be back for the Food Allergy and Celiac Convention in November! [And he'll have a blast!]

I’d love to talk about every detail of our trip, but that would make for a very long trip report. Instead, I’ll highlight some of the things that were new to us. Let’s start with the Magic Kingdom’s latest additions: both the Festival of Fantasy Parade and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train were wonderful! I’ve heard some complaints that the new ride is too short. It is, indeed, a quick one, but it’s smooth-riding and very exciting. I highly recommend it!


Another new thing for us was dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table. There’s nothing in the World like eating inside Cinderella’s castle while princesses stroll about, stopping at each table to chat. The food was amazing, hands-down the best meal of our trip. And, I understand, if you have food allergies or sensitivities, the chef will come talk to you to discuss what you’d like to eat. [They sure do! You'll also want to be sure to submit your food allergy needs to the Special Diets department in advance.] We’ll definitely be back to test this out!

We’ve dined at many Disney World restaurants, both quick service and table service, but had never been to Biergarten in Epcot’s Germany pavilion until this trip. It was fantastic! The buffet was delicious, and the Oktoberfest-style show kept us very entertained while we ate. Again, although we weren’t yet totally gluten-free while on this trip, my research shows that there are several gluten-free options on the Biergarten buffet. I’ve heard that a manager will walk you though any buffet at Disney World, pointing out the items that are safe for particular allergies. [Yes! And they can prepare many items safely in the back, too, to avoid cross-contamination] We haven’t done this yet, but I did witness this very thing happening at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom. A manager walked a woman and two young boys around the buffet, pointing out gluten-free items. This is another aspect of the wonderful Disney customer service that I’m looking forward to trying out!

We decided to purchase the Memory Maker photo package before our trip, and were so glad that we did! This package allows you to download all of your PhotoPass pictures, character dining photos, attraction photos, and the new Tower of Terror ride video. Because we had linked my brother’s My Disney Experience account to mine, I was able to access his family’s PhotoPass pictures, too.

Though we had previously experienced FastPass+ while still in the testing stage, this was our first Disney World trip where it was fully functional. It worked well for us. With a large group, it was nice to break into smaller groups so that everyone could do what they wanted, and then all come back together for a FP+ ride. The only slight problem was that the FP+ kiosks can be a bit tricky. Once we had used our three FP+ reservations on any given day, we would visit a FP+ kiosk to see what else was available. There were always quite a few choices (though not the most sought-after attractions, such as the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train). The problem was that the touch-screens were difficult to use. We almost always resorted to asking a Cast Member for assistance.

And then there was Villains Unleashed. We were really excited about this first-ever, hard-ticketed event at Hollywood Studios. Unfortunately, Disney grossly over-sold the tickets, resulting in huge crowds and very long waits to do anything event-specific. I politely expressed my frustration with this event to Disney, and they promptly gave me a refund for my five tickets. As usual, they went above and beyond with their excellent customer service. It’s part of why we love Disney World! [Wait 'til you see what your son can eat! He'll never miss his gluten days once he gets the Disney Chef treatment]

With our big family trip behind us, it’s nice to have the Food Allergy and Celiac Convention to look forward to. We can’t wait to make our FastPass+ reservations for November!

About Heather:

Heather Fraser Brainerd is a multi-published author and a renaissance woman. After earning a degree in Anthropology, she embarked on an incongruous career as a workers’ compensation insurance adjuster. She rapidly climbed the claims-handling ladder before surprising her colleagues by leaving the high-powered world of lumbar strains and carpal tunnel syndrome to run a child care center. Thousands of dirty diapers and gallons of strained peas later, she decided that maybe the insurance industry wasn’t quite as bad as she remembered. Unfortunately, it was. Fortunately, a few years later, she met the most wonderful man in the world. Now a stay-home mom to three amazing boys, she is able, at long last, to focus on her writing. She works in a variety of genres, including paranormal mystery, Young Adult paranormal romance, and Middle Grade fantasy. Heather lives in New York with her family and their crazy pug/terrier.

Like her on Facebook:
Follow her on Twitter: @HFBrainerd

Check out her books:
MuseItUp Publishing:
Barnes & Noble:

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