Planning a Disney Trip with a Special Diet: 11 Tips for First Timers

Blogger Street Team member Patrick Boyd shares with us his top tips for folks who are visiting Disney World for the first time. A seasoned Disney traveller, Patrick is gluten, dairy, and soy-free, and shares details on everything Disney-related on his blog, Stitch’s Home

You’re heading to Disney World for the first time for a trip of fun and pixie dust.  How about some tips and info to make life easier?

1.       First thing to know The Walt Disney World Resort is huge, comprising of four “theme” parks, two water parks, several golf and miniature golf courses, several resorts, and a shopping area that also contains a multi-story indoor video game “park.”   In short, odds are good you will not see everything there is to see and do in one trip, but that what future trips are for.

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2.       In the parks themselves, an average guest walks about five or six miles a day, so bring comfortable shoes and clothes for walking.  If you want to get from one side of the park to other, it takes about ten to fifteen minutes walking and that assuming routes aren’t blocked from a show or parade.  This is important to keep in mind when deciding how to use the FastPass returns or if you need to be across the park for a dinner reservation.  While you are trekking back and forth in the parks remember to slow down a bit and take in the scenery.   It also is helpful to take a break and grab a drink to rest and relax a bit.  You can do that in general, or just plot out periods of time to eat, watch parades, shows, etc.  Many people often find it handy to break the long day up by returning to the resort during the middle of the day to nap or hit the pool and return that evening.

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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  disneyforfive.wordpress.com. 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!

Seven_Dwarfs_Mine_Train

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.

Blog: disneyforfive.wordpress.com
Like her on Facebook: facebook.com/BrainerdFraser
Follow her on Twitter: @HFBrainerd

Check out her books:
MuseItUp Publishing: museituppublishing.com
Amazon: amazon.com
Barnes & Noble: barnesandnoble.com

Planning a Disney Trip with a Special Diet: Downtown Disney (part I)

There is so much to share about Downtown Disney, but we’ll definitely start with the basics. For folks visiting the Food Allergy & Celiac Convention, Downtown Disney is the perfect way to get a Disney-fied dose of magic without having to the pay for park tickets–in fact, it’s free to visit, whether you’re at Disney or not.

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Downtown Disney is a fun-filled location loaded with restaurants, entertainment and unique shops, all along a waterfront and situated in a beautiful area. Parking is free and Disney buses travel there from the resort hotels (free of charge). It includes three sections: Downtown Disney West Side, Downtown Disney Marketplace and Pleasure Island. Even better, we’ll be having some post-event fun there on site (stay tuned!)

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Planning a Disney Trip with a Special Diet: My Disney Experience

One of the greatest things about setting up all of your plans before heading to the Disney Parks is My Disney Experience. This free planning tool is care of the folks over at the Walt Disney World Resort and part of the a key component of MyMagic+  and FastPass+ fun.

We’re big fans of this planning tool — not only is it handy, but it also adds to the excitement of your trip when you plan all of the fun things you can do, as well as your Advance Dining Reservations (speaking of which, have you done that yet?)

There are two ways you can access My Disney Experience. One is to visit the website, and the other is to head over to the app store and download the mobile app. Once you’re there, you can create your own account and customize your visit this November!

After you’re logged in and ready to go, you can link your resort hotel reservation if you’re staying on site, as well as your Magic Your Way park tickets, right onto your account. If you’ve yet to book these, no problem — they can be added later on.

Next, you’ll add the others in your travel party via the Family & Friends list first. You’ll all have access to the account and share all of your plans, which is perfect for larger groups planning their trip together. If you’re planning on linking yourFastPass+es, then now is the time to do that, too. You’ll be ready to make and share plans together—including FastPass+ selections.

One of the handiest part of the app and website that that you can view day-by-day plans and include reminders (such as “Food Allergy & Celiac Convention today!” and “Don’t forget about the Sunday events at Downtown Disney!”)

If you have access to a smartphone while on your trip, the app features include:

  • Exploring the resort on a GPS-enabled map that is interactive and quick response
  • Easy access to wait times for attractions
  • Showtimes for parades and fireworks
  • Details on character greeting location and times
  • Restaurant menus
  • The ability to make dining reservations
  • Access to all of your reservations and reminders
  • Management tools, such as tickets, MagicBands, cards, and reservations
  • FastPass+ experiences and details

Have you used My Disney Experience? What do you think? Do you find it helpful?

 

Planning a Disney Trip with a Special Diet: Physical Disabilities

If you’re heading to Disney with a Special Diet, the last thing you want to do is worry about other disabilities that might be present with you or your group. Though there are plenty of types of disabilities (often a Special Diet or food allergy being a “hidden” one), we’ll tackle some tips for those with physical disabilities first.

One of us here at FACCWDW headquarters travels to Disney each time with someone in a wheelchair, so the benefits and barriers of the parks is well known. We live it every time we go!

disney entry way

See that? “Where Dreams Come True”? You’re always taken care of at Walt Disney World.

Here are some of the first-hand basics to note before you go and while you’re there. For general Disney disability FAQ, find them on their website here.

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Planning a Disney Trip with a Special Diet: Snacks to Pack

Being a Special Diet at Disney World doesn’t mean that you don’t have plenty of snack options available throughout the parks and resorts, but sometimes we just want to take a few with us to have on the go. Luckily, many of our vendors offer snack-sized packs to take along with you, whether you’re stashing it in your bag or backpack, or grabbing as you run out the doors to make some Extra Magic hours!enj-00672

Enjoy Life Foods offers many options, and you’ll find them throughout the parks, as well. But if you’re packing from home, snack sizes are available in two packs of the Crunchy Cookies (Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate, Vanilla Honey Graham, and Sugar Crisp), and one serving bags of the Seed & Nut Mixes (Mountain Mambo and Beach Bash) and Plentils (Light Sea Salt, Dill and Sour Cream, Garlic and Parmesan, and Margharita Pizza). Check them out here.

Sunbutter offers On-the-Go snack packs that come in 2 tablespoon serving sizes. They’re perfect for bringing along for dipping baby carrots, apples, and bananas (available at all of the parks and resorts) for adding a little oomph to your fruit and veggies.

Schar has plenty of breads to choose from, but when you’re on the run, making a sandwich isn’t the first thing on your mind. Consider packing along their crackers — a perfect canvas for that Sunbutter! — and grab a few from the pack before you’re out the door.

Goldbaum’s, like Schar, has plenty of cracker options available. The Nutty Sesame and Just Salt options go well with that Sunbutter, too! Their bags of Quinoa Crisps are great for packing along–and the perfect snack size. Choose from Onion & Garlic, Barbecue, and Sea Salt.

Goody Good Stuff is the cure all for that sweet hankering, so bringing along a bag of candy is, well, the right thing to do! They have eight varieties of gummy sweets, from fruity to sour to cola… and more.

Bee Nut Free has single serve cookies… and by single serve, they’re 5-inches across! But our biggest recommendation is to take a couple of these with you and get yourself some (nondairy, if needed) ice cream at the parks… then make yourself a sandwich that everyone will be jealous of. They also have granola bars and energy bars, as well as cookies and trail mix, all in take-along sizes.

What are your favourite snacks to pack along to the parks? Stay tuned to next week’s posts — we have some recipes featuring our Magic+ Platinum Sponsor, Enjoy Life Foods, in our own packable picks!

Disney Do’s for those who love to relax

Blogger Street Team member Samantha Riley shares with us her thoughts on visiting Disney World and her Disney Do’s while taking it easy around the parks. Her blog Simply Samantha is what she calls her “little space on the internet I can call home”, and shares recipes, reviews, and more. For all food references, please double check ingredient lists, allergy binders, and speak to the Chefs to ensure they are safe for your dietary needs.

For Valentine’s Day this year. My husband surprised me with purchasing us Disney Passholder Tickets for the both of us for the year. My family has owned passes for years–basically since we’ve lived in Florida (which is has now been 10 years). However, due to money things and life changes, I couldn’t pay for my own ticket for the past 2 years. So, I missed out on going on the Disney trips with my family.

But life is now back to normal, and my husband and I can now enjoy going to Disney on our own or with the family.

Now that I am older, I tend to enjoy Disney just a tad differently than I used to as a child. I like just walking around, drinking a cool iced coffee or frozen lemonade with my husband. The hubster and I (mostly me) even enjoy the nice slow rides like “Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid” and “The Seas with Nemo and Friends“, because we can just sit back and relax. And most times when we go as a family, my mom and I like to sit and people watch while my dad, sister, and husband run off to ride rides.

Below are some Disney Do’s for those that want to just sit back, relax and enjoy the Disney atmosphere with your significant other or family member.

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Planning a Disney Trip with a Special Diet: Off-site or On-site?

Last Friday we talked about our travel planning and group rates available through our travel partner, but we also wanted to provide you with a few more details on staying off-site versus on-site for the weekend of the convention (or your trip surrounding it!)

Here are our top pros and cons to consider when you’re choosing where to stay.

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Visiting Disney World as an Empty Nester

Blogger Street Team member Mikki Clagett  shares with us her thoughts on visiting Disney World as an empty nester. Her website The Not So Perfect Housewife highlights her adventures in cooking and Disney, and as a Florida resident, she visits the magic frequently with her husband! 

What Can Empty Nesters Do at Disney World? A LOT!

When people find out that my husband and I have Annual Passes at Disney World and that we are empty nesters, the first question they ask is “Well, what do you do there without kids?”

Our answer..

We do A LOT! And love every minute of it.

Yes, Disney World is a magical place for families, but it can also be a GREAT place to spend time as a couple/empty nesters. You’ll have time to relax, maybe people watch, or even act like a kid yourself and not have to worry about ‘embarrassing’ anyone. There are lots and lots of ideas and fun things that we have found to do, but today I’d love to share with you some of the things the hubster and I enjoy doing at Disney World just the two of us.

Snack Around the World – EPCOT

Eating at Epcot can get quite expensive, but we have found that ‘snacking’ around the World Showcase can not only be cost effective, but you can also try some different items you may not have tried before.

We usually start off in Mexico at the La Cantina de San Angel. An order of Guacamole con Totopos is a perfect portion to get us started. Split a soda or a Dos Equis and you’re good to go.

From there we will take our time just enjoying the sites and people and maybe choose to stop in China, Morocco, or even America to add to our meal for the day/night. A snack in one place, a drink in another. Each country has something to try and even though we’ve been there over 100 times, I don’t think we’ve hit tried everything yet.

For less than a sit down meal at one of the restaurants in Epcot, you can dine around the world and have tried many different cuisines.

Pin Trade – Any of the Parks and Downtown Disney

We started pin trading when our girls were little, but my husband still really enjoys this.

Now we are no way like the ‘professional’ traders that have the portfolios and set up at the pin trading stations, but we do have fun picking a ‘theme’ or collection and try finding those as we go.

You can purchase big lots of Disney pins off of eBay at a great price and use those pins to trade for the ones you really want.

And if you do a little research, you can find out where some of the secret pin trading places are in the parks. I had NO idea that there were places like this till someone told my husband. That added just even more magic to the trading.

Behind the Scenes Tours – Various Places

Now this is a little pricey, so we don’t do this a lot, but it is definitely worth saving up a little and treating yourself to one of these once and awhile. It’s a great way to learn some secrets of the how Walt Disney World is run or glean some great information from all the experts they have working there.

We’ve done the Keys to the Kingdom (Magic Kingdom) and the Behind the Seeds tour at the Living with the Land, and both of them were so much fun.

I would HIGHLY suggest either one of these.

The next one we are saving up for is the Wild Africa Trek one at Animal Kingdom! That looks like a lot of fun!!

Take a Mini Vacation – Walt Disney World Resorts

Every other year, the hubster and I try to take a little mini vacation (stay-cation since we live in FL) at one of the Moderate resorts. Using discounts for either Florida residents and or Annual Passholders, this can be a rather inexpensive way to escape for a few days.

I try to find the resorts that don’t seem to be packed with kids. Now of course, Disney resorts are all wonderful, but some of them are definitely geared more to Mom and Dad relaxing than the kids having fun.. and that can be a very good thing.

Find a hotel that has some amenities that you would like. A beach, boats, walking paths, or even a really nice pool, and book yourself a little mini vacation.

Disney does ‘relaxing’ well. We have found hammocks and umbrella drinks to be just as much fun as riding Big Thunder mountain railroad!

As I said earlier, there are A LOT of great things that couples and or empty nesters can do at any of the Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts, these are just a few.

Don’t know where to start? Well, we would just suggest that you be adventurous, try something new. Disney is always changing things up and adding great new items to the make any trip magical. Ask the cast members if they have secrets or ideas for something fun and different to do. You never know what you’ll find.

But above all.. HAVE FUN!!

Planning a Disney Trip with a Special Diet: Group Rates and Disney Promos

We’ve been asked a lot lately about deals that’ll be going on the weekend of the Food Allergy and Celiac Convention, so today’s Friday Trip Planning post is dedicated to just that!

First, we’ve partnered with Destinations in Florida, who is offering Group Rates and room blocks especially for FACCWDW.

We highly recommend staying on site if you’re travelling in so you have easy access to the convention and the parks, free transportation, safe dining options with trained Disney chefs and kitchens, and, of course, that touch of extra magic. Really… the meals that Disney chefs will create you should be the biggest incentive!

Group rates are available, starting as low as $104.40+ tax at three different levels of resorts. The options include Disney’s Pop Century Resort (Value Resort); Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort (Moderate Resort and Host Resort for the convention); Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (Deluxe Resort).

Booking with Destinations in Florida also gives you discounts on other perks, including park tickets. Contact them for a free quote and be sure to let them know that you are attending the Food Allergy & Celiac Convention for that extra magic.

Next, Disney is currently having a Free Dining promotion (we wrote about it here). You can get a free dining plan when you purchase a non-discounted 6-night/7-day Magic Your Way package (includes room and theme park tickets) at most of the Disney Resort hotels. The deal expires mid-September, so be sure to book before then. Destinations in Florida can help you with that, too. Note your arrival date does have to be November 20th — just to keep that in mind.

There’s also the chances you might get a personalized deal from Disney — straight to your inbox! If you create a free account, you might get a PIN code, generally with either Free Dining or a room discount attached. Odds might be in your favor, so go sign up!

And finally, we’ve launched our Personalized Trip Planning to ensure you have the most magical experience possible! Read more about that here.

Just like always, feel free to ask any and all questions by using our Contact Form, emailing us, or commenting below. We’re here to help!