Tuesday’s Travels – gluten free finds us at Walt Disney World, in Orlando, Florida, for a multi-week series. Each Tuesday I’ll share a different dining experience that dazzled and delighted us (my family and me) during our visit. In this first post, I’ll share with you a quick how-to guide to planning and enjoying safe dining at WDW.
With any travels outside my normal stomping grounds, a bit of trepidation and anticipation hovers over me when going through the planning process. Being able to create a relaxing vacation filled with safe-food dining options, while not stifling the free-rangers (those who don’t have a care in the world of what they eat – so long as it is delicious), is not as easy as it once was. Three years ago we could travel as a family and really do the spontaneous grazing in style. Since going gluten-free and dairy-free (and free of shellfish, peanuts, soy and egg yolks for me), spontaneity has gone right out the proverbial window. That’s okay with me … as long as I plan well, so dining doesn’t dictate the flow of the vacation and become the constant focus.
Since having to eat gluten-free, I’ve planned road trips with the fully-stocked ice chest and grocery bags packed with all the items of which I’m very familiar. I’ve planned trips to summer camp where food gets prepped and provided for the week’s eating. I’ve planned the meals and snacks for time spent at the homes of other family members, where cooking can be easily done and grocery stores are not far away. But planning a week-long trip with the caliber and agenda of Disney, well, that’s another type of planning altogether.
Having been to WDW three times prior, I was very familiar with the vast array of wonderful dining options, from the tasty treats available throughout the theme parks, to the character buffets, to the authentically-themed restaurants with unusual and creative cuisine, and fast food choices that fall in between. Finding food at WDW is never an issue, but finding safe food caused me concern.
No Need for Concern!
Walt Disney World Dining has developed a perfectly choreographed system for those with dietary requirements. They’ve made it simple. They’ve made it successful. They continuously make it delicious! We enjoyed a week of those afore mentioned tasty treats, buffets, authentically-themed restaurants, and yes, even the fast food counter choices. Without ANY worries!
I can honestly tell you that before leaving for our trip, and during the first day, I was nervous … I’d planned well, and had been told repeatedly by very well-trained staff at Disney’s Special Diets Line that there was no need to worry. Just to be on the safe side, though, I packed two loaves of homemade banana bread, one zucchini bread, enough power bars for my son and me to completely live on, trail mix, and peanut butter and almond butter … just as a safety backup. In the end, a little was eaten, some made the trek back home with us, and much was thrown out. We simply didn’t need it.
So how does one plan for a safe food vacation at such a large, and busy, establishment as Disney? I’m REALLY excited to share this info with you …
There are three simple steps to creating safe, gluten-free (or multiple allergy) dining while at WDW:
The first step in setting up your dining accommodations is to choose at which restaurants you’d like to eat. This seemed a step out-of-order in the planning process when I first was trying to make plans. My experience has always been to first know which locations could meet our food requirements, then make our restaurant choices. For this reason I contacted the Special Diets line before planning our dining choices. I was assured by this department that we could make reservations for any location and our needs would be deliciously, and safely, met. I especially liked this because this meant that the free-grazers of our group would not have to make dining choices based on our needs (my son and I have special diet needs and my husband and daughter do not). No bland chicken, plain side salad, and boiled potatoes on this trip. WOW! Could it be true? Could any restaurant accommodate our dietary needs, especially multiple ones? Yes, this is true!
Choose the eateries that excite and entice you and your traveling companions. Make your reservations through the reservations line at 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463), or at Online Dining Reservations
The Special Diets Line:
Once you’ve decided on the places you want to wine and dine at, or simply grab some quick grub, you’ll want to print out a copy of their Special Diets Info Sheet. This will give you clear and basic info on how WDW approaches special dietary requests, their understanding of cross-contamination, and a list of some of the quick-service counters that can quickly accommodate certain food allergies. If you have more than one food allergy/intolerance, or if more than one guest in your party has food allergies/intolerances, it is important to contact Disney’s Special Diets Line. They will provide additional instructions and assistance on documenting your needs, and notifying the chefs at each of your dining reservations. We were instructed to fill out a Guest Allergy/Dietary Request Form and return it to the Special Diets department. Be sure to contact the Special Diets Line at least two (2) weeks prior to your trip. Always verify that your Guest Allergy/Dietary Request Form has been received and there are no questions.
Print out the Special Diets Info Sheet
Contact Special Diets Line – 407-824-5967
Fill out Guest Allergy/Dietary Request Form and fax back to 407-560-1355
Verify receipt of form at Special Diets Dept. – 407-824-5967
Meet the Chefs:
When you arrive at your dining destination, be sure to let the greeter at the reservations or welcome desk know you have arrived by giving your name. When they look up your reservation, your special diets info will have already been noted by the Dietary Staff. Be sure to always verify these notes. Once seated, the chef will visit your table and personally discuss your food needs with you. The Disney chefs are VERY well trained. Not only do they know their culinary possibilities, but they know how to make the guest feel as though he or she is royalty. Truly. It’s clear Disney knows the business of hospitality. The attention to detail, not only in the food, but to the dining guest’s comfort and peace of mind, is better than any I’ve experienced anywhere. And this was the norm at every eating establishment we visited during our stay. Your dining pleasure is about to begin!
The chef will visit your table personally to discuss your dietary needs.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the deliciousness of Disney Dining – gluten (and multiple allergy) free!
As of our visit to WDW, all WDW restaurants throughout the theme parks, water parks, and resort hotels, as well as Downtown Disney restaurants were able to accommodate our needs with prior reservations. At the risk of stating the obvious, if you have an allergy to say, “fish”, you may want to avoid a sushi bar.
Next week we’ll be visiting Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney. What GREAT finds we have to share!
Do you have unforgettable dining experiences (or ones you wish you could forget) you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you!
Safe food is a journey … Thrive!™