As a teenager with severe nut allergies, I know first-hand that vacationing with food allergies can be a nightmare. From eating out every night to being unfamiliar with the area, traveling with food allergies causes a lot of stress and anxiety, so knowing how to safely navigate your destination is all the more important.
For my whole life, I have dealt with a constant, mostly irrational, fear of eating outside of my own home—a fear that only increases when I am on vacation. I know how important it can be to have some sort of familiarity with my destination, so, as someone who has been to the Disney parks a few too many times in the last year, I’m going to share my top three tips on how to navigate Disney with food allergies.
#1: The Disney App
The Disney app is my favorite tool to use to help find places to eat while I am in the parks. The app has two different versions: one for the Disney World Parks in Orlando, Florida, and one for the Disneyland Parks in Los Angeles, California. While there are two different versions, they operate the same and are easy to navigate.
I use the Disney apps to locate allergy-friendly menus and dining experiences where I feel comfortable eating. I often struggle eating outside of a sit-down environment, but these apps make it so easy to find places to eat on the fly that I rarely stress over where I am going to find food.
To look for places to eat, I first click “Mobile Food Orders” in the app, and create a new order. Now, you can either choose to order your food directly through the app using this system, or you can order regularly at the window, but regardless of which I choose, I always use the app to find allergy-friendly options.
Once you create a new mobile order, the app will automatically load restaurants that are closest to you. When you click on a place to eat, blue-lined graphics detailing the menu will appear in the center of your screen. There may be one titled “Allergy-Friendly,” as seen in the image to the right. If you don’t see it immediately but have a “See All Categories” tab bar, click that and it may be there. If there isn’t an Allergy-Friendly option listed, choose a different restaurant until you find one that has that option available.
Once in the Allergy-Friendly tab, you can select your specific food allergy and the app will load allergy-specific menu items from your restaurant of choice. This is how I find places to eat.
Unfortunately, not every restaurant will have an Allergy-Friendly option listed in the app, and even if there is one, there might not be a wide variety of options to choose from. This leads me to my second tip: When in Doubt, Ask!
#2: When in Doubt, Ask Somebody!
If there is ever a point during your trip where you are uncomfortable eating somewhere or there are no allergy-friendly options listed on the app, just ask the staff. This may seem straightforward, but it is so important, especially at Disney!
The staff is well-trained and very knowledgeable about food allergies. They will do everything they can to ease any worries you may have about your food. One of my favorite things is that when you order with food allergies, your order receives a small allergy stick indicating that this meal is for a person with allergies. It is a very minor detail, but it is comforting nonetheless.
During my most recent Disneyland trip, I struggled early on to find places to eat, as most places I wanted to order from did not have an allergy-friendly option listed in the app, and when I finally found a place that did have a nut-free option, it was food that I didn’t particularly like to eat.
So what did I do? I went up to the counter and asked the staff if they could alter the meal because I had food allergies. They immediately said yes, and the chef came out to ask me exactly how I wanted my order made. It was that easy.
I have spoken to numerous chefs during my trips to Disney, and they were always very kind and reassuring! If you are anxious about eating at a specific place, I recommend asking for the chef. The staff also has a list of every menu item and what allergens they contain. Just tell them what you are allergic to, and they will help you!
#3: Find a Comfort Food
If you’re like me and have severe anxiety about eating, finding a comfort food while in Disney is a must. This should be a food that you like and feel safe eating as it will be your go-to when you feel stressed about finding food.
While I was at Disney, my comfort food was chicken fingers and fries. It was lightweight and commonly available throughout the parks, not to mention that it was delicious! If I was anxious about eating at a certain restaurant, I would just find the nearest place that had my comfort food available and just eat that.
When I’m anxious about food, I often shut down and avoid eating completely, so finding something that I was comfortable eating all of the time helped me mentally. It might not necessarily be the healthiest food, and that is okay. Eating something is better than eating nothing at all, so find the food that works best for you!
Whether you’re visiting Disney World in Florida or Disneyland in California, I hope these tips help you navigate your Disney vacation. I know how hard it can be to find food that you are comfortable eating, especially when you are in a new environment. If you ever get stressed, just remember to have fun – you’re at the Happiest Place on Earth!