Traveling with kids with allergies poses a unique challenge in that it can often define where you travel to and how much luggage you need to take. Still, allergies don’t prevent us from traveling, but we do plan much more in advance than we would otherwise. For our trip to Disney World (our first), we actually assumed there would be plenty of food for the kids to enjoy, even if it wasn’t necessarily healthy (read: greasy food every day). So we brought some food from home, but really didn’t pack much and basically winged it except for pre-booking 1 night at Sanaa since we were told reservations get taken quickly! So how did it go at Disney World? Well, read on…
Our trip was 3 nights and our first park at Disney World was Epcot. Both of our kids have allergies, but since our daughter is only 1, we didn’t look much for food for her. Our son is 4 so we mainly focused on his allergies, which are numerous, but mainly consist of gluten, dairy, nuts and eggs (and he doesn’t eat meat!).
Despite Epcot’s World Showcase, finding food for our son was fairly challenging. We eventually ended up settling on a plate of fries because everything else seemed to have cheese or bread.
We thought the World Showcase would be the ideal place to find a variety of foods, but it turns out a much better place for allergy-free options was the Land Pavilion, which we later went to and found to have a much broader assortment of cuisine, including noodles, tofu, soups and salads. Unfortunately, there was no easy way to know this beforehand, even in retrospect, and Disney World parks are big so you can’t just hop from place to place.
Animal Kingdom Lodge – Sanaa
We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village, which is fantastic. When we called for recommendations, the Disney agent we talked to said Sanaa was terrific. When we arrived, we were fortunate to learn it was in Kidani Village whereas most other restaurants in the AKL (I can call it that now that I’ve stayed there) are in Jambo House.
This was the only place whose menu we checked in advance since it’s a nice place with formal seating. They have a menu online, but they only mention they have allergy-friendly offerings without mentioning what they are. We called in and confirmed they do, but when we got there, it was even better than we expected. They bring out a whole menu with clear labels for the different allergens.
The one challenge we had, which was true throughout Disney, was finding vegan food (given the dairy and egg allergies along with not eating meat). Restaurants were definitely accommodating, but it rarely made a prominent appearance since at a minimum dairy was very common. At Sanaa, they had a number of items, including Basmati rice, okra, tofu and many of the sides for the naan (bread) service, which I had since gluten is a-ok with me. The food overall at Sanaa was terrific, very tasty and flavorful, and it’s definitely recommended for allergy sufferers and those who can eat it all alike.
The Magic Kingdom is what I dub the OG Disney experience. It’s got all the classic, recognizable characters and brings back all the good memories for us old parents. In line with that, one of the most memorable experiences a kid can have at Disney is dessert, specifically, eating ice cream on a hot day at the park. Luckily, the Magic Kingdom does not disappoint, allergy-wise. We found dairy-free ice cream (made by Tofutti) and our son loved it. Chocolate no less, not the typical fruit sorbet you normally find (and notice the allergy marker – this was common at Disney). This was in the Plaza Restaurant off of Main Street.
We had a similar meal otherwise to Epcot so nothing to write home (or here) about there…
Animal Kingdom is considered by many to have the most abundant options for those with allergies or dietary restrictions. This is probably due to its diverse food choices, which stray far from the typical burgers and fries. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to join my wife and kids in this park, but I did get a great pic of the food, which looks much better than the previous meals. I was told the fake chicken nuggets and corn were great.
In general, at the Animal Kingdom, there are a ton of places that will make or have great allergy-free food on their menu. Satuli Canteen in the new Pandora: World of Avatar section is a great example of the options. They have grilled vegetables, spicy tofu and rice among many other options. I highly recommend exploring this park for food since it has so many ethnic options that mean great food and great for allergies.
Disney World took great care in identifying allergies in the food at just about every place we had gone to. This made it very easy to determine what we could have and not. In addition, the more formal restaurants are particularly good and courteous when we inquire about allergies. We like that they make sure to note the allergies were taken into account by including an allergy marker, something many places have started doing. Our only gripe would be that it was occasionally challenging to find vegan food that wasn’t a side. It’s definitely possible, but takes a little bit more sleuthing (either online or at the parks).