Best going to Disney advice

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Here is the best advice I've read on going to Disney with a food allergy. It was on the DIS boards today, and am copying it here with permission by the poster, DVCDawn.

"My best piece of advice is to visit Disney's website and find the Contact Us section. Send a note that says something like 'My family and I are visiting WDW in May and my son has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts and tree nuts. Can you provide information regarding safe dining experiences for my whole family?' In return, you'll get a form letter outlining some of what previous posters have said along with (and here's the best part) the phone number of the Executive Chef/Food and Beverage Manager for each park. I strongly encourage you to call each of them. When you make the call, explain your situation. Often the person who answers the phone will be able to help you. The net result of all this legwork is most every park has a master ingredient list for all food sold in their park. This includes food sold from carts and at counter service. The Magic Kingdom person is especially helpful, down to being able to name the two places in WDW where the ice cream is completely nut-free. (This is a huge issue for my DD, who just loves ice cream). I print out all the lists, shove them in my pocketbook and consult them before we decide on a place to eat a meal.

"Also, always mention the allergy when making PS arrangements. When making a PS for our last visit, the CM told me why this should always be done, if possible. She said that about once a week the chef at each restaurant is given a list of priority seatings that have been made. They scan the list for any dietary restrictions and put them up on a white board in the kitchen. For example: Monday dinner - 1 gluten allergy, 1 seafood. This way they can be prepared ahead of time. In fact, the last time we ate at the California Grill I made a PS and was sure to add that my DD had a peanut/tree-nut allergy. The chef knew we were coming and prepared a special dessert as a surprise for our daughter. I'm sure if he hadn't known about this ahead of time, this wouldn't have happened."

------------------ Jean

On Jan 6, 2005

Chefs at Disney have never made anything special in advance for my PA son even in 15 trips. I've always noted the allergy on our PSs (reservations) and been very pleasant to everyone.

Our most recent trip (2 weeks ago), no chef even offered to make any special safe dishes either. I think they were too crowded to deal.

I have also think they must be getting more allergy calls in general, because before this trip I got through to less chefs and heard more recorded information messages. Maybe Disney is getting sick of being the safest place to go.

I also noticed there weren't any Disney boxed cookies or candies to bring home as gifts that weren't "may contains".

Even so, Disney is still a great place to go.

------------------ Jean

On Jan 6, 2005

We went to Disney in August of 2004 (in between hurricanes thank goodness) and the chefs were more or less helpful (one of them at the Sci Fi Diner showed signs of annoyance), but the only place anyone offered to make my PA son anything special was at the character breakfast in the Animal Kingdom.

The chef came out and walked my son through the buffet, but also offered to make him anything he wanted - and of everything he could have ordered my son chooses a bacon sandwich (don't ask).

We were at Disney for a week and stayed at a house about 20 mins off site, so many of the meals I made myself. We ate at least 1 meal at a day at various restaurants, and while I was relatively happy with them, I wouldn't say all the chefs went out of their way to make me feel comfortable.

Rita

[This message has been edited by Batman (edited January 06, 2005).]

On Jan 6, 2005

We were at Disney this past November. It was only a few weeks after we got our PA and EA diagnosis. My DS was 15 months old at the time of our trip. Obviously, I was SO overwhelmed since we had just found out. I called Disney right when we found out and they put notes on all our reservations. We had reservations for every dinner and about half of our breakfasts. We did counter service for lunch. We were there 10 nights and split our stay between the Grand Floridian and the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

I have to say that Disney was FABULOUS!!!! We vacation there A LOT so we are really familiar with the restaurants, but I have never been treated like such a VIP. They always made something special for Sam. Maybe it was because we were there during off-season? (We hate the crowds so we refuse to go anytime but off-season). Our first meal of the trip was at the Grand Floridian Cafe. I was so nervous but the chef was at our table within minutes of us being seated. I asked him if the mac&cheese had egg in it and he said it did. I said that Sam would just have the pizza then. He asked me what would Sam like if allergies were not an issue. When I said mac&cheese, he smiled and told me that he would personally prepare Sam's mac&cheese using egg-free noodles. This was typical of our experience the entire trip. We even went to places notorious for their use of nuts like Boma and Marrakesh. The chefs at both places made Sam all these special foods like grilled chicken breasts with steamed veggies, etc. In a way, it was better because we had an easy away to avoid all the junk food.

The Plaza Restaurant at the Magic Kingdom offered to make DH and I special milkshakes from new tubs of ice cream that had not been contaminated with other scoops so that Sam could have a drink of ours. We declined but were still shocked that they even offered.

I also called all four theme parks and spoke with the food and beverage managers prior to our departure. They all emailed me info on the foods in the parks and gave me suggestions.

It was a shame to come home after being treated with such kindness. We are fortunate that this was our favorite place to vacation before finding out about food allergies.

On Jan 6, 2005

Quote:

Originally posted by Sam's Mom: [b]I have to say that Disney was FABULOUS!!!! We vacation there A LOT so we are really familiar with the restaurants, but I have never been treated like such a VIP. They always made something special for Sam. Maybe it was because we were there during off-season? (We hate the crowds so we refuse to go anytime but off-season).[/b]

I think going offseason may have had a lot to do with it. We've had better luck at disney restaurants when it isn't crowded. Our last trip was 12/18-12/24, and they were maxed out.

------------------ Jean

On Mar 17, 2005

reraising. thank you! busy busy busy....

On Mar 18, 2005

I hope things have not changed since last year. So far, every time we have been to Disney we have arranged the exact menu/meal ds will eat ahead of time for each individual meal so that ds nows what he will be having, knows its something safe and its something he will actually eat (picky eater). I was told by more than one chef that requesting specific meals ahead of time ( I call 1-2 weeks prior) allows them to purchase ingredients and do some prep work (desserts) before we arrive. What has also helped is that we eat at the same place more than 1 time each visit and return to the same places each visit. When I place my call to the chef I mention that in the message (Last year we did California Grill 5 nights in a row). Then, everyone from the host to the server to the chefs know us by name and give that extra effort to make sure everything is great. Some of the items that I have asked chefs to make/purchase for ds in the past are as follows: strawberries, bananas, pancakes, waffles, chocolate sauce, cupcakes, carrots, french fries, steak, grilled chicken breast, mickey pasta, parmasean cheese, chocolate covered fruit, chocolate mousse, whipped cream.....We have never traveled there during the highest crowds - Thanksgiving through Christmas or on 4th of July. We have been there on Memorial Day weekend and Star Wars weekend when it has been crowded. I will be sure to report our experiences in June - our next trip. Marian

On Mar 19, 2005

I just wanted to add that I did call the number for the exective chefs office at the MK and a very nice person there emailed me the list of items that are safe - or to watch out for - at the parks. She also passed along the info to the chefs at Epcot and MGM and BOTH called me the next day! I was out when Epcot called but spoke at length to the chef at MGM in charge of all the counter service spots. He was very very helpful and nice and very allergy aware. My DS (age 3) is also diabetic so we have some other issues too. I am very impressed with their attention and awareness. We plan to travel in May - going on purpose at a less busy time as we hope to avoid the heat and lines (because of the diabetes) and get more attention from the chefs for the peanut issue.

On Mar 20, 2005

we go to disney 2 times a year. I ALWAYS let them know when we make reservations that my son has PA. I always call all the resterants before hand. I alway tell the waiter and hostess that my son has PA and i always ask to see a chef. They have always been very helpful and have never been rude. our last trip there was last month. my son ate like a pig and had a great time. one last thing pack lots of snacks and thing that you know are safe.

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