I was nervous to take my multiple food allergy kids to Disneyland. What would we eat? Would it be safe? I share every single thing my son ate, and where we found it (including the days we weren’t at the park) so you too can feel comfortable and have a great, safe trip! I warn you of the pitfalls so you can avoid them and the great things to take advantage of! Almost everything we ate was free of the top-8-allergens! So, if you need gluten, dairy, egg, peanut and tree nut free food ideas for your Disney vacation…read on!
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There’s some things that Disneyland does WONDERFULLY and some things that were a little difficult to maneuver if you have multiple food allergies. I’ll help you make the most of the things they did well, and help you avoid the pain points! PLUS I’ll give you exactly what we ordered for my son and from what restaurant for ALL SIX MEALS in the park so you can have an action plan for when you go! Read on friends…
First off–the ENTIRE reason why we chose Disneyland as our first, big family vacation was because they are RENOWNED for their care and safety protocols regarding food allergies. I wouldn’t have gone there if I didn’t know that once we got there we would be taken care of. It was just the getting there and pre-planning that was a little frustrating.
I listened to one of their head chefs speak at a FARE conference a few years ago and was blown away by how careful and knowledgeable they are concerning food allergies. It was then and there I knew I’d take my kids.
Please understand I love Disney. This was my 4th time going to Disneyland (first time going with food allergy children though) and I think the world of them. I found when I brought up on Instagram some frustration with them it was met with die hard Disney fans. I wouldn’t have gone there if I didn’t love it. That said–I hope my comments will help others, and hopefully help Disney, improve the experience for allergy families.
I do plan on saving up for a Disney cruise and Disney Aulani next–that’s how much they earned my trust.
Things Disneyland did great #1: Allergen Menus
They have an allergy menu at every restaurant we went to, whether it’s quick service or sit down. It’s broken down by allergen. So, for example, they’ll say everything that can be wheat free. Then, in another column they’ll say everything that can be dairy free and so on. If you have a single food allergy, this is heaven! Seriously, if we only had one food allergy, it would have been a breeze. They really have the whole peanut and nut free thing down, it just gets hairy with so many allergies. It’s so easy to understand what your options are if you have a single food allergy. All you have to do is ask one of the cashiers (as they’re usually the first employee you’ll run across) and they’ll hand it to you.
Things that were difficult for eating at Disneyland #1: Not covering multiple food allergies on their menu
Because we have multiple food allergies, it was hard to cross check each allergen menu to see what was actually available (we need wheat, dairy, egg, shellfish, peanut, tree nut, beef and oat free). And, because two of our allergens are not considered common, those weren’t listed either. I REALLY wished they had a top-8-free menu to make it simple for you. Or, a combination allergen menu. Or, a chart like Costa Vida that shows you in a quick-to-read graph format what dishes have which allergens.
Things that Disneyland did great #2: Being able to eat at so many restaurants
We ate out for every lunch and dinner for our three day park hopper, and we ate at somewhere different every time. Yes, we could have just kept going to get pizza every meal, because once we found somewhere safe, it was tempting to just keep going back, but I was DETERMINED to try as many things for my readers, and my family, as possible.
It was HEAVEN. Just getting to be like, “Mexican sounds good right now.” And actually getting to eat on a whim was almost worth the entrance ticket price right there! Seriously, how long has it been since we could do that?? And, then to get to be like “Let’s do Chinese for dinner!” IN THE SAME DAY and get to experience an array instead of Chick-Fil-A for the millionth time because it’s so easy to get sick of the typical “safe” restaurants.
Things that were difficult for eating at Disneyland #2: Always having an option, but not always a kid friendly option
My child is a typical kid. If possible, he wants chicken nuggets, fries and mac ‘n cheese. Unfortunately, at two different restaurants we went to, the only safe option they had for him was a salad. I don’t know about you–but a salad is the last thing on my son’s list that he wants. I didn’t find this out until standing in line, with three hungry kids in tow, because you can’t speak to a chef until you’re at the front of the line. With the time we’d invested standing in line, and not knowing what other restaurants were nearby (because everything is a walk), and to chance that they’d only have a salad option as well we chose to stay there. So, we got him a salad twice. (I have to say they were good salads an adult would enjoy and he was a good sport.)
He did say he enjoyed the Galactic Grill’s salad better than the Hungry Bear’s because they used romain instead of spinach. The lifesaving thing was that we promised to get him fries, so if he ate most of his salad he could have that and pick a treat after. I was grateful he was willing and that he had something safe, but I really wish they could have some non-breaded nuggets, or a vegan & gluten-free mac ‘n cheese–it’s California after all where tons of people eat a gluten free and vegan lifestyle, so I was surprised there weren’t more options. I heard from multiple people that if it had been their child they wouldn’t have eaten a salad–so beware if your child is top-8-free and doesn’t like salads to not go to either of those places.
Things that Disneyland did great #3: Speaking directly to a chef
I was able to speak to a chef at EVERY single restaurant we went to (and we did sit down and quick serve restaurants). After I told the cashier we had food allergies, they’d give me the menu–which as I noted isn’t very helpful if you have multiple food allergies. So, I’d let them know I had multiple food allergies and without seeming bothered or it was a big deal they’d grab a chef for me. The chef would pull me aside, and ask me what the allergens were. They were always very knowledgeable and were able to come up with something quickly. I felt they took me very seriously, didn’t make me feel like I was a pain or asking too much and took notes (all but once) which helped me feel secure. I know that has to slow down their kitchen, but that extra step REALLY helped me feel at ease knowing the chef themselves were aware, there was no middle man, and that they were making it themselves for me. (Though, they still mark it on your receipt and order, to be safe too!)
Things that were difficult for eating at Disneyland #3: Not having advance information online or on their app…or anywhere really
This frustrated me more than anything. I downloaded their app. I emailed special dining twice (which is what their website says to do if you have more than 3 allergies) and only got a generic email telling me how to order–which, if you’re an allergy parent, you’re well aware of already. I even called their special dining and never got a call back to my voicemail. I googled. I checked other blogs. I read their site.
I could not find menus with ingredient listings anywhere.
I felt I was going in blind. And, I really hated that because I’m a planner. I wanted to know “OK, this restaurant can not only accommodate us, but my son will like what they have, so we’ll be sure to be in that area of the park around lunch.” Instead, we’d just have to look around and be like, “Welp, let’s go stand in line for awhile and hope that when we get to the front and can finally speak to a chef they’ll be able to work with us.” And, that was a huge bummer and the biggest letdown. Which is why I took such good notes, to save you from going in blind too!
I couldn’t believe that their awesome app, which can let you know what the real-life wait times are for EACH ride, only had a few restaurants’ allergen info listed (seemingly hit and miss with no rhyme or reason–so you’d have to click on each one and scroll), and again–it’s for single allergens. So, I still didn’t find it helpful.
Like I said, if I had had information that the only thing my son could eat was a salad–I wouldn’t have waited in that particular restaurant’s super long line.
Not only that, but you do feel like you’re holding up the line, when you have hungry people behind you and you can’t place your order until the chef and you have worked out what you need to do. It’s not very efficient, though it is safe–which I’ll take every time if I had to choose.
I really feel I did my due diligence to try to find out, and I was met with only unanswered questions. I stood in line for quite some time at Jolly Holiday because I wanted to get my son a baked good, only to find out they had nothing that was gluten-free vegan. I also took advantage of when my family was eating to run into a pizza place to ask, because I didn’t want to get my son’s hopes up if they couldn’t serve him. SPOILER ALERT: he could have pizza there!
I even stopped anyone who looked like a manager in the park (you know, dressed well, badge on, supervising others). I’d say, “I’ve been asking every restaurant and every employee I can find, can you please tell me where I can find some top-8-free, or gluten-free vegan baked goods for my son?” They’d whip out their maps and then scratch their heads and say, “I’m really sorry, I truly don’t.” I really hope they’ll continue to improve in this area.
This is why I am going to tell you everything we ate and where in the park we ate it below, to help save you from this!
Things that Disneyland did great #4: They let you bring in your own food
If eating out is too expensive or just plain stresses you out (though it shouldn’t if you read this entire post!) you can bring your own food.
I didn’t feel Disney prices were bad, surprisingly. Honestly their actual meals are average priced, but it’s their treats that are pretty high, and I think that’s where they get ya. All the meals were around 10-12 per person. Because we were on a budget, I’d tell my kids we wouldn’t pay for drinks if they wanted a treat. I’d share my meal with my 1 and 4 year olds because they eat like a bird and we’d all be full. So, in total for our family of five we were paying for three meals usually. That ended up being around $50-65 every time. I don’t think we’ll be able to continue to eat out as much next time when our little boys turn into hungry teenagers, so we’ll probably pack more next time.
I was a little confused about their cooler policy, because online it says no hard sided coolers. We brought a soft one, that has a handle and wheels. Once we made it through the crazy long security check point where they search your bags, we were told that was not allowed (INSERT PANIC since that’s the only one we brought on the trip) but they let us in when I told them we had food allergies. (So–basically check with your travel agent, or call to make sure you know the latest rules since they were confusing for us.)
We chose not to pack meals because I wanted it to feel like a REAL vacation–which for me means no dishes, and no planning meals–so we ate out every lunch and dinner. We did eat breakfast at the hotel though (see below how we handled that.)
We only brought in snacks–carrot sticks, our own kettle corn (popped at the hotel), Synder’s pretzels, craisins, clementines…etc. And, of course our own water bottles. But, if you need to bring that SunButter sandwhich–you can do so!
OK–You ready for it? The long awaited plan–which includes two days for driving and getting there!
We drove from Utah to California. Since we have three small children, we decided to break up the drive and stop in Vegas and spend the night.
We also wanted to go to the beach after we checked into the hotel, so we had an extra day before going into the park.
We also broke up the drive on the way home, stopping at Vegas again.
I HIGHLY recommend driving your own car, or getting a rental, as it allowed us to go to the grocery store once we were there.
WEEKLY MEAL PLAN (SUNDAY-SATURDAY) FOR DISNEYLAND AND TRAVELLING WITH FOOD ALLERGIES:
(Please note you can simply view a video of all we ate on my Instagram highlights if you want to see what the dishes looked like called Disney Eats because somehow it did not save any of the photos or videos to post here. SORRY!)
Reminder of what allergens we avoid: wheat, dairy, egg, shellfish, peanut, tree nuts, beef and oats.
- Ate at home a big lunch, so we only had to worry about snacks, snacks and more snacks while we drove! (see list below of what I packed)
SUNDAY DINNER IN VEGAS:
- arrived at hotel right before bedtime and did a picnic on the bed (kids thought this was fun!) because it was late and didn’t want to try to find a restaurant
- Packed tuna sandwiches (Little Northern Bakehouse bread + JUST Mayo+tuna–we can do fish), carrot sticks, bell peppers, cucumbers, water and apple slices (basically just sandwiches I had in a cooler and tried to eat up the snacks I packed)
- Since I knew we would really only be eating a picnic and light breakfast, we got a typical room, just made sure it had a fridge
MONDAY BREAKFAST IN VEGAS:
- Baby girl and I would eat at the continental breakfast to save money since we have no food allergies, and to have more room in the cooler for my sons’ foods
- Hubby (who is gluten intolerant, not an official allergy) would take turns going down with me (always left boys in the room to eat so they weren’t tempted) to get some eggs and other proteins
- Simple breakfast for the boys–safe bread & grape jelly, bananas, cinnamon Chex cereal, mandarin oranges, apple sauce and juice from the hotel that they nibbled on. If they ate a good breakfast we’d allow them to go get juice from the continental breakfast–which is a treat for them since I don’t let them drink juice often.
- Ate snacks on the way to California
MONDAY LUNCH NEAR DISNEYLAND:
- Our hotel only serves a continental breakfast but was right across from a Red Robin (a safe restaurant we eat at a lot), Joe’s Crab Shack (which we haven’t eaten at, but my son loves fish and we’ve heard they’re good with food allergies), and a few more blocks away a Chipotle (again handy having a car!). We picked Chipotle since it’s faster, cheaper and we’ve been there quite a few times.
- My son got: a kid’s meal with corn tortillas, carnitas meat (pork–he finds their chicken too spicy) fresh guac from the back (since it’s near the cheese and we didn’t want any that was cross contaminated), rice and beans. *Though I do wish they did soft shell corn tortillas, my son doesn’t love the crunchy ones as much.
MONDAY DINNER NEAR HUNTINGTON BEACH:
- We spent a short evening at the beach and we had been recommended Mod Pizza. Unfortunately, once we went to order they were not willing to change their procedures to avoid cross contact, so we had to leave. It was super disappointing. I’ve tried emailing them with no response, so let me know if you have a good contact for them.
- Starving, we found on our GPS a trusty ol’ Chik-Fil-A. My son gets their adult meal (since it’s just chicken and potatoes) of the 8 count grilled nuggets, fries and a drink.
- Yes, they use peanut oil–that is the first comment I get. My allergist is OK with us eating highly refined peanut oil, as per the AAAAI: “*Highly refined peanut oil is not required to be labeled as an allergen. Studies show that most people with peanut allergy can safely eat this kind of peanut oil. If you are allergic to peanuts, ask your doctor whether you should avoid peanut oil. But avoid cold-pressed, expelled or extruded peanut oil—sometimes called gourmet oils. These ingredients are different and are not safe to eat if you have a peanut allergy.” Source: FARE. Do what you feel is safe and best for your own circumstances!
- After Chik-Fil-A we found a Wal-Mart (there’s all types of groceries stores, but my son will only drink their Organic Soy Milk.) We got breakfast items for the rest of the week, as our hotel in Anaheim had a kitchen–ask my travel agent (who will also guarantee you the lowest rate!) about it. It was SERIOUSLY THE BOMB HOTEL–watch my Disney Eats highlights to the end to see a room tour!
- Again–baby girl, hubby and I did the same thing with the continental breakfast as we did in Vegas, see above.
- Boys had (not the healthiest–but hey, it’s vacation, and they were in heaven and I wanted protein and calories in them since they can hardly maintain their weight and I knew we’d be doing SO much walking)
- Bacon (the kind that just needs to be microwaved)
- Silk yogurt (or you could do coconut yogurt–just what I could find)
- Cinnamon Rice Chex
- Chocolate soy milk
TUESDAY LUNCH IN DISNEYLAND:
- Galactic Grill: located in Disneyland near the Star Tours ride.
- Bought: grilled chicken chopped salad with an Italian dressing packet (surprisingly top 8 free! So hard to find an allergy-friendly Italian dressing!) + fries
TUESDAY DINNER IN DISNEYLAND:
- Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill: Located near the wharf in California Adventure
- Kids taco plate with the citrus marinated chicken, rice, beans and corn tortillas
TUESDAY DESSERT IN DISNEYLAND:
- Stand across from Little Mermaid ride in California Adventure (they have them all over!)
- Cotton candy
- *They have binders with ingredients, if you need to see. They had actually misplaced theirs, and radioed in to get details for me!
WEDNESDAY BREAKFAST AT HOTEL:
- Same as previous morning
WEDNESDAY LUNCH AT DISNEYLAND:
- Lucky Fortune Restaurant: Located near the wharf in California Adventure
- Teriyaki vegetable bowl–but I guess the vegetables are made on a a shared grill, so he just got the teriyaki chicken and rice. I was sad they didn’t tell me before, they just handed me a bowl of meat and rice and I had to ask where the vegetables were. They have gluten-free soy sauce (we can do soy). And, a side of edamame. My son wasn’t sad about no vegetables…haha!
WEDNESDAY LUNCH DESSERT AT DISNEYLAND:
- Yes, we did that. We’re on vacation after all!
- Adorable Snowman Shack: By Incredi-Coaster in California Adventure.
- Bought: Pixar Pier Frosty–lemon soft serve “ice cream” with a blue slushy in the bottom. This was my son’s favorite treat. He’s never been able to have soft serve, let alone ice cream from a store for a treat, so he was in HEAVEN. It was huge and so we had the boys share.
WEDNESDAY DINNER AT DISNEYLAND:
- Alien Pizza Planet: Located by Star Tours in Disneyland
- Bought: Gluten-free, vegan “cheese pizza”. They ACTUALLY had a gluten-free crust that didn’t have eggs (rare find!) and they had Daiya cheese. He ate almost the entire pizza (since it’s quite flat). It was so amazing I almost cried. It was our first time as a family ever eating pizza at a restaurant. Almost worth the trip right there!
WEDNESDAY DINNER DESSERT AT DISNEYLAND:
- Tiki Juice Bar: Located right by the Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland
- Bought: A Dole Whip–while they liked it, they said they liked the Adorable Snowman treat better
THURSDAY BREAKFAST AT THE HOTEL:
- Same as the previous day
THURSDAY LUNCH AT DISNEYLAND:
- Hungry Bear Restaurant: Located by Splash Mountain in Disneyland
- Bought: Chicken spinach salad with craisins, jicama, strawberries and strawberry vinaigrette with a side of fries for bribery
THURSDAY LUNCH DESSERT AT DISNEYLAND:
- One son got a sucker (they have lots of candy stores all throughout–just read the ingredients because many of their candies have a cross contamination warning. The tall, swirled ones (that we got) did not.
- The other son begged for another Adorable Snowman, so how could we say no? *Please note not everything served there is dairy-free–be sure to get the Pixar Pier frosty
THURSDAY DINNER AT DISNEYLAND:
- The Plaza Inn: Located near the round about
- Bought: Salmon, rice and green beans. (They also have delicious roasted chicken if you can’t do fish.)
- This was the most expensive restaurant we ate at, but the food was comforting and delicious and my son adores salmon so we thought it was a great last meal in the park.
THURSDAY DINNER DESSERT:
- Sucker from the candy store on main street (the same, twisted one we had before)
- Same as the previous days
SPECIAL ROAD TRIP SNACK BEFORE HITTING THE ROAD:
- We drove to Sensitive Sweets Top-8-Free Bakery in Fullerton (about 10 mins from our hotel). My husband and son didn’t love the cupcakes, but my other son LOVED their truffles.
FRIDAY LUNCH ON THE ROAD:
- Because we had a late breakfast and slept in, we had plenty of snacks and weren’t hungry to stop for lunch. Instead we had an early dinner.
FRIDAY DINNER IN VEGAS:
- We went to Coronado Cafe inside the South Point Casino because Chef Keith Norman works there and said he’d make sure his staff was alerted to us coming. He has worked very hard to make his restaurants there allergy aware and felt they took us very seriously. My son just had grilled chicken and french fries.
SATURDAY BREAKFAST IN VEGAS:
- We stayed at a hotel that had a fridge, so we had kept some of our yogurts in a cooler that we had not eaten from the grocery store in California (so worth it to travel with a cooler!). I also grabbed the kids bananas from the continental breakfast and they snacked on Cinnamon Rice Chex. (They still had jam and safe bread left, but weren’t wanting any.)
SATURDAY LUNCH ON THE ROAD:
- We saw there was a Chick-Fil-A in Cedar City, Utah so we stopped there. Unfortunately, they did not have grilled nuggets (the only safe thing on their menu.) I’d never heard of this and was super frustrated. My son said he only wanted a drink and some fries–and so I obliged. I had to surrender that sometimes being full was better than being healthy on the trip.
- Had I had known this, I would have stopped at Costa Vida which was a few exists away. So don’t go there if you need grilled nuggets! I offered to make a SunButter and Jelly sandwich (had packed a container of SunButter) but they didn’t want it.
- Home sweet home! I used my instant pot to cook up some lemon chicken, quinoa and peas–all things from my freezer or pantry since we were low on groceries and hungry and wanted something fast. How good it was to have a home cooked meal! (I was sad to start doing dishes again, though!)
And there you have it. Almost an entire week of exclusively eating out with allergies to wheat, dairy, egg, shellfish, peanut, tree nut, beef and oats!
It can be done with planning and packing!
ROAD TRIP SNACKS:
- I had packed so much stuff, that we still had food leftover when we got home. It helped me feel at ease to know we had so much food. I tried to do a mixture of fun snacks as well as healthy options:
I tried to not show the stress because I didn’t want to model that for my kids. If I was frustrated, I would make support calls to other friends and adults and try to not talk about it in front of the kids so all they knew was that everything came together and that it was magical!
I hope this post helps you feel confident in going out of your comfort zone and making some memories with your family. I kept telling myself that going to all this work and stress would be worth it, and it was. We had a great time, and it will be a special memory we’ll always have.
HOW WE AFFORDED IT:
****Lastly–the other question I get a lot is how we afforded this. Yes, this was a stretch for our tight family budget. We saved up for a year.
What helped sooo much was that I got the tickets and hotel on Back Friday, which gave me a great deal (adults at kid prices and the 4th hotel night free!).
THEN–we did a layaway plan, so I paid about $200 a month for a year, to help it not hit all at once! I highly recommend it!
My travel agent, Get Away Today, was sooo fabulous. We’ve used them before on a cruise and I knew that they were the Disney pros. I seriously called them multiple times with all sorts of random questions like “Where do we find Black Panther”. Or, “Give me all your tips for going to the park with small kids” and they were a huge resource and sooo helpful!
They have the guaranteed LOWEST rates, and you will even find some specials, because I am an affiliate for them, for my readers! Be sure to use this link, or if you call 855-GET-AWAY (438-2929) tell them “Allergy Awesomeness” to get the best pricing!
I want you all to go and have a great time! If you do, tag me, so I can see!
PLEASE SHARE THIS POST, SO THAT AS MANY ALLERGY PARENTS NEED THIS CAN FIND IT! BE SURE TO PIN IT AS WELL, TO SAVE IT FOR EASY REFERENCE. BE SURE TO ALSO CHECK OUT MY OTHER ALLERGY-FRIENDLY PINTEREST BOARDS.
***Did you know I have a guide for Legoland with food allergies too? Check out the post by clicking the photo below**
Hi! I’m Megan, a mom to four kids, two with multiple food allergies & one with EOE. I’m a published cookbook author that constantly tweaks recipes to make them allergy friendly–it’s an addiction. I share every recipe & tip with you, to help you eat like you did before food allergies & dietary restrictions. You can still be awesome, even with food allergies!