Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Allergy Free Disney Vacation!

In early February we took a family vacation to DisneyWorld!  We were so excited.  Our little lady (L) had just turned 4 and was BEYOND excited to meet all of the princesses.  Our little mister (C) was just about one, and while we didn't really know where we were going, he was excited!  Me, I was a little nervous.  A week away from home trying to figure out how to be a meat-eating, gluten-free vegan was going to be a lot of work.   So I started making a plan.  Once I got planning I just kept going and going!  We have touring plans, meal plans, list of foods we could eat at restaurants, etc.  But, because of all that planning, we had a fantastic vacation!

Here are a list of things that we found to be extremely important when planning an Disney vacation with allergies!

1.  PLAN.  Planning is so important to your trip.  I researched the restaurants at all of the Disney parks we would be visiting to find out which ones had meals that were allergy friendly, or that could be modified to be allergy friendly.  I've included the list that I researched.  I actually found that most of Disney is pretty allergy friendly!

2.  MAKE RESERVATIONS.  One of the perks of going to Disney is that you can make reservations for your meals.  Some of these meals may cost a little more than picking up a snack at a quick service or counter service restaurant (a restaurant where you are not served, but pick up your food front a counter).  When I made the reservations online for our meals, there was an option to select what allergies your family has.  Then when you arrive at the restaurant for your reservation, you are handed a special ticket that says allergy on it.  This is given to your server, who takes it to the chef.  Then the chef PERSONALLY COMES OUT to talk to you about the menu and what foods you will be able to eat.  THIS WAS AMAZING!  Most of the time I had a plan in mind as to what L would eat, but the chef was able to answer any questions I had.  For example, what type of oil are the french fries cooked in, what is in your rice pilaf, are your vegetables cooked in butter or steamed?  All of the chefs we met with were very friendly and very willing to help us.  This was worth the extra money we may have spent to be certain L was not getting any food she should not have.

3.  GO TO A GROCERY STORE.   This was a very important part of our trip.  Since we flew to Florida, I only packed enough snacks for the plane ride down.  We were staying in Florida a week, and I knew I would not have enough luggage space to haul a bunch of food with us.  We found a local grocery store (in our case Publix, but Winn Dixie, a Super Target, Super Walmart, etc would have worked), and stocked up on essentials.  This was so I always knew I had a snack in case L or C would get a case of the hangries (hungry and angry).  The hangries is not fun and often needs to be taken care of quickly! When we went to the grocery store we purchased: GoGo squeeze applesauce, veggie straws, rice chex, formula, diapers, bananas, apples, bottled water, carrots, pop for mom and dad, and some pre-cut fruit.  I would now add to the list some rice cakes.  Our hotel on Disney property (The Dolphin) had a refrigerator in the room which was fantastic.

4.  TAKE A FEW THINGS WITH YOU.  I find breakfast to be one of the hardest meals for L to eat out.  Between the eggs, pastries, french toast and omelets, we are usually let with fresh fruit and maybe a slice of bacon that she can eat.  Since I knew we would be eating breakfast in our room most days, I planned ahead and made a double batch of the The Best Homemade Granola Bars before we left.  I cut the bars and individually wrapped with in Saran wrap and put them into our check luggage on the plane.  This was L's breakfast pretty much every morning and sometimes a snack at night.  In fact, the whole family ate a few of them when were hungry at night and needed just a little something.  I think next time I could make a triple batch and they would all get eaten.

5.  EAT WHEN YOU FIND ALLERGY FREE STUFF.  We arrived at Disney in the middle of the afternoon, so instead of going to a park, we decided to check out Downtown Disney and lounge by our hotel pool.  When walking through Downtown Disney we discovered BabyCakes NYC.  A completely vegan and gluten free restaurant with desserts.  L was almost overwhelmed by the choices!  I don't think we have ever been to a place where there is more than one choice for her.  We had just finished a late lunch, but picked up a cupcake for her while we were there.  She was in heaven!

I also found a stand at Animal Kingdom that offered a TON of allergy friendly foods. While you should be prepared to pay quite a bit for a small treat, it was nice to know that while we were at that park, there was always a snack L could have.  They offered Enjoy Life Brownie Bites, BabyCakes NYC Cupcakes and Vegan / Gluten Free Granola Bars. 

Here is a list of the places we ate at and the food that L was able to eat.

1.  Bodies All American.  L shared a chicken wrap with the hubby.  She ate the chicken, but had her eye on the BabyCakes NYC bakery the whole time!

2.  BabyCakes NYC.  L had a vanilla cupcake with pink frosting and loved it!  All of the food there is vegan and gluten free.  We asked about nuts also, and nut flour is NOT used in their cupcakes.  Wahoo!

1. The Plaza Restaurant on Main Street.   This was a hidden gem of a restaurant I found while making reservations.  It was one of the few reservation accepted restaurants that wasn't terribly expensive.  At this restaurant the chef came out and presented with a book that included all of the ingredients in their food.  I was able to look through the menu and pick out the food best suited for L.  She ended up getting the kids grilled chicken, french fries and fresh fruit for dessert.  The chicken was really good!  Plus, she got a light up Ariel cup there too.  What more do you need?!

2.  Cinderella's Royal Table.  Since L is a HUGE princess fan I knew we needed to eat with the princesses.  I made a reservation to Cinderella's Royal Table as soon as we knew we were headed to Disney.  The only time I could get was 2:40 in the afternoon, but it worked.  Here, the chef came out to great us and discussed what L could eat.  We settled on the roasted chicken leg, rice pilaf, and broccolinni.  She also had a few of my sweet potato fries.  For dessert, they offered a raspberry sorbet that was allergy friendly!

3.  Aloha Isle.  We stopped here for the famous Dole Whip.  I've made this at home (frozen pineapple, soy milk, and a little bit of sugar) but we wanted to try it here for a snack.  When I asked at the counter whether or not the Dole Whip was vegan, I was given the allergy book and able to look through it!  Yay!  I ordered the orange and pineapple.  The orange is made with coconut oil and the pineapple is not.  What a delicious treat.  I did not check the ingredients in the floats or other offerings, just the whip. 

4.  Starbucks.  Our last day at Disney we were all struggling a little bit (well mom and dad anyway) so we decided to stop for a coffee at the Starby's on Main Street USA.  L is a big fan of coffee shops (she's been going since she was born) so she knows what she can get.  While I got my traditional grande non-fat 3 splenda misto, L had a fruit cup and apple juice.  Not a bad morning snack!

5.  Prince Eric's Village Market.  We did not eat here, but I wanted to include it in my list of allergy restaurants.  L was not hungry when we went passed this in New Fantasyland (I think she was too excited to ride Dumbo) but they have a lot of healthy options here.  Carrots, hummus and fruit are just some of the offerings.  This would be a great stop for a quick pick me up!

1.  Flame Tree BBQ.  We had lunch here during our rainy day at Animal Kingdom.  L had the grilled chicken sandwich (no bun) and carrots.  They offer a dessert with the kids meal (a cookie) but when I indicated that was not going to work for us, they gave her grapes instead.

2.  Garden Kiosk.  Here is where we found a lot of allergy friendly food.  Vegan and gluten free granola bars, cupcakes, etc.  As I said before, just be prepared to spend a lot of money.  I think for 2 of the Enjoy Life Brownie Bites you could buy a whole package at a grocery store, but it is nice to have options!  L had a 4 pack of mini cupcakes and loved them.  She ate the whole thing!  (no judgement on nutrition please, we were on vacation!)

1.  Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.  At the last minute I made an 8:05 reservation here for breakfast with the princesses.  After looking at the menu I knew this would probably be a fruit and meat only breakfast for L, but I also knew how much she would love meeting with and seeing the princesses.  This actually turned out to be a very allergy friendly meal!  Again we were greeted by the chef who told me they serve Van's waffles and 100% pure maple syrup.  Wahoo!  2 waffles, syrup, fruit and some bacon later we had one happy princesses.  The rest of the buffet was really good too.  Pastries, smoked fish, yogurt, eggs and hash browns.  This was one of our favorite things that we did on our trip and would definitely do again!

2.  Coral Reef Restaurant.  While I canceled our reservation here (we were full from breakfast), there were a lot of allergy friendly choices, so I wanted to include it on my list.  It's worth checking out if you need a restaurant at Epcot!

Our hotel had quite a few restaurant choices that we took advantage of.  After a long day at Disney it was nice to come back to our hotel and either order room service or walk down to the restaurant and grab something to eat.  All of the hotels have fabulous restaurants, so I'm sure you could find something to work for where you are staying.  Just plan ahead!

1.  Picabu.  This buffet / cafeteria style restaurant was great.  It was rice bowls with different meat options that L could eat.  They also offered a small selection of groceries.  Chips, cookies, etc.

2.  Garden  Grove @ the Swan.  This character meal, was probably one of the least allergy friendly places we were at.  While the staff was very nice, the chef did not come out to greet us and we had a difficult time finding the right food for L.  We settled on a chicken breast and steamed vegetables.  The vegetables came out with butter on them, so we had to send them back and they were replaced with steamed vegetables.  Not a big deal, but still an inconvenience.  For dessert she was offered fresh fruit which was nice.  Both L and C enjoying meeting Pluto and Goofy here.

3.  Room Service.  This worked so well when both babies were tired and eating at a sit down restaurant just wasn't going to work.  L often had the hamburger (no bun), tater tots or fruit. 

So after our adventure to Disney I would say everything worked out really well!  Just remember to:

1.  Plan ahead.
2.  Ask questions.
3.  Take advantage when you find allergy friendly food.
4.  Take food with you.
5.  Go to a grocery store.

Any questions - just ask!   I'll be publishing our touring plan later!