My son has Celiac and we were concerned about our experience eating in the parks as we were completely in Disney’s hands for ensuring every meal was gluten free. We researched it as best we could but most info was outdated online. In the end, we put our trust in Disney and were rewarded with great meals. Our trip was in May 2017 and I hope this helps others with diet/allergy concerns in general.
For those who do not know, a person with Celiac must eat zero gluten. It is very easy to contaminate a gluten free meal with any crumb of gluten or simply flour in the air. This is often a problem restaurants or with servers who are not properly trained on this. Usually a special station or fryer is needed. Being told a meal is gluten free is often still a problem for our son as an ingredient or something in the kitchen was contaminated and he suffers from stomach pains later. For this reason, we don’t eat out often and trust few places as he needs to be 100% gluten free vs those who make a decision that they want to be gluten free based on choice.
Planning: We made reservations for many meals in advance and for each one designated a wheat/gluten allergy. I also emailed the special diets for Disney (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a request to ensure all of our reservations were designated for Gluten Free and asking which counter service restaurants were equipped to offer GF meals. The response was completely generic, but it did list the counter service restaurants that offered gluten free meals and advised us to avoid the smaller kitchens. In general, the larger counter service places can do the allergy requests.
Counter Service: for each counter service we simply asked for the allergy menu when ordering and we were able to order a meal catered to gluten/wheat allergy. Every cast member we asked about it understood the whole process and was always quick to help. All food allergies were on the same menu and each allergy had its own choices. A designated coordinator would bring out our food which was made at a special station in the back. It would often take longer, but we certainly understood. My son loved all of his meals in Disney and not once did he complain of stomach pains. The extra effort the made to ensure no cross contamination was always worth the longer wait. I cannot say enough how much he loved the food. Going out is not so simple at home due to few restaurants really able to handle his need for gluten free and it was super simple at WDW. Each menu had a number of choices and he really enjoyed them all.
We ate at the following counter service locations with great success:
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight
Be Our Guest
Pinocchio Village Haus
Flame Tree Barbeque
Lottawatta Lodge (menu was more limited)
Sit Down Meals:
All servers were knowable on how to serve for allergies and again all meals were a great experience for our son. We stayed at the Boardwalk Inn so we ate at many places near the Boardwalk.
Biergarten Restaurant in EPCOT - as a buffet the chief walked my son around and told him all that he could eat and then he took my son’s order and got him a plate from the kitchen to avoid contamination. The buffet was my biggest concern, but it turned into one of the best experiences.
Fairytale Dining Breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table
Trattoria al Forno Dinner at Disney’s BoardWalk
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater
Beaches & Cream Soda Shop
We ordered groceries through gardengrocer.com and had them delivered to our hotel. This helped us have food we knew was gluten free. We avoided eating at the snack shacks throughout the parks based on their small size making it hard to be gluten free. This was also the recommendation of the communication we received from the special diets email. We had some soft ice cream in cups and a bunch of sealed and packaged snacks that we did buy from snack stands or ice cream carts.
Summary: We had a great vacation and every meal was a success for our son. This was a major concern for us we were staying in the parks and were at the mercy of Disney for all meals. As we planned as few resources listed people’s experiences and many were years out of date so we were not able to learn much prior to going. Putting our faith in Disney was well served as he loved his meals and never experienced pain or discomfort from cross contamination. All the cast members were knowledgeable on the topic and knew how their restaurant could accommodate him. We look forward to our next trip and hope this helps others plan with their own allergy or diet concerns.