I'll get right to the nitty gritty with this one, guys. Doing WDW with autism (in my humble opinion) is actually easier than doing WDW with dietary restrictions. A meltdown (or two or five) I can deal with... but not being able to find anything of substance (other than fruit) for my kid to eat? That's where I start to lose my stuff.
And for those of you who were wondering, yes. You can pack the shelf-safe cartons of almond milk (or rice milk, or soy milk) in your checked baggage. We were sure to use a suitcase with rigid sides and individual Zip-loc bags (just in case) to contain spillage.
What was so bad?Disney professes to be sensitive to guests with dietary restrictions -- and for the most part, everyone we asked was willing to do some research into whether a menu item was safe for Little Miss.
But picture this scenario... after arriving from the airport at 7 PM, we find ourselves at a "quick-service" restaurant. The young fellow working at the kid's food station wears a name badge that professes he is from Mexico. I work my way up in line and as clearly as I can, say "my daughter is allergic to dairy. Do you know if the chicken nuggets have milk in the breading?"
He blinks at me, confused, and repeats back "your daughter has diarrhea?"
The people in line behind me shuffle and begin to look annoyed. I start to panic. "Milk." I repeat. "Do you know if the chicken nuggets have milk in them?"
He gingerly places one chicken nugget on a plate and tells me that he has to ask the chef. I cringe as the people in line behind me wander off to find a shorter wait. A few minutes later the man returns, indicating that yes, the chicken has milk in the breading.
We finally settled on some grilled chicken wings -- of which Little Miss ate absolutely nothing (autism self-limiting diet at work there). Still, my husband and I had hope because we had found some information on the web that led us to believe there were quick service locations in the park where we could get foods for the Little Miss.
Into the parks...
|More pretzels at the Magic Kingdom|
A quick stop in the Main Street Bakery taught us that the only items on the menu were fruit, a gluten and dairy-free (but not soy-free) chocolate chip cookie, and (if you knew to ask at the counter), rice milk. My husband and I gave up on the whole hot dog idea because Little Miss is on a no-hot-dogs kick (autism self-limiting diet at work again) and the line for the hot dog place was downright crazy.
And the best part? We discovered that Disney uses soy oil for most of their fried foods. Since we still haven't reintroduced soy for Little Miss and aren't sure what soy oils would do, that meant everything fried was off the menu.
EpcotEpcot was a little better than the Magic Kingdom. The restaurant in The Land has a selection of Good Life snacks. And believe me... Little Miss was BEYOND delighted to see an allergy-free chocolate chip cookie with her name on it after almost two days of eating nothing but fruit and pretzels from our suitcase stash.
Table-Service MealsAfter coming up empty-handed with quick service in both parks, we finally decided to try one of the table-service restaurants. I was pleased and delighted that the hostess who seated us asked if there were any allergies before even taking us to our table. Our waiter also understood our questions about dairy and soy and made several trips back to the chef to ensure we were able to select something on the menu that would be safe for Little Miss.
Unfortunately, because we did not reserve ahead, our choices were limited. We settled on grilled chicken breast and hoped to goodness that Little Miss would eat some of it. I think both the hubs and I let out a HUGE sigh of relief when she took her first tentative bites. The Hallelujah Chorus was going full blast when she finished half the breast.
Saved by Babycakes
|Babycakes - YES!|
Thanks to Babycakes, Little Miss had her first cupcake since going soy/dairy free. I must have looked like a complete blabbering fool as I repeatedly thanked the two women working at the bakery stand -- but the look of sheer joy on Little Miss's face as she licked the icing off the cupcake? Worth every cent of that $3.95 we paid for it.
We bought up several loaf slices (including a pumpkin chip loaf, banana chip loaf, and blueberry toastie) and hauled our treasures back from Downtown Disney to our hotel.
Lessons LearnedI wish I had known about it before we went to the park, but apparently there is an email address you can use to get allergy information for the park -- if you contact at least 14 days in advance. The email address is: DLRspecialdiets@email.disney.com Also, knowing what I now know about how difficult it is to get allergy information at the quick service restaurants, I will definitely make some table-service reservations for our next trip. The nice thing about Little Miss, at least, is that she eats so little that one table service meal got her through two days (with added fruit, pretzel and Babycakes supplements). TIP: If you're going to try stretching meals like we did, I recommend bringing a bunch of Zip-loc baggies along -- they're way more convenient for toting around the park than the Styrofoam clam-shell things the restaurants give you for leftovers!
And of course, I'd love to hear your tips for doing Disney (or just traveling in general) with dietary restrictions. We're still in the learning stage here so every little bit helps!