WDW: Gluten-free, allergy-free, and vegan trip report 2012

Finally I am getting on board and writing this report! It takes awhile to piece it all together, but I’m working at it.

Just like last year, Mom and I ventured to Walt Disney World for our trip. And just like last year, I participated in the Disney Princess Half Marathon. Unlike last year, there were about 20,000 people in it. It was crazy! If anyone is interested in a report about that, let me know, and I’ll fire one off.

So last year we went for 11 days and frankly, this year we felt that it wasn’t enough. We upped the ante to 15 days and for good reason! I mean, how can you not want to spend 15 amazing days in beautiful Orlando?

To give a little background info, if you haven’t read the first report, we have a bevy of restrictions that are generally pretty easy to work around.

As I mentioned, I have celiac disease and I am a vegan. I also have a dairy allergy so I am very careful about cross contamination with dairy.

Mom has Mulitple Sclerosis (we bring a wheelchair), and she follows the MS Recovery Diet. She stays diligently away from gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, very seldom (IE a couple times a year) has legumes or yeast, and limits  sugar, and caffeine.

True to my nature, and just like last year, we did a lot of preplanning. If you’re reading this, you may already know that Special Diets and Disney made plenty of (unwelcome for most people) changes to their food roster this year. I’m part of the community on disboards.com, and learned that they switched many of their allergen-free items to items that were dedicated to just one allergen (IE just gluten-free, but not dairy-free, et cetera). This, obviously, caused a bit of frustration for me… mostly because half the reason I was heading back to Disney was because all of the awesome meals we had!

Because I’m proactive and was spending a couple grand on this trip, I needed to ensure I was going to be fed and fed well. I contacted Special Diets (SpecialDiets@DisneyWorld.com) and asked for some info. When I continued to received canned responses, I tracked down a phone number and talked to them directly. They were incredibly helpful–basically explaining the situation, why they were making the changes, and some other details. She did explain that they were still in the progress of making changes, so nothing was set in stone. Excellent. I had some hope.

I also explained to her our situation last year, where the chef at Jiko contacted every chef for us since Special Diets hadn’t. She told her to email her our reservations right then, and she would circulate it and note for each chef to call us. This was about six weeks before our trip. She said that if we didn’t hear from everyone by two weeks before, to call again and she would ensure they would get to us. So far, so good.

As it turns out, they did! From the next day and over the next couple of weeks, pretty much every single chef called me and talked to me about possible menu items, what we like/don’t like, what they would order in for us, and so on.

I also learned from the majority of the chefs and people who worked around the parks that the new changes weren’t always welcome. I spoke to one of the heads of food/beverages in length and she loved my input (so she said) because she needs to hear feedback about what people want. She explained that one reason for some of the changes wasn’t due to better tasting foods and accessibility (IE their switch to Udi’s), but instead because suppliers changed and were sending them new products (IE getting rid of Silk). Very interesting info!

Backing up to making our reservations, we based them on choosing places that we really loved last year, some new ones we wanted to try but couldn’t fit in, and a few that just looked like good menu choices. In each review I’ll include why we chose it. When it came to counter service, however, we were often limited to one choice, usually greatly altered from the menu. Sometimes there were no choices at all, and lunch time was usually a few hours in length walking from location to location.

Because we weren’t on the dining plan, we rarely had any snacks, so you won’t see them often. I think all we ever bought was fruit (oranges, bananas, apples), and drinks once in a while (Honest Tea, the odd V8). Mom once got a bag of chips, and we got cinnamon sugar almonds once as a treat during a parade (they were safe, only ingredients were cinnamon, sugar, and almonds). They weren’t that great and tasted like beer nuts.

One thing that was definitely different this year was I no longer knew all of the brands that they used in the park. At the time, they didn’t have the allergy sheets anymore, so I had no idea what was going to be hanging around.

Though many of the chefs brought in items for us, this is what was generally hanging around at the parks:

  • The allergen-free buns, rolls, and pizza crust they have been replaced by Udi’s. It used to be Ener-G, which were free of all of the top allergens. Udi’s has eggs, so Mom and I couldn’t have them.
  • They replaced all Silk Soy Milk with Kikkoman, which I called in and is not gluten-free.
  • They have Pacific Rice Milk at some locations and Rice Dream milk at others. As I noted last year, I do not trust Rice Dream milk and this is why.
  • Again, like last year, waffles and pancakes were made by both Namaste mixes and Bob’s Red Mill.

I didn’t want to keep repeating myself, so if you are wondering about meandering through the parks with the wheelchairs, some other tips and food details, and a pile of other planning stuff, please check out my tips from last year.

As for the restaurants, all of the reviews include my order (gluten-free/vegan), and Mom’s (gluten, dairy, egg, soy, and often legume-free).

For my 2011 reports, check out the 2011 Counter Service/Quick Service restaurants and 2011 Table Service restaurant details and reviews. Note that though some of the things have changed, for the most part, the places we ate at again were pretty consistent.

For my 2012 reports, read the 2012 Counter Service/Quick Service restaurants and 2012 Table Service restaurant details and reviews.

3 thoughts on “WDW: Gluten-free, allergy-free, and vegan trip report 2012

  1. Evangeline says:

    I am finding your blog very helpful. Thanks for sharing your counter service experiences particularly, since this is what has me most concerned about our next WDW visit.
    Our sons have severe peanut, tree nut, egg, legume and mushroom allergies between the two of them. I’ve been watching the DIS thread about the recent changes closely, and feel encouraged by your report here.

    • NV says:

      Hi Evangeline,
      I’m sorry that I can add more about peanuts or tree nuts, but I definitely want to ensure that most of the managers were extremely helpful, and many were frustrated about the changes. Because we didn’t have the dining plan, I’m not sure what desserts are available, but I definitely saw Enjoy Life cookie wrappers here and there, so I think they are still available. I’m not sure about anything else, though.

      Maybe someone else who reads this might pipe in? DISboards is super helpful, too. We won’t be going again until February of next year, but if I get some updates before then, I will be sure to post them.

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