A good friend of mine recently asked me for advice. Her family recently started a gluten-free, casein-free (GF/CF) diet and she couldn’t imagine trying to take her family on vacation, where they would need to eat in restaurants 3 meals a day. I assured her that dining at Disney wouldn’t be a problem!

Here’s my advice to Shauntelle, and anyone else worried about sticking to a GF/CF diet at Disney:

  • Choose your hotel or resort carefully. Deluxe Villas have full kitchens in every suite, which allows you to prepare some of your meals “at home.” If the Villas are outside your budget, consider the cabins at Ft. Wilderness which also have kitchens. If cooking isn’t your idea of a good time on vacation, consider requesting an in-room refrigerator for snacks. (There is an extra charge for this service.) If you stay off-property, call your hotel and ask if you can get a room with a kitchenette or refrigerator.
  • Bring your own snacks into the parks. Simply explain to the security guard at the gate that someone in your party has a food intolerance to gluten or casein, and they will allow you to bring in your own food.
  • Make advance dining reservations. There is a prominent checkbox to let Disney know that you (or someone in your party) has a food allergy. This lets the chef know to have substitute ingredients on hand, and to be careful about cross-contamination while preparing your meals.

    Making advance dining reservations with special dietary needs

    Making advance dining reservations with special dietary needs

  • If you purchase pre-packaged snacks, read the labels just as carefully as you do at home. Snack vendors may not necessarily be trained to recognize hidden sources of gluten or casein.

At most restaurants, when you ask your server about menu choices that fit within a GF/CF diet, at best you’ll get their best guesses. Many times your server won’t even know what gluten or casein is or what to look for. If you give them a specific ingredient or ingredients you’re concerned about, your server may go check labels for you or ask the chef whether a specific dish is safe, but more often than not you’re on your own. Not so at Disney! Like everything else they do, Disney goes above and beyond when it comes to special dietary needs. You can expect to see the chef at every meal when you note that you have a gluten or casein intolerance. He or she will guide you through the entire menu, or in the case of a buffet restaurant, will give you a guided tour!

What advice would you give to someone traveling to Disney on a GF/CF diet?