Travelling with someone with food allergies can be a very daunting experience but luckily Disneyworld and, to some extent Universal, go out of their way to help.
One of our children has mild food allergies so we were obviously wary before we went to Orlando about what she could or couldn’t eat. One of our main concerns was that she didn’t miss out on fun things like ice cream and desserts and we didn’t want our son (who has no allergies) to feel he couldn’t have what he wanted just because she wasn’t able to eat.
Allergies in Disneyworld
Most Disneyworld restaurants (including quick service ones) are equipped to handle the top 8 allergies:
- Gluten or wheat
- Milk or lactose
- Peanuts and tree nuts
Additionally many restaurants also offer allergy menus which we found useful.
When you arrive at a restaurant or quick service counter you should tell the Cast Member serving you that there is someone with an allergy in your party. They will accommodate you by either providing you with an allergy menu or suggesting ways they can change the standard menu to suit the specific allergy.
For example our daughter can’t have any raw dairy (like butter, milk, cheese) but can have baked dairy. In one restaurant she wanted the cupcake but it had frosting and ice cream with it so the restaurant were able to serve it without the frosting and substituted the normal ice cream for Rice Dream. Additionally on many occasions once we told the server that our daughter had an allergy a chef came out to see us and discuss the menu with us which was really reassuring and they came up with some great suggestions that weren’t even on the menu.
At buffet style restaurants (such as Tusker House and Trail’s End) a chef will usually walk guests through the buffet to explain what can be eaten based on specific dietary requirements.
Making a Special Dietary Request at Disneyworld
Anyone with an allergy not listed above, or with more than 4 allergies, or in a party with a few guests with allergies is advised to contact the Special Diets Team on Special.Diets@DisneyWorld.com to discuss the allergies and see what accommodations can be made. It is best to do this once you have made any dining reservations and at least 14 days before your reservation so that you can be assured you will be helped. If you are at a restaurant where you haven’t pre-booked then just tell your server as soon as you meet them and they will get a Chef to come and discuss the allergies with you.
Food Allergies in Universal
While Disneyworld is well known for its ability to accommodate food allergies and other special diets, eating at Universal Orlando isn’t so reassuring unfortunately.
As with Disneyworld you should tell your server that there is someone with food allergies in your party and they will get a chef for you who will provide menu allergy cards so you can see what ingredients the items on the menu have in them. We ate in “Mel’s Drive In” at Universal Studios and told the chef our daughter couldn’t eat dairy or soy so she made her a plain cheese-free burger with a gluten free bun (which was also soy free but actually resembled a piece of cardboard but that’s another matter!).
One thing we found hard in Universal which wasn’t an issue in Disneyworld was desserts in the parks. In Disney they do Toffuti or Rice Dream ice creams but in Universal they only do regular, dairy ice cream which was a shame for us.
Making a Special Dietary Request at Universal
Again, as with Disney, if someone in your party has multiple food allergies or non-Top 8 ones then you need to email FoodServiceCUF@universalorlando.com for information. We did email them a few weeks before our trip and we did get a response but it did take a couple of weeks to arrive and was rather complicated. With a serious allergy or allergies it may be better to call them to speak to someone rather than email.
Useful websites and blogs
A really good resource we found was the Disney Food Allergy Facebook group.
Prior to our trip we asked lots of questions on there and did lots of research which really reassured us so this is definitely something we would advise doing before you go. The last thing you need is to find that the one thing you or your child desperately want to eat is not suitable so prior research really helps. Other sites that were useful were:
The Allergy Eats’ Disney Section allows you to select your intolerance or allergy and the park or hotel you’ll be going to and it will list each restaurant that can cater to your intolerance or allergy.
Allergy Free Mouse is totally dedicated to food allergies at Disneyworld. It’s a really useful site and has lots of information to help you plan your trip and eat safely and other users have left reviews on restaurants.
The DFB (Disney Food Blog) Special Diets Resources page is another really useful thing to read before you travel. (It’s actually really good for information about all Disney too.)
Allergy Free Universal is a helpful resource with reviews and tips on how to have a safe dining experience at the resort.
The Mouse for Less site also has some good information about going to Universal with food allergies.
Finally, the official Universal Orlando Food Allergy site can help you but in all honesty we didn’t find it that useful!
Obviously you know the specific allergy best and Disney or Universal can’t guarantee that something is completely free of any allergen although they will do their utmost best to ensure that your food is closely monitored when it is being prepared and handled.
It is obviously up to your own discretion when ordering something so please bear this in mind and research as much as you can before you travel or eat anywhere. We really wanted to take our kids to Toothsome Chocolate Emporium but having researched before our trip we found they pretty much had nothing our little girl could eat (dessert wise) so we steered well clear of it and avoided any tantrums or upset!