If your child has a nut allergy, everything in life gets a little more complicated. My husband and I are avid travelers and die-hard Disney fanatics, but when our daughter was diagnosed with severe allergies to both peanuts and tree nuts we took almost a year off from doing any traveling at all. We had trips planned, but as they approached we would become overwhelmed with concerns for her safety and either one of us would stay home with her or we’d cancel the trip altogether.
Our daughter has a hard time eating out at restaurants because of the threat of contamination from foods made with nuts. As you can imagine, that makes traveling pretty challenging. We either need to pack our own food for the whole trip (trying to create meals that are easily to pack, prepare, and which don’t need to be chilled/heated) or we rely on the few chain and fast food restaurants that we know we can trust 98% of the time.
Another problem is air travel, since our daughter’s allergy is so severe it could be triggered simply by someone eating something with nuts a few rows away from us. Finally, we always need to stay reasonably close to a major medical center because, despite all of the precautions we take, she has ended up in the emergency room repeatedly after the most minor accidental exposures. So, no remote camping trips for this family!
Disneyland had solutions to all of these problems. It’s close enough for us to drive, so we didn’t need to rely on air travel (although Southwest Airlines does an impressive job of accommodating passengers with allergies). Disneyland is located in Southern California, so we knew we’d have lots of access to medical care. And, finally, Disneyland offers many food choices for visitors with food allergies and sensitivities of all types.
Here are 7 tips if you’re planning on taking your allergy kid to Disneyland:
(1) Call ahead of time. We made dining reservations and when we mentioned the nut allergies they put a big flag on our reservation and gave us the number for one of the Disneyland chefs. He gave us some tips about finding allergy snacks in the parks and assured us that we’d be able to find safe options at all sit-down restaurants on property.
(2) Talk to the chefs, not the cashiers. Although the cashiers answer allergy questions all the time, the person we talked to said we should always talk to the chefs at counter service and table service restaurants because they have the most information about the food. All of the chefs we spoke with were very pleasant and reassuring.
(3) If you’re thinking about snacks, ask to see the ingredient lists. All of the snack vendors, even the small carts, have ingredient information available. Many of the snacks have cross-contamination problems for people with nut allergies so be sure to ask!
(4) If you do a character breakfast buffet, always plate your child’s meal yourself. We’ve done the character breakfast at Plaza Inn twice and we’ve always had a wonderful experience. We’ve mentioned our daughter’s allergy so the chef comes right out to talk to us and we’re able to look over the ingredients for the food. That being said, there are foods in the buffet that have cross-contamination issues, including some made with nuts, so it’s important that you keep your child’s plate clear from any of these and just stick to the safe foods (like Mickey Waffles…at least according to the info we got on our last trip! Yay!).
(5) If your child’s allergy is sensitive enough to be triggered by touch, consider taking a wet wipe to quickly wipe down the ride vehicles when you get in, just in case the child riding before you was eating a PB&J. It’s easy to get a wipe out while standing in line and discreetly give the handles/buckles/etc. a once-over. This is also important if you’ll be eating at counter restaurants with open seating.
(6) If you do suspect any kind of reaction but you aren’t sure and you don’t believe it’s an emergency, ask the nearest cast member (Disney employee) to direct you to First Aid. The people who work at Disneyland First Aid are absolutely lovely and will help you in any way you can. It will also give you a place to stop and assess the situation somewhere that isn’t noisy and crowded and if you do decide that you need emergency care they’ll be able to help you out. (Of course, if you have an emergency, let the nearest cast member know wherever you are and they’ll get you emergency assistance.)
(7) Most importantly – be prepared!! Carry Epi-pens with you at all times, being sure to take them with you on the attractions (instead of leaving them in a locker or parked stroller). Watch for symptoms. Have your child’s medical information, including your pediatrician’s contact information and a prescription for Epi-pens or any other medication you might need, such as an inhaler. It’s a little bulky carrying all of that around, but it’s always better to have it if you need it!
And relax! Have fun! Disney vacations are among the safest if you have a kid with allergies because they’re ready to work with you to keep your kid healthy and ready to help you if something happens. Yay for Disney!