Back in the day (circa 2018) there were less options for those of us at Disney World, but that also made planning *slightly* easier.
You’d search the few message boards and blogs reporting on the limited Allergy options, and plan to go to those few vetted and trusted restaurants for your meals.
You’d pack some backups, and maybe even plan to head back to your room during lunch or dinner (especially as crowds were lower, fastpass was easier and transportation moved quicker).
The down side to long ago was the lack of options, allergy menus and the reservation system taking forever by phone… but that’s still not as complicated as things are now!
Let’s take a look at how things have changed, and what to expect in 2022.
Prefer to know what to pack for a food allergy/autoimmune friendly trip instead? We’ve got the updated list of 5 items you’ve got to pack for a for a successful food friendly trip!
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Park Reservation System
Planning a Disney World trip now involves getting an additional reservation on top of things like the hotel, the tickets, and the restaurants.
In 2020, Disney Parks introduced the Park Reservation System as a way to control the amount of people in the parks to encourage distancing. Now however, the park pass reservation system has stuck around… leaving many people stuck without spontaneity and worried about planning a trip last minute or during peak times.
When you are planning your vacation, you will need to first look at availability… it shouldn’t be sold out for the entire week, but there is a high change that one or two days have limited availability depending on the park.
Then you’ll need to match up reservations and food needs to the park that you selected for the day. Reservations are pretty hard to come buy (we’ll talk about that more next!)
You can park hop after 2, but keep transportation in mind if you are making a dinner reservation at another park, as there are many transportation problems that will eat up your day!
Limited Reservations available due to…?
I’m not sure exactly why reservations are still so limited. Maybe it’s high demand. Maybe it’s lack of staff. Maybe it’s reduced tables (which we are still seeing).
Likely it’s a combination of all three.
So you want to get reservations at a specific place, especially one that is allergy friendly and raved about in the community but you might be booked out for those dates! There’s a few things you can do.
1.You can sign up for MouseDining to get a reservation notification when something comes available.
2.You can check the app and desktop at intervals before your vacation… like 1 month, 2 weeks and the day before you need the reservation.
3.And then you can head to the restaurant the day of your trip, preferably in the morning, to see if you can score a table for lunch or dinner (and you can also do this in the myDisneyapp for a Walk Up option the day of!)
Not sure where to eat? Everything you need is inside this updated touring plan for food allergies that covers all four parks!
New Chefs and Waitstaff
Through no fault of their own, many long time chefs and servers were switched around to different restaurants.
This isn’t a huge deal… until you consider that some places were known for their allergy friendliness based on the Chefs. AND new hires are often less familiar with allergen procedures (not always, but part time staff in particular, doesn’t have the same awareness as those making this their full time profession)
Chef TJ, arguably the most popular chef among the allergy disney family, was moved to Cape May… leaving his old stomping grounds Trails End, to recieve many poor reviews among Food Allergy Bloggers.
Another moved was Chef Josh from Port Orleans (Where the famous Beignets are made!). Twice now I’ve had issues with the new Chefs there, one of which was obvious and dangerous cross contact I witnessed with my own eyes. I can no longer recommend Port Orleans quick serve unless you have an iron will and don’t mind mild confrontation.
Cost Cutting Measures
In a Disney Earnings Call this year, One of the Disney Staff was quoted saying that portion sizes could be reduced to meet the stockholders goals.
It’s not a big deal to most people (yes it’s a budget deal) but to those of us with food alelrgies? It’s a huge problem.
There’s no surprise to anyone that food allergy friendly items typically cost more, and when you are a large business that doesn’t want to spend the money, we know that they’ll cut options and hunt for the best deals they can find.
I think we’re seeing this with the latest Chicken Nugget options at Disney World. There’s a new allergy friendly chicken nugget available, and it has replaced most of the options at Disney World. It does contain some allergens, which means that those who have those allergens are excluded from chicken nuggets (as these are the only options available).
Is it a supply chain issue? Possibly… but things may be changing more in 2022 (and not in our favor)
Supply Chain Disruptions
no surprise here. Things are hard to come by in some places, and Disney World is not immune. We’ve seen things like Disneyland cups at Disney World, lack of items on the menus, and the shopping options limited to two per person.
Food Allergy options are limited too… including limited Enjoy Life products, limited Bloomfield Allergy Friendly options and some desserts being totally off the menu. We aren’t seeing a delay in Bob’s Red Mill items (thankfully), but that could always change!
Come prepared with lots of snacks!
Scheduling Conflicts with Genie+ and Virtual Que are getting out of hand.
In a nutshell, Disney has moved away from the easy to use and free Fastpass+ system… instead they have virtual ques that require selection at 7am and 1pm with a return time that you don’t get to pick.
Likewise Genie+ always more selection, but you can’t always pick your time. There is a lot of conversation online about how this is making things hard for guests…
And it’s especially hard for those of us with dietary needs. We can’t just ‘get food anywhere’ as it requires preplanning and checking menus plus comfort levels.
So when well planned meals collide with a digital planning system, the only one loosing is you. Disney still makes their money and has the crowd control, but you are left in the lurch trying to managing food news with entertainment.
The issues with Genie+ are well known and popularly documented, but not much has been done to remedy them.
Lastly, current travel climate
I wont detail too much about the latest travel requirements, but they keep changing! Even as a local, I check before I head to the parks because I’m not sure what new changes to expect. It’s been stressful on my kids who are surprised by many of the changes, and it’s frustrating to guests that have changes in the middle of their trip.
Travel Insurance is a must in this day and age, plus having a flexible itinerary (or staying home if you don’t feel comfortable!)
What does travel look like in 2022?
That’s still up in the air, but things are still very complicated and they aren’t getting much easier.
For updated information on a food allergy vacations, see the updated guide for 2022.