Category Archives: Disney

Disney Theme Parks

How Much Did We Really Spend on Our Cross-County Disney World Road Trip?

$5318.23

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This cute little map popped up on Alex’s Google timeline today showing all of his location tracking from the last few months and it reminded me I promised to let you guys know how much we spend on gas driving across the country.

A Google Map of our cross-country road trip.

Well, I figured while I was at it, I would give you a total for the whole trip.

Total $5318.23

Gas (from Palm Springs, CA to Kissimmee, FL round trip)Meals on the Road (Includes groceries for 3 weeks)Lodging (New Orleans, LA and Kissimmee,FL)Meals at Disney 10 day Disney Tickets (2 adults)Parking at Disney (Standard)Disney Merch/Gifts
$452.94$681.23$1631.48$626.71$1208.48$250$467.39
The breakdown of our expenses

Additional factors to consider

We can only report on what we did, but this should give you an idea about how much it may cost you. Here are some additional things to think about.

All-in-all, I am pleasantly shocked at the $5318.23 number. I really thought it was twice that!



  • We are a family of two adults. So, while having a larger family may not increase you gas or lodging bills, it will certainly increase your food, ticket and merchandise expense.
  • We left Palm Springs, CA on December 28th, 2020 and returned January 18th, 2021. So, we were gone from home (and work) for three weeks. Now, we did stop for a three day visit with family in Texas, and in New Orleans for two nights. Obviously it is not necessary to make additional stops, and maybe you aren’t traveling from as far away as California.
  • We also have pets who were cared for by family members. Otherwise, we would have paid over $1000 in pet boarding. Anywhere between $1000-1500 for essentially 21 days for a dog and a cat. I don’t think this trip would have happened without help with our pets.
  • While at Disney, we stayed off-property at an Airbnb. Unfortunately, we cannot recommend the one we stayed at since we had lots of issues. If you would like some recommendations for staying off-property, you can visit this blog post. We did really like our New Orleans Airbnb which you can find here. Staying on-property would definitely add at least $100 a night, but perhaps save you on parking. There is lots of good info in the other blog post about weighing your options there.
  • We ate breakfast at the hotel all but one day while at Disney World. We packed a lunch for 6 out of 10 days there and went back to the hotel for dinner a few times too. Our in-park food costs would have been much higher if we had eaten every mean there. We did spend about as much in groceries, but the groceries were for the entire portion of the three weeks we were on the trip.

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Disney Trips & Tips – Why We Often Choose to Stay Off-Property at Walt Disney World

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Don’t get me wrong. If we could afford it, we would stay at a Deluxe Disney Resort Suite or Villa for every trip. It is convenient and fun to not break the “Disney bubble” for sure. And I am usually willing to pay a premium for all things Disney. But honestly, for us it doesn’t make sense.

Alex and I both have food allergies, so traveling without access to a kitchen for more than a few days gives us anxiety. On-property lodging with a full kitchen falls into the category of “aspirational disposable income” for us. I am totally alright staying a few days with a kitchenette, and have done it. But, I have always noticed how much I am paying to have a small room with a tiny fridge and microwave on property versus how much I would pay to rent an entire condo or apartment off-property in a surrounding area.

Let me start by saying, I think every Disney Parks fan should stay at an on-property Resort at least once. But, for many of us, it isn’t always in the budget. Or more likely, we have the money, but we could think of more efficient ways to spend it and spread it out. I think sometimes we are fed this idea that we simply must stay on Disney property, darling, in order to “do Disney right”. But, trust me, breaking the ‘Disney bubble” does not mean you are Disney-ing wrong! Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you aren’t doing it right! We all have our own opinions and preferences based on so many different factors.

I have personally paid between $300-$400 a night to stay at Port Orleans, Riverside and Old Key West. And in my opinion, neither of the rooms I stayed in were reflective of that price point. As a splurge, I once paid around $600 a night to stay 2 nights in a theme park view room at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. The property and atmosphere were phenomenal. Walking to Trader Sams was very cool and so was taking the monorail from the lobby right to the Magic Kingdom. The room itself was very, very, very regular. In short, the resorts themselves can be fantastic, but I have never been particularly impressed with the rooms.

But, what you are paying for is location, location, location, and atmosphere. And that may be worth it to you. I can definitely see how it would be easier to direct an entire family to the monorail, Skyliner, or bus and get dropped off in front of the gates versus getting everyone in the car for a 20 minute drive with parking to negotiate when you get there.

Bottom line is that is a personal choice of how much you are willing to pay (or save) when it comes to staying in character.

Is staying off-property right for you?


Cons

Let’s address the cons first, then you’ll know If it isn’t for you right away.

  • Not as much character (literally and figuratively). Obviously, when you stay off-property you are not going to be surrounded by the Disney atmosphere 24-7. However, there are some non-Disney hotel and rental options that do capitalize on using Disney decor to give themselves an edge.
  • No Disney transport. If you choose to use your own vehicle or rent a vehicle, you will have to pay for parking or ride share.
    • Unless you are an Annual Passholder! Standard parking is $25 a day. Add up what you would spend on parking and tickets and see if it is worth it to buy an Annual Pass when available. They are not currently available for new purchase at time of publication (Jan, 2021) but it is only a matter of time before they are again and this tip may help you.
    • Along those same lines, self-parking can be a bummer. Sometimes you have to walk far or get on a tram, but my theory is you’ll be walking all day! Embrace those extra steps if you are able to.
  • Sales pitches. It seems inevitable. Nearly every non-Disney hotel in the greater Orlando area will try to sell you a time share. If you hear even an utterance of a free breakfast or free Disney tickets upon check-in, just know this is what they are trying to do. There is no way it is worth your time. I have found that if you politely, but very firmly decline, they will leave you alone. If you aren’t interested, just tell them you are not and ask them not to call you with any offers during your stay. If they know it won’t be worth it and risk annoying you, they will probably cool their jets.
  • You don’t get the H20+ Bath products (lol!) but you can buy them online at shopDisney!

Pros

It shouldn’t surprise you that I have a lot of pros to staying off-prop!

  • Save money! The price range I aim for when staying off property is $100-$180 a night. Sometimes even when you add in the extra cost of potentially renting a car and paying for parking, you can still save money compared to staying at most on-prop places. The break-even point when adding parking and a rental car/ride share is about the $180-$200 a night mark. When adding parking and driving your own car it is about $160 a night. So, if you can find an on-property deal for those price points it may be worth it for you.
  • You can be just as close to the Parks as some of the on-property Resorts. There are many options within an 8-15 mile radius of the parks. Obviously, this will depend on which park you are going to, but for reference, Wilderness Lodge is 15 miles away from Animal Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Lodge is 8 miles away from the Magic Kingdom. There is more traffic off-property, but when we last went, we stayed 10 miles away from MK and it took about 20 minutes.
  • You can have so much more room[s]. Even if you find a break even point for an on-property hotel for around $200 a night, you are probably still just getting one hotel room with 2 queen beds, a mini-fridge, and 1 bath. If you stay off property, you could get a 3 bedroom condo with 2 baths, a full kitchen, and sometimes even a really nice tub! Friends and families can travel together and not have to share a room or bed. Send the kiddos to bed and get in the bathtub with a glass of wine or watch your own tv.
  • Even if you aren’t majorly concerned about dietary needs like we are, having your own full kitchen can help save you money on meals too! You can buy essential groceries for a fraction of the cost of dining on property and eat breakfast at your condo before you leave and/or come back in time for a cheaper (and healthier) dinner too. You are even allowed to bring outside food and drink to the parks. Pack a lunch and snacks for a few days and use those extra bucks to buy a souvenir or to splurge on one really special park meal! We love park restaurants too, but we can’t afford to eat every meal out. We usually do one meal a day.
  • Get a washer and dryer. I know we don’t want to do laundry on vacation, but if you are staying for a week or more it really is handy to have. We recently did an extended road trip to WDW that took us away from home for 3 weeks. A w/d was a must have. This meant we could pack a little less and wash as we needed.
  • You can still visit the resorts even if you are not staying there. Again, the resort properties are fantastic and you should definitely check them out. You can visit for a meal, a drink, or even just a walk through the lobby or the grounds. The resorts are home to some of the most amazing dining on property and you can still make reservations without being a hotel guest.

So, where to go?

I have personally had the most success with a few properties I have booked on Hotels.com. They are Grand Beach by Diamond Resorts and Mystic Dunes & Golf Club by Diamond Resorts. These are a good example of the type of place where you can experience all of the pros I listed above.

I have stayed at some dreadful Airbnbs that I won’t even begin to recommend. But, if you are comfortable with vacation property rental sites like Airbnb and VRBO, you can find a lot of options there too. And a lot of them even have fun themed decor. I just have to disclose that my confidence in Airbnb is wavering right now. We had an issue during our last trip and while they did eventually make it right, it allowed a lot of wasted time and negative energy into our vacation.

So, where have I actually stayed and what do these places look like? They look like big apartment complexes on the outside and apartments/condos on the inside. Follow links to see all images of property, but here are a few.

Are they going to win any design or theming awards? No. But, they are clean, comfortable, and spacious. And just look at that tub! (The tub is in the Deluxe Condo, 1 Bedroom at Mystic Dunes and It starts at around $100-$130 a night when you add resort fees). These properties have most of the same amenities on-site like a gym, pool, convenience store, business center, nice grounds, and parking included.

It’s going to take a little work to figure out which option is right for you…

… and maybe that will factor into your decision of wether or not it is worth it. Your time is valuable, even when planning a vacation. It is a numbers game and a lot of math-ing. But, there is a lot of potential benefit to be had.

For example, the most affordable room at Art of Animation right now is around $180 a night. The cost of a 10 day stay for 1 bedroom/2 beds/1 bath/no kitchen is around $2,000. You can get a 2 bedroom/3beds/2 bath/full kitchen/living room/laundry, and soaking tub for around $1200-$1600 total at either of the condos. Prices will always vary, so this is just an example, but you get the idea.

And remember, with a kitchen, you are also saving money on food too! It is really worthwhile if you are an Annual Passholder and decide to drive yourself because then parking is included. I like the autonomy of having our own vehicle, but again, that could be due to the food allergy anxiety.

But having a car also opens it up to do some things off-property, like visit Universal, or drive to the beach for a day.

Simply put, you can get more room and amenities for less, but you will have to sacrifice some character and convenience. It is all about how you want to spread your budget around. Maybe your splurge is the hotel room and not the food. And that is ok, too. No shame in how you decide to spend your money!

Because mark my words, the day I can afford to spend my trip at any Deluxe Suite or Villa I will stray off-site no more!

And if you know about this H20+ Softening Mint Foot Rub, then it may be worth the price of the Disney Resort room! But you can also buy it by clicking the link below. They do have some of the best hotel toiletries on-property!

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Sea Marine Shampoo and Conditioner, Mint Foot Rub, and Aloe Gel Set by H2O+ Official shopDisney

It’s Easy to Eat Allergy-Friendly at Walt Disney World – WeveGotEars

In case you don’t know, it is actually perfectly acceptable to bring your own food and drink to Disneyland and Disney World. This is a sure fire way to guarantee you don’t go hungry due to a food allergy or dietary preference. We often pack a sandwich, chips, and a few Cliff Bars in our park bag. But, that is honestly in an effort to save money because we know there are plenty of allergy-friendly offerings at the Parks.

Our obligatory disclaimer here:
1. We can only truly report on the allergies that we have – I (Emily) am DAIRY FREE, (DF) EGG FREE (EF), GLUTEN FREE (GF). I also do not eat most nuts, but I am not reporting on nut allergies here since I do eat coconut. My meals were free of all other nuts, however. I will report NUT FREE (NF) where I am certain. Alex is DAIRY FREE (DF). Since that is our concern, that is what we focus on when ordering.


2. You can ALWAYS speak with a Chef or a Coordinator before any order you place at any food service location on property. They will tell you exactly what they can do for you. Disney dining locations have allergy menus and they are even usually on the Park apps if you scroll down on the menus. (Dining locations at Disney Springs and Downtown Disney are not Disney-owned and operated, but in my experience they are very accommodating there as well).

Even though you can theoretically go to any dining location and probably find something you can eat, we know it is more exciting to plan on something you can look forward to. That is why we have decided to share all of the meals we ate on property on our January 2021 trip.

Magic Kingdom – Liberty Tree Tavern – Liberty Square


Order: 2 all-you-care-to-enjoy Patriot Platters (GF/DF/EF), 1 Beer, 1 Angry Orchard Cider (GF)

Total meal cost $103.76

Reservations are recommended for this table service location. There is a walk-up list, but it is not guaranteed.

We traveled during my birthday and the thing I was most excited about was eating at Liberty Tree Tavern again. So, we made my birthday dinner reservations there.

Ok, let me at that Patriot Platter! So, you may wonder how on Earth I am able to eat a Thanksgiving dinner with so many allergies. Everything you get on the Patriot Platter with the exception of the macaroni and cheese can be made to be GF/EF/DF/NF (Fish Free and Soy Free, too)! Go ahead and add it to the list of things you are thankful for. That means you can get an all-you-care-to-enjoy portion of Bread, Salad, Turkey, Pot Roast, Mashed Potatoes, Veggies, and Stuffing. There are also a Raspberry Sorbet and Allergy-Friendly cookie for dessert that are free from all of these allergens as well. If your list of allergies isn’t as extensive, you are in luck because your list of dessert options just grew! Check out the menu for specifics (scroll to bottom for allergy menus) but know even if you are allergic to almost everything, you can still eat this:

Allergy-Friendly Patriot Platter pictured with GF bread

There is also an entirely vegan option for the feast: Revolutionary Impossible Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Veggies, and Mushroom Gravy.

Epcot – Rose & Crown Dining Room – UK Pavillon


Order: 1 Fish and Chips (DF), 1 Baked Fish and Chips (GF/EF/DF/NF), 1 Strongbow (GF), 1 Snake Bite Imperial Pint

Total meal cost $85.42

Reservations are recommended for this table service location. There is a walk-up list, but it is not guaranteed.

When in London, even fake London, you eat Fish and Chips. And in fake London you pay $23-25 for them and you say thank you may I have another? But seriously, the Baked Fish and Chips are a fantastic replacement when you need an GF/EF/DF option. The fish is baked in such a way that it is actually really crisp without being overcooked. Alex is only allergic to Dairy, so he enjoyed the regular version of the Fish and Chips which is DF as is right off the menu! I enjoyed a GF Strongbow, but not gonna lie, I miss Guinness sometimes!

Rose & Crown Dining Room

For Vegan options: Savory Impossible Hot Pot

Epcot – Sunshine Seasons – Future World inside The Land


Order: 1 Bacon Hamburger (DF), 1 Bacon Hamburger with Allergy-Friendly Bun (GF/EF/DF/NF), 1 Plant-Based Cookies ‘n “Cream” Chocolate Mousse Cup (EF/DF and GF with no cookies – may contain coconut)

Total meal cost $31.15

Quick Service – No reservation needed

Was this the most remarkable meal ever? Nope. But, we were just plain hungry and trying to stay away from the World Showcase at night (if you know, you know). We ordered two bacon burgers without cheese (DF/EF and GF with Allergy-Friendly bun substitution). Chef Jose was wonderful to us here. We wanted to make sure the Allergy-Friendly bun covered all my needs and he said he was 99% sure it did but he would go grab a box with a list of ingredients to make sure. He came to our table ten minutes later with a box of buns to show us we had nothing to worry about. This honestly made a completely regular burger and chips seem amazing. The best thing he did, however, was modify the Plant-Based Cookies ‘n “Cream” Chocolate Mousse Cup to be GF for me. It is vegan (EF/DF) as is. The only thing that adds Gluten is the Oreo crumb topping. Chef Jose put the topping in a separate container so that Alex could have some and I could still enjoy the mousse!

Bacon Burger at Sunshine Seasons – Burger on left has Allergy-Friendly bun

It really pays to speak with a Chef. They can turn a would-be ho-hum meal into a real treat for you!

Epcot – Le Cellier – Canada Pavillon


Order: 1 Filet GF/EF (modified to be DF), 1 Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts (GD/EF/DF), 1 Plant-Based Poutine (GF/EF/DF), 1 Ottawa Apple Cocktail, 1 Windsor Old Fashioned

Total meal cost $118.22

Reservations are recommended for this table service location. There is a walk-up list, but it is not guaranteed.

Le Cellier Filet – AKA the Steak that made Alex cry. If you open his diary, you will find a sonnet dedicated to this steak. And as someone who isn’t a big hunk-o-meat fan, I can tell you that he is not overreacting. This is the best steak we have ever had and the best meal on property.

We spoke with Chef Juan before ordering to confirm our choices. We had to modify the steak to be prepared without the truffle butter (not needed at all) and we had to substitute the risotto (contains dairy) with some fingerling potatoes.

I ordered the Maple Whiskey-glazed Brussels Sprouts (GF/EF/DF and Vegan as is) and the Plant-Based Poutine (GF/EF/DF and Vegan as is). The Plant-Based Poutine is not on the menu but just ask for it. The Brussels Sprouts were amazing and the Poutine was fun for us because we have never been able to have it before.

Both meals came with bread service. Alex’s DF version was a dinner roll and a pretzel roll. Mine was two GF dinner rolls. Both came with DF/EF/GF/Vegan Salted Maple Sugar “Butter”. You guys, I don’t even like butter and I was basically getting a spoon for this.

Both of our drinks featured Maple flavors which was fun and on theme. We both agreed we liked the Ottawa Apple a little better than the Old Fashioned, but the Old Fashioned was a strong pour for sure!

For Vegan options: Brussels Sprouts, Plant-Based Poutine, Steamed Asian Impossible Dumplings

Epcot – Festival of the Arts Offering (until Feb. 22, 2021)-Mexico Booth


Order: 1 Chile Relleno (GF/EF/NF and modified to be DF)

Total meal cost $7.25

Quick Service – No reservation needed

We were so excited that it was easy to modify this dish. It is GF/EG/NF as is. To make it DF, they removed the Poblano Cream Sauce which I am sure is delicious, but we didn’t miss it! It was still so good without it! It was only slightly spicy if that is a concern to you. I don’t tolerate spice well and this was right there in that sweet spot of being flavorful instead of atomic.

Menu from the Festival of the Arts Mexico booth

Epcot – Festival of the Arts Offering (until Feb. 22, 2021)-Festival Favorites


Order: 1 Remy’s Ratatouille, (GF/EF/DF/NF- Vegan), 1 Cold Fashioned Coffee Cocktail (GF/EF/DF/NF- Vegan)

Total meal cost $14.50

Quick Service – No reservation needed

Remy’s Ratatouille is one of the Vegan offerings at Festival of the Arts, but it wasn’t labelled as GF, which was weird because some things were. So, the cast member made a quick call to the Chef to confirm the Ratatouille is GF and the Coffee Cocktail was DF. Check! And we got to eat the cutest little tasty lump of veg that looked just like Remy made it! The cocktail was very good too! Coffee and whiskey are flavors that never disappoint us.

Remy’s Ratatouille and the Cold Fashioned cocktail

Hollywood Studios – Rosie’s All-American Cafe – Sunset Blvd.


Order: 1 Plant-Based Lobster Roll (DF/EF – Vegan), 1 Plant-Based Lobster Roll on Allergy-Friendly Bun (GF/DF/EF/NF – Vegan)

Total meal cost $22.36

Quick Service – No reservation needed

I was so excited… for Alex… when I saw this DF (Vegan) option. But, I honestly didn’t expect to be able to eat it too. I did a small dance when I spoke to a Coordinator and was told they have an Allergy-Friendly (GF/DF/EF/NF) bun for this Plant-Based Lobster Roll. I have never had a lobster roll, but Alex says pretty good job on making it as close to the real thing as they could. The “lobster” is hearts of palm, so the texture is not spot on, but it is good enough for me! It is heavy on the sauce, but you can request it on the side if you aren’t feeling too saucy. It is served with home-style potato chips (GF/EF/DF) Overall it is a fun and filling treat.

Hollywood Studios – Milk Stand – Galaxy’s Edge


Order: 1 Blue Milk with Rum, 1 Green Milk with Tequila

Total meal cost $29.82

Quick Service – No reservation needed

Alex had never tried the Blue or Green Milk (GF/DF/EF – Vegan) before, so what better time? We opted to add the alcohol, but it truly didn’t change the taste much. Since it is already a sugary drink, you couldn’t really taste the booze. So, keep that in mind as these could make for a dangerous hangover. We liked both, but the Green a bit better. It is more citrusy while the Blue is more floral and fragrant.

Blue and Green Milk

Animal Kingdom – Tamu Tamu – Africa


Order: 1 Dole Whip Float with Coconut Rum (GF/EG/DF)

Total meal cost $11.72

Quick Service – No reservation needed

We can echo the sugary drink statement here. Dole Whip does not taste much different with a rum floater, and we wouldn’t recommend more than one unless you are in your early 20s lol! Hangover warning! But it is our favorite (GF/EF/DF – Vegan) sweet treat standby.

Animal Kingdom – Satu’li Canteen – Pandora


Order: 1 Chili-Spiced Crispy Fried Tofu Bowl with Rice and Black Beans, Slaw, and Green Onion Vinaigrette (GF/EF/DF – Vegan), 1 Chopped Wood-Grilled Chicken Bowl with Rice and Beans and Green Onion Vinaigrette (GF/EF/DF)

Total meal cost $32.48

Quick Service – No reservation needed

The names of these dishes are as long as Alex’s ode to the Le Cellier Steak. But, there is a reason I can’t go to AK without eating at Satu’li. It is really consistent, reliable, hearty, filling and tasty. It is one of the easiest quick serves to order allergy-friendly and vegan. The Tofu Bowl with the choice of Rice and Beans or Hash bases and the Charred Green Onion Sauce is vegan as is. It is also GF/EF/DF like that. There are so many allergy-friendly combinations on this menu. The Disney app allergy menu is a bit unclear about the bases and sauces, so just be sure to ask a Coordinator or Chef. Some contain honey (Salad and Lo Mein) and some contain dairy (Creamy Herb Dressing) and the Black Bean Vinaigrette contains fish sauce. So, I say it is easy because there are lots of options, but I do highly recommend asking for help to navigate them.

Chili-Spiced Crispy Fried Tofu Bowl with Rice and Black Beans, Slaw, and Green Onion Vinaigrette (GF/EF/DF – Vegan)

Animal Kingdom – Yak & Yeti – Asia


Order: 1 Sweet & Sour Chicken (GF/EF/DF), 1 Korean Beef (DF), 1 Pink Himalayan Cocktail (GF/EF/DF), 1 Snap Decision Cocktail (GF/EF/DF)

Total meal cost $87.47

Reservations are recommended for this table service location. There is a walk-up list, but it is not guaranteed.

It was pretty easy to order for our allergies at Yak & Yeti. The server was knowledgable about the ingredients and wrote down our allergies. They said the chef will make us the dish we wanted and make sure to eliminate any allergens. The Sweet & Sour Chicken (GF/EF/DF as is) is grilled, not breaded, so that already eliminated most of my concerns. The sauce does not contain gluten and it is served with rice, so I was set! Alex’s Korean Beef was DF, but not GF because the sauce contained soy sauce. It was also served with rice. The food rated a steady “okay” with us. Not bad, but no postcards home were written. The cocktails we had, however, were most impressive. I loved the flavors of the Pink Himalayan, and Alex’s Snap Decision was a stout and tasty pour.

Kona Cafe – Disney’s Polynesian Resort – Upstairs Lobby


Order: 1 Tonga Toast (modified to be DF), 1 Tonga Toast (modified to be GF/EF/DF), 2 coffees with soy milk

Total meal cost $42.16

Reservations are recommended for this table service location. There is a walk-up list, but it is not guaranteed.

You may have heard about Tonga Toast, but assume you can’t eat it. We’ve got good [morning] news! Tonga Toast is (usually) a brick of Cinnamon French Toast stuffed with bananas and topped with Strawberry compote. It is a completely ridiculous, non-nutritional, not part of any complete breakfast indulgence that everyone should risk a sugar crash for at least once.

It is available GF/EF/DF and Vegan or any combination of these things!

In this photo you will see Alex’s DF version à la brick-the-size-of-your-head. (It is the square one). That is what it normally looks like, unless it is ordered GF, and then you get those three sweet little dumplings you see on my plate. (I also left off the Strawberry Compote because I tested allergic to strawberries once and I don’t mess).

The GF version tastes just as good as the Vegan version. I can attest to this since I previously enjoyed the Vegan version before I developed my gluten sensitivity. The main difference is that the GF bread is more dense, but if you are GF then you are used to that!

We opted for a side of bacon and sausage. If you are Vegan, they have plant-based breakfast “meats” as well. They also have a Plant-Based Loco Moco Bowl.

Blaze Pizza – Disney Springs


Order: 1 Pizza with Vegan (Daiya) cheese (DF), 1 Pizza with Gluten Free Crust and Vegan cheese (GF/EF/DF)

Total meal cost $27.91

Quick Service – No reservation needed

Pizza is always easy when you are tired, hungry, and in a calorie deficit from walking all day. YOU NEED CARBS! Walk a little further to Blaze Pizza in Disney Springs and build your own pizza. You can customize it to be DF/EF/GF. The Original Dough crust is DF/EF and Vegan as is. The Gluten Free crust is DF/EF/GF and Vegan as is. They offer DF/Vegan Daiya cheese and plenty of other veggies and topping that can work for any allergy or dietary restrictions.

Best enjoyed when brought back to your lodgings and eaten in bed.


Those are all the allergy-friendly dining experiences we had on this trip. We can’t wait to share more with you in the future and hear your favorites as well! We hope this guide has helped give you some things to look forward to trying. We know it is not comprehensive, so remember to always ask a Chef!

You can watch us eat and/or review most of these meals on YouTube, too!


Also, I made a little list of really cute shirts that would be so fun to wear to A Taste of the Festival of the Arts or anytime while eating around Disney Parks!

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links and we may earn a small commission if you visit a link and make a purchase based on our recommendations. Purchasing through a link does not cost you any extra.

Negotiating Disney World during the Pandemic – Tips to Cope and Chill

I have cried a few sad tears along with my happy tears at Disneyland. It is something that happens sometimes when you are a local or a frequent park goer. That is because Disney isn’t life, it is a part of life. And while walking in those gates can be a balm for the soul, it can’t shut down all of the emotions you have. 

A few years back, I committed to join a group of friends to walk around Disneyland with a private tour guide. It was planned months in advance and I was really excited for it. Unfortunately, I had to deal with the passing of a very beloved Grammy the week before the scheduled tour. I thought going on the tour would be healing for me, so I pushed myself to go. I left midway through in tearful shambles. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be upset at Disney. And I have a rule that if I ever get really upset for any reason, it’s time to leave. 

Alex and I learned an additional lesson about coping with negative feelings at Disney just two days into our January 2021 trip. We both have developed some anxiety around other people in 2020. I know we aren’t alone in that. But, we did not realize how much it had affected us until we went to the parks. 

We were at Walt Disney World in early January 2021 at a time when the attendance had just increased from 25% to 35% of full capacity. It is also the same time that they brought back park hopper and offered special discounts to Florida residents. So, crowds have increased when compared to the images of the park that we saw just weeks and months ago. 

We felt safe going because we are familiar with Disney Parks. We are Disneyland locals and passholders. And, before I moved to California, Disney World was my home park and I would visit 2-3 times a year. We don’t have children and it was just the two of us traveling together, so we agreed it would be totally manageable.

We really thought we knew what to expect. We had heard various things around the internet about health and safety procedures and crowd levels at the parks. Some of it was actually from official Disney sources. But, somehow we had conflated seeing everyone having wonderful experiences on social media with official Disney resources. Somewhere along that path, we had convinced ourselves that if everyone on the internet loved their experience then we will too. 

That is not to diminish anyone else’s experience, but to say that it was foolish of us to think that we could have predicted how comfortable we would be before we even got there. 

Every purchase pays an artist

Our first day at Epcot went relatively well. We started getting a lot of questions via Instagram about comfort and crowd levels. Most of them I even answered by saying we felt comfortable. But, when the sun went down on the World Showcase, there was a definite shift in our comfort level. I immediately stopped replying to messages because if people are relying on our answers to decide whether to take a trip or not, I don’t want them to be as surprised as we were about how quickly your comfort level can shift.

The next day at Animal Kingdom we had another experience that made us uncomfortable. In our case, we waited in a socially distanced line for Flight of Passage only to be asked to sit directly next to someone who was not in our party. (Note: this attraction did not have any plexiglass dividers). We opted not to sit down and they let us wait for the next group. They made sure to seat us with only one other person in the chamber more than 12 feet away. But when we got off of the ride, there was a mass rush of guests down the stairs with no distance markers or any enforcement of social distancing. We were left to wonder why we had waited in a socially distanced line, just to be crammed into a room with strangers at the end of it? 

We decided to go to Guest Relations to ask about cleaning and distancing standards for the park. We were informed that the cleaning schedules and guest seating procedures differed depending on the attraction. Some attractions are seating all rows at peak times. 

This was upsetting to us because we had driven across the country to be here and then they were telling us that we had to seek our own comfort? They weren’t going to guide us through the whole park while spraying Lysol in front of us and Cloroxing every step before we took it all while asking people to back away??? 

Oh wait, we are being stupid. Of course they aren’t! Nor should they have to. It is our decision to be here so it is our responsibility to take care of our own comfort. We can’t rely on anyone else to make us comfortable or keep us safe! We are adults and Disney is doing what they can. It is unrealistic to expect Disney to do everything perfectly all the time according to everyone’s individual needs. 

I told the cast member at Guest Relations that we came because we had heard the crowds were low, they were not seating every row, and that they were cleaning ride vehicles between each guest. When the cast member asked where I had seen this information, I realized I was just going off of what I had seen from happy people on social media who had visited months ago. It took us a few hours to absorb all this and come to the conclusion that we had set unrealistic expectations. 

So, we had to decide if we could shift our focus to enjoy the rest of our time here, or if it was time to get a refund for our tickets and head home. 

We chose to stay and take care of ourselves. If there was a situation that made us uncomfortable, we would opt out. If we felt crowded we would choose to turn around and find a quiet spot to regroup. 

To be clear, we are NOT discouraging anyone from coming or assuming anything about anyone else’s comfort level. We are here after all. So, why would we discourage others from coming? 

What we are saying is that your experience may differ than your usual one depending on your own comfort level. If you are a little bit anxious like us, you will just need to decide if it’s worth it to you to still be here even if you have to take lots of breaks and maybe even leave the parks for a while.

Honestly, the biggest variable is the other guests. You have to assume the most comfortable person in the world is there, because they probably are. You cannot expect everyone to have the same level of concern. In that regard, it is honestly not any different than going anywhere in your hometown, like the grocery store. You can’t expect it to be utopia just because it is Disney property. 

If you are like the Disney goer that I was in the “before times” you are all about maximizing park time, looking to get all the photos, wanting to ride all the rides, and eat all the snacks. That may not happen for you if you go during the pandemic. But, the good news is that it may force you to have a totally new and different experience. (See list of suggestions at the end of this post). 

We decided we are going to have a very low key and slow paced time. That is how we are able to cope with the way things are right now and still feel like we are doing the best for ourselves and others. But, we are also prepared to walk away and not let it disappoint us. Disney will be here for years to come and in healthier and happier times too. 

We are happy to report that we have since been back to Animal Kingdom, on a Saturday no less, and we had a great time. Starting the day with our new mindset made a world of difference. We set deliberate intentions for the day before going so that we had a plan. And if the planned activity didn’t work for us, we just moved on to the next without disappointment.

We refuse to use Disney strictly as a form of escapism. Most of the time, it does wonders to comfort and entertain us, but we can’t pretend that we don’t ever experience any negative emotions there. We can’t pretend there aren’t occasional breakdowns of anxiety, feelings of impatience with each other, or even sheer exhaustion. But we can control how we react to them. Sometimes that means taking a breather and sometimes that means leaving. It doesn’t mean we did it wrong. It doesn’t mean the trip was ruined. It doesn’t mean dwelling on the negativity. It just means we are human beings living a life that we are lucky enough to spend in Disney Parks. 

Confirmed Policies and Procedures from early January 2021:

  • Cast Members are parking every other row in the parking lots to give you lots of room to get out and get situated at a proper distance from the next car. They later fill in the empty spots. 
  • They are still doing temperature checks before you enter. 
  • Security is now a walk through and you do not have to remove anything from your bags unless instructed to do so. 
  • Parkwide standard of masks being required. There are gentle reminders given to people who do not comply. There are signs and announcements reminding guests to wear masks over their nose and mouth. The only exception is when actively eating and drinking while stationary. Guests are warned that they may be asked to leave for not complying. 
  • The parks are at 35% capacity to the knowledge of Guest Relations staff. 
  • There is no parkwide standard for cleaning rides. However, you can ask any cast member at each ride and if they can’t tell you, they will ask a supervisor. For instance, we asked at Kilimanjaro Safari on January 5th, and they said the ride vehicles are cleaned 3 times a day – morning, noon, and night.
  • Ride queues are still socially distanced with 6 foot markers and plexiglass as needed. However, exiting the ride can sometimes be a free-for-all. 

The last thing we want to do is complain about being at Disney, so we came up with some ways to enjoy ourselves even during one of the most challenging times. 

Alex and Emily’s suggestions for a chill out:

The Grand Floridian Lobby

    Magic Kingdom

At the Contemporary
  • Hub grass and chill.
  • Tomorrowland is pretty wide, spacious and less crowded.
  • Take a walk to the Contemporary for a break. Look at the mosaics, watch the monorail, or take a photo in the Mickey photo opp close to the Sand Bar.
  • Ride the Monorail to the Grand Floridian and take in the ornate lobby, or have a drink by the pool at the Courtyard Pool Bar.

    Animal Kingdom

Seating Area Behind Tamu Tamu
  • Visit Discovery Island for great views of the Tree of Life in an uncrowned area. Play spot the animal! (Because there is a reason toddlers always shout out the names of random animals – its fun!)
  • Grab a dole whip (available with rum!) at Tamu Tamu and find a table in the quiet, shady seating area behind it.
  • Asia and Africa in general are less crowded. The bridge between Africa and Pandora is nice if the queue to Flight of Passage hasn’t extended that far. There is a big open area right on the Africa side of the bridge.
  • Ride the Wildlife Express to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and/or draw a
    Disney character at the Animation Experience. If it’s too crowded on the outpost, turn around and get back on the train because the train ride itself is very nice. You get to see some backstage animal areas.
  • Take a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge and take in the beauty of that resort. This is a great time to make lunch reservations at the nearest resort for a midday break. 
  • Join the walk up list for the Nomad Lounge as soon as it opens (11:00 am usually). It fills up fast, but it’s a great place to chill by the river with a drink or snack and watch the character cavalcades go by.
  • If you must Pandora, we recommend getting in line for Na’vi River Journey right before park closing. That way, when you get off, the land is almost empty and you get to see it glowing!

    Epcot

Rose & Crown
  • Future World is generally less crowded so it’s a great time to go see Figment and the Phoenicians. 
  • The Land Pavilion gets crowds due to Soarin’, but if you can just make it to Living with the Land you know that’s a chill vibe. It’s dicey getting in and out of the Pavilion though.
  • The Seas has open areas, although some remain crowded. But it is possible to find an out of the way spot to stare at some tranquil fish for a moment of zen. 
  • Walk to the Boardwalk for a break, snack, drink, or some good old bench sittin’.
  • Go watch Canada Far and Wide. There is lots of space in the theater and it’s such an awe-inspiring show. Plus, Catherine O’Hara’s voice could soothe me on my darkest days. 
  • Grab an outdoor table at the Rose & Crown Dining Room and have a pint of peace. 

    Hollywood Studios

The Mediterranean Wave at Bar Riva – A refreshing and not too sweet frozen drink.
The mosaics at the Rivera. These are in the first archway when you enter the resort from the Skyliner.
  • This one is tough. It is pretty dang hype there right now, BUT…
  • The area around Indiana Jones is pretty open since the show isn’t happening right now. You can go hang out by the ride exit and look at the themed vehicles and props. 
  • Muppet 3D vision and courtyard area can be chill 
  • RIDE THE SKYLINER TO THE RIVIERA! Look at the mosaics, but also visit Bar Riva for a drink or snack to achieve a Côte d’Azur calm. My friend Teresa suggested this and it was the best Disney advice I’ve ever followed!
  • Ride the Skyliner to The Art of Animation to say hello to some of your favorite characters in oversized statue form. 

Let me know if you have any suggestions you would add! I think these tips can be used anytime to take a break, hopefully even after pandemic panic time.

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