Saturday, January 25, 2014

Being Vegan in Disney

So let me begin by saying that my husband is vegan, I am not. He has been vegan since our epic California adventure in September which I may or may not share here. This dietary change has been a slow progression over the years as you would see over the course of the blog. He feels better both internally and externally which is fantastic.

Two weeks ago our whole family made its way down to Orlando to share in the magic that is Walt Disney World. Honestly this an adventure in itself. We were celebrating many great  life achievements like marriage, birth, and family. My grandparent were celebrating over 50 years of marriage, their respective ages of 75 and 74, and their 2nd great grand child. Chris and I recently got hitched and so in a way we were celebrating that as well.
Combining 12 very different people of all ages into a resort like Disney is an experience in it of itself. C was a bit rotten through the planning process because of his newer dietary choices. Its already hard enough to eat vegetarian out in the world, the choices dwindle when you are vegan. He honestly didn't think there was any food to be found. All the way until the end of the trip he was sure he would starve that week. Before we flew to Florida we packed a gallon sized zip-lock full of oats/granola for snacking and breakfast, a 4 lbs. bag of apples, and another zip-lock with almost 2 lbs. of cut up carrots. Since my parents drove down from NJ they had additional snacks like clementines, bananas, more apples, etc. During our trip in the resort I was vegan with C for solidarity and to reduce confusion with the chefs.

Not only did we NOT starve, but we were presented with so much incredible food that usually after dinner I could barely move. I was pleasantly surprised with the availability of different foods for different diets and for those with allergies.  I wish I had pictures to show all the different foods we got, but I found it to be odd/rude especially with the whole family around. I'm sure my grandfather wouldn't really understand that dinner that night was "blog worthy" and required picture taking in a nice restaurant.

Here are our tips and tricks:

 
  • Ask to see the Chef!
    • We told our waiter at every sit down restaurant we had dietary restrictions and asked if the chef could come talk to us. Every time they said yes! And every time we got excellent service. I even had a special dinner made just for me that wasn't on the menu. 
  • Be open to modifying what is on the menu
    • Sometimes you just have to ask for a salad with no chicken, no cheese, and a different dressing. No one ever judged us. A few times we were asked if we were vegan, when we said yes they gave us great suggestions of other food options we might prefer and we never treated oddly. One of the food counter people at one quick service restaurant was also vegan!
  • If you are vegan or vegetarian think hard about NOT using the dining plan. 
    • Since we were a group of 12 and we were eating dinner together 4 of the 5 nights it made the most sense for our family. The dining plan is great if you are a diverse group, but if you are a couple or going solo, think hard. Also the dining plan is available on a room by room basis, so if your buddy wants to have it but you don't, one of you will be the sore looser.
    • The dining plan costs roughly $60 per day. If you eat expensively, this will save you tons of loot, but most vegan dinners cost less than $20 bucks per person. I can't eat $20 of food each meal which made it less than worth it for me and C. BUT our family ate at buffets most nights which cost from $30-50 per person. If you eat every night at the buffet or have big meat eater friends with you then you may want to consider it.
    • In the end we could barely use all the "snack" credits and splurged at the end on tons of baked goods from BabyCakes (OMG) which was a nice way to end the trip.
  • If you choose to not do the dining plan
    • Pack your own lunch and snacks. The park will let you bring in outside food as long as it isn't in a hard case cooler or if you have alcohol packed with it. Food IS expensive in the parks and the serving size can be less than stellar for lunches...
  • Pass on the buffet restaurants. 
    • You will find better and more interesting food at a more traditional style restaurant. Its also a LOT cheaper.  The buffets tended to have all the same things, just slightly different styles and flavors.
  • Plan ahead!
    • The parks at WDW are huge, and with that have lots and lots of places to eat. Some are more v-friendly than others. Not only did this help me plan my day better, but you don't want to waste 1-2 hours looking for a place in Magic Kingdom that can best accommodate you. While every food stand/restaraunt have an allergy list/ingredient list of every product they sell, they also have very long lines to get up to the counter. At peak times of the day (or even worse during the peak times of the year) lines for lunch can be upwards of 30 minutes. It would stink if you had to do that 2-3 times before finding a place to eat. You can find menus at My Disney Experience.
  • Read other people's experiences about the staff and food.
    • This was super helpful in finding good places to eat and which places to avoid (if you can). I will post about where we ate in another post.
  • Make reservations for sit down restaurants as soon as you can.
    • Restaurants fill up quick for dinner. There was one occasion that C and I couldn't eat at a certain restaurant we wanted because the only open reservations were at 9:30PM. While we did find a good place to eat last minute, it was hard fought.
  • The resorts will be better for dinner than the parks.
    • The resorts IMO are more accommodating with more interesting themes than the restaurants in the park. Some of our best dining experiences were in places like The Grand Floridan Resort, The Animal Kingdom Resort and Lodge, and the Contemporary.
    • We mostly ate quick service in the parks which probably lends itself to being a lower dining experience.
Hipster

Have you been to WDW recently? What were your dining experiences? 

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