Survival Guide to Disneyland with Crohn’s and Celiac
Having autoimmune diseases, it can be daunting, thinking about going on vacation. Worrying about whether or not you can eat anything and what will happen if you get some cross contact with gluten! Not to mention, how you can possibly stand so long in lines when you may need to run to the restroom at any given moment.
Crohn’s and Celiac Disease
So, lucky us! I have celiac disease and have been diagnosed and strictly gluten free for 14 years. My husband has had issues with gluten but was diagnosed non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This saved his gut! It wasn’t until last summer that he was diagnosed with crohn’s disease and had some DNA tests to confirm the diagnosis.
My celiac is well controlled and I can lead a normal life. However, if I get cross-contact, cross contamination or full on gluten, then I suffer. It can be anything from severe migraine headaches and brain fog to pretty painful gastro pains and problems. These symptoms typically last for 3- 5 days but I don’t quite feel myself for longer than that.
My husband’s Crohn’s is much more tricky! We are currently using diet to control his disease. He tried medication but it had more side-effects, was super expensive and didn’t help much, if at all. (Typical for Crohn’s medication.) So far, we know that he can’t eat gluten, lettuce (he loves salad), fresh vegetables with skin (peeled veggies seem to be okay), dairy, and anything hot and spicy. He still has gastro pains and often needs to run to the bathroom, but it is less than before we started watching his diet. No fiber for this guy!
All of our kids are at the very least gluten intolerant, some with celiac and some who will hopefully avoid being full blown Crohn’s patients!
Gluten Free at Disneyland
The last time we were at Disneyland was 9 years ago. The gluten free options were fabulous and we had such a great time. On our recent trip, we actually found it a little more difficult. Disneyland no longer offers a print out of where to find gluten free options; since gluten free has become more mainstream than it used to be, they have changed how they do things.
There are still a lot of options, in and out of the park/s (California Adventure). We used the app.: findmeglutenfree . What I found difficult was that I couldn’t filter and find what was available in Disneyland and California Adventure. It took a lot longer for us to decide on where and what to eat. (Not to mention the parks sticker shock!)
Using the Disney app for the park you can look at the menus for each place, but that means you have to open each food place, go to their menu, scroll to find what is available and most of the time there is little to no information available. You have to do this for each place. It would be nice if you could see which places offer gluten free options and choose from those. I have put together a list of what I found.
Many of the places have gluten free bread and can do almost anything gluten free, at least that was our understanding. We were so disappointed to get to Clarabelle’s in Toontown for a turkey sandwich, only to find out they don’t have gluten free bread and don’t do gluten free at that location or anywhere in Toontown! They offer a salad, but they are given a certain number of salads each day and were out!
So, it is false they can’t do gluten free anywhere in the park, only at specific locations and it is spotty. You still need to ask questions and see how comfortable you are eating at each place.
- Turkey leg
- Mexican food at Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante (Frontierland)
- The Red Rose Taverne (Fantasyland) Turkey sandwiches and hamburgers and French Fries (dedicated fryer)
- Flo’s V8 Cafe (California Adventure- Cars Land) Hamburgers and French Fries (dedicated fryer) They also have tuna and turkey sandwiches and salads
Survival Guide: Meal Time Tips
- Eat at off times, when food places aren’t quite so busy. They can’t be as careful with your food when they are busy and there is more chances for cross contact and cross contamination.
- Ask if they can use ingredients from the back, that they haven’t been touching.
- Request they change their gloves.
- Find out if they use a dedicated fryer (if they make their own chips [for things like chips and salsa] do they do it in the same oil they fry other things that contain gluten?)
- When possible talk to the manager and or the chef
On the cheap side
The park can be really expensive and the sticker shock is real! Breakfast can be done at the hotel (which I like to do anyway, because then we are ready to go!).
Lunch costs can be minimized with a cooler and some ice in a ziploc baggie. We brought a soft sided cooler with us and filled it with grapes, cheese, lunch meat, mustard, and cookies. We rented a locker in the picnic area. If coming from the main gate into the Disneyland grounds, keep walking past the ticket booths and the entrance/exit area. Then you will get to some lockers and bathrooms. There is a hedged area that is a picnic area and very nice and quiet. It was $12 a day for a large locker and I don’t remember the Jumbo locker cost but it was probably about $18.
Survival Guide: the Disability Pass Services
This is a great service Disney gives to those who may have a hard time standing in long lines. This helped us to have a better vacation since we never know when hubby may need a restroom, quickly.
How to get a disability pass
You first need to talk to someone at Town Hall, on Main Street, in Disneyland. (There’s probably somewhere in California Adventure as well.) You explain to them why you need this pass. We took a letter from our doctor, just in case and they told us it wasn’t necessary to have a letter.
As soon as my husband said, “I have crohn’s”, the employee stopped him and said, “I know what that is, you don’t have to explain anymore.” Then, she connected his pass to his ticket. This was good for the entire time and we didn’t have to renew it again.
5 tickets can be attached to the disability pass (6 in total: person with the disability pass and 5 people in his party). Meaning they can go with the person who holds the disability pass for the return time.
How the disability pass works
You don’t need to explain anything to anyone about your disability service pass. You get a return time at an information booth. These are located throughout the park/s. Go to the Fast Pass line. At the fast pass entrance, you tell the attendant that you have a return time. Then, you swipe your ticket like you do for a fast pass. It will turn blue. The attendant will check that you are who you say you are. (A picture is taken of you when you enter the park and shows up on the attendant’s device.) They will okay it and then the fast pass will turn green and the rest of the people with you can then swipe their cards.
The person with the disability service pass has to be with in order for you to use this service, you can’t go without them. Since this is the fast pass line, it is still a line. Plan on waiting in line at least 10-20 minutes if it is long. It is still faster and better than waiting in the stand-by line. If the person with the disability pass ends up not being able to wait that time and has to leave the line, let the attendant know what happened when you get to the ride. We didn’t have this happen, but my understanding is that they will have your party wait on the side and you can text the person you are waiting for, the attendant’s instructions. They won’t make you wait in the line again.
If the ride you have a return time with breaks down one of the rides close to that ride will accept your wait time. Just let the attendant know you have return time for such and such ride that is no longer running and they will let you use it on another ride.
Using the disability pass
Show your pass to an attendant at any information booth. They have the wait times for each ride. You have to wait the time for most rides minus about 10 minutes. They take into account that you are going to be waiting in the fast pass line. The attendant will give you a return time for one ride of your choosing. You are then given a time you can ride, anytime after that given time. It doesn’t matter how long after that time, it just has to be after the return time.
Only one return time is given at a time. However, you can use a fast pass and it doesn’t interfere with the return times. During this wait time you can get food, use the restroom, relax and rest your feet, or go on another ride. (If there is one without a long line or you have a fast pass.) Seriously! Use the Disney app! You can see so much about the park; see ride times, menus, maps and so much more!
For the most part, everyone was really nice about us using the disability service pass. Really, it isn’t any of their business, we already explained it in order to receive it. Only one attendant was critical about it and that happened in California Adventure. He looked at my husband and questioned, “Disability?” My husband simply said, “Yep!” Thankfully it was just this once. Hidden illnesses are so hard for people to understand and it wasn’t this attendant’s place to question.
Survival guide: Toilet Paper
The toilet paper in the park is not the most comfortable, especially on a sensitive tushy! After the first day, hubby was very much NOT wanting to use the park’s toilet paper. He was willing to carry his own roll around, just to not use the park’s toilet paper! We made a stop at Walgreens and looking at what was available and thinking about how to carry things, decided to try flushable wipes.
The flushable wipes worked out fabulously! They were compact and easy to carry. They were soft and wonderful to use and so much better than the park’s toilet paper. This was a life saver!
Survival Guide: The Disney App
Just in case I haven’t said it enough, use the Disney app!!! This is an incredibly useful tool at Disneyland and can cut down your running around like a crazy person!
With the app you can buy the Max pass. If you are just going to use the Max pass for photos, you only need one! You get unlimited photos! Anywhere there is a photographer in the park, you can swipe the person with the Max pass’ card and they will give you another card to attach the photos to. Within 24 hours the photos will start showing up on your Disney app for you to view!
The Max pass unlimited photos also includes pictures taken on rides! Make sure you grab the code after your ride, so you can enter it in and connect it to you!
Currently the Max pass is at a low introductory rate of $10! This has to be purchased each day you are at the park/s.
If you want to take full benefit of the Max Pass, everyone in your party needs to have a Max pass. You can do your fast passes from your phones, rather than having to run and get them at each ride. Passes can be obtained for either park if you are park hopping.
Survival Guide: Water
We had water bottles that we carried with us in our backpacks. When they were empty we would go to food places (mostly fast food places) that had beverages; not restaurants and asked for ice water. They happily give you cups of ice water for free! We filled our water bottles with the ice water we got and stayed hydrated during our time in the park/s.
Survival Guide: Water Rides
We planned what day would be our “wet day”. We rented a locker. Lockers are located before you enter the park just after the ticket booths and entrance gates. In fact, there are more lockers if you go to the Hedged in area. This is a picnic area and quite nice. We stored our clothes in the locker with our softsided cooler. (There’s a lot of room in those lockers!), so we could change later.
What I wish we had done, is taken our flip flops and changed our shoes! The rest of our clothes dried, but our shoes stayed wet! We saw people putting their shoes in plastic bags before the ride and knew we had made a mistake!
The extra clothes were nice, because we wanted to change before dinner into something a little nicer.
Surviving: Foot Pain
The foot pain from so much walking is real! I wish we would have bought everyone new shoes a few months before going to Disneyland! Then we could have taken the ones we were wearing as an extra pair to trade off in. Your feet would love a change of shoes and not to be wearing the same ones every day!
Another stop to Walgreens where we purchased some sole inserts to try and ease our aching feet! It was helpful! At Walgreens they let us use some scissors so we could cut the inserts to fit our shoes. Having some sole inserts helps if you don’t have a second pair of shoes.
Each night at the hotel we elevated our feet which really helped to be ready to go again in the morning.
It is nice to go somewhere where they make accommodations to help your stay be more pleasant. This is one of our favorite places to go with gluten free issues and now with Crohn’s. We know we can do it and don’t have to stress about all the potentiality that comes with these 2 diseases.
What other tips do you have for visiting Disneyland/California Adventure?