Plan a Disney Trip the Stress Free Way with Inside Tips: Meet Nina, A Magical Vacation Planner

Have you ever been to Disney World?

We have- twice.

The first time we went, I called the Disney 1-800 number, spoke to a random person, booked the trip and went on with life.  It worked.

The second time around, I had heard of Nina from TMC Travel Magical Vacation Planner, from Milk Allergy Mom’s Facebook page.  I decided to give Nina a call.  Why not?  It was worth a shot.

I called Nina and she immediately answered.  I instantly felt at ease with her and we chatted away.  It’s not everyday I get to chat with another food allergy mom!  YES… you read that right.  Nina’s children have food allergies so she understood my every concern.

Nina asked all of the important questions:

When did we want to go to Disney?

What was our budget?  (Budget?  What budget?!?!)

What kind of room did we want to stay in?  (Standard room or suite or somewhere in between)

How many days were we planning?

Did we want to include the meal plan?

Did we want to go to a park every day?

Which parks did we want to go to?

And so on.

Nina gave me different price quotes for different possible hotels within Disney.  She answered my various questions without delay over the following days.

She even gave me tips that I didn’t know about last trip.  We requested the room receive a deep clean.  Nina gave me tips about the requests for special diets.  While we brought SG’s food with us from the hotel, we did dine free of SG’s allergens, as well as my special dietary needs.

Nina helped me pick the best days to schedule the parks.  Two years ago around Christmas, the park closed early for Mickey’s Christmas party- cookies and milk.  We didn’t want to be there again on the day it closed early.  Nina helped me choose the right days and we were happy to be at Magic Kingdom for a full day.  Nina also clued me in on cool things- like telling us the crowd calendar for the days we were considering.  It helped us pick the dates.  We were thrilled to know we were going on lower crowd calendar days.

Nina helped us the entire time.

She answered multiple emails from me.

And I asked LOTS of questions:

“Is Fantasmic a good thing to Fastpass?  Is it too scary for a four year old?”

“Do you recommend Fantasmic over the Toy Story ride?”

“I couldn’t get the 7 Dwarfs ride for a fastpass before 6:50 pm so I didn’t do it.  Do I just keep checking daily?  Tomorrow can you look at what I’ve scheduled?”

“Is The Great Movie Ride good?  And are there any things that might scare a 4 year old on the ride?”

“So I’m in central time. So shouldn’t I be able to get our fast passes at 11:01 pm my time?” (For the day I could book our fast passes)

“Let’s talk restaurants! We want to have lunch in the park. (We will pack SG’s lunch.) Can we bring her lunch into the sit down restaurants?”

“I think I’ll book Liberty Tree tomorrow. Do I call you? I have a few dining needs of my own plus I eat dairy and egg free to keep SG safe.”

Nina also helped me with “My Disney” app.  Nina helped me pick the fast passes in the best order.  I randomly picked some and emailed her.  She advised me to the same passes but in a better order that didn’t have us running back and forth around the park.  Now that’s service!

Nina even sent us some extra goodies in the mail for using her as our vacation planner.  That was super sweet, unexpected, and certainly didn’t happen the first go round with the random person from trip number one.

Nina even advised me on where to have the Magic Bands delivered.  We traveled from Iowa to South Carolina to pick up my parents and kept heading south to Florida.  In the middle of choosing our magic bands, I emailed Nina and asked where to have them delivered.  Iowa?  South Carolina?  She helped me, assured me that the bands would arrive on time and that was that.  If Nina wasn’t my planner, what would I have done?  I don’t know!  Having Nina as a vacation planner was like having my very own, very accessible and knowledgeable friend with me every step of the way!  

Nina is an amazing Disney Travel Agent.

And she has a NO FEE policy if she is the agent on your trip! 

Seriously, I didn’t pay to use her services.

I didn’t pay the first go round and got okay service with the random 1-800 number.  The job was done.

But with Nina, the service was EXCELLENT.  I had someone to answer my endless questions and emails.  I had someone to email if I had a bump in the road, so to speak.  I had someone to help me with every little detail.  For free.

And not just some random person somewhere.  Someone that listened to my story, helped us plan a trip that met our special needs and someone who I came to think of as a friend.

She helped us tremendously in planning our trip and made the planning a breeze!

If Disney is in your plans, I highly recommend giving Nina a call before you book your trip.  She is a no fee Disney Travel Agent if she books your trip.  She does custom planning with all bookings.  She specializes in food allergies, special diets, and families.  Even if you have no food allergies, Nina is your gal.

Nina can help book your next trip to:  Disneyland, Walt Disney World Resorts, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney and Aulani, a new Disney Resort in Hawaii.

Please visit Nina on her Facebook page here, her blog “The Dingle Hopper”, e-mail her at Nina@gotTMCtravel.com or give her a call at 734-890-2350.  Please let her know that Ellie from Blessed Little Family sent you.

Here's Nina at Epcot with her family.

Here’s Nina at Epcot with her family.

***I have not been paid to write this for Nina.  I may receive a small referral fee for each person who books a trip with Nina if you mention Ellie sent you.  All opinions are my own.  And Nina really is amazing and a tremendous help!***

Vacationing with Food Allergies: Disney World

Disney Receipt

This post has been brewing for over a year. I wanted to write about our first trip with SG to Disney World last year.

We were so excited. We heard great things about Disney and food allergies. We stayed at Port Orleans resort with Disney in December 2013 and bought their meal plan- the one with one quick service meal and one sit down meal a day. We made our meal reservations with our special dietary requests and were thrilled to safely eat out.  We spoke to the chefs every single time.

But still… SG broke out in hives. Every. Single. Meal. It was horrible! The worst was when she had a hamburger. At that time, we didn’t know about her beef allergy, so we know that was most likely the reason behind her allergic reaction. At the other non-beef meals, she broke out in 3 to 5 hives. It wasn’t a major reaction, but a reaction never the less. And any hives on her stress me out and put me on edge= Not relaxing. Not magical.

I even cried talking to the chef at our resort’s restaurant. I cried because I was stressed out and just wanted something SAFE for my child to eat.

Disney tried, but failed us.

The rides, however, were magical! We quickly developed a system to keep SG safe. I went first with a baby wipe in my hand. I wiped down the lap bars and seats as I got on the ride. Then the Huzz and SG joined me. The second we were off the ride, we’d all wipe our hands with baby wipes. SG did great at the theme parks. No hives from rides!!!

Fast forward to October of 2014. We decided the problem last year was the food at Disney. We decided to try Disney again in December 2014.  To be safe, we decided to get a room with a full kitchen so I could cook all of our dinners. We would bring a safe lunch and safe snacks for SG in the parks. We would eat lunch at the park, but all grown ups would need to eat dairy and egg free to keep SG safe. She ate her safe packed lunch and a special dessert snack (Skittles one day and a Cocoa Loco bar the next.) We snacked on safe snacks I brought and ate dinner in our villa. That part was great.

Here’s where the HUGE problem was. We checked into our “deep cleaned” room at Old Key West Resort and immediately started wiping down every surface. Even though we had requested a deep clean and had supposedly received it, our room just wasn’t up to par. There was some red sauce splattered on several white wood surfaces on the kitchen chairs. There were more red splashes on the side of the fridge. There were white droplets of some food (milk? ice cream?) on the side of the kitchen island. Clearly, we needed to clean it all again.

I told SG (she’s 4) to not touch anything while we wiped everything down. She started touching surfaces as any excited 4 year old would do at a Disney resort. And within 30 minutes, had hives on her face and eyes and a bright red neck. I was terrified and thought this was “the time I was gonna have to Epi her.” She didn’t ingest any dairy, though, so we gave her Benadryl, gave her a quick shower, and then the hives started calming down. All of this within about an hour of checking in to our “relaxing and magical vacation.”

SIGH.

I broke down and cried, y’all. I was so upset. I emailed our travel agent, who was equally appalled at the lack of deep cleaning and she was upset SG had an allergic reaction. She notified the resort. The managers came to our room. We talked and I cried again as I explained to them what happened and tried to stress that even though they claimed our room was deep cleaned, I saw plenty of food “leftovers” in the room.

The manager offered to have the upholstery steam cleaned the next day while we were at Hollywood Studios. That night, we had all of the furniture covered in clean white sheets and towels.

The next day, we came back to freshly steam cleaned sofas, chairs and kitchen chairs. I appreciate that. Really, I do. We still covered it all in new sheets, though, just to be safe.

The managers even had this set up for SG when we returned from Hollywood Studios. SG loved her gifts!

The managers had this as a surprise for SG after she broke out in hives from the room.  She loved these gifts!

SG’s surprise from the managers after she broke out in hives from the room. She loved these gifts!

After the first night, SG didn’t have any more reactions.

I can’t tell you how stressful it was to start off vacation with our daughter having hives and almost taking a trip to the emergency room.

I know tons of food allergy families safely dine at Disney World and have had great experiences. We are two for two at not being completely safe at Disney. Our time in the theme parks and meeting princesses has been the highlight of our visits. The first year the food was the problem. The second year the room was the problem. Yikes.

My princess meeting Merida.  One of her favorite moments from our trip.

My princess meeting Merida. One of her favorite moments from our trip.

Anyway, I wanted to share how our trips to Disney panned out.

My daughter loved her Disney visit. No matter the obstacles, I’m grateful we were able to give her that gift two years in a row.

But for now, I think I am done with vacations. They really stress me out.

Note:  Lots of food allergy families have had great success dining at Disney restaurants.  I applaud Disney for being so food allergy aware.

Our daughter is obviously contact reactive, with RAST numbers off the chart.  Still, we try to provide her with every opportunity to have a “normal” childhood.  Having fun at Disney has been checked off of our list.

Vacationing with Food Allergies: Easy Breakfast & Dinner Ideas & A Few Other Tips

Vacationing with Food Allergies

I’m a planner. And it’s a good thing, too, because going on vacation is no vacation. Not when we don’t eat out. I just don’t trust anyone else to prepare SG’s food. I cook even on vacation. And ya know what? It’s not bad. If I plan ahead, it can even be easy!

Here are a few of my tips for preparing in advance for all of the cooking on vacation.

Make a yummy but easy menu plan for meals on vacation. Either bake and freeze foods in advance (muffins, pancakes, freezer meals, etc.) or prepare the dry mixes in baggies, pack and prepare at destination.

Here are some of my favorite breakfasts, meals and shortcuts for vacation:

Breakfast Ideas

  • Vegan Muffins & Pancakes– I’ve baked and frozen the muffins for past vacations. Next vacay I’m preparing the dry mix at home and baking them fresh in our suite. We have a full kitchen in our hotel suite. I’ve found it’s a must have for us when vacationing.
  • Oatmeal- I measure 1/4 cup of dry quick oats in a baggie. I store lots of them in a larger baggie and write the directions on the larger baggie. Directions: Add 1/2 cup “milk” & microwave for 90 seconds. I add a little plastic bowl of drained peaches to our oatmeal. Easy, fast and healthy!
  • Pumpkin Bread– I’ve also baked and frozen these in the past. They travel well. However, since I’ve discovered how EASY it is to make fresh loaves if I prepare the dry mix beforehand, I will make these fresh on vacation.
Vegan Muffin Mix

Vegan Muffin Mix

Pancake Mix

Pancake Mix

Oatmeal Packets

Oatmeal Packets

Pumpkin Bread Mix

Pumpkin Bread Mix

 

Dinner Ideas

Garlic Chicken Spice Mix & Pizza Sauce Mix

Garlic Chicken Spice Mix & Pizza Sauce Mix

If you don’t already have a “Vacation Tub,” I highly recommend one! In addition to my vacation tub items, I’m packing every small appliance that I think I might need. I’m so paranoid about using someone else’s appliances due to cross contamination. Y’all milk allergy moms get it. 🙂 I’m not crazy. I’m just not taking any chances.

Next vacation I’m packing my:

  • Bread machine
  • Rice Cooker
  • Wok
  • Griddle
  • Mini Loaf Pan
  • Microwave Popcorn Bowl
  • Hand Mixer
  • Crock Pots
  • Pizza Pans
  • Rolling Pin

We are obviously vacationing for a while and I’m in charge of all the meals for us and my parents, who will eat our diet while we are in town. So, pretty much, I’m taking tons of appliances. However, if you are going for a shorter vacay, I’d suggest taking a crock pot and toaster. And a rice cooker if you like rice. We have a toaster we leave at my parent’s house that no one can use except us, so I don’t have to pack that.

I also pack spice mixes in addition to all of my bread and muffin mixes. I premix the spices and put them in small labeled baggies.

Here are the spice mixes I like to have while on vacay:

Popcorn Seasoning, Homemade Taco Seasoning & Homemade Ranch Mix

Popcorn Seasoning, Homemade Taco Seasoning & Homemade Ranch Mix

I’ve linked to recipes when possible.  Please also click here and read my Recipes Substitutions page for more links to things like the recipe for the homemade taco mix, dry ranch mix, etc.  

Vacationing with Food Allergies: 5 Practical Tips to a Relaxing Trip

There is a lot of preparation for vacation in our house. In addition to our “Vacation Tub”, here are a few more things we do.

1. Be prepared to clean. We clean the hotel or rental condo even though it is already clean. If you visit family and depending on the relationship, the family can clean for you or you can help. My parents always scrub their home and fridge for us.

2. Be prepared to cook most meals. Breakfasts can be the easiest no cook meal of the day. I’ve found some “safe” ready made foods and breakfast is taken care of. I do make muffins and pancakes on vacation. To make it easier, I prepare the dry muffin mix or pancake mix at home. When on vacation, I add the wet ingredients and save time and have a safe and homemade breakfast.

Write ingredients & directions on the bag. This is my "pancake basket."

Write ingredients & directions on the bag. This is my “pancake basket.”

3. Pack the slow cooker. When I’m on vacation, the last thing I want to do is slave over a hot stove. I prepare the spices needed for dinners in advance in little plastic containers and label them and pack them. Anything I can do to make vacation easier, I do! If meals are planned in advance, dinner can be in the slow cooker before we hit the beach, the shops, the pool, or the amusement park.

4. Pack lots of baby wipes. When we went to Disney World, I wiped everything- including every ride! I wiped our hands after every ride, too. I have found tons of other uses for baby wipes while on vacation.

5. Go online and check out the town before booking the vacation. We always make sure a hospital is close by. We check out the grocery stores online. We have lots of specialty brands we rely on. We would rather drag our safe yogurts across the United States in our cooler than go without them. Don’t be afraid to call a grocery store in the area you want to visit and ask them if they carry certain brands. Be specific. “Do you carry Whole Soy yogurts?”

With a little planning and a lot of work, food allergy families can enjoy a relaxing vacation. Cheers to a fun and safe summer!

Vacationing with Food Allergies: Create a Vacation Tub

Vacation for us food allergy parents can sometimes be more work than vacation. Here are a few tips that can help you prepare for vacation with less work and less stress. These tips work best for vacations where you drive, rather than fly. We always travel with a majorly loaded car!

Before a trip, I spent lots of time carefully packing all of the essentials we needed to take with us and packed it all in various duffle bags. After our last vacation, I knew there had to be a better way. That’s when it hit me.  I needed a “Vacation Tub.”  To create this, I went to Target and bought a giant sturdy plastic bin. I also went to the dollar store and bought duplicates of cooking utensil essentials. A pasta spoon, a spatula, cooking spoons, measuring cups, etc. I added two muffin pans, a colander, a cutting board with a knife, and any other every day items I could find for a dollar. I washed them all and stored them in the vacation tub. Other items I put in my vacation tub are older pots and pans. I replaced my set last year and these are perfect for my tub. If you don’t have an extra set, just pack your pots and pans before you leave.

Other items for the vacation tub: Sanitizing wipes, napkins, a few rolls of wrapped paper towels, a clean oven mitt, paper plates, paper or plastic cups, and anything else you might need for a vacation away from home.

A way to slowly stock this tub is to look for clearance items throughout the year. After holidays, the holiday cooking supplies, paper plates, napkins, etc. all go on sale and can even be purchased for up to 90% off! It’s okay to use Christmas plates for your beach vacation in July. You can slowly stock your vacation tub this way and save money.

Vacation Tub

Vacation Tub

The inside of our Vacation Tub.

The inside of our Vacation Tub.