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The Great Big Disney Recap: Part One | A Personal Recap

October 31, 2019

Y’all… I am SO excited about these upcoming blog posts! My Disney Recap has been on the backburner for just about a month now because… October. BUT, I finally had some time to sort through allllll the Disney goodness from my trip at the beginning of the month! This is my first personal post in a MINUTE, and it may look a little different from the rest of my trip recaps! Hang tight; I’ll explain more in a second! Because these posts got really long really fast, I’m breaking them up into TWO parts! Today, you’re getting part one!

Now… if you are wondering when I was in Disney or what I’m talking about, just a quick rewind: I photographed one of my sweet friend’s dream Disney wedding at the very beginning of October! We’ve been planning to work together for a little under two years, and I quickly got my dear friend, Savannah, on board as my second shooter. As soon as I sent her the “are you in?!” text, she let me know that she was beyond excited and we both decided that we absolutely had to try our best to squeeze in as much park time as possible! I can happily say that, though exhausted and in need of an IV of caffeine and/or 7 full nights of sleep to recover, we did it! Savannah is a Disney pro, and I am SO grateful that she is because I know next to nothing! She knows the parks so well, knew how to get and set up our MagicBands and accounts, kept me fed and having fun and so much more. I could go on and on about how grateful I am for this friend of mine for so many reasons, but honestly, these blog posts are going to be long enough, and truthfully, I don’t even know how to put into words how grateful I am for her and her friendship. She took on Disney just TEN days after moving and in the middle of her busy season too. If that isn’t an incredible friend, I don’t know what is.

Going into the trip, things were pretty crazy for me too. I had been in busy mode for a few weeks, and in the days leading up to our trip, I left my part-time fitness job, started at a new one, AND shot a wedding. It was nuts, I was crazy stressed, but looking back, it wasn’t all that bad! Could I have prepped and planned a little better for some personal things (Cough… food allergies… cough)? Absolutely. However, we got through it, I’m super proud of the work that I produced, and I learned A LOT (and had a lot of fun!) along the way!

Because we were in Disney for work, we were pretty selective about when we did and didn’t have our cameras on us! For most of the trip, we let ourselves be “normal” Disney-goers and only brought along our iPhones. Quick disclaimer: I still have the iPhone 6S (which means I don’t have portrait mode, and the camera leaves some things to be desired compared to what’s out there now… we’re working on it, y’all). Still, it got the job done, and I am so happy to have made so many sweet memories without toting along 15 pounds of camera gear. Know that today and tomorrow’s posts are a blend of real camera photos, photos from my phone AND photos fros Savannah’s phone/camera! I’ll share our full itinerary as we work our way through the post, and I’ll also share a few tips and tricks for navigating Disney with some crazy and pretty specific food allergies. (A post that I was searching for when I was prepping for our adventure!)

I don’t talk about this often, but I’m currently eating gluten, grain, and dairy-free because my body is a lot happier without those things! I have celiac disease, so gluten has been something that I have been without for years and years now. The grain and dairy things are new to me within the last 6 months, so I was a little nervous about taking on such a big trip SO soon. Would I be able to eat gluten/dairy/grain-free in Disney?! We were about to find out!

I heard that Disney was super great about working with folks with food allergies and even called their customer support line before to confirm, and fortunately, they are AWESOME! Seriously… the chefs are the absolute BEST and were so accommodating. With that being said though, there are a few things that I’ll recommend to my friends with allergies keep in mind as they start their Disney planning. I’ll share a few quick tips right up top, and as we recap through our Disney adventure, I’ll share some more specific tips and tricks, eatery recommendations, and things to keep an eye out for! If you feel like food is a huge focus of this post, that’s because it has become a huge focus of mine to feed my body foods that make it happy!

One quick disclaimer: I am not a dietician, nutritionist or specialist in anything food! These are simply tips that I have picked up throughout my travel and experiences and would love to offer a few suggestions for people that live and eat similarly to me! Take my suggestions with a grain of salt and ask your own questions! If you’ve been wondering if it is possible to eat grain-free in Disney, I’m happy to say that it IS possible… it just takes a bit of work.

A few tips for living your best Disney life with a laundry list of food allergies:

  • Research and plan your meal spots ahead of time
    • Whoops… this is absolutely what I should have taken the time to do beforehand. Things were beyond crazy though, so I didn’t! Pour over the menus of different eateries in the various parks/hotels you’ll be visiting and pick your places ahead of time! That way, you’re not crazy hangry as you run from place to place, trying to find something you can eat!
  • Ask for the chef
    • At any Disney eatery, you can always ask to speak with the chef, and more often than not, they’ll be able to make you something you can eat!! Just be mindful: this does take a significant amount of time! Typically, we would choose places with things on the menu that I thought I could eat, and then we would chat with the chef to ensure my meal would be safe.
  • Bring your allergens on a slip of paper if you have a lot of them
    • Explaining my allergies and sensitivities got pretty old after a while… it has always been something that I am SUPER self-conscious and self-aware about, so I don’t love running through them with people. I’ve found that gluten-free is something that a lot of people understand these days (thank goodness!!), but the whole grain-free thing was a little harder for people and chefs to grasp. (Once they did though, we were good to go!) You see… A LOT of gluten substitutes are still grain-based (Think corn and rice!!) Great… just not for my body these days!
    • Most chefs would bring out a piece of paper and would write down each thing that I’m not able to eat which meant we were standing there for about 5 mintues as I explained: no gluten, wheat, barley, oats, corn, rice, quinoa, cow dairy, artificial flavors, maltodextrin, modified food starch, MSG, corn starch, high fructose corn syrup… what oil do you use back there, do you have a gluten-free specific frier, any weird additives or thickeners, etc. etc. They were always so down to listen, but it made me feel like a diva. In retrospect, it would have been A LOT easier if I kept a few slips of paper or business cards on me with all of my allergies listed on them! That way, I could just hand it to the chef, and they would have all the info they needed. I’m actually considering placing a VistaPrint order for a few business cards with my allergies to keep on me for eating out in real life, but this would have been a huge help to have done before Disney!
  • The olive oil is a blend of olive and canola oils
    • This is just something that I learned and didn’t really have a place to work it in throughout the rest of the post but thought it may be important for someone to know!
    • I’m typically okay with canola oil, but I know that some people are not!
  • Pack and prep your own food
    • Disney actually lets you bring in your own food and snacks! I really wish I knew this ahead of time!!! In retrospect, I probably would have prepped for a few more meals if I had known that they allowed outside food into the parks. Not only would it have saved a ton of money, but it would have saved a lot of time and hanger too!!
  • The Food and Wine Festival isn’t your friend
    • I hate to be the one to bring you the bad news, but sadly, the Food and Wine Fest wasn’t this gluten/grain/dairy-free gal’s best friend. A huge majority of the dishes are pre-prepped and had things in them that I couldn’t eat. (Keep in mind: so many sauces are thickened with flour, dairy and/or corn starch!) If you are going to pick one park to meal prep for with allergies like mine, I highly recommend prepping for Epcot! The smaller/quick eateries had a lot of pre-prepped meals that were not able to be prepped grain-free for me (Example: the taco salad that was pre-mixed and contained corn!).
  • Read blogs before you go for dining suggestions!

I’ll pepper more specifics in throughout today and tomorrow’s posts, so hang tight! BUT, I think it’s about time that we get to the good stuff! Today, we’ll be diving into Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s recap!! (AKA Wedding day, Travel Day & Epcot!!) Let’s rewind to the very start of our trip!

Friday

I started my day with a fitness class in DC, followed by a frantic triple check of all of my bags. From there, Savannah and I celebrated a sweet couple on their beautiful wedding day in Frederick, MD and then headed to Baltimore to stay at my sister’s! We were flying out of BWI the next day, so it made a lot more sense than driving back home! When we got there, my sister was actually out of town, but she had left the cutest Disney princess themed Mickey ears for us!! SO sweet & so much fun!

Her sweet pup Luna was also there to give us all of the snuggles we could handle! I’m always looking for an excuse to share pictures of my puppy niece with the world, so that’s the main reason I included Friday in this post! OOPS! She was staying with my sis’s roommate, and you can bet that I got in all of the quality time she would allow!

Saturday

We had an early flight out of BWI but snuck in plenty of Luna snuggles before we left!

We had our Magic Express tags on our bags already, and everyone was so excited that we were heading to Disney! They were all a bit confused when we said we were headed there for work, but it was so much fun to share about the wedding that we were going to photograph! We were flying the day after a wedding of mine which meant lots of culling, editing, and processing! We literally set up offices in the BWI B Terminal. Me: culling Friday’s wedding.

Savannah: editing through my wedding from the previous week. This is the first year I’ve outsourced the bulk of my “W-editing,” and it has been a game-changer, y’all! It also helps that I’m so close to my editor! (More on this process later!) Warning: today & tomorrow’s posts are 99.9% selfies that look exactly like this one 😂🙈

Landed, MagicBand-ed and ready to head to DISNEY! The second we got to the resort (We stayed at Pop Century!), I spotted the bar and requested we pause for a drink. Thankfully, Savannah was on board. We then proceeded to try our best to find our room with cider/beer in hand along with our 6 bags. Somehow, we made it without any major spills! After settling into our hotel, we headed to Disney Springs for dinner and shopping! We decided to stop at Paradiso 37 for dinner because they had a few options on their menu that I thought I could do! I opted for a burger with veggies. I do think this meal didn’t really agree with my body, but that reaction could have been from a number of things… from my vendor meal the night before to stress from travel to drinks… eating anything these days always feels a bit like a gamble!

Sunday

Our first breakfast! I chatted with the chef, and he let me know that the omelets would be safe for me & that I could also do the breakfast potatoes (Quick tip: When traveling or eating breakfast out, ALWAYS ask if the omelet/egg mixture is thickened with anything! Some restaurants thicken eggs with flour or corn starch… yuck! The egg blend at our hotel was just egg, salt/pepper & something for preserving freshness that I forget right now but could eat!) The potatoes were made with a canola oil blend which is sometimes a go for me and sometimes a no-go for my body! I also asked for a side of arugula because… I just really love arugula and they had it sitting right there! The cooks literally thought I was crazy, but it was delicious! I did the Western Omelet without ham (I don’t eat pork!) and without cheese!

After breakfast, we got ready and headed to Epcot for headshots around the world!

But first…. we made a beeline for Frozen and waited to ride the first ride of our Disney adventure! This was probably the longest line we waited in our entire trip, but it was worth it! SO cute! Now… for headshots in England! A quick hop, skip & a jump across the pond to Tudor Lane, don’t mind if I do! I really wish I did the food and wine festival pre-crazy dietary restrictions! There seemed to be SO many delicious booths (with gluten-free options!!), but sadly, I couldn’t eat all that much this time. Savannah had this gorgeous pastry that looked delicious though! (It was from the French pavilion!) I think Morocco may have been our favorite country on the World Showcase! We took a quick walk over to Italy for a few more headshots! We also stopped by the American pavilion (where Kelsey and Blaine’s wedding would be on Monday!) for a few exterior shots that we most likely wouldn’t have time to snap the next day! At this point, we were both REAL over carrying our cameras and had sweat through our cute headshot clothes… so we changed into comfier clothes and decided to enjoy a little bit of the Food and Wine Fest before my engagement session! First was a flight of cider in Canada! Now… at this point, we were hungry and searching high and low for something quick and relatively cheap that I could eat. I was pretty hangry and ready to give up, pretending that my Rx bar was enough. Savannah wouldn’t let that fly though! If you are reading this and we have similar dietary restrictions, I highly recommend meal prepping or bringing food with you to Epcot. The quick eateries weren’t able to accommodate me because a lot of the food is pre-prepped, and the larger restaurant-style eateries were out of budget and would take too much time. We walked the entire World Showcase before finding some fries that I could do in the UK. We went to the Yorkshire County Fish Shop! I was SO happy to find that the ketchup packets DON’T have corn syrup in them!

Just a very random tip to keep in mind: the ketchup packets ARE NOT THE SAME as the ketchup in the big bulk pump containers! The ketchup packets are Simple Heinz (for the most part), and the bulk containers are something else. I asked a manager at Magic Kingdom, and she let me know that the Simple Heinz packets should be available if you ask. I can do the little packets, but I couldn’t do the bulk ketchup containers! We continued our way through the World Showcase, eventually making our way to the boat that would take us over to the Boardwalk! Time for Kelesy & Blaine’s engagement session! Just to be clear: I typically dress up a little more for engagement sessions, but I had already sweat through my cute clothes for the day, so this was what we went with! Thankful for friends turned clients that get when you just need to work in leggings and sneaks for once! Living my absolute best life. Click here for a sneak peek from Kelsey & Blaine’s engagement session!For all of the fun we had, there was absolutely a lot of work done too. Thankful Savannah snapped a quick shot of us working post-engagement session because truthfully, even though we WERE living our best life, there was A LOT of hustle too. After K&B’s engagement session and a quick work-session, we headed back to Epcot for a few rides and dinner! I looooved the plant tour part of Living with the Land! I have a sweet friend from high school that works in Epcot, so in my earlier hangry panic, I texted her and asked where a girl with some crazy food restrictions could get a salad. She let me know that Sunshine Seasons would be my best bet! I looked it up, found a salad I could do (With goat cheese— my fave!!), and we planned to stop there for dinner! When we got there? The salad bar was closed! (HEADS UP: the salad bar closes at 4!! I really wish this was listed online!) You can bet that this girl nearly cried. Fortunately, after chatting with the chef, he let me know that making the salad I had my eye on would be no problem! Chef Chad hooked a girl UP with THE best salad! Cue happy tears: grilled chicken, power greens, almonds, craisins, goat cheese, and a meal that left me feeling good. We finished our night on Spaceship Earth & even got to watch a few of Epcot’s fireworks from our hotel balcony. Epcot ride roundup: Frozen Ever After, Living with the Land, Soarin’, Mission Space, Gran Fiesta Tour, Spaceship Earth… I think that’s it!

I think that’s enough for Part One!! Tune in tomorrow for a wedding day behind the scenes recap and a full Magic Kingdom recap!

If you enjoyed today’s post, you may also like:

A CINDERELLA INSPIRED ENGAGEMENT SESSION AT DISNEY’S BOARDWALK HOTEL

AN ELEGANT CORNFLOWER BLUE CINDERELLA INSPIRED DISNEY WEDDING AT THE AMERICAN ADVENTURE ROTUNDA IN EPCOT

MEGAN’S CHARLESTON BACHELORETTE RECAP | FRIDAY CHATTER

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