As a child, I learned very early on to say “No thank you, I have allergies.” or flash my metal medical alert bracelet when in doubt. In the era I was growing up, there were few alternatives for my most severe allergies (soy being the most dangerous to my personal safety with the potential for anaphylaxis). Today, thankfully, I have outgrown many of the allergies that caused me discomfort as a child, and I can even eat soy in certain forms (although tofu and edamame can still trigger anaphylaxis for me, and some other legumes cause severe pain). But when I hear about children (and adults) who still have the challenge of dietary allergies, I really can sympathize from a personal level. Halloween nights were always a challenge in my house, watching candy get sorted into “safe”, “okay in moderation”, and “not safe” piles based on ingredients. Years ago, when I heard about the Teal Pumpkin Project (to offer allergy friendly or non-edible trick or treat options for kids), I was delighted. Out house has participated for several years now.
At Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, there’s also a “teal friendly” (allergy friendly) option for trick or treating. When it comes to food allergies, I don’t have to worry about an allergic reaction from physical contact with foods, and because I was pretty positive that there wouldn’t be individually wrapped pieces of tofu handed out, I figured that I’d give a try trick or treating in line with the allergies I had as a child to see how allergy safe the experience really is. My experience was, pun intended, a mixed bag.
A couple disclaimers: First, I was lucky enough to win tickets for myself and my daughter to the very first 2017 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party from the Disney Parks Blog contest, but having them pay for my ticket in had no influence on my experience with the trick or treating. (Still, thank you for the ticket oh great DPB people! I had a great time and hope to win something from you all again someday!!) Second, because this was the first Halloween Party of the year, there’s still some learning the ropes for the very hard-working cast members. I have no doubt that as the parties continue to happen, there will be better awareness of how to be more attentive to “teal bag” guests. That out of the way, on with the evening.
When you first arrive, you are directed down the back alley adjacent to Main Street between Tony’s Town Square restaurant and down near the Tomorrowland Terrace. In this alleyway, you can see some festive Halloween statues, pose for PhotoPass photos, and get your trick or treat bag. Everyone is given a “normal” bag by default, but if you have allergies you can ask for a allergy-friendly bag or a teal bag. They had a stack of them waiting to go, and it was very smooth to get a regular bag (shown on the left) for my allergy-free daughter and a teal bag (shown on the right) for me.
At the end of the area is the first trick or treat station, where they give you a bag pre-packed with a variety of goodies to get you started. The cast member working that area put one bag in my daughter’s trick or treat bag and one bag in mine. Looking at the contents later, it was clear that this was not allergy-friendly, however because it was fully sealed, it likely could be removed without significant problems for people with contact allergies (or, rather, no moreso than interaction with any other prepackaged treats). At this point, I realized that having the bag was not enough to guarantee allergy-free treats–I needed to point it out to cast members at the treat stations.
The procedure for allergy trick or treating is a bit different than “normal” trick or treating. You still go up to the station, say trick or treat, but instead of a handful of candy being placed into your bag, you get a teal-colored token.
After you have hit as many trick or treat stations as you want, you stop by one of two locations: Liberty Square next to the Hall of Presidents or the Town Square Theater on your way out of Magic Kingdom. There, you turn over your tokens, you are shown a list of allergy-safe(r) options (with their ingredients lists), and you can say which items that you can have added to your goodie bag. The reason for collecting tokens and going to a different location to redeem them is to limit the possibility of cross-contamination exposure, as the standard mix of candy at the treat stations does have, among other things, candies with peanuts and peanut butter.
For most people, this trick or treat method will work extremely well. There are a few items to note if you are attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party with allergies:
- Because the treat stations are often in areas that have low light, it isn’t always easy for cast members to tell the difference between the bags at a quick glance. I would love it if Disney made the straps of the bags different colors to more easily identify teal bags from regular bags. As a result, I would approach the treat station with my bag up but held closed. If they saw the teal bag right away, they would fish in their apron pockets to get out a token for my bag and at that point I would open up the bag. If they had the handful of candy out to put in my bag, I’d politely say “teal bag” or “allergy bag”, and they would apologize and get the token out.
- If you have contact allergies, things are a little more complicated. I did notice that some of the cast members were using only one hand for the candy distribution and the other hand to pass out the teal tokens. Other cast members used the same hand for both. If you are highly sensitive to possible cross contamination, you will want to avoid touching the tokens yourself. When you get to the place to trade in your tokens, have the cast member there pull them out and ask for a new bag for your treats.
- There are a lot of people eating the treats they receive right away. That means a lot of people have chocolate, peanuts, and other allergens on their hands and they are out there touching ride vehicles, rails, and are in close proximity. Make sure to take appropriate precautions if you are sensitive to airborne particles from certain foods or before touching surfaces, as there is a greater likelihood of allergen particles being on those surfaces on a night like this than on a typical night.
- Although cast members are trained on what they should do with a teal bag, sometimes in trying to be friendly, it can be a bit awkward. I was asked a couple times during the night “What are you allergic to?” (in a friendly, caring way, but still potentially awkward if you are uncomfortable explaining your allergies to random people). Here I have to give top nods to the people manning the allergy-friendly treat distribution area, because they didn’t ask what I was allergic to–rather, they asked “Have you had a chance to look over the items we have here to see if there’s anything you’d prefer to have or don’t want this evening?” That simple way of phrasing it so that it seemed like I was getting to choose what I wanted or didn’t want instead of what I was forced to have due to my body’s inability to safely eat certain things was very refreshing. The people at the Liberty Square location were simply exceptional.
- If you are diabetic or looking for low or no sugar options, this night still doesn’t have a lot of options. In the assortment that I got, there were some small hard candies that are sugar-free (sorbitol-based), but everything else contained cane sugar. From what I heard, there are usually some small craft kits available upon request, but because all of the candy/food options at the allergy station were safe for me, I didn’t ask about non-food options. (I want to make sure to save those for people who really need them.)
Overall, Disney does an amazing job handling allergy concerns, and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is no exception. For the majority of people with allergies, you will be able to have the same type of experience as any other guest out for a night of trick or treating. And if you don’t get enough fun stuff there, make sure to stop by my house on Halloween–we’ll have a teal pumpkin out for you!