Updated: Jul 8, 2020
Disclaimer: If you are thinking about traveling but are concerned you may be at risk, please contact your doctor. I am not a medical professional and everything in this post is my own opinion.
Traveling During a Pandemic
It’s been a hot minute since I traveled to Orlando and vacationed at Walt Disney World. I had a trip planned for September, but with COVID-19 still a big threat and face masks required, we ultimately decided to cancel.
When Disney Springs in Lake Buena Vista, Florida reopened in May, my friend Megan and I decided to try our luck and put some of that Disney magic back in our lives.
We hopped on a flight to Orlando and found a quiet and empty airport. This was my first time in Orlando, and my first time leaving my area since the pandemic began. With our masks on, we jumped in an Uber and began to plan out our day.
We made it to Disney Springs with our masks on, had our temperatures taken, and walked around the property only to find that most stores and restaurants were closed.
Trip planning is not a strength of mine, apparently.
I looked on the Disney Springs website where I noticed that the stores and restaurants we wanted to go to were opening two days later.
We were super let down, but decided to make the most of it because we traveled so far!
Starbucks was Open!
First stop, Starbucks.
If you weren’t previously aware of what Starbucks has to offer people on a gluten-free diet, many locations offer gluten-free pre-packaged snacks from major brands. I ordered a strawberry acai lemonade refresher, which you can find more info about here, and it was delicious as always!
Starbucks had markings on the floor and signs showing where you could and couldn’t go to ensure safety for everyone and allow for social distancing.
My Go-To Lunch Location: D-Luxe Burger
I assumed that there would be at least one place for me to find gluten-free food at the very least! We typically ate at D-Luxe Burger every time we were in Disney Springs, but they were closed!
They are now open and offering mobile orders for those who would like to stay outside.
Here is a link to more information about D-Luxe Burger (hint: check out their secret mobile order menu).
What Do You Do When Your “Plan A” Doesn’t Work?
When your go-to restaurant is closed, what do you do?
Usually, my second plan of action is to use my Find Me Gluten Free app, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn’t as useful as it normally is. Most of the restaurants at Disney Springs were closed at the time.
If you’re planning on going to Disney Springs, be sure to check ahead at which restaurants are open before going!
We walked around a while looking for anything to be open. I hadn’t eaten anything all day but a gluten-free kind bar on the plane, so I was starving!
We walked in front of this place called “T-Rex” at exactly 11 o’clock when they were opening the door and decided to see what it was about.
What is T-Rex?
If you have never heard of T-Rex, it’s basically a prehistoric version of the Rainforest Cafe. It has a meteor shower show every once in a while so you can enjoy the animatronic dinosaurs, and it also has beautiful fish tanks!
If you’re lucky, you may even see a diver cleaning out one of the tanks!
Outside of the dining area, there is a dinosaur-themed Build-a-Bear and a small gift shop with dinosaur goodies for the kids!
The (Non-Alcoholic) Drinks
There are several gluten-free drinks available besides the typical water or soda. They offer three different non-alcoholic beverages in T-Rex light up cups under the menu section “The Big Chills”. You can choose between the Strawberry-Asaurus Lemonade, Very-Cherry Limeade, or Shark Water.
The first time I visited, I got the Very-Cherry Limeade. It wasn’t my favorite drink but it was very tasty after a long morning full of walking.
On the second visit, I ordered the Strawberry-Asaurus Lemonade. This drink was a hit!
FYI, you get one free refill! I wasn’t aware of that during my first dining experience, but I was sure to make use of it when I returned for the second trip.
Gluten-Free Menu Options
This was the first time I’ve ever eaten here, so I honestly don’t know what is on the full menu. Like most restaurants, the limited staff has forced the restaurant to make the menu much shorter. Click here to view T-Rex menu offerings.
I visited T-Rex two different times in the last month or so and the first time there was not a chef available to come out to my table and take a special allergy order like Disney typically has their employees do.
My first server wasn’t quite sure what was gluten-free on the menu, so just to be safe, I ordered a Caesar salad with grilled chicken and a side of mashed potatoes.
On my second visit, I informed the server that I avoided gluten and a manager came out to the table. I was informed that nearly everything on the menu could be made gluten-free. They had a gluten-free pasta and could make the Prehistoric Pasta with either Alfredo or marinara sauce.
I got chicken on my pasta with marinara, and it was definitely a great meal!
Who Could Forget the Dole Whip?
If you’ve never had a Dole Whip, it’s basically pineapple ice cream! I had heard these gluten-free desserts were an absolute must-try.
I got a small, but you can be the judge of what I was actually served. It was a delicious treat on a hot day! Don't forget to ask for it in a cup and not in a cone!
Eating at the Orlando Airport
After our long day at Disney Springs, we headed to the airport for our flight back home.
With most things being closed, I was prepared to eat snacks from one of the few open gift shops.
I typically consider travel days a wash and pick up some kind of fruit cup or a bag of chips, and this is exactly what I did.
If you typically eat Chipotle, there is a small location in the Southwest Airlines terminal that was up and running.
In the Delta Air Lines terminal, there was an Outback restaurant, but it was unfortunately closed when we were there.
To be completely honest, traveling during this pandemic is not the move. Wearing a mask all day is not fun and the Florida heat was just the cherry on top.
T-Rex (1st trip): 7/10. Having to “pick my own” menu is never fun, but it was good food and I didn’t have any kind of reaction to it after the fact.
T-Rex (2nd trip): 9/10. I’m a big fan of pasta, so this meal was right up my alley. I’d like to see full menu offerings before I can give this a completely accurate rating, but it was very good and did not give me any kind of reaction.
Dole Whip: 10/10. Try it. You won’t regret it.
Most importantly, stay safe and have fun!