Jeff and Karen Bray are long time MiceChat readers. They wrote us with a review of the Disneyland Dining Plan, which we felt compelled to run as a warning to unsuspecting tourists. Don’t confuse Disney World’s popular Dining Plan with Disneyland’s inferior option. Read on and see if you agree, as Jeff and Karen do, that the Disneyland Dining Plan is a bit of a scam.

Our family spent several days at the Disneyland Resort in October and had a mostly amazing time, with one notable exception which everyone needs to be warned about. Now let me say right off the bat: we love Disneyland. It is often referred to as The Happiest Place on Earth, and rightly so. We visit as frequently as we can, even though we actually live closer to Florida’s Walt Disney World. We booked our vacation package through Costco Travel, which uses the Walt Disney Travel Company. After choosing our hotel and the number of park hopping days we wanted, we were given the option of choosing a Disneyland Dining Plan. Of all the numerous trips we have taken to the Disneyland Resort, we have never purchased the Disneyland Dining Plan. We knew of the popular Dining Plan at Walt Disney World, which some of our good friends rave about, so we decided to add the plan to our Disneyland stay.

No Downtown Disney

No Earl of Sandwich

Unfortunately, we were about to find out that the Disneyland Dining Plan is a shadow of what is offered at Disney World and could perhaps even be considered a scam. That may sound harsh, but please read on. At Disney World, each person receives a voucher for a counter service meal, a snack and a table service meal per day (they actually add the meal plan to your Key To The World card so you don’t really have to carry around vouchers). There is no dollar amount attached, so a person could conceivably order the most expensive items on the menu at every meal and actually save money over what they would have spent on their own. Once the program is explained to you, it’s fairly easy to use. Just show your room key to your server and they’ll let you know what your options are for the plan you purchased. At least, that’s the way it works at Disney World.

The Disneyland Dining Plan also gives each person meal vouchers (actual paper ones that you must keep track of). These vouchers, however, each have a specific dollar amount. For example, a counter service voucher is worth $15, a snack voucher is worth $5 and a table service meal voucher is worth $30. Each packet of vouchers also includes one “premium” table service voucher, worth $40. At the time we added the plan, we had no idea that it was dollar for dollar; thus offering no real savings. But it gets worse, much worse. Here’s the Good, the Bad and the Ugly truths about these Disneyland meal vouchers:

The Good of the Disneyland Dining Plan:

Purchasing the Disneyland Dining Plan as part of your vacation package might alleviate stress about paying for the meals later. Since most folks usually spend more than anticipated while on vacation, this becomes one less thing to worry about. The vouchers are good at any Disneyland, California Adventure or Disneyland hotel restaurant but are NOT valid in Downtown Disney. Unfortunately there is really nothing else good about these vouchers.

The Bad of the Disneyland Dining Plan:

Even though the vouchers are valid for food and drink, they only work at the restaurants and select outdoor vending areas. They cannot be used, for example, to buy a cup of coffee at The Market House or candy at The Candy Palace as they can at Disney World for snacks. These places are considered merchandise vendors, not food vendors. Why can’t these two shops just limit what you use the vouchers for, as you can at WDW? Any orders placed at the counter (a cup of coffee or a pound of fudge) should be considered food, not merchandise; whereas, if one purchases a mug or pre-packaged item, it would be considered merchandise. Granted, candy isn’t necessarily the most nutritious of snacks and could hardly be considered “food,” but the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor does accept the vouchers for the equally indulgent ice cream snack. A bit inconsistent, perhaps?

The Ugly of the Disneyland Dining Plan:

If you haven’t figured out by now, the Disneyland Dining Plan is not a good deal. Let’s move on to the downright ugly truth about these vouchers. The Walt Disney Travel Company does not tell you that you are paying dollar for dollar what these vouchers are worth, therefore, you are not really getting any kind of a “deal.” In fact, you are nearly guaranteed to pay MORE than a regular guest who is just paying out of pocket. Even though the vouchers have a dollar value and you have paid what they are worth, none of the vendors will give you change. So, if your bill amounts to $65, then you will want to use two $30 vouchers and pay the rest in cash. What did you save over what a regular guest would pay? NOTHING. But here’s the twisted part. If your meal is $25 and you need to use a $30 voucher, do you get the $5 Disney owes you back? NO! Disney keeps that. So you end up paying MORE than a regular guest.

NO BOOZE!

Being able to mix and match the vouchers, does allow you to cover the cost of most meals earlier in your trip, but it is a bit of a hassle to figure out how to best use them, since you don’t get change. You can’t exchange your vouchers for smaller denominations which would make it easier to get close to your final bill amount. You’d always be better off under using the voucher and paying the rest in cash, so you don’t over pay. However, doing so means that you will likely have extra vouchers left over at the end of your stay (we ended up with $80 in unused vouchers). I suppose that you use it or lose it either way. You either over pay during the meal by not getting your change back or you lose the money at the end of your stay because you didn’t use all your vouchers.

Finally, even though the vouchers have a cash value (which one would naturally think means you could use them as cash), they are not accepted for tax and tip in all locations and can’t be used as cash for alcohol. But wait…..didn’t I pay exactly what they were worth? So if I’ve already paid the money and have a voucher, why can’t I use that voucher towards a lovely glass of wine at the Trattoria? Or to make sure my superb waiter, Saucy, gets an outstanding tip after my fantastic meal at Napa Rose?

Sorry, no Napa Rose.

The long and short of this lesson is not to confuse Walt Disney World’s well known Dining Plan with the vastly inferior Disneyland Dining Plan. WDW offers at least some value and convenience, the Disneyland Dining Plan seemes to be a ripoff with no real value to the guest. In fact, we’d like to warn all visitors to the Disneyland Resort to resist the temptation to add this ridiculous plan to their vacation.

An otherwise wonderful vacation was truly marred by the Disneyland Resort’s greedy Dining Plan. Don’t repeat our mistake.

Have you had an experience with Disneyland’s Dining Plan? What are your thoughts?