Disney Dining and The Tables in Wonderland Program by Marge Gerwels
Dining is a big component of any Walt Disney World® Resort vacation. With so many restaurants and a multitude of cuisines from around the globe, planning your meals is a must, not just reservations but also your budget. When my kids were younger, and were all considered “kids” by Disney standards, we would opt for the Disney Dining Plan. I don’t think that it particularly saves money when it comes to adult meals, especially for me since I am a vegetarian, but it was a pretty good deal for kids. When you have many kids (like me) it did help save a little money on dining. Plus, my husband really liked the idea that all of our meals were already paid for before our trip. However, now that my boys are considered adults and with the increase in price, the Disney Dining Plan no longer makes financial sense for my family. Enter Tables in Wonderland. This past fall we decided to purchase the Tables in Wonderland card to use during our vacation. The Tables in Wonderland card is available for purchase if you are one of the following:
- Florida resident
- Disney Vacation Club® (DVC) owner
- Annual Passholder
Here’s how it works. First, you need to purchase the Tables in Wonderland card. The card is $125 for Florida residents and $100 for DVC members and Annual Passholders. You can purchase the card over the phone or at Guest Relations located at any of the four parks or at Downtown Disney®. If you are a DVC member, however, you can only buy the card in person at Guest Relations and you must show your DVC member card at the time of purchase. Once you have your card you can use it at any of the participating table service restaurants and receive 20% discount off your bill for up to 10 people on the same check. The Tables in Wonderland card is non-transferable and the cardholder MUST be present to use it. They do ask for identification when you use it. You can purchase a second membership for an additional $50 so your spouse can use the card without you. We opted for just the one card.
The benefits that we found in having the Tables in Wonderland card were:
- You are free to choose anything off the menu. Unlike the Disney Dining Plan where you get (and therefore feel obliged to eat) the entrée, drink, and dessert, you can order whatever you like. I am not a big eater, so many times I order an appetizer as my entrée. I did not have that overwhelming full feeling during my vacation like I usually have in the past when we have used the Disney Dining Plan. Because we were not force-feeding ourselves just to use up dining credits, we enjoyed our meals (and our vacation) a lot more.
- The discount also can be applied to alcoholic beverages. We are not big drinkers (with five kids you gotta keep your wits about you or they will take over), but it was nice to get that bit of a discount on the one night we had an adult beverage.
- We were less wasteful with food. I’m embarrassed to say that in the past when we have used the Disney Dining Plan, we wasted a lot of food. With everyone getting a quick service meal, table service meal, and a snack EVERY DAY we were full. Often times we were just ordering food to use the credits. Since the Tables in Wonderland can only be used at table service restaurants, we were really mindful of what we spent when it came to quick service meals. Many meals could be shared between kids, we only ordered what we needed, and nothing went to waste. That may not be a budget benefit but it sure made me feel better.
As for our family, using the Tables in Wonderland card did not seem to be a huge savings for us on this past trip but we counted ALL of our food purchases in our analysis, including everything we purchased during the Epcot® International Food and Wine Festival. Also, my younger son was still considered a child during that trip (he turned 10 right in the middle of our vacation). I expect to see a bigger savings using the Tables in Wonderland card versus the Disney Dining Plan during our upcoming trip in February, especially since the cost per day for an adult on the plan is almost $60. There is no WAY my 10-year-old would eat $60 worth of food. So, the Tables in Wonderland works for our family.
The Tables in Wonderland card is good for one year, so if you plan on making multiple trips to Walt Disney World® within that time frame, you can use it with every visit. You can find a complete list of restaurants, perks and rules at http://tablesinwonderland.com. Happy dining!