If you dine often at Walt Disney World restaurants, and are a Florida resident, Annual Passholder, or Disney Vacation Club member, there’s a money-saving card called Tables in Wonderland. In this post, we’ll review the Tables in Wonderland card, compare it to the Disney Dining Plan, and offer some tips.
The Tables in Wonderland card offers a 20% discount off all food and beverage (including alcohol) for up to 10 people at most table-service Walt Disney World restaurants. While a charge of 18% gratuity is added to all Tables in Wonderland table service transactions, most parties are tipping at or around 18% anyway, so it’s not merely a “2% discount” as some people claim. (The discount is taken and then the gratuity is added based upon the pre-discount amount. The gratuity is not based on the post-discount amount, meaning that you do not “save” on gratuity, too.)
The Tables in Wonderland card is valid for a year from the month of purchase (as opposed to being valid for a calendar year), and it actually expires on the last day of the month one year from the month during which it is purchased. Meaning that if you purchased the Tables in Wonderland card on January 1, 2018, it would be valid until January 31, 2019. This means it essentially could be valid for ~13 months if you time it right.
Tables in Wonderland isn’t quite as magical as I might have implied above, as it does cost $150 for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members, and $175 for Florida residents. Note that if you aren’t a Florida Resident, Annual Passholder, or Disney Vacation Club Member, the program unfortunately is not open to you. I guess that means it’s time for you to move to Florida?! 😉
One of the big downsides of Tables in Wonderland is that a lot of newer restaurants don’t accept it immediately. So, if you’re a local or regular who likes to dine at the latest restaurants in the parks or at Disney Springs, that’s one bummer.
Recently, several popular new restaurants did start accepting the card, including Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen, Nomad Lounge, and Tiffins. These are several of our favorite new restaurants at Walt Disney World, so we were quite pleased by this news.
Unfortunately, Victoria & Albert’s no longer accepts Tables in Wonderland. The past couple of years, there were also specific blockout dates for certain, more popular restaurants, but that’s not the case for 2018. Instead, there are general blockout dates for all Tables in Wonderland locations: Mother’s Day, Easter Sunday, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. On Tables in Wonderland block-out dates, there will be a charge for parking and valet services.
In addition to the 20% savings at Table Service restaurants, a Tables in Wonderland card entitles you to the following benefits:
complimentary valet (and standard) resort parking (if dining at the resort)
complimentary theme park parking after 5:00 pm (if dining at the park)
access to member-only special Food and Wine events, winemaker dinners, and celebrity chef dinners, and other events throughout the year
In addition to the above-mentioned blockout dates, it is also important to note that some Disney Springs restaurants don’t accept the card or only offer a 10% discount with it. Also, some Counter Service restaurants (Flame Tree BBQ, for the win!) offer a Tables in Wonderland discount.
As these restaurants change yearly based on the contracts signed with each restaurant, it’s best to refer to Disney’s Tables in Wonderland page before your trip to determine what discount you’ll receive at each restaurant you visit.
Before we get into the regular Tables in Wonderland review, we want to offer some thoughts based on our recent experiences. In honor of Walt Disney World’s 45th Anniversary, Disney began offering Annual Passholder and Disney Vacation Club discounts of 20% off at a number of table service restaurants. While there are not nearly as many restaurants offering 20% off AP/DVC discounts, there are a lot of restaurants.
Moreover, many (if not most) table service restaurants that currently do not offer a 20% off AP/DVC discount are offering a 10-15% off discount. AllEars has a good PDF comparing the current discounts; you can see just how many restaurants are offering discounts right now.
For 2018, these discounts have not been extended–at least not yet. We would not be shocked to see these discounts extended at some point. As Disney Springs has opened in a ton of new, exceptional restaurants and prices have gone up across the board, deals have been more plentiful recently.
Because of these discounts, we did not renew our Tables in Wonderland card last year. We are taking a “wait and see” approach on Tables in Wonderland for 2018. If the discounts are not extended in the next few weeks, we’ll likely purchase Tables in Wonderland.
Even with the AP and DVC discounts, if you’re a local and eat at Walt Disney World restaurants weekly, you still might want to get the Tables in Wonderland card. Many of Walt Disney World’s most popular restaurants have a better discount for Tables in Wonderland, and if you prefer those restaurants, the card can still offer you good value. The threshold for breaking even is just higher than it otherwise would be, which is something to consider when doing the math on Tables in Wonderland.
We’ll keep you posted as to whether these Annual Passholder and Disney Vacation Club dining discounts get extended for 2018. If they don’t, Tables in Wonderland will once again be a good value for most regular Walt Disney World visitors. In which case, here’s our “regular” review of the card for normal years…
Since you could find the above information in a multitude of places online, I’m assuming you’ve come here for our thoughts on whether the Tables in Wonderland card is worth the money. In light of the price of the Tables in Wonderland card and the discount offered, the break-even point for a Florida resident breaks is $875 at Table Service restaurants, and an Annual Passholder’s break-even point is $750 spent at Table Service restaurants. (Assuming no alternative discounts are available–if there are, the math obviously changes.)
If you’ve ever paid for Table Service restaurants at Walt Disney World out of pocket, you know that you can probably break-even within only a few meals. As such, most frequent guests to Walt Disney World who regularly dine at table service restaurants will get a good amount of savings out of the Tables in Wonderland card.
Still, you might be wondering how the Tables in Wonderland card compares to the Disney Dining Plan for saving money. My biggest criticism of the Disney Dining Plan is that it offers too much food for most people and is unnecessarily complicated. Nothing is as simple as paying out-of-pocket for the food you want, when and where you want it. The Tables in Wonderland Card works well for this “strategy.”
However, if the Disney Dining Plan (1 Table Service meal consisting of an entree, dessert, and drink, 1 Counter Service meal consisting of a combo, drink, and dessert, and 1 Snack per day for the standard plan) matches your eating habits, that might very well be better for you. For us, Tables in Wonderland works better because it allows us to “eat as we please.”
We can order an appetizer if we want, skip dessert, get 3 snacks per day, etc. We don’t feel as confined to a specific eating pattern and schedule with Tables in Wonderland. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer as to which is better for your party, so doing the numbers based on your specific dining style is a must.
You may find that even if you’re a frequent user of the Disney Dining Plan, there still may be value in purchasing the Tables in Wonderland card if you eat at Walt Disney World restaurants enough. This is because the card can be used on alcohol and appetizers.
If would order these items with your Disney Dining Plan meals, and you eat enough appetizers or drink enough alcohol, you can come out ahead. Just think of it as an booze “rewards” card for Disney! Plus, since it’s accepted at some restaurants where the Disney Dining Plan is not, you can benefit by using it in these locations.
Sarah and I actually first purchased Tables in Wonderland for a trip during which we’d be using the Disney Dining Plan! For our honeymoon, we wanted to experience Victoria & Albert’s and California Grill, in addition to using the Disney Dining Plan, but the former is not on the Dining Plan, and the latter offers poor value on the Dining Plan. Back then, Tables in Wonderland cost $75 (and this was notthat long ago!) so it made complete sense to buy the card and use it a couple of days in lieu of the Dining Plan.
During those two days, we ate at Victoria & Albert’s, California Grill, and Beaches and Cream. The savings on our dinner at Victoria & Albert’s came close to paying for the card, with the savings at California Grill easily putting us “in the black” on Tables in Wonderland. We used the card again at Christmas, and again in May, and saved well over one-thousand dollars in those three trips by utilizing the card.
We have had it every year since, and seen the card gradually creep up in cost. Every year we have gotten enough value to justify the purchase (we do the math), but with the latest price increase making it cost $150 (for us as Disney Vacation Club members) after our last renewal, it’s going to be tough to justify buying it again. The break-even point is high, and as menu prices continue to rise to provide illusory value for the Disney Dining Plan, we find ourselves eating fewer and fewer table service meals.
Obviously, your mileage may vary on the Tables in Wonderland card, and you should really do the math to determine if it’s right for you. If you really love the table service restaurants at Walt Disney World, what’s better than an excuse to eat an extra meal at Flying Fish, Jiko, or Kona Cafe because you need to save more money?! 😉
What do you think of the Tables in Wonderland Card? Is it worth the money for your traveling party, or do you go for the Disney Dining Plan (or something else) instead? Share your thoughts in the comments!