Tables in Wonderland is a fairly deceiving name. Ostensibly, it seems pretty hokey. The kind of indeterminate name a marketing team would place on a product to give it extra allure to compensate for its substantive shortcomings. After all, that dreamy name does conjure up thoughts of sitting at a white-linen covered table between the White Rabbit and March Hare as you gingerly sip tea. But maybe that’s just me.
In actuality, the Tables in Wonderland card is hardly a marketing gimmick, even if the name is a lot more nonsensical than the card’s old name, the Disney Dining Experience. 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 Disney restaurants. While a charge of 18% gratuity is added to all Tables in Wonderland table service transactions, most parties are tipping at or around18% anyway, so it’s not merely a “2% discount” as some people claim.
Tables in Wonderland costs $75 for Annual Passholders and $100 for Florida residents. Unfortunately, the program is only open to Florida residents and Annual Passholders. So if you’re neither of these things, you really ought to move to Florida or become an AP holder. (If you’re moving to Florida, you probably want to become an AP holder, anyway!) Even if you don’t presently qualify for the Card, I encourage you to read on. You may find that it’s just so appealing that you just have to purchase an AP. And once you’re an AP, you inevitably will find yourself taking more trips!
Given these prices, a Florida resident breaks even with the card after spending $500 at Table Service restaurants, and an Annual Passholder breaks even at $375 spent. Given the ever-rising prices at Disney’s Table Service restaurants, a family of four may very well break even after using the Card for only a couple of meals!
At this point, you may wonder how the Tables in Wonderland card compares to the Disney Dining Plan. It seems like I find myself typing this in all of my blog posts, but, “it depends.” If the Disney Dining Plan (1 Table Service meal, 1 Counter Service meal, and 1 Snack per day) matches your eating style, that might very well be better for you. However, if you split Counter Service meals with a significant other for lunch, forgo snacks, and like to eat large Table Service dinners with appetizers and desserts at the Signature restaurants, Tables in Wonderland is likely better for you. 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.
Even if you’re a gung-ho Disney Dining Plan advocate, if you eat at Walt Disney World restaurants frequently, there still may be value in purchasing the Tables in Wonderland card. It can be used on alcohol and appetizers, so 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. Additionally, since it’s accepted some places where the Disney Dining Plan is not, you can benefit by using it in these locations.
This is exactly how my wife and I became self-professed “Wonderheads” (okay, so this name isn’t that catchy, but there definitely should be a nickname for the legions of loyal fans of the Tables in Wonderland card out there) on our honeymoon. We had already decided that we’d be adding on the Disney Dining Plan to our BoardWalk Villas – Disney Vacation Club reservation. We also wanted to experience Victoria & Albert’s and California Grill, but the former is not on the Dining Plan, and the latter is a bad value on the Dining Plan. Our work-around was breaking our trip into two reservations, with two days off of the Dining Plan. During those two days, we ate ate Victoria & Albert’s and California Grill, and also Beaches & 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 saved substantially. On that trip, since we were on more of a budget, we utilized the card to eat at reasonably priced Table Service restaurants, such as (the highly overrated) Plaza Restaurant and the (highly underrated) The Wave. Because of the discount (and since we had already recouped the cost of the Card on our honeymoon), we were able to squeeze one additional Table Service meal into the budget.
In addition to the discount, Tables in Wonderland cardholders are eligible to attend events throughout the year, such as the upcoming Indiana Jones Dinner. While the cost is high for these events and they’re not something for which most people would take a weekend jaunt down to Florida (unless they really like Indiana Jones, or are really fishing for an excuse to take a trip to Walt Disney World!), they are neat offerings for those who happen to have trips planned during the events, and for locals.
Of course, all of this overlooks the greatest strength of the Tables in Wonderland card: that it’s value increases the more you eat at Table Service restaurants! When you’re saving money on the Tables in Wonderland card, you can’t afford not to add on that nice meal at Jiko!
So what do you think? Is Tables in Wonderland worth a valuable alternative to the Disney Dining Plan, or something with which you wouldn’t bother? Let us know in the comments!