Tables In Wonderland Card: Queen Of Hearts Or Tweedle Dum?

by 36 Comments

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

220411787

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!

Beaches & Cream - Kitchen Sink

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.

101210210

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.

101210215

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!

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print
Posted on April 22, 2011

36 Responses to “Tables In Wonderland Card: Queen Of Hearts Or Tweedle Dum?”

  • Disneyland offers 20% off each meal with a Premium Annual Pass. Does WDW offer this to passholders?

    • I’m pretty sure the discount at DL is 15% with a premium pass. WDW does offer some dining discounts with a premium pass, but they are few and far between. For example, you get 10% off most Epcot restaurants if you have lunch M-F. And I think there is 10% discount at some DTD places. There is a complete list on the WDW pass holder site. Honestly, they are all just giveaways, in that it is defiantly not worth getting a AP for the dining discount, but is a nice add on.

      • WDW always has random discounts here and there for AP holders, Disney VISA holders, and DVC members, but none of them amount to a whole hill of beans. The definite way to go is with the Tables in Wonderland card!

        • Good to know, thanks John B and Tom Bricker. I’m upgrading to Premiere Pass for my WDW trip this year, very excited to be a dual passholder!

  • I too am a ‘Wonderhead’. I love my TIW card. It has saved me far more money than the DDP could ever do. The DDP does not fit in with my dining habits at all…who normally eats dessert with every meal? It’s only a deal if you would order all the same items not on the DDP. TIW gives me a lot more freedom of choice (order 2 appetizers and no entree? Fine with TIW!), so as long as I continue to go Disney, I will be a TIW member.

    • We totally agree. I have to snicker a bit when people contend that the Disney Dining Plan gives them more “freedom” when they eat. For us, it really dictates a certain style of dining and we have often eaten more than we needed to eat because of it. I know everything is YMMV, but for us, Tables in Wonderland comes out MILES ahead!

      That said, we’re considering doing either the Quick Service Dining plan during Food and Wine Festival (for all of the snack credits that we’d get to use at the boothes!), so who knows!

  • We are also Wonderheads! We’ve been using the TIW card since it was DDE. With our annual marathon week trip each January we have made back our money in no time; every trip after that is bonus (and we go a few times each year when stationed overseas, more often when stationed in the states). We are about to renew during our next trip in 2 weeks!

  • Don’t forget how incredible TIW can be when you have a family/extended family of 8 or 10 eating at WDW, too! All you need is one person with the TIW card and your whole family receives the discount. It will then pay for itself usually in one meal! Be warned, however that I noticed the cast members/waiters/waitress are not likely to point out that the tip has been added already when your bill comes. If your service was that good, you can always add to the 18% you’ve already given.

    • Not only do they not point it out, but on some receipts, we’ve had difficulty increasing the tip beyond 18%. We usually just carry some cash now just in case.

  • This card’s benefits were one of our top reasons to purchase our first ever AP. During one of our visits to WDW, as part of a business trip, we had a dinner at The California Grill. There were 7 in our group and the total dinner bill was over $800. So this card saved us over $160, while providing a huge morale boost after a long day at work.

  • I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that it was honored at Everything Pop-Pop Century’s food court. It was just another bit of Pixie Dust!

  • Going to WDW three times a year, I find the TIW card to be one of the biggest benifits I get as an AP. I also have been with this program since it was DDE. Not that I drink to much, but the savings on drinks during the meal comes to a great deal. Take 4 adults having 2 drinks each and you can understand what I’m talking about. I find that the card can also hurt your waiter. We always gave a tip of 20 to 23 percent. Now they charge 18 with the TIW so it could hurt the wait staff.

  • Also, don’t forget there are a few counter service restaurants that take the TiW card, such as Flame Tree BBQ and resorts that don’t have table service.

  • What about the cruise ship crews? We often come to FL and are we eligible for that?

  • I love my TiW card. It has saved me a ton, even dining solo. I think it saved me something like $75 my very first trip I used it. Keep in mind not all TS places accept it (I know Tappen Edo doesn’t), but that some CS places do (mostly at resorts). I would LOVE to attend one of the TiW events, but they don’t usually announce those until like 6 weeks in advance. So, as you said, unless you are already going during that time or are a local, you are out of luck.
    During my last trip I noticed that it was giving servers 18% tip AFTER the discount was applied. I could swear it used to apply the 18% tip, and then deduct 20% off your meal. Has anyone else noticed this? If so, I think it’s really unfair to the server.
    Even still, if you frequent TS places and don’t do the DDP (it’s not for me), a TiW card is absolutely the way to go. And for $75 for an AP holder, it’s a steal!

    • Sometimes I wonder why such a short window is given for the TiW events. A lot of the time, we don’t really have any reason for scheduling trips to fall over certain days, but once we book our airfare (well over the 4-6 week window in which the events are usually announced), we are locked into those dates.

      If Disney announced the events, say, 8 months in advance, we might plan around them.

  • I can’t recommend TiW enough! Combined with AP room-only discounts at Moderate or Deluxe resorts, my son and I easily save more than the “Free” Dining Plan packages. Usually enough to pay for my AP as well!

  • We love our TIW card! Our immediate family has 3 people, however we often find ourselves in the World with a couple of extended family members. The savings add up quickly when you have 5 or more people. And for those of you who have a car, TIW also has the additional perk of free valet parking (with a dining receipt from a restaurant) at the resorts.

    You can get a second TIW card for $50 for an additional member of your family – worded “spouse” in the benefits summary, but I don’t know how Disney actually interprets this. That might be worth the money if you have a really large group, or will be splitting up for mealtimes. ( I can’t remember how many people can be included on one card, but I have heard that enforcement on this is spotty.) The TIW card is specific to one person, and requires i.d.

    • Very interesting about the second card. I always assumed getting a second card was pointless (unless you didn’t like to dine with your spouse!), but you do point out some potential. I guess I also overlook the Florida resident angle. Those folks are probably more likely to dine apart than vacationers.

      • by Amy from KC on April 25, 2011, at 5:36 pm EDT

        Well, we always eat together at WDW so we just have the one TIW card. But I was thinking about people who sometimes make solo trips, or head down with friends, etc.

  • Add me to the list of “Wonderheads!” My experience is that it absolutely pays for itself–quickly. The first year I tried it, back when it was still the DDE, I kept detailed records and not only did it pay for itself, it payed for the AP required to buy it. Our dining habits probably aren’t the norm, but if you are a habitual diner at the Signature Dining establishments, it’s something to consider worth buying the AP for. And then once you have the AP, you can go to WDW more. So if you’re looking for any number of excuses to vacation at WDW, this just might be your ticket! ;-)

    The special events are worthwhile, too. I’ve done two or three of them over the years–whenever they matched up with a trip to Florida. I highly recommend them. There are two flavors–one flavor is more of a food and wine pairing/tasting event, and the other is the backstage attraction flavor. I’ve experienced only the former, though I am continually tempted to experience the second!

    • I would LOVE to attend one of the TiW events. Did you enjoy them? They seem really expensive, and I just wonder if they’re worth the cost. It seems they are now doing 2-3 a month, so it’s only a matter of time before I (hopefully!) can experience one on an upcoming trip.

    • Tables in Wonderland really is an excellent tool for justifying so much, isn’t it?

      “I have to get an AP, so I can get TiW”
      “I have to take more trips, so my AP has greater value”
      “I have to eat more table service meals during those trips, so my TiW card has greater value”
      “I have to have an extra Lapu Lapu during those meals, to maximize my TiW card’s value”

      Pretty soon, you’re taking weekend trips to WDW multiple times per month, hitting Kona Cafe and ‘Ohana every night, sipping Lapu Lapus as you eat NY strip steaks and watch the sunset.

      …If that doesn’t sound like a Jimmy Buffett song, I don’t know what does! :)

      • This is my life! “ohh, look, 35% off room only discount during peak season right before my AP expires, must go!” And of course I must eat all TS to get max advantage of my TiW card. All of my friends make fun of me for having a Disney AP and a “frequent eater card” (as they call it), but it has all really paid off.

  • by Jason in Iowa on April 25, 2011, at 12:49 pm EDT

    Question: Does the TiW card automatically add a 18% tip to the counter service places like Flame Tree BBQ and resort food courts? Then you’d only save 2%.

    • Every time I used it for a CS place, it never applied tip.

    • by Amy from KC on April 25, 2011, at 5:28 pm EDT

      No, it doesn’t, as there is not an expectation for tipping at counter service (Disney speak for fast food) restaurants. I love that Flame Tree discount!

  • Like the article! Didn’t so much like the extraneous comment on the Plaza, but it is your article. I am unbelievably critical of WDW restaurants and even I think the Plaza is great for what it is. Just thought it took a bit away from the topic of the article.