Planning: It’s an intricate part of a Disney vacation. Every Disney advice column advises that no matter where you consider yourself on the spectrum of Disney vacationing, from novice to expert, always make and have a plan. The days of being able to have a spontaneous Disney vacation and not face overwhelming disappointment have gone the way of the dodo. Now we can plan everything from parades, shows, rides, and even basic human needs, such as food and where we’re going to consume it and even how to pay for it; either in advance or at the time of service.
Are you having trouble making the numbers work in your favor with any of the Disney Dining Plans? Do you enjoy a glass of wine or a dessert cocktail with your dinner? Maybe you would just like a nice adult drink at your favorite resort lounge. Would you like a discount on those overpriced table service meals at Disney? Do you enjoy a lot of sit down or table service meals? Disney practically screams the benefits of the Disney Dining plan as being able to save you up to 30% off the cost of meals by choosing one of their Dining Plans. It touts the added convenience and budgeting. During its inception, it was an incredible value. Now, if you run the numbers, it has become more of a convenience rather than a money saver, yet Disney insists you can save money, and you can, but the more likely scenario is that you’ll break even or close to it.
Enter the Tables in Wonderland card. The TiW, as we’ll refer to it, is the ultimate food lover’s feast, exclusive to Florida Residents, Disney Vacation Club® Members (DVC), and Annual/Seasonal Passholders. So if you do not meet any of these criteria, then you’ll have to consider if this option is worth becoming at least a Seasonal Passholder. The benefits include: A 20% discount offered on food and beverage, including alcohol, at select restaurants at the Walt Disney World® Resort for you and up to 9 of your family/friends when dining with you, complimentary resort valet and theme park parking when dining, and invitations to special events.
The cost is $125 for Florida Residents and $100 for everyone else that qualifies. The fee covers thirteen calendar months from the date of purchase. Don’t lose it because it will cost you $50 to replace! However, the biggest benefit of the TiW is freedom. There is freedom to order whatever you want, not stick within the confines of the dining plan. For example, I don’t like dessert at every meal. I’m in a theme park with seemingly unlimited opportunities and choices, it doesn’t make sense to eat the same chocolate cake that can be had anywhere when I can go get a piece of baklava. My husband and I love our appetizers. We can’t do that unless we’re on the deluxe plan and on that plan we can literally have our cake and eat it too, and that’s just too much.
Unfortunately, there’s no real way to do an apples to apples comparison of the dining plans versus the TiW that would give an accurate picture. The proof really is in the pudding on this one and individual experiences may vary. However, doing a comparison of a recent trip, our out of pocket cost was $204 less than if we would have used the dining plan, mostly due to the 20% discount. In that trip alone, the card paid for itself. Not every plan offered by Disney will meet the needs of every traveler, but as a DVC owner, Florida Resident or Annual/Seasonal Passholder, it’s worth crunching the numbers and the desserts! –Bon Appétit!