Which is better Tables in Wonderland or the Disney Dining Plan?

Which is better: Tables in Wonderland (and out of pocket expenses) or signing up for the Disney Dining Plan?

For those that aren’t aware, the Tables in Wonderland program is a special discount card that you purchase to get 20% off of dining costs at various restaurants at the Walt Disney World dining locations.  However, there are some things that you need to know about the TiW program:

1.     The TiW card can only be purchased by a person that has an annual pass, or by a Florida Resident.

2.     The card costs $100 for Annual Passholders, and $125 for Florida Residents.

3.     As I mentioned, the TiW program will discount 20% off of all your food and drink purchases (including alcohol) at many of the Walt Disney World restaurants, but not all of them. Check here for a list of restaurants.

4.     The TiW card can be used for the cardholder and up to nine guests dining with the cardholder.

5.     An automatic 18% gratuity is included when using the TiW card, regardless of the size of the party.

6.     If you are thinking of buying the TiW card, you need to do some research to make sure that the discount will be at least equal to the cost you are paying for the card.

On the other side of the equation, the Disney Dining Plan has several different choices available.  The three main ones are the Disney Quick Service Dining Plan; the original Disney Plus Dining Plan, and the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan.  You can also add the Wine and Dine component to your Dining Plan or Deluxe Dining Plan, but that is a separate add-on charge, also they have a Magic Your Way Premium Package that has all kinds of add ons.

Here are some things you need to know about the regular Disney Dining Plan:

1.     For the regular DDP, you will receive one snack, one quick service meal, and one table service meal per day.

2.     With the DDP, you must select the plan for every day that you are visiting Disney, and the DDP is only available to people that are staying on a Disney property.

3.     In addition, each member of your party needs to be on the dining plan.  You can’t pick and choose.

4.     You get one credit for each of the types of meal (or snack) for each day.  You can choose to use all of them in one day, if you like, or you can space them out so that you have credits for each day.

For my family, we have always had the regular Disney Dining Plan.  There have been times when we got it for free based on when we came down on vacation, and there have been times when we paid for it.

This year, though, things are different.  Last June we became Disney Vacation Club owners, and as a result, this year we are staying at Bay Lake Towers, one of the DVC resorts available to us.  The room that we reserved is a 2 bedroom suite, and will sleep 9 people, which is the number of people in our party.  As a result, we made the decision really quickly that we were going to pay for our meals out of pocket.  Our room has a full kitchen, so as a result, we are planning on only having three sit down meals during our visit.  If we had wanted to do the Dining Plan, it would have cost my family (I am responsible for 5 of the guests) $1,371.65 for our stay, and it would have cost my sister-in-law’s family $1,049.72!  If we did the quick service plan, it still would have been about $1,800 for the two families combined.

So for us, having 9 people eating at Akershus and 50’s Prime Time Café, and 5 of us eating at Boma, the discount will more than make up for the $100 cost (we will be buying three annual passes as well!)

I have found if you are not big eaters or if you have little ones under 3 this is the best option. For us we like to share food so the Tables in Wonderland is the best option, not to mention our kids are not big eaters. If you have a larger family then Disney Dining Plan would be your best choice. Especially if you LOVE hitting up the Disney Buffets.

Are you big supporters of the Disney Dining Plan? Or have you explored the Tables in Wonderland option. If you want to read more about Tables in Wonderland check out this article.

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  • Khara Grieves

    Love this article… what works for each trip depends on so many variables! If you had asked me a year ago, I would have never strayed from the Deluxe Dining Plan. Now, with two kids over 3 years old, Tables in Wonderland it is! We love the freedom to order anything we want and not get constrained to one item from each course, plus my kids will sometimes prefer to split an adult plate than the ho-hum kids menu offerings on many menus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/snetes15 Sarah Gaulin

    My husband & I did the dining plan & it worked out great!!!