The past several blog posts have been devoted to explaining the variations of the Disney Dining Plan. For many folks, free or not, the Dining Plan is the best way to save money on their meal budget. But what if you have determined that none of the Disney Dining Plans are right for your family: are there any other ways to save money on meals at Disney World?
The short answer is, yes. The long answer (as often happens when discussing saving money at Disney World) is that it depends. *What* it all depends on, is the subject of today’s post. Let’s take a look at the other discount options.
Tables in Wonderland
Probably the most popular dining discount program that Disney offers, after the Dining Plan, is the Tables in Wonderland program. Offered only to Florida residents and Annual Passholders, it provides guests with a 20% discount on food, beverages, and alcohol at most table-service restaurants throughout the Disney World parks and resort hotels. So if you do not have a Florida resident pass or Annual pass, you are not eligible. But if this DOES apply to you, then you may want to consider this program. Here is an overview of the specifics of this program:
- Cost for a Tables in Wonderland membership is $100 per year for Florida residents and $75 for Annual and Seasonal Passholders.
- The benefit is valid for a party of up to 10 people. Only one discount card can be used per table. The member must be present and must present the card when ordering.
- The membership card is not accepted on holidays, including Mothers Day, Easter Sunday, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
- In addition to the 20% discount on food and beverages, membership includes benefits such as complimentary resort/hotel parking (including valet parking) and reimbursement for theme park parking when dining in a theme park restaurant, invitations to special member-only events, free admission to Atlantic Dance Hall on the BoardWalk and more.
- An 18% gratuity will be added to all transactions at table service restaurants and lounges, regardless of party size. 20% gratuity will be added at Victoria & Albert’s.
- Purchasing a Tables in Wonderland membership is easy: simply call (407) 566-5858, Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST, or visit any of the Disney World Guest Services locations or call. Proof of eligibility is required.
So, if you are eligible, will the Tables in Wonderland program be a savings for you? And will it be MORE of a savings than the Disney Dining Plan? To answer this, you are going to have to get your calculator out and do a little math. Sorry.
First, consider the cost of membership to see if you will use it enough to save more than the cost of the membership. Second, look at the restaurants that accept the Tables in Wonderland program: you can find a full list of all of the current restaurants over at the Disney Food Blog. While there are a lot of restaurants that participate, are the ones that you are interested in on the list? Third, are you traveling on any of the excluded holidays? If so, then consider carefully, because there is no savings on those days. Lastly, if it were me, I would do some sample estimates of meal costs, using the 20% Tables in Wonderland discount PLUS the cost of the membership, and compare to the cost per day that the Dining Plan will cost me. Which is cheaper? The answer won’t be the same for everyone!
I do want to say we have not used this program, so I asked for some thoughts over on our Facebook page. Here are a couple of the responses I received:
From Rebecca: I used to have one, but not any longer. The cost of the card exceeds the savings for a single person. It may be beneficial to a family who dines on table service frequently
From Angela: I have had the tables in Wonderland card in the past. A few years ago you had to spend around $300 a year in food to pay for the card. So anything over that is cost effective. Drawbacks are that any sitdown you get an automatic 18% tip added to the bill and it is only good at hotel CS if there is no sit down restaurant at that hotel.
My thoughts about this program are that it probably benefits local and/or frequent guests the most: those for whom the Dining Plan is not available. It also may be worth a look for a family who is interested in one or two table service meals per trip, but not the full table service/day offering of the Dining Plan. Do the math though to make sure your savings will be greater than the cost of the membership for you.
Annual Pass, DVC, and Other Discounts
Additionally, there are a few other ways to get *some* discounts on Disney World dining….if you are eligible. Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club members, and AAA members all receive discounts to some Walt Disney World restaurants, typically 10% although a few restaurants do offer 20% discounts. The thing to keep in mind is that the list of restaurants offering discounts for these promotions is quite a bit smaller than the Tables in Wonderland list, so you really need to check the websites or promotion list that you received to see what is available, and if it will really be a savings for your circumstances.
Other potential discounts on Disney restaurants may be available through the Entertainment Book, coupons found in Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World 2010 guidebook, and Restaurant.com which offers gift certificates for up to 60% off for the following Disney World restaurants: Todd English’s bluezoo, House of Blues, Garden Grove, Kimonos, Shula’s Steak House, and Il Mulino New York Trattoria. (When you go to the Restaurant.com site and enter “Lake Buena Vista, FL” into the search field, you will find the Disney property restaurants that participate.) I do want to say that I have personally used Restaurant.com locally on a number of occasions and am becoming a huge fan: often gift certificates can be purchased for up to 80% off which is a HUGE savings if you are interested in eating at any of the above restaurants.
So there you have it: how you *may* be able to receive discounts on your Disney dining, without the Dining Plan. Now, I would love to hear your experiences with some of these Disney discount dining programs. What has worked for you? What tips can you share? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!