Tables In Wonderland, a Tasty Discount Dining Program

by Donna Fesel, contributing writer
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My family and I have been members of DVC (Disney Vacation Club, Disney's timeshare program) since my son was a toddler. Our DVC membership has provided us with many years of wonderful vacations. It has also provided us with one of my very favorite Disney perks, the Tables in Wonderland (TIW, formerly the Disney Dining Experience) dining discount program. TIW offers qualifying guests an annual membership in a program where they receive 20 percent off at a list of participating Walt Disney World (and Disney's Vero Beach Resort) restaurant on both food and beverages (including alcohol).


Our son meets up with Minnie at Chef Mickey's at Disney's Contemporary Resort; the meet-up cost us 20 percent less, thanks to the Tables in Wonderland program. Photo by Donna Fesel.


We love sharing our TIW perks with friends, like this delicious lunch at Coral Reef at the Living Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot. Photo by Donna Fesel.

More than 100 restaurants participate, including those located at all four WDW theme parks, Disney Springs, Disney's Vero Beach Resort, ESPN Wide World of Sports, and WDW resorts (including the Swan, Dolphin, and the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at WDW). Various types of dining establishments are included, including food courts (All-Star Movies, Music, and Sports Resorts, for example), buffet dining (Boma at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Cape May Café at Disney's Beach Club Resort, for example), fine dining at WDW Signature Restaurants (Artist Point at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, and California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort for example), counter service (Flame Tree Barbecue and Pizzafari at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park, for example), shows (one of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort, and one of the performances of the Spirit of Aloha Show at Disney's Polynesian Resort), and popular character meals (Chef Mickey's at Disney's Contemporary Resort, Cinderella's Royal Table at Magic Kingdom Park, and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at the Norway Pavilion at Epcot's World Showcase, for example). For a complete list of participating locations, go to wdw.tablesinwonderland.com. It should be noted that Victoria & Albert's, the fine dining restaurant at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, no longer participates in TIW.


This amazing view is from the balcony at The Green Cabin Room at Disney's Vero Beach Resort; I sneak away to this little bit of paradise to read and enjoy a discounted drink, thanks to TIW. Photo by Donna Fesel.


This delicious spread frm the Beaches & Cream Soda Shop at Disney's Beach Club Resort was discounted thanks to our TIW membership. Photo by Donna Fesel.

A TIW membership will set Florida residents back $175 annually, and both Passholders and DVC members back $150 annually. Florida residents and Passholders can order their cards by phone at (407) 566-5858, and should allow three to four weeks for delivery. DVC folks can buy their card by presenting their member card and photo identification at any WDW Guest Relations desk; Florida residents and Passholders can also purchase their TIW membership using this same method should they choose. The cards are now plastic and durable, replacing the previous paper cards that were provided. You should note that although TIW is accepted as of this writing at The Green Cabin Room at Disney's Vero Beach Resort (other restaurants at this location are under renovation and their participation in the TIW program is unconfirmed at this time), Disney's Vero Beach Resort does not sell the TIW membership.


A tasty margarita at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort's excellent Maya Grill tastes that much better at a discount. Photo by Donna Fesel


On my 45th birthday, my husband and I enjoyed a meal at Victoria & Albert's WDW's premier restaurant at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. At that time, the restaurant participated in TIW. Photo by Donna Fesel.

One TIW membership can be used to discount a party of up to 10, and the TIW membership must be in the same name as the person paying the bill. A spouse or partner at the same mailing address can purchase a second card for $50, and use that card for a party of 10 as well. An automatic gratuity of 18 percent is added to all checks where TIW is applied, even if it is just a few glasses of wine at your hotel. You may add gratuity if you choose, but it is certainly not expected.

You'll need to be mindful of blackout dates when TIW cannot be used (listed on the website noted above), and additional blackout dates for some of WDW's post popular spots (including Le Cellier Steakhouse at Epcot's World Showcase, and 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa), additional spots are listed on the website. Remaining blackout dates for these restaurants include Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks.


The wonderful lobster entree at Narcoossee's at Disney's Grand Floridian and Spa, bought and enjoyed using my TIW card. Photo by Donna Fesel.


A sweet ending to our meal at California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort, a participating TIW location. Photo by Donna Fesel.

You can use the TIW discount if you are on the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) to discount any non DDP items, including wine, beer, and cocktails.

I nearly forgot one of the best perks of the TIW card: free valet parking for the purposes of dining (which again can include a couple glasses of wine at a resort hotel if you use TIW). You just need to patronize a TIW location, use your TIW discount, and provide your receipt at the valet station. Gratuity is customary for valet parking attendants, and is not included. I recently spoke to TIW and confirmed that valet parking for TIW is valid at Disney Springs as well.

I can't think of too much that is better on a super-rainy Florida night than driving right to the front door of one of my favorite WDW Resorts to dine, and having someone park my car for me. I was recently at WDW with a friend and I wanted to show him Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was pouring. We valet parked, got a few cocktails at the Cape Town Lounge and Wine Bar, poked around the Lodge briefly and voila we were back in our car, dry, and out only the cost of valet parking gratuity. I don't normally valet at WDW, so this is a particularly exciting perk for me.

Is TIW for you? I'd recommend you do the math. We try to travel to WDW twice in a calendar year. This year, we'll go in October, and then go next summer, so we get twice as much use out of the card. I love the free valet feature as I said, so it depends if that would help you feel more pampered on your trip as well. Typically, we eat breakfast at WDW (and Disney's Vero Beach Resort) in our room, grab something quick for lunch, and indulge in fine dining for dinner. The first year we purchased TIW, then the Disney Dining Experience, I figured it out, and it was a savings for us. I honestly love TIW, and am teeing up for another membership soon. Do you have TIW? Do you love it? Hate it? Let me know.

You can contact TIW via email at WDW.Tables.In.Wonderland@disney.com or by phone at (407) 566-5858.

 

Comments

  1. By ralfrick

    As long as they keep this nonsense out of Disneyland, I'm fine. Much better just to pull out my AP, not worry about blackout dates, get the discount, decide for myself what the tip is, and move on.

  2. By danyoung

    I've been a member of TiW for many years, and it's not nonsense at all. It's saved me hundreds of dollars, both on food and on drinks. I like to spend at least one evening per visit hanging out in the Rose & Crown, and 20% off of the bill on those evenings really adds up!

  3. By valenciajoe

    Plastic cards? Since when? I was just at WDW a couple of weeks ago and purchased a TIW card, and it was the old paper card. Also, with respect to Hoop De Doo, the discount is limited to just one show, which is, if I remember right, the 4:30 show.

  4. By Yoshi012

    Correct, the TIW discount is good for only one performance of HDD, and of Spirit of Aloha, as indicated. I got a plastic TIW card when I last purchased, the end of last year. Perhaps they've switched back, temporarily or permanently? Hope not permanently, I was always getting the paper version wet in the wash, or on attractions. I'm getting a new card in August, I'll see what happens. I don't think TIW is nonsense, but to each his or her own. I am not at WDW during the blackout periods, and find the card to be a good value for me with no fuss. There are other discounts, AP and DVC, but at WDW, none are as consistently applicable at places I want to eat like TIW. Not sure what is the best value at Disneyland. Thanks for all the comments - Donna.

  5. By davidgra

    Quote Originally Posted by ralfrick View Post
    As long as they keep this nonsense out of Disneyland, I'm fine. Much better just to pull out my AP, not worry about blackout dates, get the discount, decide for myself what the tip is, and move on.

    That only works better than Tables in Wonderland if you tend not to tip very well. The 20% discount from Tables in Wonderland is greater than the 18% gratuity they add when you use TIW, so you're always tipping 18% and saving a tiny bit on top of that. No need to think about anything. Just sign the receipt and go, no math required.

    We've had the DDE/TIW membership for many years. It's always been well worth the cost, as we tend to eat at a table-service location at WDW about 25 times a year. Not once in the entire time we've had the membership have we ever had a problem with blackout dates; I don't even know when the blackout dates are, but we never want to be in the parks when it's going to be really crowded, so I guess the blackout dates must be tied to holidays.

    The tremendous advantage for us with TIW, as opposed to purchasing a dining plan, is that we tend not to eat all that much at many of our meals. We often split entrees, and we don't often order appetizers and desserts, so it's much better for us to simply get a flat discount on our meals, rather than pre-pay for more food than we'd ever possibly eat.

    As passholders and DVC members, we also get discounts at various locations from those, but they're usually only 10-15%, so TIW saves us more money than any other discount we have available. In the 10+ years we've been buying the membership in the dining program, we've never once regretted it.

  6. By Dave1313

    Quote Originally Posted by davidgra View Post
    That only works better than Tables in Wonderland if you tend not to tip very well. The 20% discount from Tables in Wonderland is greater than the 18% gratuity they add when you use TIW, so you're always tipping 18% and saving a tiny bit on top of that. No need to think about anything. Just sign the receipt and go, no math required.

    We've had the DDE/TIW membership for many years. It's always been well worth the cost, as we tend to eat at a table-service location at WDW about 25 times a year. .......

    It's all about the frequency/length of visits, number of people in a party, where you are dining, and how often (and also where you live, Fl or "not FL" ). Pure math.

    Over 25 meals, even for just one or 2 people, it's probably still a really good deal. The current cost of the TiW card means you need to spend $750 on meals before your break even point. (ignoring the tip as a wash, assuming you would tip 18% or better either way unless you had horrible service). Obviously it's very easy to hit $750 over 25 meals, even for a single diner, since it's hard to spend less than $30 on a meal at most restaurants. For those non-FL residents, you need to some how figure that you need to purchase an AP first to be able to join TiW. So while the discount availability is not equivalent (more places do TiW than AP discounts), there is some trade there, unless you always manage to dine at places thst offer no discount for AP.

    I always rounded the 18% up to make it an even 20%, with one exception where I thought I didn't see my waitress often enough (it was a challenge just to get a refill on a glass of water in a reasonable time once, I saw the waiters/waitresses for every table around me far more often than my own).

    For me being a single on most trips, it's much harder to justify at $150. I bought it 2 years ago ( when I had a couple of single trips and also a trip with my mother and my sister's family, which meant parties of 6 for 7 table meals across an 8 day trip (6 days @ WDW, one SeaWorld, one Universal - 3 character meals, Cinderella's Royal Table, Chef Mickey's and the Disney Junior one at Hollywood and Vine).

    For that schedule, probably just the 3 character meals for 6 made it worth while (I think I saved something like $60 just on CRT). For 7 meals with 6 people, it would still most likely be a really good deal at $150.

    For me as a single, with maybe 2-3 short (4 or 5 days max on WDW property per trip) visits a year, it would take a lot for me to reach the $750 break even point. I don't necessarily do at least one table service meal a day, though I sometimes do meet or exceed that # of Table Service meals. I am pretty sure I won't ever buy a membership just for myself again, but I will certainly consider it for another family trip.

    For someone with Dan's habits of more frequent WDW visits, it's easier to meet the break even point and exceed it, so it's still a good deal for him.

  7. By danyoung

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave1313 View Post
    For someone with Dan's habits of more frequent WDW visits, it's easier to meet the break even point and exceed it, so it's still a good deal for him.

    Or if you lean towards signature restaurants (like me), or spend way too much time in the pubs in the evenings (again, like me!).

  8. By KJSJpipe

    We get it every year, since we are DVC it's the same discount as an AP. We do get some discounts as members but they are not as plentiful as the TIW.
    My example for savings with the card : the card is $150 and we plan on spending $2500 on dinners this trip and will use it again in June next year. I think it will more than pay for itself!

  9. By GusMan

    Like it was said above - its all about the math. The short of it is this... if you are going to spend more than $750 on eligible food and drink over the course of a year - you can save.
    After you hit that amount, then that savings can add up quickly.

    If you are lighter eaters or dont do a lot of TS places anymore, then its going to be harder to see any savings.

    Then again, if you plan accordingly, you can still get some good DVC/AP/CM discounts outside of TIW.

    But how you dine makes a big difference. Thats why TIW is not a "its for everyone" sort of thing.

    Have to agree that at DL, they actually proactively ask if you are a DVC member, Passholder or a cast member so that you can get your appropriate discount...and its at a lot more places than what you can get at WDW. And maybe thats why they -dont- have TIW around there because it would be hard to convince people to get it as long as they dont change the other discounts.

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