There will be math – the Tables In Wonderland debate

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I’ve often heard a simple formula to determine whether it’s worth the cost to purchase a Tables In Wonderland dining membership.

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Tables In Wonderland provides a 20 percent discount at most Walt Disney World table service restaurants, along with counter service restaurants at resorts that don’t have a table service restaurant (those would be the value resorts, along with Port Orleans French Quarter). The year-long membership is available to Florida residents for $125 or to Annual/Seasonal Passholders or Disney Vacation Club members for $100.

The back-of-the-napkin calculation I’ve heard is that if you spend more than $500 in dining, then the 20 percent discount has recouped the $100 cost of the membership. It’s simple enough for even the math-impaired to figure out in their head, but for someone considering Tables In Wonderland, it’s not the whole picture.

If you are an Annual Passholder or DVC member, you are already entitled to discounts at many of the same restaurants. For example, DVC members get a 15 percent discount at Via Napoli in Epcot, while Annual Passholders get a 10 percent weekday lunch discount there. If you want to compare all the dining discounts, the folks at AllEars.net have put together this handy guide that shows the three discount programs side by side, along with Disney Visa discounts.

Let’s say that a party of four DVC members at Via Napoli ordered a $41 Mezzo Metro pizza, an $11 Arancini appetizer, four soft drinks at $3 each and a couple of $9 Tiramisu desserts. Total bill before tax: $82. The Tables In Wonderland card gives a $16.40 discount, while the DVC discount is $12.30. In this case, Tables In Wonderland would net our DVC members only $4.10 in real savings.

But what if our party of four substituted their four soft drinks with two $25 pitchers of Sangria? Fun, yes, but the discount calculations get more complicated. That’s because while the Tables In Wonderland discount applies to alcohol as well as food, the AP and DVC discounts do not. So our now $120 bill gets a $24 Tables In Wonderland discount, but just a $10.50 DVC discount. In this scenario, Tables In Wonderland nets $13.50 in real savings and our party of four tries not to stumble out into World Showcase.

So here, we see an argument in favor of Tables In Wonderland. For those who enjoy a cocktail or two with dinner, the discounts can add up in a hurry.

Daniel Plainview drinks your peanut butter and jelly milkshake.
Daniel Plainview drinks your peanut butter and jelly milkshake.

Another scenario to ponder: You’re enjoying a peanut butter and jelly milkshake at the Tune In Lounge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios when in walks Daniel Plainview, the protagonist played by Daniel Day Lewis in the film “There Will Be Blood.” Plainview takes out his straw, which somehow reaches across the room and proceeds to “drink your milkshake.” What a jerk. He drinks it all up, forcing you to order a second. Luckily, your Tables In Wonderland card gives you 20 percent off your two milkshakes. If you had to rely on your DVC or AP discounts, you would be out of luck, because the Tune In Lounge and 50’s Prime Time Cafe don’t take those discounts.

And here is a second argument in favor of Tables In Wonderland — if you want a discount, you have far more restaurants from which to choose. In the Magic Kingdom, for example, it’s the only way to get a discount at any table service restaurant. Popular resort restaurants like California Grill, Chef Mickey’s and ‘Ohana also only take Tables In Wonderland.

Before you pony up the $100 for Tables In Wonderland, you should keep in mind that additional blackout dates have been added, which means you won’t get any discounts during major holidays and at selected restaurants during peak attendance weeks. Victoria & Albert’s also no longer takes the Tables In Wonderland discount. Finally, if you enjoy attending the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, know that there are no discounts for any of the food or drink kiosks.

Otherwise, you’ll have to do the math to determine if the 20 percent Tables In Wonderland discount will really pay for itself.

11 thoughts on “There will be math – the Tables In Wonderland debate

  • September 20, 2015 at 8:50 am
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    Don’t forget, TIW also adds an 18% gratuity at most locations. So, if you are used to tipping more, also can add to the discount. Of course, you can always add to the tip if you wanted.

  • September 20, 2015 at 9:49 am
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    Bought mine in May, for a trip for 4 adults in May, 2 in October and January. Ate/will eat at Trattoria al Forno, Jiko (2), Flying Fish (2), Chef Mickey’s, Kimonos, Sci Fi Dine In Theater, and California Grill. Figure a drink or two per person, per meal, and I have more than earned back my $100 investment. That doesn’t even account for all the breakfasts on the go from the food court at All Star Sports (October), drinks and appetizers at Victoria Falls (May) or Martha’s Vineyard Lounge (January).

    • September 20, 2015 at 10:23 am
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      Yes, if you’re staying at a value resort or Port Orleans French Quarter, the discount on counter service is a big advantage for Tables In Wonderland. It’s interesting that the more casual restaurants at Swan/Dolphin take DVC discounts, but not Tables In Wonderland. Kimonos takes both, while Bluezoo, Shula’s and Il Mulino take only Tables In Wonderland.

      • September 20, 2015 at 10:14 pm
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        Yep…and Blue Zoo and Shula’s are two of the best restaurants on property

  • September 20, 2015 at 10:06 am
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    Don’t forget the Tables in Wonderland card also entitles you to free valet parking at resorts and Downtown Disney while dining. This is a $20 value! You simply must present the receipt showing you dined and used the Tables in Wonderland discount when you retrieve your vehicle. It is super easy! We have used this multiple times already this year and it has more than paid for the price of the card with the amount we have saved solely on valet parking.

    • September 20, 2015 at 10:17 am
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      Good point, I should have mentioned that, though I was primarily focusing on the discount aspect.

  • September 20, 2015 at 2:47 pm
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    Another thing to keep in mind is that it is good for 12 months, through the end of the month in which it was purchased. We go every year at the beginning of October. As long as we buy it in October it is good for that trip PLUS the trip the next year. Then you only have to spend $250 per trip to break even.

  • September 20, 2015 at 7:52 pm
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    That was some entertaining math, complete with movie imagery 🙂 thanks!

  • September 20, 2015 at 10:07 pm
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    FWIW I saved approx. $1,800 with my TIW card last year on 3 trips. The year before, I saved approx. $2,300 on two trips. We do eat a lot of table service and usually have several family members, but it’s obviously a good investment.

  • September 21, 2015 at 12:30 am
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    Remember to include in your math:
    Time value of money – spending it now vs later:

    And the risk of the unknown future – what is the risk your plans won’t work out?

    By plunking $$ now for a discount you use over time, you risk that you’ll not use the discount (because of circumstances – i.e. not going to WDW as much) Or life events change and you’re not doing table service as much.

    And plunking money down ahead to “save” it over time means you’ve given up the ability to use that money on something else between those 2 times.

    So….
    The savings from TIW should over time be an order or significance more than the actual cost of TIW.
    Breaking even is not really worth it. I’d rather have kept that $100 if I was just breaking even.

    I see TIW a lot for DVCers; they love the concept of paying up front.

    I doubt that the FL Res season pass payment plan holders would really get into as much.

    If you pre-pay, then you worry about “cancellation” penalties. If you cancel a trip you haven’t made any investment into, then there is no issue of having spent money for nothing.

  • September 21, 2015 at 10:31 am
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    Has anyone heard anything new on the rumored ending of TiW at the end of the calendar year?

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