Disney Dining Plan, Tables in Wonderland, or Out of Pocket

Today, we are going to look at one of the most difficult questions to answer about someone’s Walt Disney World vacation.  Do I get the Disney Dining Plan, purchase a Tables in Wonderland card, or do I just pay out-of-pocket.  The first thing we need to do is give a basic description of what each type of payment is.

Disney Dining Plan

The Disney Dining Plan is basically Disney’s “pre-paid” dining plan.  It allows guests to pay for their food up front as part of their vacation package.  For 2015, the Plus Dining Plan costs $60.04 per adult per night of stay and $19.23 per child (ages 3-9) per night of stay.  This package gives the guest 1 snack credit, 1 quick service credit, and 1 table service credit for each night of their stay.  The plan also gives each guest a refillable mug for use during their vacation.  A meal is considered an entree and non-alcoholic beverage for breakfast.  Lunch/dinner meals are considered an entree, a dessert, and a non-alcoholic beverage while buffets offer the full buffet and a non-alcoholic beverage.

Tables In Wonderland

Tables in Wonderland is card that is available to Annual Pass Holders, Florida Residents, and Disney Vacation Club members.  The card offers a discount (usually 20%) at select table service restaurants.  When using the card, the bill automatically adds an 18% gratuity to the bill.  The card is also subject to blackout dates.  The cost of card is $100 for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members and $125 for Florida Residents.  The card is good for one year from date of purchase.

Paying out of pocket

Exactly what it says.  You pay for all your meals and snacks like you would at home.  You open your wallet and pay face value for the food.

Braised pork plate at Be Our Guest
Braised pork plate at Be Our Guest

Which method is the best?  Well, that depends completely on your family’s eating habits.  You need to sit down and do a cost comparison of the three methods and see which one is best.  Hint: Paying out-of-pocket is almost always the worst option.  It will usually come down to Disney Dining Plan and Tables in Wonderland.  So, let’s plan out a hypothetical six-night stay at Disney (two adults/one child):

Table Service Meals

Let’s go with three true sit-down meals and three character meals just so there isn’t the expectation of a character appearing at every sit down meal on the child’s part.  For ease of pricing out, the two adults order the exact same meal.

Chef Mickey’s for dinner: $45.79/adult (average of high and low price on allears menu) $22.89/child

Via Napoli for dinner: $26.00 (chicken parm) + $10.00 (zeppol di caternia) + $3.00 (beverage); children’s meal $9.50

Cape May Cafe for breakfast: $28.75/adult; $15.44/child

Chefs des France (note Chefs des France does not have a TiW discount but does have a 10% DVC discount): Prix Fixe Menu $39.99 + $3.00 (beverage); children’s meal $9.50

1900 Park Fare for dinner: $41.42/adult; $20.23/child

Mama Melrose for lunch: $32.99 (strip steak)+$8.00 (dessert)+$3.00 (beverage); children’s meal $8.50

Quick Service Meals

ABC Commissary: $9.59 (chicken club sandwich) + $4.19 (chocolate mousse) + $3.00 (beverage); children’s meal $6.00

Be Our Guest: $12.99 (braised pork – see above its delicious) + $4.19 (cupcake) + $3.00 (beverage); children’s meal $8.50

Contempo Cafe: $10.19 (Italian Stacked Sandwich) + 4.69 (cupcake) + $3.00 (beverage); children’s meal $6.00

Electric Umbrella: $10.99 (French Dip Burger) + $4.19 (cheesecake) + $3.00 (beverage); children’s meal $6.00

Flame Tree BBQ: $10.99 (1/2 BBQ chicken) + $4.19 (Key Lime Mousse) + $3.00 (beverage); children’s meal $6.00

Gaston’s Tavern: $9.79 (pork shank) + $3.29 (croissant) + $3.00 (beverage); purchase child’s meal at Casey’s $8.29 (hot dog meal)

Dessert Cart at Be Our Guest
Dessert Cart at Be Our Guest

Snacks (all guests get the same snacks)

Scoop of Popcorn $3.50

Scoop of Popcorn $3.50

Mickey Ice Cream Bar $4.00

Contempo Cupcake $4.69

Churro $4.00

Scoop of Ice Cream from L’Artisan des Glace $4.00

Let’s tally up the totals:

Per Adult

Tables In Wonderland: $328.52

Disney Dining Plan: $360.24

Out of Pocket: $371.92

Per Child

Disney Dining Plan: $115.38

Tables In Wonderland: $134.26

Out of Pocket: $150.26

For an adult, Tables In Wonderland is the best deal.  For children, however, the best deal is the Disney Dining Plan.  Let’s see what happens when we merge our family of three (two adults/one Disney child):

Disney Dining Plan: $835.36

Tables In Wonderland: $791.30 + $100 cost of the card = $891.30

Out of Pocket: $894.36

Tables In Wonderland is the best deal for just the food.  However, the $100 cost of the card has to be factored in and that pushes the total to almost the same amount as paying out-of-pocket.

Now, let’s see what happens when the Disney child turns 10 and becomes a Disney Adult.  When a guest pays cash or charges meal back to the room, the age restriction on the children’s menu goes away.  Anybody can order off the kids menu.  For buffet meals, though, anyone over 10 gets charged as an adult for the buffet.

This brings our totals to:

Tables In Wonderland: $837.24 + $100 cost of card = $937.24

Out of Pocket: $951.78

Tables in Wonderland still works out to be a slightly better deal on our hypothetical vacation.  This just accounts for the food not the gratuity.  And again, your numbers based on your vacation may vary.  It’s best to sit down and try to plan out your meals ahead of time and see which situation works best for you.

Thanks for reading!

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