2012 Disney Free Dining Reservation Window Extended!

You now have until December 17, 2011 to take advantage of the 2012 Disney FREE DINING promotion when you book your 4 night/5 day Magic Your Way vacation package for select arrival dates January thru March of 2012. Book a trip with a Moderate, Deluxe or Villa resort and get a free Disney Dining Plan or book at a value resort for the free Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan. The arrival dates have not changed, they are January 8th thru the 12th, January 21st thru February 2nd, February 11th thru the 16th, March 3rd thru the 8th and March 24th thru the 29th.

We personally think the free dining deal is THE BEST Disney deal out there! And what better way to get rid of the winter doldrums than a trip to sunny Florida and the happiest place on earth!

For more info check the Disney Web Site.

Is Tables In Wonderland a Good Deal?

The Tables in Wonderland dining discount membership is available for purchase by Florida residents for $100 or annual passholders for $75. Our previous trip in November we had purchased annual passes for ourselves, and realized that with the trips we have tentatively scheduled over the next year, the dining discount could be worth it. So, on our last “adults only” trip in January, we purchased the Tables in Wonderland dining discount card. Here is what we learned…

Tables in Wonderland Membership card (front)

Tables in Wonderland Membership card (front)

Benefits of Tables in Wonderland

Tables in Wonderland (TIW) gives you 20% off on food and drinks (including alcoholic beverages!) at almost all Table Service restaurants, some Counter Service (Pizzafari, Flame Tree Barbecue and Restaurantosaurus in Animal Kingdom), the late showings of Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue and Spirit of Aloha, and the value resorts food court restaurants. Because TIW includes alcoholic beverages, it is also honored for just drinks at most of the lounges at the deluxe resorts and, our favorite place for a drink, The Rose and Crown Pub in the UK Pavilion.

With the TIW discount, at Table Service restaurants, an 18% gratuity is automatically added to your bill. Usually the service at any Disney establishment is worth that amount and it is a “suggested” amount to add at the bottom of any receipt, so if you take that into consideration, your discount is a full 20%. If though, you tend to tip at the more standard 15% level, then the TIW discount is a bit less. This 18% gratuity is also added to a bar tab, so if you usually only give a couple of bucks for a $20 pour of 18 year single malt scotch, your savings may not be as great. If you use your Tables in Wonderland card at Victoria and Albert’s, a full 20% gratuity is automatically added, but with the cost of Victoria & Albert’s, saving the gratuity alone here could easily pay for your TIW membership.

TIW membership also includes:

  • Complimentary resort valet parking services for the sole purpose of dining. This benefit is good for one vehicle per membership card.
  • Complimentary Theme Park parking for the sole purpose of dining. If you arrive before 5:00pm, you will pay for parking at the Toll Plaza.  On your way out of the Theme Park, visit Guest Relations and if it has been less than 3 hours, show your membership card and dining receipt for reimbursement for parking. After 5:00 p.m., members can show their membership card at the toll plaza to enter the parking lot. Theme park admission is required for dining in all Theme Park restaurant locations. On Block-Out dates, there will be a charge for parking and valet services.

Currently, the Block-out dates for Tables in Wonderland are: Mothers Day, Easter Sunday, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Also, there is a $50 replacement fee for lost or stolen  cards, so take good care if this card!

When you get your card, it comes with the latest version of the booklet listing the participating locations. You can also ask for this booklet at any guest services location. Note that the info in the booklet can change at any time, so if you have a TIW membership and are considering visiting a location that is not on the list, always ask!

Tables in Wonderland Member Booklet

Tables in Wonderland Member Booklet-Resort Locations

Tables in Wonderland Member Booklet

Tables in Wonderland Member Booklet-Resort Locations

Tables in Wonderland Member Booklet

Tables in Wonderland Member Booklet-Resort Locations

Tables in Wonderland Member Booklet

Tables in Wonderland Member Booklet-Resort and Theme Park Locations

Tables in Wonderland Member Booklet

Tables in Wonderland Member Booklet-Theme Park and Other Locations

Tables in Wonderland Member Booklet

Tables in Wonderland Member Booklet

Our experience with Tables in Wonderland

The first use of Tables in Wonderland was on our 5 day January trip. We made no advance dining reservations, just deciding to “wing it” when it came to meals. We were able to get into 4 Table Service restaurants without reservations; Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom, Via Napoli and Tokyo Dining in Epcot and The Cape May Café at Beach Club Resort. Normally getting into a Table Service without ADR’s is unheard of, but the end of January is not a peak season and it was just the two of us, so that worked to our advantage. We were also staying at Pop Century, so we used the TIW discount for a couple of quick breakfasts before we headed out to the parks. One morning we enjoyed Pizzafari which, unbeknownst to most visitors, serves a full breakfast. (We’ve had breakfast there twice and were the only people in the restaurant!) We also took advantage of the full discount (no tip added) at Flame Tree Barbeque which, in my opinion, is one of the best values in the parks, their food is excellent and the portions are worth the money even without a discount. This being an “adult only” trip, we also took advantage of a couple of the lounges, Todd English’s bluezoo, Martha’s Vineyard in The Beach Club and of course the Rose and Crown.

Our actual savings from Tables in Wonderland

So in total we used our TIW discount at 10 different establishments. With only the two of us we saved $61.53 just in those 5 days based on our usual 15% tip. If we normally tipped 18%, the savings would have been $71.68. We already have an 8 day trip with the kids scheduled for August, and we are tentatively planning another trip during the Food and Wine Festival in October. We should have no problem seeing significant savings from our TIW membership.

Our advice for purchasing Tables in Wonderland

If you travel to Disney World often enough to justify an annual pass, and enjoy eating at a few table service restaurants on each visit, I highly recommend purchasing the $75.00 Tables in Wonderland dining discount. As a Florida resident that is not an annual passholder you will have to decide for yourself if you can use a TIW membership enough to see a return on your $100 purchase. If you dine regularly at Signature restaurants, especially those at the resorts and Downtown Disney where you don’t need park admission, you could certainly see significant savings. If you only go a few days a year but you have a large family that likes to eat at table service restaurants, you may also be able to see some savings, but do your research first.

For official details regarding TIW, see the Disney TIW web page. This page is intended for Florida residents only and it may ask you for a zip code. Here is one that will work: 32801

Disney Free Dining promotion for 2011!

Disney has released another free dining promotion! As of April 28th, Disney Visa cardholders can use their visa to book a “Memories Vacation Package”. (See below if you do not have a Disney Visa card.) You must book at least a three night stay with at least a two day base admission ticket. The package includes a Disney PhotoPass Book which does add about $100 to the price of the package. Guests staying at a value resort will receive the quick service meal plan at no charge. Guests staying at Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villas will receive the regular dining plan at no charge. This offer is valid for stays most nights 8/28/2011-9/24/2011.

This deal will become available to the general public on May 5th, 2011.

2011 Disney World Free Dining Pin Code

Select Disney World fans are receiving the opportunity to book free dining by using a special pin code that they receive by email. This offer is valid for arrivals most nights 4/23/11-8/13/2011. Book by 4/30/2011. Value and moderate resort bookings include the quick service plan for free, Deluxe and Villa resort packages receive the standard dining plan.

No word yet on if this will become available to the general public. We can only hope!

Update! Free Dining Announced for 2011!

Kids Stay and Play for Free!

Disney has announced its Kids Stay and Play for FREE! package to for 2011.

Book a non-discounted room and ticket package with a minimum 4 night stay and children age 3-9 get theme park admission FREE. Book by February 13 for stays most nights February 17 to April 16, 2011. Book by March 27 for stays most nights April 28 to June 14, 2011 and August 14 to October 1, 2011.

The title of this offer is a bit misleading since children under 17 can always stay at a Disney Resort  for free with their parents. Also, the tickets are base tickets, without the Park Hopper or Water Park Fun and More options. Regardless, these ticket savings can be significant.

For more information, check out Mousesavers or the Disney Web Site.

Should I buy the Disney Dining Plan?

As a follow-up to our previous post “Is the Disney Dining Plan a Good Deal?”, we will try to help you determine if the Disney Dining Plan will be right for you and your family. Several factors go in to determining if the Dining Plan will be a good deal for you. Note that Disney offers three options of the Dining Plan, Quick Service, Standard, and Deluxe. At this point, we are addressing only the Standard Disney Dining Plan. (See the Dining Plan Pricing here) Note also that during peak seasons plan pricing goes up $5 per day for adults and $1 per day for children corresponding with an increase in menu prices during peak season.

The first factor is [Read more…]

Is the Disney Dining Plan A Good Deal?

Determining if the Disney Dining Plan is a good deal is an interesting task. I have been researching this for some time now and there are all sorts of opinions, analyses, and hard facts to search thru. After combing thru all this information I can offer the absolute definitive answer to the question: “Is the Disney Dining Plan a good deal?” The Answer is: It depends. I’m sorry, but that is the best answer anyone can truthfully offer. It simply depends on several factors. Mathematically, the Disney Dining Plan can certainly work out to be a great deal. On the other hand, you could end up in the red if you use your credits for items on the low end of the scale, are unable to use all your credits, or do too many of Disney’s Signature Dining experiences. [Read more…]

Free Disney Dining 2010

Official Release of the Free Dining Plan for 2010!

Free dining is back at the Walt Disney World Resort for stays between August 15 and October 2!  The quick service plan will be offered for stays at value resorts and the regular plan will be offered for moderate and deluxe resorts. Note that if you stay in a value resort you have the option to upgrade to the regular plan for the price difference. See the Disney site for all the details.

Check our breakdown of the Disney Dining Plan pricing structure for 2010.

Saving Money Before your Disney Trip

So, you really want to go to Disney. If you are like us, you want to go “all out”, as many days as possible, the best resort you can get, the most diverse restaurants and of course spending money! But times are tough and trips like Disney are a special treat, one that takes a true commitment to saving. I’m one of those people who can save if I have to, but I also have a bit of “shopaholic” in me, which, when it came to saving for Disney, actually helped. [Read more…]

Saving Money by Bringing Food and Drinks to Disney

In all the Disney research we did for our first trip, we decided it would be smart to somehow bring some food and drink items with us so we wouldn’t be tempted to spend so much at the parks. The plan was simple: eat healthier and save time and money by having cereal in the room for breakfast, and carrying our own snacks and drinks with us in the parks. For a seven night, eight day trip it seemed we would need a lot of cereal, snacks, and drinks. I went to BJ’s and bought economy size boxes of granola bars, fruit gummies, single serving cereal boxes and a case of Powerade. We were able to pack some in our luggage, but the majority we had shipped to our resort. Unfortunately, this plan didn’t work out as well as we had hoped…

[Read more…]