How to Save Money on Disney Souvenirs

bill-fold-squeezeLet’s face facts. Going to Disney World for a vacation is not a cheap thing to do. You have to shell out money for lodging, meals, transportation to and from Orlando and, if you’re anything like our family, lots of souvenirs. The good news is that I have a few good ideas on how to save money on Disney souvenirs.

Buy before you fly (or drive).

I think this is something that people often neglect to do. It’s very easy to get wrapped up on the impulse purchase at all of the great souvenir shops in the parks and at Disney Springs. When our kids were younger this was especially difficult because when my kids want something, I want to give it to them.

One way that we have found to mitigate this is to purchase some souvenirs before we left for our trip. You can find things for far cheaper online and at outlet stores prior to leaving.

Take this shirt on amazon.com for instance. On amazon, it sells for $13 – $20. At any of the Disney World locations in Orlando, you would likely pay around $30 for it. If I bought each member of my family this shirt (or something similar) on amazon it would save me at least $50 versus at Disney World. It is sold by Disney through amazon so it is of the same high quality your would find in the parks.

We typically try to buy our kids, and ourselves, a few pieces of memorabilia prior to leaving for our trips. It makes budgeting a lot easier because you stretch out how long you have to pay for your souvenirs for as long as you want.

Then we hide them from the kids. We will give them to them the day we are leaving for our vacation or we sometimes hold them until we get down there.

Another idea is to give the souvenirs to your kids every few days. What I mean by this is give them a shirt as soon as you get down there, and don’t be surprised when they want to wear it every day. Then a day or two later give them a cap or a set of Mickey Ears.

Disney Gift Cards

Another thing we do is get a Disney gift card or two for each member of our family. This does two things for us.

First, it provides each member with a specific budget of how much they have to spend. This allows for the impulse purchases that all kids (and dads) want, but it makes them think about how bad they want the shiny new object they just found. We use it as a budgeting learning tool for our kids. Once they have spent all of the money on their gift card they don’t have any more to spend the rest of the trip.

Now, I will say that we usually also put rules on when they can spend their souvenir money. Typically we make them wait for at least a few days into the vacation before they can start shopping. We also usually have them save a little bit for our last day because we have a tradition of going to Disney Springs on our last day in Orlando just to shop.

The second thing it does is save us money. You can buy Disney gift cards at BJ’s Wholesale Club at a slight discount. They typically cost around $96 for a $100 gift card so it’s only about a 4% savings, but when you couple this tactic with others the savings can really start to add up.

There are a few notes on the gift cards that I want to mention. One is that they don’t expire. If you’re planning multiple trips you don’t have to worry if you have some money left over on them.  You can use them on your next trip.

The other thing I want to mention is that these cards can be used at most places that accept credit cards at Disney World. We use them for all of our dining and shopping needs. We always try to figure out about how much we are going to be spending eating out at the parks and resorts and budget meal costs into our gift card purchase.

Pin Trading

One thing that is HUGE at all of the Disney parks is pin trading. Most people wear their pins on a lanyard and proudly display them the entire time they are on vacation.

Did you know that if you approach any Cast Member (Disney employee) and ask them to trade pins with you, they will? Our kids always have a lot of fun doing that and that is how they have gotten some of their coolest pins.

For this reason we usually buy some of Disney pins at a discount before our trip. You can usually find a batch of 25 pins for around $25 or less so it is much more economical than buying them at the park where they typically run around $4 each for the very cheapest ones. Some of the more expensive ones are upwards of $30.

Sometimes you can even find some really cool pins in a batch purchase like this from amazon or ebay. We always have our kids pick out the ones they are certain they want to keep and not trade. We fasten the ones they don’t want to lose to their lanyards with locking pin keepers.

Disney Outlet

If you are driving to Orlando, another great idea to save money is to make a pit stop at a Disney Outlet Store once you start getting close to your destination.

On occasion, we try to stop at the Disney Outlet Store in Florida off of Interstate 95 to or from our vacation. All of the products in the store are Disney branded. You will likely not save as much as you would if you were shopping online but the items will not be as pricey as they are at Disney World.

This gives us a chance to shop around and touch the stuff we’re thinking about buying so it is a great option.

I hope I’ve given you some good ideas on how to save money on Disney souvenirs. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below. Also, if you have any money saving tips for vacation souvenirs, I’d love to hear about them.

Planning a Disney World Vacation

disney-world-vacation-39-days-to-goAs many of you know, April and I are in the middle of planning a Disney World Vacation. We are super excited about it and we are a measly 39 days, 21 hours, 10 minutes and 5 seconds from being on vacation! Excited much?

Now, I say that we are in the middle of planning it, but it is mostly planned. And when I say we, I mean April. She certainly take the brunt of the planning of all of our vacations. But she enjoys doing it and I enjoy letting her.

What is there to plan? Aren’t you just going to go to the parks?

Well, yeah, we are definitely going to “just” be going to the parks. But if you don’t have a plan you might find yourself among throngs of crowds, waiting in hour long lines and not being able to get into the good restaurants.

When should you go?

I think a better question is when can you go? As for me, I will go whenever I can. With that said, there are times when the crowds are lighter.

I find that many people are hindered by their kid’s school schedule. We have been fortunate in that our kids have always done well enough in school that we can justify pulling them out for a week to go whenever we want.

That is why we are going the second week in December this year. The crowds will be on the light side. We will also get to see the Osborne Spectacle of Lights one last time.

I’ve done some research and writing on when to go. Check out my article on when to go for some tips. Check back often. It’s an evolutionary writing.

Dining Reservations

I have said it before and I’ll say it again here. Make dining reservations as far in advance as possible. Don’t say I did not warn you.

disny-ohana-restaurant
With Stitch at Ohana’s Best Friends Breakfast

We have found that even making reservations exactly 180 days from the date of our stay, we often find it difficult to get into the more popular restaurants. Fortunately for us, the most popular restaurants are not our favorites, but if you’re looking for character dining it is best to book as soon as you can.

One of the restaurants that I’m really looking forward to this December is Coral Reef in Epcot. It is a really cool place to eat where the rolls sort of get reversed between fish and people. There is an enormous aquarium and the restaurant has stadium seating. It sort of feels like you are sitting in a fish bowl and the fish are viewing you. There are even sharks in the aquarium. SHARKS!

Coral Reef Restaurant by Richo.Fan is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Coral Reef Restaurant by Richo.Fan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

There are gobs of great restaurants to eat at. Pick the ones you want to eat at and jump on getting some reservations. Without them you may not get in. Again, I cannot say this enough.

Which Park, Which Day

This is a tricky one to figure out. If you are making in park dining reservations and do not have a park hopper, you may get pigeon holed into going to certain parks on certain days. Don’t be discouraged. You can work around this. The only park this really happens to with us is Epcot, usually, because we frequently eat at resort restaurants.

If you have some flexibility a great resource is the Undercover Tourist iPhone app. It’s free and easy to use. It not only gives you wait times for the attractions, but lists the parade times and even tells you what the estimated park crowds are heaviest and lightest for that day.

I love going to Magic Kingdom on the very first day we are there. To me it’s nostalgic and the crowds will not keep me away. But everyone is different.

Whatever parks you decide to visit on whichever day, you will certainly want to take advantage of FastPass+.

FastPass+

Learn how to skip the lines from the pros at Undercover Tourist. I cannot explain it any better than them, so I’ll just leave you with this link.

In short, though, FastPass+ allows you to skip the line queue by setting up an approximate time you want to ride a specific ride. You are allowed a few of these per day. I recommend using them for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Magic Kingdom, Toy Story Mania and The Rockin’ Roller Coaster in Hollywood Studios, Soarin’ and Test Track in Epcot and Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom.

Break Days

What is a break day? Stay at the resort and go to the pool. They are all awesome and you get a relaxing day without having to rush to or from a park. April has found that these are her favorite days on vacation.

Planning a Disney World Vacation

Whatever your plan is, try to be flexible as well. You may end up having to change your plans due to weather or park crowds. But it’s OK. Relax. You’re on vacation at the most magical place on earth. And I’m sure you’ll be able to reschedule your plans.

If you have any questions or comments, as always, reach out to us below.

Discount Disney World Tickets

There are quite a few ways to get discount Disney World tickets.  There really is no real reason to pay full price when you can save a few bucks.  Here is a list of a few of the ways we’ve found to purchase park passes at a discount rather than having to pay full price at the gate.

What kind of tickets do you need?

The first thing to decide is what kind of tickets you need for your trip. There are a few options to choose from. There is an annual pass (with a few different options to choose from) and a Magic Your Way base ticket.

Most people visiting Walt Disney World will probably want the Magic Your way Base ticket. The only real reason to upgrade to an annual pass is if you plan on visiting more than once in a 12 month period of time or if you are visiting the parks more than 10 days which is currently the maximum number of days you can put on a base ticket.

If you decide you need the magic your way base ticket there are a few add-ons you can purchase. One is the Water Parks and More upgrade.

"Ski Patrol Disney Blizzard Beach Florida" by Dr latino999 at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ski_Patrol_Disney_Blizzard_Beach_Florida.jpg#/media/File:Ski_Patrol_Disney_Blizzard_Beach_Florida.jpg
Ski Patrol Disney Blizzard Beach Florida by Dr latino999 is licensed under Public Domain via Commons

We almost always upgrade to the Water Parks and more option which allows you the same number of “fun visits”. Here are what the Fun Visits are:

If you use this option for one water park and one miniature golf entrance it has paid for itself. We almost always hit the water parks at least twice so it’s really a great value for us.

Entrance to Disney Quest used to also be included but since they announced its forthcoming closure which I talked about here. It is now included on your regular park pass.

Another upgrade is to add the Park Hopper. The Park Hopper option allows you to visit more than one park per day. This option is extremely useful if you are visiting during certain events like the Food and Wine Festival. We often like to visit one park for the attractions and then head over to Epcot for the food.

undercover-tourist-discount-disney-world-ticketsUndercover Tourist

This is the way we usually purchase our tickets. They have several different options options to choose from. You can save up to $38/ticket to Disney World from Undercover Tourist, plus FREE shipping!

Undercover Tourist offers discount Disney World tickets for all pricing levels with the exception of annual passes. They also offer tickets to other Orlando attractions such as Legoland, SeaWorld and Universal Parks.

The best thing about Undercover Tourist is that the discounts are offered to everyone. You do not need to be a member of any organization or club to receive a discount. Their discounts are also usually deeper than other organizations that you already have to pay to be a member of.

AAA

AAA offers discounts for members, currently up to $25 off gate prices. From what we have seen, this discount has never better than Undercover Tourist’s. With that said, if you are a member, it may be worth checking into at the time you are purchasing your tickets. I believe you will find that Undercover Tourist is always going to be cheaper.

Military

Walt Disney World usually has a discount for active duty or retired United States Military Personnel. If you fall into either of these categories, thank you for your service, and definitely check into the military discounts. They are usually pretty deep. You are also eligible to stay at Disney’s Shades of Green Resort which provides nice accommodations at a very reasonable price.

disney-vacation-clubDisney Vacation Club

Every once in a while Disney will offer annual pass discounts to DVC members. They are usually priced at the Florida resident discount. We always try to take advantage of this but it usually only works out to be a savings if you are either staying for more than 7 days or if you can manage two trips within 12 months.

Discount Disney World Tickets

There are a few other discount ticket offerings. Florida residents get a discount and there is a program for school field trips. But in summary, I still feel that Undercover Tourist is the best route for non-annual pass tickets as they offer the deepest discount and have the most flexibly.

As always, if you have questions, please ask below.

Disney Vacation Club

disney-vacation-clubSeveral years ago April and I became Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members and we have not regretted it a single day. If you have read our About Us page, you know that I was not enthralled about going to Disney World at all, but when we got down there something magical happened to me.

Every little stress of life seemed to melt away on our very first park visit. I did not think about work the entire week, which is rare for me. It was then that we really got into all things Disney World and we have not looked back. I would say it’s probably a topic of conversation for us at least a few times per week. We are even in the process of planning three vacations to Disney World in Orlando right now.

What is the Disney Vacation Club?

In simple terms, it’s a timeshare, but it is a very unique one.  No Disney Cast Member will ever refer to it as such, but let’s face it, that’s exactly what it is.

Disney Vacation Club is a points based system, so you can vacation whenever you want. You’re not buying a specific week like you used to with the old timeshare programs.

The amount of points it costs to stay at a resort varies greatly both by resort and by the time of year. Obviously, the more desirable the resort and the busier the time of year, the more points it will cost you. Weeknights are also always less expensive than weekends.

You get your allotment of points for the year in a month that is called your “use year”. For example, our use year for both sets of points we have purchased is in June. So every June we get our full allotment of points.

Your points must be used or banked for the following year within your use year or borrowed from a previous year. In our example, we received our last allotment in June of 2014. We must use those points between June 2014 and June 2015 or bank them for use in the following year. Unused, banked points expire. You cannot bank points for more than one year.

Boardwalk Inn by Silent Wind of Doom at the English language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons
Boardwalk Inn by Silent Wind of Doom is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

You can also borrow points from next year. Say we have 100 points but we want to take a vacation that will cost us 280 points. We did not go last year and banked all of our points to this year. So we currently have 200 points, 100 from this year and 100 banked from last year. We can then borrow 80 points from next year to use for this year.

You can only borrow points from the following use year. You cannot borrow 2017 use year points in your 2015 use year. You can only borrow from the 2016 use year.

With all of that said, it is still a very flexible system. And if you ever have questions, the Cast Members are extremely helpful.

What resorts are included?

Disney's Grand Floridian by Scdis32 is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Disney’s Grand Floridian by Scdis32 is licensed under CC BY 3.0

The quality of the resorts is outstanding. You can stay at any of the Disney Deluxe resorts. The vast majority of them are on the Disney World property in Orlando, FL, but there is also Aulani in Hawaii, Vero Beach in Vero Beach, FL, the Grand Californian on the Disneyland property and the Hilton Head Island resort in Hilton Head, SC. Here is the full list:

You can also use your points to go on a Disney Cruise. I, personally, do not advocate this. I don’t think using points for a cruise is a good value because it costs so many to use them this way. I think the better value is to pay cash for a cruise and bank your points if you cannot also make it to another DVC resort that year.

Disney Wonder at Port Canaveral by Rennett Stow is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Disney Wonder at Port Canaveral by Rennett Stow is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Can I exchange points and vacation somewhere else?

Yes, there is an exchange program through an RCI exchange program. RCI is the leading exchange program and offers over 500 locations to choose from. There is a non-refundable $95 transaction fee associated with an exchange.

This gives you the option to leverage your DVC membership anywhere in the world.

What if I can’t use my points?

If you have banked points and know that you are not going to be able to use them you can rent them out. There are a few folks who provide that service and we have actually taken advantage of it. The absolute best place to rent is from David’s Vacation Club Rentals. That is the only place we use or recommend.

Is it worth it?

You really have to do the math on this for yourself. For us it has worked out extremely well. So well that we bought a second allotment of points and are actually talking about getting a third allotment as well.

The payments on our “mortgage” were easy to make and the interest on the load is a tax write off since you are technically buying a deed. I would not make a purchase for this reason, though. But here is why we think it is worth it. If we had booked our room without using our DVC membership for our first two stays, we would have paid more than we did for our entire membership. It more than paid for itself in two stays.

Are there other benefits?

There are a few other benefits. You can read in-depth about them here. A few of the highlights are discounts on lockers, free parking at the parks, occasional offers for discounted annual passes and exclusive offerings.

How do you become a member of Disney Vacation Club?

There are a couple of different ways to join DVC. One is directly through Disney who is currently selling at the Aulani and Polynesian resorts. When you purchase your points you have to select a home resort. You can still use your points at any of the Disney resorts but you get the added benefit of being able to book a few months earlier than anyone else at your home resort. Our home resort is Animal Kingdom for all of our points but we may buy at a different resort for our next allotment because that is a great benefit.

Right now the points are selling for $165/point for both Aulani and the Polynesian. They have gone up in price nearly every year since we became members.

There are also a few places to by “used” points as well. Because we have not gone down that road yet, I don’t feel qualified to talk about it yet. Like I mentioned earlier, we will likely be purchasing more points soon and we are really considering going the used route.

I hope you have enjoyed this article. If you have any questions or feedback I’d love to hear them. Just leave me a comment below.

 

Disney Vacation Club Rentals

disney-vacation-club-logoI have heard time and time again how darn expensive it is to stay at Walt Disney World, and you know what? One great way to save some money on your vacation is to find a Disney Vacation Club rentals program.

Where can I find Disney Vacation Club Rentals?

There are quite a few programs that will rent you Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points. In our opinion David’s Vacation Club Rentals website is the best place, by far, to to rent them. DVC points are used to book lodging at deluxe Disney owned resorts.

How does it work?

Basically the site acts as a middle man, securing points to book your stay. DVC members who will not be able to use their points contact the service and sell their usage rights to them. Then when you contact the site they pair you with points to suit your wants and needs.

This service will save you hundreds of dollars by booking through it instead of directly through Disney.

How far in advance should I book my vacation?

This really depends on where you want to stay. Some resorts are more desired by guests and therefor book sell out faster. Generally speaking, the earlier the better. For many of them you will want to book as far as 11 in advance.

Here is a list of the most desired rooms. If you want any of them it is wise to request them 11 months from the date you want to check in.

Animal Kingdom Villas

  • Concierge Level Studio
  • Concierge Level 1 Bedroom
  • Concierge Level 2 Bedroom
  • Value Studio
  • Value 1 Bedroom
  • Value 2 Bedroom

Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

  • Standard View Studio
  • Standard View 1 Bedroom
  • Standard View 2 Bedroom
  • Theme Park View Studio
  • Theme Park View 2 Bedroom

Boardwalk Villas

  • Standard View Studio
  • Standard View 1 Bedroom
  • Standard View 2 Bedroom
  • Boardwalk View Studio
  • Boardwalk View 1 Bedroom
  • Boardwalk View 2 Bedroom
  • Grand Villa

The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

  • Standard View Studio
  • Standard View 1 Bedroom
  • Standard View 2 Bedroom

Aulani Villas in Hawaii

  • Standard View Grand Villa

The rest of the rooms can be booked later. The site goes into more detail on how far in advance you should request certain room types. It’s fairly detailed and ranges from 11 months to 3 – 6 months in advance.

How do I book my vacation?

  1. Go to David’s Vacation Club Rentals.
  2. Click on the Reservations Form button.
    disney-vacation-club-rentals-form1
  3. Read through the first page of the form carefully. They go over in great detail what the process is. In a nutshell you will pay a $98 partial payment. This is not a fee and is refunded to you if the service cannot secure you a reservation. Once you have read through all of the details on that page and understand the process, proceed to step 4.
  4. Click the big blue button at the bottom of the Reservation Form Details page.disney-vacation-club-rentals-form2
  5. Here is where it really starts to get fun. Select the dates you want to schedule your vacation. Remember what I mentioned above. The farther in advance you can request your reservation, the more likely it will be that they can secure it for you.disney-vacation-club-rentals-form3
  6. Select your first choice for your room. You will have an opportunity to select a second, third and fourth choice in a minute. My first choice is a studio with a theme park view. You can see that it tells me how much this room will cost. You can play with this depending on your budgetary needs.disney-vacation-club-rentals-form4
  7. Next you can optionally select your alternate choices. Remember, that these will be booked in in the order that you select them if your previous selection is not available. Put a check in the “I understand, please allow me to choose” check box.
    disney-vacation-club-rentals-form5
  8. Select your alternate choices. Their price will be displayed for you.
    disney-vacation-club-rentals-form6
  9. Click the Next Step button and fill in your personal details on the Personal Info page. Please don’t forget to tell them you found them through wdwmagicalmemories.com.
  10. Click the Next Step button and fill in your details on the Guest Info page. Here, information is filled out about each guest. They need this information because a “Magic Band” will be mailed to you for each guest. A magic band is an RFID that you wear on your wrist. You will eventually link your park passes to it as well as other goodies such as Photopass*.
  11. Click the Next Step button to get to the summary page. Carefully review all of your information.
  12. Once you are satisfied with your details click the Next Step button. Here you will pay your $98 partial payment.

Once you have completed all the steps above the good people at David’s Vacation Club Rentals will begin securing your reservation. Once your reservation has been secured you will get a confirmation email with a confirmation code.

You can confirm your reservation through Disney at this point. Here is where you can do that. When asked how you booked your reservation on that page, select “Using a Disney Vacation Club membership”.

Details on how to complete your payment will be emailed to you.

A completed invoice, including rental agreement will also be emailed to you. Your payment in full is your acceptance of the rental agreement.

*A quick not on Photopass and RFIDs: Probably the coolest thing about the Magic Bands coupled with Photopass is that not only can you have your picture taken by Photopass photographers throughout the park, but your picture is taken for you on attractions (rides) and automatically linked to your Photopass account as long as you are wearing your Magic Band.

Are there extra fees?

Nope. That’s it. You just pay for the lodging. Keep in mind that you still do need to purchase your park passes. The rental program only covers lodging.

Disney Vacation Club Rentals

This is a great way to keep costs down for a trip to Walt Disney World. I hope this helps you plan your vacation where dreams come true.

As always, if you have any questions on this process ask them in the comments below. If you have used David’s Vacation Club Rentals in the past, please let us know how it went for you.

New Restaurants at Disney World

There are a few new restaurants at Disney World that are opening soon at Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs.

Jock Linsey’s Hangar Bar recently opened with some fan fare as did Mrimoto Asia both of which are in The Landing at Disney Springs. There is more exciting news! Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen was announced last August and Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine which will be operated by celebrity chef Art Smith which was just announced today.

Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine

This new farm to fork concept restaurant is scheduled to be open sometime in the summer of 2016. The cuisine is described as rustic southern with a Floridian twist. Some of the southern influenced dishes served will be deviled eggs, low country shrimp and grits, grilled Blackstrap pork chop with sawmill gravy and homemade pimento cheese.

Each dish has a little Florida twist and make guests feel like they’re on the back porch with me for every meal. – Art Smith

The new establishment claims that deserts will be a specialty with daily made pies and cakes including the restaurant’s Mockingbird Cake. I don’t know what Mockingbird Cake is and tried to look it up and could not find much but it is fairly clear that it is not made with mockingbirds. It seems it is a cake with pineapple in it with a cream cheese frosting. I love pineapple so I’ll definitely try it.

Who is Art Smith?

Art Smith was Oprah’s chef and also appeared on Top Chef, Top Chef masters and Iron Chef. He was defeated by Cat Cora on Iron Chef. He has also cooked for several heads of state including Barack Obama.

Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen

jungle-navigation-co-ltd-skipper-canteen

I’m pretty excited about this new joint scheduled to open sometime in 2015. It will feature “jungle fair” and have several dining rooms. One will be sort of like a “crew mess hall” and another is to be a “once-hidden secret meeting room of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers.”

The wait staff of the restaurant will be all Jungle Cruise skippers. If you’ve ever ridden this attraction you know you’ll be entertained by the skippers for sure. If you have not, come to the restaurant ready to laugh.

Jungle Cruise by DearCatastropheWaitress is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
Jungle Cruise by DearCatastropheWaitress is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

I have heard rumors that the serving experience will be similar to Be Our Guest. What that means is that it will be a counter service for lunch and table service for dinner. The nice thing about that is you can eat there for lunch first and save some bucks then if you like the flair, you can go back and try it for the more expensive dinner at a later date.

New Restaurants at Disney World

One of the greatest things about dining at Disney World is that they are constantly adding new stuff. I will readily admit that some of the dining experiences are a bit of a flop, particularly in Magic Kingdom. I’m hoping with the new offering at Skipper Canteen will improve upon that.

Disney Springs does not suffer that issue, though. The competition for really good dining is at a premium. With this in mind I’m pretty confident that Art Smith’s new joint will be a good place to eat.

Disney Has Raised the Price for Tables in Wonderland

crying-baby

We have confirmed that Disney has raised the price for Tables in Wonderland (formerly known as the Disney Dining Experience) and it’s a pretty steep hike. *insert sadface here* The new prices are:

$150 for annual pass holders and DVC members.
$175 for Florida residents.

What is Tables in Wonderland?

Tables in Wonder (TIW) is a program that provides a discount (usually 20% for a party of up to 10 people) at participating Walt Disney World restaurants available for annual pass holders, Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members and Florida residents..  We have found that most restaurants do participate in the program and we usually purchase it for our trips.

An easy way to tell if a restaurant you want to visit participates in the TIW program is to either go to the TIW website or to visit the restaurant’s page on the Disney World dining website. Its also not a bad idea to ask your server, regardless of whether you are at a table or counter service. You can also ask the cast member on the phone when you call to make your reservations.

Sounds great! Where can I buy it?

If you are a DVC member you can visit any guest relations location at Downtown Disney er… Disney Springs or in any theme park.. You will need to show a photo ID and your DVC membership card.

If you are a Floridan resident or an annual pass holder you can either purchase them like a DVC member, at a guest relations location or by phone. If purchasing by phone, you will need to allow three to four weeks for delivery.

The Teaparty by Patrick Emerson is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
The Teaparty by Patrick Emerson is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

OK, so how much did it go up?

For DVC members and annual pass holders it went from $100 to $150. For Florida residents it went from $125 to $175. Why? We do not know. The Tables in Wonderland card is valid for one calendar year from the time of purchase.

A second card can be purchased for a spouse or partner for $50. Both individuals must reside at the same address and be over the age of 21.

Are there blackout dates?

Yes, there are. TIW cannot be used on any major US holiday. Those holidays are New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

And from the TIW website:

These select locations are subject to the following blackout dates: 1900 Park Fare, Chef Mickey’s, ‘Ohana (Dinner Only), Cinderella’s Royal Table, Le Chefs de France, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, and Le Cellier Steakhouse. The dates are November 22-28, 2015 and December 20-26, 2015; March 6-27, 2016; May 29- June 18, 2016; November 13-27, 2016; December 19-25, 2016.

Are there other restrictions?

There are a few. If you’re paying for TIW by credit card, the card must match the name the membership is being purchased under.

Bills cannot be split. If you are using TIW the person with the card must pay the entire bill that is being discounted. If a second card is purchased and both individuals are at the table the discount may be applied to a party of up to 20.

That’s not too bad. Are there other benefits?

One is that if you use valet parking for a restaurant, the valet fee is waved. (Still tip your valet, please.) Parking is also free but only for the express purpose of dining. Let your valet know that you are on TIW when dropping off your car.

waiterDoes Tables in Wonderland include gratuity?

Nope. And remember to always tip based on what the pre-discounted charge would have been. Disney makes this really easy for you by including different tip rates (starting from the recommended 18%) on the bill.

Is it worth it?

The answer to that question is a resounding, “it depends.” You really have to do some math. We always try to figure out where we are going to eat and about how much each meal is going to cost both with and without a TIW discount. If you’re just breaking even or under breaking even on the difference between the full price and the discount price, it might not be worth it for you.

Another consideration is are you going to be visiting Disney World more than once in a calendar year. I can’t imagine that it would not be worth it if you are visiting for at least two weeks and plan on eating most of your meals on Disney property.

For us it usually is worth it. We are a family of five and as long as we are staying for five or more days, the card will more than pay for itself. Not only does it discount food but it also discounts drinks, including those of the adult variety (usually). April and I use this for date night.

But what about the Disney Dining Plans?

If you purchase a Disney Dining Plan, TIW may still be a benefit but it is not likely. There are a few restaurants that offer a TIW discount that are not on the dining plan. You can also get a discount on items you purchase that are not included on the dining plans such as appetizers and alcoholic drinks. I think TIW being a benefit in this case would be an exception and not the norm, though.

Tables in Wonderland does not offer a discount for the purchase of a Disney Dining Plan.

disney-world-beeches-and-cream-family-dinner
The whole fam at Beaches and Cream at Disney’s Beach Club Resort

We are going on three trips to Walt Disney World over the next 12 months so it will really pay for itself when we buy it in December. I’m sad that the price is going up but I have full confidence that it will still add value to our vacations.