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Greetings and Happy New Year! I’ve decided to start a series of articles I call “Dining Plan or Wonderland”. In these articles I will look at a menu for a Table Service restaurant (or Counter Service in Animal Kingdom) and decide what I would buy if I was on the Dining Plan and what I would buy if I had purchased Tables in Wonderland. Then I compare the prices and decide which is more likely to actually happen.

Many podcasts and articles dive into the dining plan and it seems like everyone has an opinion about it. Some travelers refuse to go to Walt Disney World without it and some people don’t see the value in it. I hope to give both options a fighting chance and earnestly look at both options with an open mind.

Dining Plan:

I’m not a mathematician so I didn’t personally crunch the numbers to pull the “cost per meal” on the dining plan. Instead I used this post to have Len Testa tell me how much it costs. At the time of writing the dining plan costs $60.64 per day for an adult. Reading that Touringplans.com article I will use the following numbers for the price you pay per credit:

Table Service: $33.50
Counter Service: $14.75
Snack: $4.24
Refillable Mug: $8

For the purpose of these articles I will assume I have paid $33.50 for a table service credit.

Tables in Wonderland:

The Tables in Wonderland card is a perk allowed to Annual Passholders and DVC owners. It costs $100 and gives a 20% discount at most Table Service and a few Counter Service locations around the resort. The perk lasts for 1 year. The discount applies pre-tax on any food or alcoholic beverage. There’s a maximum of 10 people per meal that can receive the discount. The named owner of the card needs to be present and pay for the meal, though this depends on the Cast Member. The break even point on this discount card is $500 dollars spent in a calendar year.

50’s Prime Time Cafe:

I’ve never had the opportunity to dine at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, though the menu seems to be right up my alley. I love comfort food, milkshakes, and old television I would have watched on Nick at Nite in the 90’s. I don’t know that I would enough being fussed at by the wait staff but we’re talking about food cost here and there is definitely a lot I would like to try.

When I use the dining plan I tend to go straight for the biggest meal on the menu. This time will be no exception. The sampler platter would be my choice. I am extremely indecisive with food so this takes a choice away without letting me test. The price for this meal is $20.99. I’ve heard rumor that they will let you get a milkshake for your beverage on the dining plan so I would get the Peanut Butter and Jelly milkshake for $5.59. For my desert I would choose Dad’s Brownie Sundae for $6.49.

I think of myself as health conscious but yes I would really order this much food. When I go to a buffet I always feel the need to make “them” regret the day they let me in there. I haven’t really glutted out in quite a few years so I would likely have to hurl 30 minutes after leaving the restaurant. It would be worth it to make Disney hurt as much as possible. Unfortunately the house, and the Mouse, always wins.

If you add up the retail price on this feast after 6.5% tax you would get $35.22. That works out to saving $1.72. You then have to pay tip. 18% of that would be $6.34. So you’re out the door paying $6.34 for a large bounty of food.

Looking at the menu as someone paying out-of-pocket with my Tables in Wonderland discount I would actually make most of the same choices. I’d stick with the sampler and order the Peanut Butter and Jelly milkshake. I would definitely skip the brownie, though. If I felt that I needed a second dessert I would go to the Writer’s Stop and get a carrot cake cookie.

So the Sampler is still $20.99 and the PB&J Shake is still $5.59. That is $26.58 pre-discount. With 20% off and 6.5% tax it is $22.65. Add on 18% tip from the pre-discount price ($4.78) and you get $27.43 out the door.

Summary:

I realize that was a lot of numbers so I figured a summary was in order.

Dining Plan: The “price paid” for the table service credit was $33.50 and I got $35.22 worth of food. I left a $6.34 tip on the table.

Wonderland: I paid $27.43 including tax and tip, but also had to pay $100 dollars for that discount and didn’t get as much food.

Winner: Wonderland

This article was written from the perspective “What would I actually order if I went into the 50’s Prime Time Cafe with each of these discounts”. For me personally, I would rather get the Wonderland discount because I don’t need a brownie sundae and a milkshake in one meal.

The dining plan can be a great value if you wanted to eat big meals, have two desserts every day, maximize the cost of your snacks, and refill your resort mug 4 or more times every day. If you get “free” dining you need to do the math to see how much you’re paying vs getting a room only discount.

To soothe my curiosity I actually did the math on Wonderland with the brownie added in. The total came to $34 and some change after tax and tip.