Luxe Family Travel IS Within Your Budget (and worth every penny)!
Luxe Family Travel IS Within Your Budget (and worth every penny)!
This year I had the opportunity to take a few family vacations. I know what you’re thinking—what do you mean by vacations? If you traveled with your kids, those are simply TRIPS. But that’s where you’re wrong…because these vacations were at Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort (FSOrlando)! Located less than 3 hours from South Florida, and an easy flight from just about everywhere, it’s the ideal destination for your family trip this year!
A bit of history, I’ve been to Disney with my husband and two kids about 10 times (we’re Floridians, the drive is easy and the annual passes can’t be beat!). We’ve stayed on property and off property. You could say we’re experienced Disney vacationers. We truly value and will pay a premium for the convenience to the park, amenities such as a pool specifically for little ones, a variety of restaurants, and a spacious room. One thing we hadn’t considered prior to staying at the Four Seasons Orlando was how much we enjoy both a quiet hotel (after 8 hours of noise in a park) and a kids club. I didn’t think those things existed so close to Disney, to be honest!
Our first trip to FSOrlando was back in February. We wanted to stay at a hotel with enough activities for the kids so that one day in the park would be enough. I LOVE Disney World, but it’s exhausting, especially for the parents pushing the stroller, negotiating with the toddlers about the rides and snacks and being asked for presents every hour. I go with my husband and kids 3-4 times per year and it DOES get easier as the kids get older, but it’s really nice to look forward to your hotel as much or MORE in this case, as you do going to the parks. Our second trip was in mid-May, yep, we went back only three months after our first stay because it’s THAT amazing AND we traveled with another family who have a 4 year old and 8 month old.
I could go on and on singing the praises of FSOrlando, but I thought I would break this entry down into four main categories that I think are most important to families traveling together:
Rooms. Let me be 100% honest here, my husband and I like traveling and staying at nice hotels, and well, our kids reap the benefits. When I travel for business I am barely in the room, so I don’t go the luxurious route. I generally go the budget route (think hotels convenient to highways that house business travelers for a night or two who are too tired to worry about the lack of room service or the noise from the highway outside their windows). When I travel for personal reasons I do like to do it up, per se, but I do think about price. FSOrlando is luxurious, but it also happens to be SUPER family-friendly and they have some great offers throughout the year. The rooms are spacious enough to accommodate up to five people (2 beds plus a crib). And, they even have balconies so we were able to see the fireworks right from our room in our pajamas (while I ate my traditional obviously magically calorie-less caramel apple from the Magic Kingdom’s Confectionary). When we arrived at our room the pullout was already setup, perfect for naptime for our 2 year old, and on it we found an adorable pirate hat, sword, tiara and tutu–my kids’ faces were priceless when they saw these gifts. That was an excellent touch by the hotel—it set the tone for a really fun weekend stay! I read reviews beforehand and travelers unanimously said the rooms were a great size for families, so we didn’t stay in a suite or even get connecting rooms (though I have seen these rooms and they are fantastic for those who want the extra space, especially if the price is right—go for it!). We went with a Park View Room that comfortably, and I really mean more than comfortably, fit four of us. We opted for a king bed and pull out (two double beds is also an option) and guess who slept where? Yep, you guessed it, us adults took turns on the pullout BUT it was actually comfortable. So yes, the name of the game here is COMFORT. We love comfort and FSOrlando has it!
Recreation. I mentioned above that we wanted to find a hotel with the convenience to Disney, but the amenities that make you not want to leave the hotel. FSOrlando is it. The property has three pools, one of which is for adults-only and one of which is a splash pool perfect for the littlest swimmers/swimmers to be. And I did say adults-only, but how might you ask, can you enjoy the pool without the kids? Well, that’s easy! Utilize the COMPLIMENTARY kids club, Kids For All Seasons (ages 4-12) from 10am to 6pm. This is no standard kids club, the staff are highly trained, outgoing, fun men and women who keep your kids busy for hours on end—indoor fun on the slide and with crafts and video games, outdoor fun in the pool and playground, and an all-around awesome time. My daughter didn’t want to leave—it was spy day the day she was there and they had the coolest activities. You can check your child in and out while you’re at the pool, spa, lunch, etc, and you can even pay extra for your child to eat at the kids club (we did it and she loved it). Do what I did, and finally do something for yourself and go have a spa treatment—arrive early and use their hot tub and hot and cold treatments—soooo relaxing and worth it (spa relaxation areas are complimentary to all guests, as is the fitness center, by the way). If you really want a special night to yourself (who doesn’t), you might also consider letting the kids hang at the club in the evening where for one price your child will have dinner and tons of fun things to do while you can finally have that glass of wine (or two) you’ve been thinking about since you booked this vacation. If your child is under four, they do have a relationship with a reputable local babysitting company (additional fees apply).
Meals. We like choices. One criticism I have with regards to many Disney hotels is that while the hotel restaurants have different names, the food is generic and basically the same options, especially for kids. I mean how many times can my kid eat a hot dog? The answer is 100x because he’s obsessed, but I would never let him do that because it’s bad for him. At FSOrlando they have different food at every restaurant and options for kids EVERYWHERE. They encourage fruit and vegetables as sides, not just fries (believe it or not my daughter doesn’t love fries so this is great for her) and they have variety to suit even the pickiest eaters taste buds. Oh and did I mention that kids 5 and under eat free (with the purchase of an adult entrée) at most of the restaurants? Yes, you heard me right. We enjoyed the Character Breakfast at Ravello (the most civilized, enjoyable character breakfast ever, seriously! Additional fees do apply for this special breakfast), The Lobby Bar for dinner (wings…mmmmm), Lickity Split for dessert (do it, you deserve it!), PB&G for dinner (love the lake and pool views) and also food and drinks by the pool (my new favorite drink is the Stiegl Radler btw). My children and I ate differently everywhere we went and enjoyed every meal. I would recommend going to the Character Breakfast at Ravello (available on Thursdays or Sundays) on the earlier side because the food does run out at times and while it will most certainly be replenished quickly, if you have impatient, young children (uuuuummm I do) you won’t want to wait 15 minutes for the waffles.
Service. Service with a smile is a real thing. Some places have it and some don’t. At FSOrlando everyone has it. From the minute you arrive the valets are helping you with your bags and entertaining your children while you drag the stroller out of the back. And when you check-in your children are treated as well as adults, they’re given an adorable tote bag and a passport. They have to get stamps on the passport from various areas within the hotel and at the end they’re rewarded with ice cream from Lickity Split. If only we got rewarded with a cocktail for schlepping them around…but I digress. If you’ve never been before you’ll be taken on a tour of the 5-acre waterpark upon check-in and the rest of the gorgeous property, inside and out. You’ll have every possible question answered from the history of the resort to the pool hours to the transportation to the parks and so on. For instance, we learned that the on-site bus to the Magic Kingdom and other parks comes twice per hour and some buses are non-stop to Magic Kingdom (score another one for the non-patient kid crew over here!). Want to go to Downtown Disney for a meal or to explore? Although they don’t have a bus that goes there, they will arrange for a mere $20 (we had 8 people in the van for only $20 TOTAL) a car/van (with car seats included, if needed) to take you there via local transportation company Mears. Every night you’ll have turn down service if you want it (and why wouldn’t you?!). We decided to partake in food and drinks by the pool and room service and the staff was amazing—quick and attentive to our family needs (ice cold water pitches constantly refilled and offers to help with anything we need anytime). You’ll feel right at home, that is if your home has a concierge, cocktail service and three pools plus a lazy river and slide.
Now let’s get down to price because I’ve been asked many times if FSOrlando is affordable, and the answer really is YES!!! Now remember, you get what you pay for you, so when you add up all of the features of the hotel, it’s most certainly the right investment for your family. And no pesky resort fees either! I was fortunate to secure a media rate in return for sharing my honest opinions about the hotel. However, you’d be surprised how reasonable the rates are throughout the year, and especially this summer. This summer if you stay three nights, you get the fourth night free. Need I say more? Book it, enjoy it, and save the money (so you can spend it in the stores on-site which are ah-mazing, btw).
And did we mention the Four Seasons app? Download it and check in before you arrive, book spa and dinner reservations and of course book your next stay. I’ve already been checking out all the experiences for our next trip…golf, tennis, dive-in movies at the pool and dinner on the rooftop at Capa (adults night out!).
To learn more about this fabulous resort, follow FS Orlando on social media and check out their website.
Facebook: Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort