By Eileen Ogintz

ORLANDO, FL (Day One) — Susan and Adam Fairbank have flown to Orlando from London  for their first trip and have tickets to Walt Disney World but their four year old twins don’t really want to go to the parks five minutes away.

They’re having too much fun at the water play area at the new Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World.

“Brilliant” is the way Susan Fairbank describes the largest (spread over 26 acres) Four Seasons resort in the world—not so much because it is luxurious (it is that) but because it really knows what upscale families want and need.

The food is great, the rooms spacious, the staff goes out of their way for kids and it is that rare property that offers complimentary children’s activities all day seven days a week.

Water fun at the Four Seasons Orlando
Water fun at the Four Seasons Orlando

Did I mention there is no resort fee? That there are free fitness and yoga classes, that you can use the terrific spa facilities anytime during your stay?

No wonder so many kids—like three year old cousins Dominick Chase Thacker, here with their moms and aunt from the Midwest, would rather play here than go to the parks.

“We hear all the time that guests are cutting down on their time at the parks to enjoy the resort,” said Resort Manager Ben Shank, noting there are five acres for fun and games.

“It is expensive,” said Fairbank. “But it is really good value.”  Especially in summer when rooms start at under $400 a night.

I love all the complimentary amenities—the teepees where kids can get out of the sun and take a snooze in at the pool, the expansive teen “Hideout” with all kinds of games—video and otherwise, rock wall, dive in movies, water slides and a “splash zone” for the youngest travelers as well complimentary fitness and Yoga classes for the grownups.  There is a special hair-makeup experience, complete with princess outfits for little girls at the spa—designed because reservations at Disney’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique can be hard to get.

Goofy entertains kids at Four Seasons Orlando
Goofy entertains kids at Four Seasons Orlando

“This is better than the Grand Floridian,” declared Natalie Kincaid, here from North Carolina who was staying with her family at Disney’s signature luxury property but had come here for the character breakfast because the food was better (think chef-made charcuterie and omelets made to order,  plus a more personal experience for the kids at comparable price.

“You can get away from all the theming—that’s what we like,” said Joe Bestic, here with his wife and three kids from Jacksonville, FL.  His wife Katie added that after a couple of hours at the Disney parks, the kids were ready to come back and play at the pools.  “The lazy river is really fun,” explained nine year-old Olivia.

“There isn’t anything I don’t like,” said Katie Bestic, who added her family has stayed at upscale hotels all over Orlando and this is by far the best.  It’s the little thoughtful things, she explained—the sunscreen at all of the towel stands, the fresh pineapple  and gourmet licorice brought out at the pool in the afternoon, the gifts and pint-sized robes awaiting the kids in their room.

“You don’t need to ask for anything,” she said, even a diaper genie in the room and baby products for her 18 month old. “

Resort Manager Ben Shank said the idea is to anticipate what guests need—whether sunglass cleaning at the pool or early mini muffins served poolside—every hour some sort of amenity is brought out.  Maybe tired kids need a place to lie down while their parents eat dinner so a booth is arranged at Capa, the rooftop Spanish-inspired steak house. “Time is extremely precious on vacation,” he said.  “You shouldn’t have to worry about anything.”

And because the kids’ activities are complimentary and so much fun, parents don’t feel guilty going to play golf or tennis, head to the spa. (You have to check out the experience shower where tapping an iPad enables you to experience Tropical rain…Arctic Mist or Forest Rain!)  or simply enjoy an adult lunch overlooking the wetlands or at the adult pool.

“To find a mix of luxurious experience that is a good kids experience is hard,” said Joe Bestic.

“For sure we’ll be back,” said his wife Katie. “I wouldn’t stay anywhere else.”