By Nila Do Simon
Vacationing during the time of coronavirus is as paradoxical as it sounds. On one hand, vacationing, by definition, is a time for leisure and relaxation, a chance to divorce yourself from everyday worries; on the other, the entire world is living in a pandemic, so is it actually possible to truly distance yourself from real-life health concerns while still enjoying some semblance of relief?
The answer is yes.
I don’t know about you, but the past six months have conditioned me to think of pre-coronavirus interactions as a sort of fictional utopia, where friendly strangers happily mingled with each other indoors, smiles weren’t covered by face coverings and a warm embrace greeted you, as well as properly sealed a goodbye. It’s a blunt memory these days, but the feeling and yearning for it awaken in me every so often. I’ve temporarily shelved those pre-coronavirus minglings into the same category Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky going on their dates and Eleven battling demogorgons: It’s all make-believe.
After limiting our outings and contact with others for the past six months and testing negative for the virus, my husband and I felt the time was right to get in touch with a bit of that fiction and take the family on a vacation.
There had to be some ground rules, we insisted. The COVID-19 numbers had to be on a decline, the trip needed to be drivable, the property must exercise uber-strict precautions, and we had to feel like we were on vacation. Like, pre-coronavirus vacation.
After careful thought, my husband and I decided to take our 3-year-old daughter and her 1-year-old brother on a vacation to the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort. And, boy, was it sublime.
First off, staying at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando is innately a glorious experience with luxuries at every corner. Upon check-in, my kids were gifted with their choice of drawstring bags filled with goodies and a scavenger hunt map. When we entered our guest room – a suite with two full bathrooms and a view of Magic Kingdom in the distance – a take-home pirate hat, and tiara and wand set awaited my kids alongside their very own pint-sized bathrobes.
Let’s get the important coronavirus-related details out of the way here. At check-in, guests are screened and need to answer several health- and travel-related questions. In addition, at entrances and exits throughout the main building (where guest rooms and a handful of dining options are located), temperature checks are quietly and efficiently run through the Dahua Technology Thermal Temperature Monitoring Solution. It’s touchless and seamless, using a thermal network camera placed discreetly at an elevated position to identify individuals with elevated temperatures. If temperatures are 100.4 degrees or higher, you and your party are not allowed to enter the building.
Surfaces are constantly sanitized. At the six property restaurants, menus were downloaded through your smartphone instead of handed out via paper format. And yes, hand sanitizers were aplenty, including personal travel-sized ones found in guest rooms.
All employees are required to wear masks and many wear gloves. In public indoor spaces and while receiving services in their rooms, guests ages 10 and above are required to wear masks, and those 2 through 9 are encouraged to don a covering. My 3-year-old, who oftentimes forgot to bring her mask or lost it (add that to the long list of misplaced items we’ve accrued since becoming parents, like gloves, socks and hats), was kindly gifted a sealed mask upon entrance into any public indoor area. And guess what? Every guest I saw happily complied with wearing the mandatory mask.
Currently, the property is operating at no higher than a 50% guest capacity. Throughout the sprawling 26.5-acre property, it was rare to rub elbows with other vacationers, perhaps with the exception of dinner, when we could all collectively use a little nourishment from the day’s activities.
And what vast, high-quality activities there were. Though it’s closely affiliated with Disney World, the Four Seasons Orlando property alone had enough to offer our family without the need to go to the parks. For my water-obsessed kids, there’s a five-acre water playground with a splash pad that has to be the envy of all other splash pads. Not only was water feverishly jetted from the ground’s geyers in choreographed parts, but it also sprayed down from various other angles and structures.
Our family of four spent a grand amount of time on the lazy river, because, well, why not? Impeccably maintained and designed, complete with a mini-rapid and waterfall, the lazy river accomplished exactly the intent of its two-word name.
When we weren’t at the splash pad or lazy river, our family swam what feels like a hundred laps around the 7,590-square-foot family pool. One of the best parts about it (besides the poolside cocktails, a favorite of my husband’s) was the dive-in movie showing. A huge outdoor screen was placed at the far edge of the family pool, where thankfully the showing of “The Secret Life of Pets” demonstrated to my kids that pets were a handful and our family wasn’t at all equipped to host one.
For older children, there’s Kids for All Seasons, which allows adults to drop off kids for counselor-guided and -supervised programming. Next to the pool area is The Hideout, an indoor lounge filled with video game options and a billiards table.
One of social distancing’s best sports – golf – is a mainstay at the Four Seasons. The Tranquilo Golf Course at Four Seasons Resort Orlando is a par-71 course designed by Tom Fazio, the architect behind some of the nation’s finest facilities. My husband enjoyed a private lesson with one of the pros. And when I say “enjoyed,” I mean it to the fullest definition. According to my husband, the pro quickly deciphered and corrected my husband’s wonky swing mechanics. By the time the 30-minute lesson ended, my husband was literally hitting straighter and more consistently than he’d ever had before. My husband was so amped up from the lesson that a few days later, he may have spent a small fortune buying “necessary” accessories and apparel for his golf game at a local pro shop.
The reality that we were vacationing during a pandemic was not lost on us during our four-day stay. On the contrary, it was very real. Seeing young children wear the very necessary face masks as if it’s as natural as sliding on shoes made this pandemic an extremely relevant part of my vacation. But spending a holiday at the Four Seasons Orlando allowed us a moment to enjoy the luxuries that life has presented us in this new normal, and that a vacation doesn’t have to be fiction.