Most people arrive in Orlando anxious to see Disney characters. But Orlando is home to my grandchildren and nothing compares to arriving at the airport and having a grandchild run to me with lots of hugs and kisses. On a recent visit, I invited my three little loves to a slumber party at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort without their parents. Here are my tips for surviving the night with a three to one kid to adult ratio.

Designed in a Spanish-colonial Mexican theme with brightly colored casitas, rustic ranchos and beachfront cabanas, the Coronado Springs Resort encircles a 22-acre lake. The resort was my home for the annual Traveling Mom retreat.  Upon arrival I unpacked my Ricardo carry-on, settled in and braced myself for the final night which I would share with the three little ones.

Globetrotting Grandmom with the Slumber Party Grandkids, Photo by Jennifer Acocella

Globetrotting Grandmom with the Slumber Party Grandkids, Photo by Jennifer Acocella

Let me introduce you to the grandkids. My son’s children are Katherine, 7, and Marshall, 5.  My daughter’s son is Benjamin, 4. Katherine is a princess and the easiest child to manage in the world. Marshall and Benjamin are also terrific kids, but when they get together all manner of silliness emerges. These three tips made for a fun and memorable night for all of us.

Deplete that Endless Energy Supply

Who hasn’t wished they could bottle the energy of children? They can run for hours and never tire. Knowing this, I decided to keep them really busy during the day so that some of that energy would dissipate before bedtime. I invited the grandkids and their parents to join me for an afternoon at the pool. This gave me some time with my children and their spouses and provided much needed help with the pool time.

Dig Site Pool, Photo by Jennifer Acocella

Dig Site Pool, Photo by Jennifer Acocella

The resort’s main aquatic area is known as the Dig Site Pool.  It includes a 50-foot replica of a Mayan pyramid where water streams down the steps into the Lost City of Cibola pool. There is also a 123-foot-long waterslide featuring a spitting Jaguar spirit animal. The essence of a spitting spirit animal was lost on the kids, but they loved the slide.

I strapped on my new waterproof Panasonic A500 video camera and jumped in the pool with the kids.  Admittedly, I’m a novice at taking videos but the Panasonic A500 is small and easy to use and it was fun to capture some of the splashes and delighted squeals as the little ones took turns coming down the waterslide. They even convinced me to join them – thankfully no one was videotaping me!

After a few hours of sunshine and swimming a bit of the energy was depleted and the parents left for their date nights. I was on my own.

Keep Dinner Casual and Save Room for Ice Cream

The resort has numerous dining options, but the key to keeping dinner time enjoyable for little ones is to keep it casual. I chose the casual colorful environment of Pepper Market. The menu was simple and the restaurant was spacious enough to allow us to sit away from other patrons. This was infinitely more fun for the kids because I didn’t have to constantly tell them to be quiet. Marshall and Benjamin were thrilled because it gave them the freedom to play their newly invented game “Let’s gross out GiGi TerBear with our food combos.”  Which, of course, led to uncontrollable giggles.

The downside to Pepper Market is that there is no table service. Everything is ordered at the counter. It was a bit of a challenge to keep them all entertained and quiet while standing in line with other patrons.

After our dinner of silliness, we stopped into Café Rix for ice cream. Their parents always make them finish their dinner before having dessert, but I’m the Grandmom so I can indulge them and break a few rules. The young man working the counter was extremely patient and let the kids try as many samples as they wanted – because choosing the right flavor of ice cream is extremely important.

Don’t Expect Much Sleep and Always Make Time for Giggles

Ready for Giggles, Photo by Jennifer Acocella

Ready for Giggles, Photo by Jennifer Acocella

I remember slumber parties when I was a kid and sleep was rarely part of them. But, since the little ones needed at least a few hours of slumber, we started winding down when we returned from dinner. With everyone bathed and a few books read, I turned to the Disney Channel for assistance. There is always something age appropriate and it was the easiest way to get them settled down and into bed.

Once the Disney show was over, I tucked them into their beds and started to sing some of their favorite songs. Just about the time I thought they were going to be lulled into slumber, the boys started singing with me and changing the words. This, of course, made everything hilarious and once again I had lost all control.  I knew they would eventually sleep, so I gave up and joined in the giggling.