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Tips from the Country's Best Family Travel Agents

THIS MONTH'S FEATURED AGENT: KATHYRN SUDEIKIS of All About Travel, Mission, Kansas; 800/999-344, ext. 325; ksudeikis@allabouttravelusa.com.

Sudeikis has been a travel agent since 1969, and is the mother of three children, now in their twenties (the big family news: her son just joined Saturday Night Live as a writer-actor and her younger daughter recently entered a convent). Sudeikis herself is one of seven children, and her mother has 27 grandchildren. "I have my own family-travel laboratory," says Sudeikis.

Her specialities are planning clan reunions, multi-generational trips, and cruises. She does whatever it takes to ensure her clients' well-being—including shipping diapers to a family on vacation in Morocco. "Anyone can put together a trip," she notes, "but we're about taking care of every detail."

Here, Sudeikis's top tips:

A GREAT THANKSGIVING GETAWAY: "Consider San Diego—you'll have the zoo and Sea World nearly to yourselves. And the weather is divine. It's a perfect long weekend. Stay at the Hilton San Diego Resort, on Mission Bay, next to Sea World, or the Hyatt downtown. If you're looking for something more luxurious, though not as kid-oriented, check out La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla."

THE IDEAL PLACE TO HOLD A FAMILY REUNION: "A cruise ship. You can each do as you like by day and come together at night to share stories. I recommend one of the five ships in Royal Caribbean's Voyager series: they have the most onboard activities, from skating to basketball (full-sized courts). Instead of booking two adjoining seaside cabins, which can get very expensive, reserve a seaside cabin for Mom and Dad and have the kids stay in an inside cabin directly across the hall."

BEST TIME TO GO TO ORLANDO: "Plan quick trips when your kids' school has days off for teacher conferences or staff training sessions: no one else will be there. In truth, I myself would go anytime—except during an August heat wave."

PERFECT SPRING VACATION LOCALES: "Beaches Turks and Caicos, on Turks and Caicos, a beautiful, pristine island off the coast of the Bahamas that's actually the first place Columbus landed. Beaches was built from scratch, rather than created from an existing property. The hotel does a nice job with the kids' program. Also consider the Mexican Riviera. Fly into Cancún, but stay down the beach at Paradisus Riviera, the Iberostar Paraiso Lindo, or the Iberostar Quetzal."

TOP-OF-THE-LINE CARIBBEAN RESORT FOR FAMILIES: "Sandy Lane—its beach, kids' programs, golf, and level of service are outstanding. Warning: it's really, really expensive."

FAVORITE CARIBBEAN ISLANDS FOR FAMILIES: "Grand Cayman—stay at the Westin at the end of the island. It's very pretty, and, of course, all the Westins have those Heavenly Beds, which are spectacular. Your whole family will get into bed and want to stay there. Grand Cayman is also a good place to rent a house, but that means no pre-planned activities for kids. You'll need to bring your own snorkeling gear and some games, and I recommend inviting another family to join you."

FAVORITE HAWAIIAN DESTINATION FOR FAMILIES: "Maui: Stay at the Kea Lani in Wailea Maui."

AN UNDERRATED PLACE FOR FAMILY SUMMER GETAWAYS: "The Colorado Rockies have spectacular scenery, great weather, reasonable prices, and condos with everything you need."

THE NEXT DESTINATION: "Panama! The Gamboa Rain Forest Hotel, 25 minutes outside Panama City, is in the middle of the rain forest. It has a magnificent pool facing the canal, and there are iguanas, alligators, monkeys, and orchids to see. Two more pluses: English is widely understood and you can pay with U.S. dollars."

HOMETOWN PLUG: "Kansas City is a surprise. You can take fun, hands-on tours of the Hallmark and Crayola factories, visit the Truman Presidential Museum (which has a re-creation of the Oval Office), and explore the Missouri River by boat. The Nelson Art Gallery is home to the largest collection of Chinese art outside Beijing. Stay at the Hyatt Regency, or the Westin in the Crane Center. Did you know K.C. has more fountains than Rome?"


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