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Going Away for the Millennium

Kathy Sudeikis literally spent years considering which spectacular vacation spot her family would choose to usher in the millennium. But even though Sudeikis works for a travel agency, they're not going anywhere.

``It's so terribly expensive, and we realized we wanted to share it with all of our family and friends,'' said Sudeikis, a national officer of the 26,000-member American Society of Travel Agents.

So on the stroke of midnight this New Year's, her gang will raise their glasses in Kansas City -- both to the new century and her daughter's 21st birthday.

``It makes a lot more sense money-wise to travel the weeks before or afterward,'' she explained. ``We see a lot of people backing away from big millennium trips when they find out how much it's going to cost,'' added Nancy Schretter from AOL's much-trafficked Family Travel Network. Instead, Schretter said, they're seeking more moderate driveable options where family and friends can gather with their kids.

Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd would agree with that strategy. His Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem just issued a sobering report, warning that travelers should be prepared for significant snafus as airlines, trains and ships grapple with Y2K computer glitches. Any parent knows that kids, invariably cranky and impatient, will only make such travel woes that much worse.

The U.S. Department of State is also warning Americans what they may face traveling abroad as a result of computer problems -- canceled flights, ATM and credit cards not working, lack of available medical care. (Check out the State Department's Web site at http://travel.state.gov.)

``The FAA and others are working hard, but (air travel) is still an area of great concern to us, whether or not travel, particularly international, is going to be safe as it ought to be for Americans,'' said Dodd in releasing his report earlier this month.

But the Air Transport Association, the airlines' trade group, pooh-poohs such concerns, insisting that the carriers, air traffic controllers and airports will be ready. And such dire predictions aren't stopping those determined to greet the millennium in grand fashion far way from home with their children beside them.

``I'm grateful I can afford to do this,'' said David Barron, a Cincinnati physician who is taking his family to Aruba, paying nearly $1,000 a plane ticket. ``I can't wait to see the fireworks on the island. We're going to have a great time.''

According to the Yankelovich Travel Monitor, which tracks travel trends, one in four leisure travelers are planning a special trip to celebrate. The top picks: New York City, Florida and Las Vegas.

The Andersons are going a lot farther from home. The Menlo Park, Calif., couple are taking their two sons on an African safari they have been planning for more than 18 months and spending $20,000.

Larry Anderson, a manager for a pharmaceutical company, and is wife Mary, a nurse, readily acknowledge that their family vacations traditionally have been a lot more mundane -- hiking in Yosemite National Park, for example.

``You can spend money on your kids in a lot of ways,'' said Anderson. ``My wife has wanted to go back to Africa for more than 20 years, and this is an experience that will last a lifetime, for all of us.''

The good news is that if you want to travel and are willing to pay a premium for hotel rooms and plane tickets, there's still plenty of choices out there.

Sure, Disney World is sold out, but there's still room at other Orlando-area hotels, such as the Orlando World Center Marriott Resort, which has four-night family millennium packages starting at $1,999. (Call 800-228-9290 or www.marriott.com and ask about family packages at Marriott resorts in Scottsdale and the U.S. Virgin Islands.)

So what if you can't afford $2,000 a night for a fancy Las Vegas hotel room? With more than 120,000 hotel rooms available, you'll be able to stay off the Strip for $200 or less, says the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau. (Call 702-892-0711 or www.lasvegas24ours.com.)

Aspen may be booked, but there's still room in Vail Valley and elsewhere in snow country. Call your favorite ski resort.

Here are some other choices:

-- Book a $6,000-plus African family safari or another fabulous but pricey family adventure trip over the millennium with Thompson Safaris (800-262-6255 or www.familyadventures.com) or Wildland Adventures (800-345-4453 or www.wildland.com.)

-- Come to New York City where there will be a 24-hour bash starting at 7 a.m. and celebrating for each time zone around the globe. (Call the NYCVB Hotel Hotline at 800-846-ROOM or www.nycvisit.com.)

-- Gather your best friends and favorite family members in a big house somewhere. Check out ResortQuest International (at 877-588-5800 or www.resortquest.com). The travel club Hideaways International also has ``room at the inn'' in Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean. (Call 800-843-4433 or www.hideaways.com.)

Even cheaper would be arranging to swap houses with another family. Intervac will list your home and give you access to thousands of would-be millennium swappers for $83. (Call 800-756-4663 or www.intervac.org.)

-- Book a hotel room for the night and take the kids to the non-alcoholic First Night Celebrations that will be staged in more than 200 large and small cities. (Call First Night International at 617-357-0065 or www.firstnightintl.org to find the nearest one.) Boston hotels, for example, are offering First Night two-night packages starting at under $700. (Call 888-SEE-BOSTON or www.bostonusa.com.)

-- Celebrate on a cruise ship. Royal Caribbean's newest ship, Voyager of the Seas, due in November and with 15,000 square feet of kids' space, still has openings. Rates start at $3,000 per person for the seven-night trip. Check with your travel agent or www.royalcaribbean.com.

Good luck. As for me, I think this might be the year to give in and let the kids have that big New Year's Eve Party.

(c) 1999, Eileen Ogintz. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate


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