By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: I'm planning to take my 10-year-old daughter and my mother for a winter vacation somewhere hot but we have a different "to do list." My daughter dreams about swimming with dolphins and playing with other children in a kids club. I love shopping, so it would be nice to have some stores nearby. My mother wants to see night shows. We'd like a hotel no less than 4-stars without having to take out a second mortgage. What's your suggestion on the country? Any ideas on good clubs and deals?

A: An all-inclusive package will certainly fit the bill. As for countries, there are a number of tour companies specializing in all-inclusive packages to such destinations as Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Barbados to name a few. One such company is Signature Vacations. I consulted with Martha Chapman, Manager of Corporate Communications, who offers the perfect solution to your holiday dilemma. "The Mayan Riviera might meet everyone's needs," she says citing how the white sandy beaches and warm turquoise water are perfect for family vacations.

"Day trips are very popular here --and we even feature one which combines shopping in Cancun, about 90 minutes away with a dolphin encounter!" says Chapman and adds, "Cancun boasts some amazingly modern shopping malls." In nearby Playa del Carmen, there are literally dozens of tiny stores with souvenirs. Once there, a must-see is Xel-ha (pronounced "shell-ha"), an oceanfront nature ecopark with nature trails, snorkelling, and dolphin encounters. "In my experience there is a "sliding scale" of costs for dolphin encounters, whether you vacation in Mexico or the Caribbean," reminds Chapman and continues, "It's more costly to swim with them and to have an "encounter" where you get to touch the animals. Over US$100 is not uncommon for the latter, though anyone I've spoken to who's done it says it's worth every penny."

Recently Signature Vacations launched its biggest SunBook brochure, a 238-page booklet, featuring over 100 resorts in 11 destinations. The 5-star Gala Beach Resort Playacar offers a kids club, evening shows and themed nights such as Fiesta Night and Italian night. For details, visit your nearest travel agent or call 1.800.830.1111


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All text & photos 2004.