TRAVEL Q&A

A Golden (Gate) Reunion

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By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 23, 2006

Q. My husband and I are celebrating our 60th anniversary in San Francisco with 14 family members. Any suggestions for a successful reunion?

Lillian Altman, Bethesda

A. San Francisco is tailor-made for family reunions: It's compact, easy to navigate and has enough activities to satisfy even the most demanding family members. "There are so many different things to do, whether you have 14 or 400 people," says Caria Tomczyskowska, director of operations at California Tour Consultants (800-227-4276, http://www.catour.com/ ), which customizes trips for large groups. "The possibilities are endless."

At many San Francisco attractions, you can keep the group intact. For example, the Giants' modern ballpark can accommodate large families; ditto for Alcatraz and the 55-foot Adventure Cat catamaran, which cruises the bay. You can also ferry over to Sausalito and let the family run free -- the kids explore the Bay Area Discovery Museum, the adults peruse the art galleries and everybody gets ice cream at Lappert's.

Depending on your family's mobility, you can opt for a walking tour or a double-decker bus excursion. City Guides (415-557-4266, http://www.sfcityguides.org/ ), for one, organizes private-group walking tours of such iconic areas as Chinatown and Haight-Ashbury. The bus tour loops around certain tourist centers and allows passengers to hop on and off. To cover a week's worth of public transportation, plus admission to six diversions, invest in a $49 City Pass.

Since dining en masse can be trying, Deborah Reinow, vice president of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, recommends Chinatown's banquet-style restaurants (try Empress of China) or North Beach's Italian eateries (Mona Lisa, Steps of Rome). For accommodations, book several suites in a centrally located hotel, such as the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway (415-441-4000, http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/ ), near Fisherman's Wharf. For your final evening, Tomczyskowska recommends the Carnelian Room, where you can toast 55 floors above the city. Info: San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, 415-391-2000, http://www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com/ .

Can you recommend hotels in St. Thomas that are romantic but cost under $200 a night?

Tammy Arsenault, Woodbridge

On St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, every day is Valentine's Day -- though some properties up the cupid quotient more than others. "St. Thomas in and of itself is romantic," says Kandi Edelstein, a honeymoon specialist with CI Travel (888-627-8000, http://www.citravel.com/ ), "but [$200] is considered budget in St. Thomas. For those places with private villas and secluded beaches without tourists, you can expect to pay more."

St. Thomas hotels that charge $200 or less a night are usually standard hotels or chains. The Best Western Emerald Bay Resort (800-780-7234, http://www.bestwestern.com/ ), for example, starts at $129 a night. But while the price might be right, you could be skimping on romance.

Don't lose heart just yet. The Point Pleasant Resort (800-524-2300, http://www.pointpleasantresort.com/ ) has villa-style suites, a nature preserve and two beaches, one named Sugar, the other Pineapple. Rates start at $180, with breakfast. If you're willing to really stretch your wallet and ferry over to St. John, Caneel Bay (340-776-6111, http://www.caneelbay.com/ ) is "an incredibly romantic destination," Edelstein says. The luxury resort has seven secluded beaches, a wine room and a national park outside its front door. Rates start at $350 a night, with breakfast.

Is there regular shuttle service between BWI and Dulles?

Kirk Heselbarth, Manassas

Most airport shuttle companies that service the D.C. area also run the route between BWI and Dulles airports. The drive time ranges from 1 1/2 hours (no traffic) to more than two hours (rush hour). Most offer daily service and require reservations. Among the options:

· Go Airport Transportation (877-SEDAN-VAN, http://www.goairportshuttle.com/ http://)/ costs $105 one way for a shared ride or $125 for a private car.

· The Airport Shuttle Inc. (800-776-0323, http://www.theairportshuttle.com/ ) runs $79 for one person and $11 for each additional passenger.

· Baltimore Economy Shuttle (877-VAN-FOR-U, http://www.baltimoreairportshuttle.com/ ) goes for $90 per person and $20 per extra passenger.

· Super Shuttle (800-258-3826, http://www.supershuttle.com/ ) is $76 for one person, $85 for two.

Going by public transportation is very involved: Take the B30 BWI Express Metro bus ($3) from BWI to the Greenbelt Metro station, then take the train to West Falls Church and catch the Washington Flyer shuttle to Dulles ($9). Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com), fax (202-912-3609) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Include your name and home town.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company


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