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Active luxury in Jamaica

For families of all ages, Half Moon Bay (halfmoon.com; 1-876-953 2211), a luxury 160-hectare resort outside of Montego Bay, is like a home away from home, or rather, a mansion away from mansion. Large groups can rent one of the 34 white-stucco villas, all with pool and staff, including a cook, maid and butler, who is indispensable at cocktail hour. (Villas start at $2,900 a night for eight people. For suites in the hotel, rates start at $450 for a double.) Younger children actually ask to go to the Kids' Club -- leaving the morning free for parents -- because the activities are so fun. Teenagers take to the social scene at the various bars. With 13 tennis courts, a gym, a spa (currently under renovation), an arcade, a golf course, water sports, horse-riding and swimming with dolphins, everyone can find something to do. Driving golf carts around the landscaped resort also counts as an activity, as does celebrity spotting. This past Christmas, David Bowie and Imam were in residence.

-- Sarah Hampson

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Schussing State-side

Since you can't usually ski and sunbathe on the same day in Canada in March, it's worth looking south for a snow and sun holiday, especially now that the Canadian dollar is relatively strong. Resorts in Southern California, such as Mammoth Mountain ( http://www.mammothmountain.com) and Snow Summit ( http://www.bigbearmountainresorts.com), offer great skiing and are just a few hours by car from the beaches of Los Angeles. Then there's Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort ( http://www.skilasvegas.com), which lets you combine skiing with some Vegas glitz. If you're stuck without a passport, fret not: discount carriers such as Southwest Airlines (southwest.com) and JetBlue (jetblue.com) fly out of border cities such as Buffalo, Syracuse, Burlington and Seattle.

-- Adam Bisby and Iain MacMillan

Unplug at Lake Louise

Leave the MP3 players behind and take your teens skiing at Alberta's Lake Louise Mountain Resort (skilouise.com). This grand dame of Rocky Mountain skiing is in the midst of what management calls its "best season ever," so a snowy March Break is a safe bet. There are four mountain faces to explore, with runs of all difficulty levels from every chairlift. At day's end, head to Whitehorn Lodge, where you can dine on Alberta beef and then ski by torchlight down the mountain. Avoid the crowds in nearby Banff by staying at the Baker Creek Chalets (bakercreek.com; 403- 522-3761), located in a peaceful woodland setting just minutes from the hill. (Double-occupancy rates start at $150). Rather than spelling familial disaster, the lack of TVs and phones in the units provides a chance to decompress and reconnect -- it's amazing the conversations you can have with no electronic distractions. Parents will also appreciate discount lift tickets sold at the chalets.

-- Jane Langille

Urban education in NYC

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The allure of New York for children lies in the combination of the ordinary being extraordinary, and everything else being audacious. Central Park, the subway, Grand Central Station, the Empire State building, the American Museum of Natural History's towering dinosaurs and live butterfly exhibit (amnh.org) -- it all keeps boys and girls mesmerized. Once they accept that the Museum of Modern Art may be out of the question, parents soon discover that the things children most enjoy are abundant and often free (including the subway, if you're less than 44 inches tall). Dip into museums affordably with the CityPass ( http://www.citypass.com; six attractions cost $53 for adults and $44 for children). You'll experienced a true urban education together, with a furry toy kitten from FAO Schwartz ( http://www.fao.com) smoothing over tense moments.

-- Anakana Schofield.

Budget digs on Bequia

The Frangipani Hotel on the island of Bequia is small, funky, kid-friendly -- and the best bargain in the Caribbean. It's like a holiday at a charming, sophisticated cottage, with an international clientele and few mod-cons. Double rooms in the old part of the hotel, with access to a palm-fringed verandah, still go for about $70. The Frangipani (frangipanibequia.com) has a pleasant, open-air waterfront dining room that serves three meals a day, plus snacks, and hosts a weekly buffet barbecue and "Jump Up" that's a favourite with families from the Frangipani and surrounding villas. This island is unlikely to entertain a teenager who can't go a day without MSN, but for vacationers who wouldn't mind avoiding those particular kids on their March Break, Bequia offers plenty of family fun: great beaches, terrific food, good snorkelling, a tennis court, book and craft stores, hikes around the island and even sailing excursions through the breathtaking Grenadines.

-- Kimberley Noble

Niagara's watery fun park

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It's been open less than a year, but the buzz around Great Wolf Lodge has already started to swirl in schoolyards. With more than a dozen water slides and half a dozen pools, including a massive wave pool, this is a watery haven for children. Surrender to your inner child and climb aboard with the kids and try the Niagara Rapids Run or the Canada Vortex, two of the more heart-stopping rides. Line-ups are never too long, since the 100,000 square-foot water park is only open to lodge guests. If all this excitement is too much for you, escape to the hotel's Aveda Spa for some peace and quiet. Or book a babysitter for a night and make the 20-minute drive to Niagara-on-the-Lake, where a number of great restaurants and wineries cater to the finer things in life. March Break rates from $449.

-- Jeff Silverstein

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About the Author
Life columnist

Sarah Hampson is an award-winning journalist whose work started appearing in The Globe and Mail in 1998, when she was invited to write a column. Since 1993, when she began her career in journalism, she had been writing for all of Canada's major magazines, including Toronto Life, Saturday Night (now defunct), Chatelaine, Report on Business and Canadian Art, among others. More

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