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Kansas City's travel star has family ties to Tinseltown stars

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Kathy Sudeikis Kathy Sudeikis
Associated Press/Jason Sudeikis Associated Press/Jason Sudeikis
MISSION, KS (KCTV) -

Kathy Sudeikis is one of the most successful travel agents in the world, and she lives right here in the Kansas City area.

Sudeikis is the vice president of corporate relations for Acendas, a multi-million dollar travel management firm based in Mission. She has served as president of the American Society of Travel Agents. She was inducted in 2011 into the travel industry's Hall of Fame.

But her pioneering efforts in the travel industry are often overlooked by folks with stars in their eyes.

Her son is actor and comedian Jason Sudeikis. Her prospective daughter-in-law is actress Olivia Wilde. Her baby brother is "Cheers" star and comedian George Wendt.

But in a family of famous men, Sudeikis has helped stars plan their trips as well as ordinary families. She found a career she loved and excelled at, while helping break the glass ceiling for women.

"Men were the people in charge, quite honestly, but women were the workhorse of the industry," Sudeikis said. "But women are making their presence known because we are a workforce of women."

Born Kathryn Wendt, she grew up going to an all-girls school. After college, she married the love of her life. She and Dan Sudeikis have been married 45 years and have their son, Jason, along with daughters Lindsay and Kristin.

When her three children were young, the family uprooted from Washington to the Kansas City area where they grew up. Now instead of school events, she gets to see her son on the big screen.

"It's fun to watch him in action," she said.

As she established her career, her talents took her and her clients across the world.

She handled Yul Brenner's trips when he was on tour for The King and I. When he died, she helped his widow carry his ashes in an urn to France.

She's handled unusual requests. She once had to rush to the aid of a client with an issue in North Africa.

It was a family trip where they were in the desert in Morocco, and they ran out of diapers.

"They had me send more diapers to Ouarzazate in the high mountains in Morocco, which was fun,"  she recalled.

Sudeikis is known for her attention to detail and her love of travel.

"It really is a job that has fueled my passion, and I have loved every minute of being in the service industry and being able to give back and just knowing the world is at my fingertips," she said.

She said the Internet has changed the travel industry, but good travel agents are in demand as always whether it's for cruises, hotels, tours, flights, or the complete package.

"There was a real feeling in the industry that the travel agent was going the way of the buggy whip, and we were all going to disappear," she said. "But nothing could be further from the truth . . . . People felt that they were spending more money using a middle man as a travel agent, but what they have learned and what's come full circle and what's in vogue again is using a travel agent to assist you with your business and help you when you're on information overload."

She said travel agents have adapted with the times.

"What we're here to do is counsel you and help you with honeymoons, special events, things you don't want to mess up, reunions, anniversaries, any kind of unique vacation," she said. "What we've done is change our role to be their counselor, their advisor and we really help them sort through the mess. And the bottom line is: Who are you going to call when something goes wrong?

But for all her career successes, family has always come first, she said.

"You really have to acknowledge and accept that if you're going to truly try and have it all . . . you've got to have your priorities right," she said. "Family has to come first or nobody wins."

She loves doing what she does, and isn't ready to retire.

"It's a personal career. And it's about the relationships I've had with people so I'm thrilled to continue working," Sudeikis said.

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