Missed your chance of a family holiday this summer? Whether booked-up Britain, the pingdemic or post-lockdown jitters scuppered your plans, you still have one last chance to rescue your holiday year – the autumn half-term break.
It’s not the easiest time of year to plan a holiday. The weather in some parts of the Mediterranean is long past its best and the tight window of opportunity – most schools break up on Oct 22 and return on Nov 1 – means that some flights to popular destinations are already in short supply.
But if you choose carefully – heading well south in the Med or to the Canaries if you want a beach holiday, or plan a different type of trip where hot sunny weather isn’t so crucial – then there are still lots of excellent options. And if your children are lucky enough to have two weeks off, or break up the previous week, then you really are in clover.
We’ve scoured the websites and brochures for some inspirational holidays for children of all ages. We’ve picked out the most attractive beach breaks, with options in Cyprus, Lanzarote and Crete, and have ideas for child-centred fun in the best of the theme and holiday parks – from Disneyland Paris to Legoland and a holiday centre in Brittany.
We have also included cultural breaks for families who’ve had enough of the beach – they include an introduction for young children to ancient Rome through a gladiator “training camp” and a sunny break in Seville, one of the most family-friendly cities in Europe.
And for those who like to get out into the open air, we have tracked down active breaks, from walking along the Thames exploring the world of Wind in the Willows to cycling around Mallorca.
Fun and games
While Mickey Mouse and friends may not be hugging visitors, they are back in action. Allow a couple of days to explore Disneyland Paris and nearby Walt Disney Studios Park. Magic Breaks (magicbreaks.co.uk) offers a three-night stay at Campanile Val D’France from £478 B&B for up to five passengers and a car, including Eurotunnel crossing, with free shuttle to Disney. Park and ticket information at disneylandparis.com.
Break with bricks
New for this year at Legoland is the world of Mythica, which includes three new rides and 13 huge Legocreatures that come to life when scanned with a downloaded app. For younger children there are old favourites like the Legoland express train. A two-night half-term stay from at the on-site Legoland Resort Hotel near Windsor costs from £1,030 B&B, including theme-park tickets and access to a pirate-themed indoor water play area and swimming pool.
Fun in France
An October stay in a northern France campsite may not sound that appealing, but it’s lodges not tents at the Domaine des Ormes in Dol-de-Bretagne, Brittany. With two or three bedrooms, they come with kitchens and shower rooms, plus access to the facilities including waterpark, football pitch, tennis courts and an 18-hole golf course. Eurocamp (eurocamp.co.uk) can organise a seven-night, self-catering stay from £560 including ferry crossing.
High demand means it’s tricky to find availability at Center Parcs (centerparcs.co.uk) in the main week of half term, but families who can travel earlier can track down stays around the UK, with large subtropical waterparks and activities on tap. A self-catering, three-bedroom Woodland Lodge, at Sherwood Forest Center Parc in Nottinghamshire, sleeping up to six people, costs from £1,249 for a four-night, midweek stay.
Get the adrenaline flowing with a stay at Alton Towers (altontowersholidays.com) near Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire. This year, families can make a bid to grab the crown jewels on the newly launched Gangsta Granny ride. The theme park has accessible, onsite accommodation in its Enchanted Village where Woodland Lodges, sleeping up to five people, cost from £689 B&B for two nights. Theme park passes £156 one-day, £196 two-day and Waterpark £58.
Up and active
Bravo for the Brava
Families who prefer to go at their own pace can opt for a more leisurely, self-guided itinerary with Headwater (headwater.com). Its “Catalonia Activities” tour is based at three-star Hotel Garbi near the resort of Calella de Palafrugell on the Costa Brava. Optional activities include a visit to the botanical gardens at Cap Roig or cycling to the medieval town of Pals and there’s plenty of opportunity for beach picnics. From £979, throughout October.
Go for Gozo
Flopping on the beach isn’t everyone’s idea of an ideal half term. An “Active Gozo” itinerary with Families Worldwide (familiesworldwide.co.uk) is aimed at energetic families with children aged eight and over. Based in a beachfront resort in the small fishing village of Xlendi, this small group tour includes climbing, abseiling, kayaking, mountain biking and an optional catamaran excursion. From £799 including two lunches. Excludes flights.
Meandering around Mallorca
By the end of October, temperatures are cooling in the Balearics, which makes it a good bet for an active break. KE Adventure Travel (keadventure.com) offers a circular, self-guided cycling itinerary on Mallorca taking in coast and inland regions. Luggage is transferred from hotel to hotel, and the route includes Porto Cristo, C’an Picafort and the Tramuntana mountains, beginning and ending at Playa de Palma. From £925 including one lunch and five dinners. Excludes flights.
Winding through the Willows
Potter along the leafy banks of the Thames on a six-night, self-guided “Trails of the Riverbank” walking tour with Inntravel (inntravel.co.uk) with overnight stays in Oxford, Goring and Henley-on-Thames. There are barely any hills to worry about and optional extensions include the Pangbourne loop, which takes in Mapledurham House, thought to be the inspiration for Toad Hall in Wind in the Willows. From £895, including three dinners.
Wildlife in the Wilds
Families with children aged from six to 12 can join a four-night “Great Outdoor Adventure in the Lake District” break offered by the Field Studies Council (field-studies-council.org) at its Cumbrian residential centre, FSC Blencathra near Keswick. Activities include ghyll scrambling at Honister waterfall, a nature night walk with a bat detector, orienteering and bushcraft in the company of an expert wildlife guide. From £274, including all meals.
Creative and cultural
Sun in Seville
The autumn weather in Seville is blissfully warm and sunny, and it’s a lovely compact city for families to explore. Take the kids to see the highlights, including its gothic cathedral with Giralda bell tower and adjoining Alcázar palace and gardens. Three nights at the four-star Petit Palace Santa Cruz Hotel, a converted 16th-century palace in the Old Town, starts at £410, based on four sharing a family room, with Easyjet Holidays (easyjet.com).
Enrol the kids into gladiator school on a four-night break in Rome – it’s one of the activities offered by the five-star Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria Hotel on the outskirts of the city. The hotel’s Kids IT Club for children aged over seven also has pizza-making classes and a city tour, and baby-sitting is available. From £519 for travel on selected dates between Oct 16-24, and from £579 travelling on selected dates between Oct 25-31, room only, through British Airways Holidays (ba.com).
Costs on family break in London soon rack up, especially once you’ve paid for entry fees and a West End show. But you can save by booking a self-catering apartment in Citadines (discoverasr.com), which offers good value family accommodation near Trafalgar Square, within walking distance of the National Gallery, Covent Garden and London Eye. From £223 a night for a one-bedroom apartment sleeping four people during the half term weeks.
Canal trips, Van Gogh sunflowers, the Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum – there’s plenty to entertain children on a cultural break in Amsterdam. Eurostar (eurostar.com) can arrange a two-night, room-only stay in the five-star Pestana Amsterdam from £183, based on four sharing a studio room. By the Amstel river, close to the café district of De Pijp and a six-minute tram ride to Museumplein, the hotel has a big swimming pool, a rarity in Amsterdam, and a spa.
Immerse the family in the fascinating museums of Ironbridge Gorge, birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and world heritage site, near Telford in Shropshire. Highlights include a recreation of a Victorian town including shops and fairground at Blists Hill and Enginuity, a hands-on science and engineering centre. Two nights at Ironbridge Best Western Valley Hotel (thevalleyhotel.co.uk) from £342, room only, based on two standard double rooms; site and ticket information at ironbridge.org.uk.
Sun and sand
Seaside in Cyprus
With the longest summer season of all the Med islands, Cyprus is one of the best bets for warm autumn sunshine. The four-star Alexander the Great Hotel by the beach and harbour in Paphos offers a kids’ club and disco for up to 12-year-olds, plus a children’s pool and early meals. Sovereign (sovereign.com) can organise a half-board stay in a family room from £1,489 for the early half term week (Oct 16-23) or £1,687 for the main half term week (Oct 24-31).
Cottage in Crete
It might not be sizzling, but October temperatures in Crete hover reliably in the low 70s. GIC The Villa Collection (gicthevillacollection.com) has half term availability at Villa Anastasia, with a private pool and sun terrace, in the small seaside village of Kalives near Chania on the north-east coast. Sleeping up to seven, the house is close to sandy beaches, small tavernas and local food shops. From £1,264, based on a family of four travelling together.
The small beach resort of Nerja, 50 miles east of Málaga, is a good pick for families with older, independent teenagers who want to head out to small bars and restaurants locally. First Choice (firstchoice.co.uk) offers a half-board stay in a one-bedroom apartment with a balcony at four-star Marinas De Nerja on Playazo beach, which has two outdoor pools, spacious gardens, kids’ club and spa. From £742 for the week of Oct 16-23 or £1,017 from Oct 23-30.
Sea and Sicily
Long hours of daylight and pleasant heat makes Sicily a good choice for a dose of autumn sunshine. Head for the seaside medieval town of Cefalu on the island’s north coast, a resort with a Norman cathedral and ideally placed for forays to Palermo and nearby beaches. Citalia (citalia.com) can arrange B&B at the Cefalu Sea Palace from £1,233, based on four people sharing a junior suite.
A reasonable flight time (just over four hours) and balmy autumn weather mean the Canaries are a popular half term option. Lanzarote’s southern resort of Playa Blanca has some of the island’s best beaches and a busy marina. THB Tropical Island, a resort hotel, provides plenty of diversions, with heated outdoor swimming pools, football pitch, beach volleyball and water park. From £1,242, self-catering, based on a family of four sharing a one-bedroom apartment; Tui (tui.co.uk).
“Fun and games” prices are for a family of four, unless stated otherwise; “Sun and Sand” prices are per person for seven nights, including flights and transfers, unless stated otherwise; “Creative and cultural” prices are pp and include breakfast, but not transfers, unless stated otherwise; “Up and Active” prices are pp for seven nights, including breakfast, flights and transfers, unless stated otherwise. All quoted prices were correct as we went to press, but may well rise if demand picks up significantly. Read more: Telegraph Travel’s complete guide to the best hotels in Europe.
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