October half term is upon us and many parents are thinking about slipping in a cheeky holiday before the run-up to Christmas but are wondering if things are still available. As it turns out, it’s not too late to book something and there are deals to be had.
Autumnal weather doesn’t mean that going abroad is the only option. Staying in a hotel with good facilities and options nearby if the weather turns is a good idea.
Getaways in Cornwall
The family-run Sands Resort in Newquay offers half-term short stays from £50 per adult per night including breakfast. The hotel has an indoor pool and play areas. Outside, you will find a tennis court, pitch n’ putt course, crazy golf, a maze and various playgrounds. If the weather holds, the beach is a short walk away. The Eden Project, which is a great place to visit for families, has plenty of activities on over the week and is just half an hour’s drive away. One great feature of the hotel is the wide range of equipment that you can borrow for free – prams, body boards, buckets, spades and bottle warmers among other things.
Another Cornwall retreat recommended for half term is The Idle Rocks in the pretty harbour town of St Mawes. Most of the hotel’s rooms overlook the sea with the theme a classy nautical chic. There’s no pool but you can hire kayaks and sailing boats nearby. The hotel does separate high tea for kids and there is a video iPad baby-watching service so you can relax downstairs while your cherubs sleep.
A farm in Cumbria
Let the kids find out all about farm life with a stay on a family-run farm in Cumbria. Hayloft Cottage is a converted outbuilding with exposed stonework and oak beams and has pretty views of the Cumbrian countryside. There’s a children’s play area and the owners also offer guided tours around the farm. It’s a perfect spot for enjoying some fell walking or exploring the Lake District. Four nights for a family of four with Sykes Cottages is from £301.
A castle in Scotland
If the dog is as much a part of the family as the kids, why not take your canine pal to Castle Wing in Scotland? This castle is set in 600 acres and sleeps up to 16 plus two dogs and Glasgow with its many museums is just 20 minutes away. The price has been reduced from £2,465 to £2,095 for half-term.
A lodge in Galway
I can’t guarantee the weather will be any better than at home but County Galway has plenty to offer at half-term. There’s a huge Halloween party in Galway during the week and also a food fair in the spectacular setting of the Burren National Park. Stay at the luxurious Glenusk Lodge with Sheepskin for £900 for three nights self-catering for a family of up to six. Loughwell Farm Park with its animals and playbarn and Ireland’s largest aquarium are both nearby, making this a great place for animal lovers.
To get a bit of warmer weather now that it’s getting a bit nippy at home, why not spend half-term abroad?
Brittany and France
If you want a quiet and relaxing half-term, you should probably avoid Chateau Lignol in Brittany which has its own trampoline and drum kit. This 14th-century hunting lodge that sleeps 10 also has a heated pool and table football, making it the perfect place for an autumnal retreat. The half-term week costs £2,575 through Olivers Travels.
Country Kids is a converted farm in France’s Languedoc region and is a great choice for those with primary school age kids. It has a petting zoo, heated pools and a treehouse. If you stay a week, you also get a free family photoshoot. Nice idea. There are several apartments on the site, catering from four to 12 people, and you can go either on a self-catered or all-inclusive basis. The adults are not forgotten either; there are wine tastings, tennis lessons and a spa on site. On Friday mornings, the grown-ups can have a lie-in too: there is a pyjama club to keep the kids entertained every week from 7am.
A theme park in Holland
Efteling in South Holland is regularly ranked as one of the best theme parks in the world and, with a focus on Hans Christian Andersen and Brothers Grimm, is especially popular with younger families. You’ll find steam trains, carousels and classic car rides as well as a maze. Thrill-seeking kids will like the bobsleigh ride and Python roller coaster. You can stay within walking distance at the Efteling Hotel and prices start at £672 for three nights for a family of four including breakfast, four days access to the park. Children under three go free of charge.
Greek islands and Cyprus
The water in the Med is still warm at this time of year so what better than a week of water sports with Mark Warner. You can have a week at the five-star Levante Beach Resort on the Greek island of Rhodes for £1,075 per adult (£975 children) including flights, transfers, half board, sailing and windsurfing tuition and free daytime child care for 2 to 17 year olds.
Scott Dunn has some great discounts this half term at the five-star Anassa spa hotel in Western Cyprus. The hotel and its cluster of whitewashed villas round the village square, is great for families: sailing, windsurfing, jet skiing and wake boarding are all on offer. Anassa runs an Explorers kids club for kids between four months and 11 years and Scott Dunn is launching its new teens programme, Crew, at the hotel this half term. Seven nights half board for a family of four, with two connecting rooms costs from £1,850 per person including flights and transfers.
Sea kayaking, white-water rafting and exploring caves are on the agenda of a seven-night holiday Active Greek Odyssey with Activities Abroad in the Peloponnese region of Greece. The price is £1,015 for adults and from £875 for children including flights, transfers, most meals and guided activities.
Crete, Turkey and elsewhere in the Med
CV Villas have a number of properties still available for the week including Villa Anemos in Crete. The company is offering 25% off the price (now £2,551) and including free pool heating. It has also reduced the price on Villa Kayra in Turkey which sleeps up to 10, from £1,077 to £821 per week. The villa has a swimming pool terrace with views over Kalkan and the nearby islands.
Elsewhere in the Med, Abercrombie and Kent have several villas available for half-term including on Sicily, where temperatures can still reach 22C in the warmest part of the day in October. Cefalu is a beautiful old seaside town with stunning buildings and perfect sandy beaches and Casa Marevista sits on a hillside above town with spectacular views.
Also on Sicily is the amazing Verdura Resort. Scott Dunn has a half-term deal at the property which was voted best spa in Europe in 2012 by Conde Nast. Seven nights’ half board costs from £1,720pp based on a family of four sharing two deluxe rooms, a discount of 25%. The resort’s kids’ club Verduland has a range of activities for babies through to teens.
Spain with the whole family
Asturias in northern Spain is a wonderful destination for active families and new flights into the region from Gatwick and Heathrow have made it really accessible. It’s an ideal area to go hiking, canoeing, horse riding and even mushroom hunting. There are also some cool caves to explore at El Soplai and Altamira and a cable car at nearby Fuente De for some spectacular mountain views. Casas Cantabricas is a specialist self-catering operator to the region and has a number of properties available for half-term, including Casa de Castro Cillorigo, which sleeps six and costs £550 for the week. This old stone cottage is in a secluded spot in the mountains, under the peak of La Peña de la Ventesa and has full central heating to take the edge off the evening chill in the autumn.
Go luxurious in Morocco
For something a little more exotic, what about Morocco? Although the pound has fallen against the dirham since the Brexit vote, the country still offers good value.
Fleewinter has a six-night trip to Morocco at half term with three nights in Marrakech and three nights on the Atlantic coast. In Marrakech, you stay in a traditional riad, in the old walled city near the main square; for the second part of the week, you stay at the luxurious Rebali Riads (see below), in the surf village of Sidi Kaouki, 20 minutes south of Essaouira. The holiday costs £445 pp (based on a family of four), which includes bed and breakfast, transfers, mountain trip, Marrakech guide, and a two hour surfing lesson. It does not include flights.
Want something further afield?
If the idea of Asia with kids is a little panic-inducing, have you considered Sri Lanka, one of the continent’s most child-friendly destinations? Selective Asia has put together a family adventure package, including temple visits, a visit to a tea factory and some time at the beach. The 11-night B&B package costs from £4,489 per family, including an English-speaking tour guide and land transportation by private air-conditioned vehicle.
Myanmar should be on any adventurous family’s bucket list and the Mergui archipelago of islands (picture below) is an unspoilt corner of the country that has yet to be discovered. Exsus offers a seven night luxury yacht tour of the islands and the pristine beaches of the Andaman Sea for £2,345pp, including two nights’ B&B accommodation in Yangon, five nights’ all-inclusive basis on board the SY Meta IV, private transfers and return international flights.
The company also has a special deal including two nights free on half-term safari holidays to South Africa. The holiday, costing from £1,945pp, includes a three-night stay at the Lelapa Madikwe Safari Lodge where you can go on game drive’s to see the reserve’s lions, as well as four nights B&B in Cape Town. Don’t forget to take a trip up to the top of the iconic Table Mountain.
Fancy staying at home now? No, thought not.
Mark Frary is family travel editor of 101 Holidays