The best October half-term holidays to book now

Children playing on a beach during a half term holiday
Golden getaway: a break during the longest term of the school year is a good tonic for kids - plainpicture/Marc Romanelli

As the leaves begin to change and October approaches, so does another golden opportunity for a family getaway. And while the autumn half-term holiday may only be a week long, this short window offers a great chance to find some sun or fun before the winter takes hold.

It’s the longest, toughest term of the school year, so a break is a good tonic for kids, as well as a chance to get out and active without worrying about overly scorching sunshine. Not that there isn’t still some warm weather to be found without having to fly too far.

Start by working out what your ­family wants to get out of the week. For some high-octane fun, consider a trip that takes in theme parks or water parks. Want to make it a bit more educational? Perhaps Egypt and the Pyramids – or Iceland for a real-life geography lesson. Active families might consider a relaxed walking or cycling itinerary in Andalucía or southern Italy – and October is a wonderful time for introducing the kids to a new city like New York. Just want to splash about in the sun? Then head for the Canaries, where temperatures are in the 20s. If you can’t face the hassle of flying, then jump on a family-friendly cruise from Southampton.

Of course, your holiday choice will not only be driven by your interests and your budget, but also by the age of your children. Older teens will have very ­different expectations and energy levels to younger offspring. For families with young children, a hotel with kids’ clubs can work well, while for older teens a games room and onsite watersports can provide excellent opportunities to improve skills and make new friends.

Those who’d prefer some undiluted family time could opt for a quiet villa with a gated pool for little ones, or a ­tennis court and games room for older children, or choose a property within walking distance of a resort.

There are some caveats attached to half-term travel. Unless your children have a two-week break, remember that you’ll be departing on the busy weekend (October 21 and 22 this year). Demand will be heavy, so book airport parking and car hire well in advance. You might do best to dodge the rush and opt for a shorter, midweek break.

Here’s a round-up of suggestions to suit families with children aged 10 years and under, and 11 years plus, in a variety of destinations from far-flung to closer to home.

Prices are per person for seven nights, based on a family of four, including flights and transfers, unless otherwise stated, and are subject to availability.


Cruising from the UK

Avoid the stress of flight delays and luggage restrictions by booking a half-term cruise which departs from the UK. Plus points include family-friendly entertainment and all-inclusive prices.

10 and under

A week-long half-term itinerary with P&O (from Southampton) takes in Cherbourg, Porto, Lisbon and the ­Galician port of Vigo (for excursions to Santiago de Compostela) on cruise ship Ventura. Supervised children’s clubs include Splashers (two to four years), Surfers (five to eight years) and Scubas (nine to 12 years), and onboard facilities include four pools, family restaurants and an ice-cream bar.

Book it: P&O (0344 338 8003; pocruises.com) offers the ‘Spain, France and Portugal’ cruise on Ventura from £845 all inclusive, based on two inside cabins. Departs Oct 21

P&O Ventura cruise ship
P&O offers a week-long half-term itinerary onboard Ventura - Alamy

11 and up

Also departing from Southampton, M S C Cruises’ half-term departure on M S C Virtuosa docks in Rotterdam (for excursions to Amsterdam) before ­voyaging westwards to Cork in ­southern Ireland. Onboard activities for older children include sports ­tournaments, five pools (including an aqua park), a spa and evening shows. The last port of call is the Isle of ­Portland on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.

Book it: MSC Cruises (0203 426 3010; msccruises.co.uk) offers a five-night ‘Northern Europe’ cruise on M S C Virtuosa from £894 all inclusive, based on a premium suite Aurea. Departs Oct 2


Walking trails in Andalucia

This region of southern Spain is served by a wide choice of affordable flights, and offers a good chance of pleasant weather, with temperatures peaking at around 20C and seven hours of daily sunshine.

10 and under

Casa el Valle, sleeping four, sits in the Tijola valley near the shops and ­restaurants of Órgiva; a family-friendly villa with a fenced pool, backed by the Sierra Nevada mountains. A convenient springboard for gentle excursions to the region’s white villages, it’s within an easy drive of the beaches at Salobreña and La Herradura or the Aquatropic water park in Almuñecar.

Book it: Vintage Travel (01954 261431; vintagetravel.co.uk) offers a stay at Casa el Valle from £577 per person, self-catering, based on full occupancy, including car hire. Departs Oct 21

Mother and daughter tourists sightseeing Ronda in Andalusia, Spain
Hike to must-see sites such as the dramatic bridge in the Spanish town of Ronda - Getty/E+

11 and up

If your teens like to stay active, why not hike through this scenic region on a self-guided walking holiday? On this Inntravel itinerary, you’ll start in Zahara de la Sierra and take in Grazalema and Benaoján, finishing at the dramatically sited town of Ronda. Walks vary from around three to 12 miles along ancient drovers’ trails and mountain paths, and through valleys, forests and small ­villages of the Grazalema National Park, with optional rest days.

Book it: Inntravel (01653 617001; inntravel.co.uk) offers ‘White Towns and Rugged Mountains’ from £1,220 half board including three picnics, luggage transfers and route details. Excludes travel. Departs daily until Oct 24


Boats and beaches in Turkey

October temperatures rise the further south you travel along Turkey’s long coastline, peaking at around 24C in the resorts of Kas and Kalkan, with eight hours of sunshine a day.

10 and under

Families with children aged from seven years can join Explore’s escorted family tour to Lycia, based in Club Phellos Hotel, close to the resort of Kas, with a swimming pool and views of the sea. Organised activities include a boat trip, snorkelling, walking in the foothills of the Taurus mountains, canoeing along the Xanthos river to the beach at Patara and an excursion to Simena Castle.

Book it: Explore (01252 240636; explore.co.uk) offers a ‘Family Turkey Coastal Active Adventure’ from £635 (adult), £585 (child) b&b including three lunches. Excludes travel. Departs Oct 21

Tourists sunbathing and swimming on the Kaputas Beach, Kas, Antalya Turkey
In October, holidaymakers can still enjoy eight hours of sunshine a day on Turkey's southern coast - iStock/Getty

11 and up

Booking a villa within walking distance of Kalkan’s Old Town provides a good solution for families with older children who want some independence to explore the bars, cafés and boutiques that line the resort’s winding backstreets. Kalkan’s harbour is the departure point for boat trips to local beaches.

Book it: Simpson Travel (0208 003 6557; simpsontravel.com) offers a stay at Gogen Evi, a whitewashed hideaway sleeping four, with a pool and sea views, near Kalkan harbour, from £1,423 per person, based on full occupancy, including car hire. Departs Oct 21


See the sights in Puglia

By late October, the beaches may be emptying, but it’s a great month for touring the region by bike or finding a stylish base for a villa holiday with ­forays to local towns and restaurants.

10 and under

The Thinking Traveller offers properties that are large enough for families who want to travel with friends or grandparents, with onsite activities and pools. Palombara Piccola is a stylish stone-built property sleeping up to 12, between the hilltop town of Ostuni and the beach at Villanova, with a heatable pool, cinema room, table tennis, terraced gardens and an al fresco kitchen.

Book it: The Thinking Traveller (020 8131 1533; thethinkingtraveller.com) offers stays at Palombara Piccola, from £912 per person, based on full occupancy. Flights and transfers extra. Departs Oct 21.

traditional trulli of Alberobello in Puglia, Italy
Relaxed pace of life: the traditional trulli of Alberobello in Puglia, Italy - 4cornersimages.com

11 and up

A self-guided cycling itinerary from Conversano to Monopoli with Exodus is aimed at families with children aged from 12 years. Accommodation ranges from a restored 17th-century masseria farmhouse in Pezze di Greco to a ­traditional trullo in Alberobello. Cycling from 23 to 30 miles per day, with optional rest days, the route takes in the scenic Valle d’Itria, Adriatic beaches and the archaeological site of Egnazia.

Book it: Exodus (020 8131 6560; exodus.co.uk) offers ‘Contrasts of Puglia Cycling’, from £1,979 b&b including two dinners, bike hire and luggage transfers. Departs Oct 21


Family fun in the Canaries

Temperatures in this island archipelago hover at around 24C and 25C in late October, and the sea water is also comfortably warm. Large resort hotels provide lots of onsite activities for all ages.

10 and under

There’s plenty to occupy families with young children at Tui Blue Flamingo Beach hotel in Playa Blanca, including baby pool and splash zone with slides, a kids’ club aimed at three to 11-year-olds, a mini disco, cookery classes for young chefs and a BabyClub (0 to 36 months) providing two-hour childcare sessions.

Book it: Tui (020 3451 2688; tui.co.uk) offers three-star Tui Blue Flamingo Beach in Playa Blanca from £885 all inclusive, based on a one-bedroom apartment. Departs Oct 22

Hard Rock Hotel in Playa Paraiso, Tenerife
Younger children will enjoy the pools while their older siblings try out the music activities on offer at the Hard Rock Hotel in Playa Paraiso, Tenerife - WE photo agency

11 and up

Older children can join DJ classes, hip-hop workshops and Xbox competitions at music-themed Hard Rock Hotel on Playa Paraiso on the northwest coast of Tenerife. It has six restaurants and three outdoor pools (one adults only) and activities include diving or excursions to the water park at Siam Park.

Book it: Jet2 Holidays (0800 408 0778; jet2holidays.com) offers stays at five-star Hard Rock Hotel Tenerife from £1,083 b&b based on a studio silver suite. Departs Oct 22


Sojourn in the states

The effects of jet lag will mean ­early-morning starts, but even if you’re only there for a week, it’s possible for families with stamina to squeeze in an half-term across the Atlantic.

10 and under

Join in Disneyland’s centenary ­celebrations on a trip to Disneyland Park in California, where you’ll see a new Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway cartoon show and night-time spectacular, “Wondrous Journeys”, at Sleeping Beauty Castle. The itinerary also includes Santa Monica and the beaches, a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood and a walking tour.

Book it: Bon Voyage (0800 316 0194; bon-voyage.co.uk) offers a family trip to California from £2,106, room only, including a two-day Disneyland pass and one-day Universal Studios pass. Departing Oct 21

Santa Monica Pier in California
Seaside attractions: Santa Monica Pier in California - Moment RF/Getty

11 and up

Late October is a great time of year to introduce the children to New York, where the seasonal cusp sees shop  windows full of Hallowe’en ­displays and autumn leaves in Central Park, as the ice skating rink opens and the city starts to prepare for winter. Climb the Empire State Building, take in a show, hit the shops and tour the ­museums and art galleries.

Book it: Virgin Atlantic Holidays (0344 472 9646; virginholidays.co.uk) offers a four-night stay at Civilian Hotel, near Times Square, in Midtown New York from £1,147 room only, based on two rooms. Departs Oct 23


Island life in Madeira

This island offers plenty of scope – and the right climate – for activity in late October, depending on your ­family preference. There are no beaches, so choose a hotel with a pool and lots of outdoor space.

10 and under

Aimed at children aged between eight and 11, Activities Abroad offers an active break based in four-star Quinta da Penha de Franca near Funchal, with saltwater swimming pool and games room. Included in the holiday price are jeep expeditions, a sea kayaking and snorkelling trip, whale and dolphin watching, canyoning and a biking tour.

Book it: Activities Abroad (01670 789991; activitiesabroad.com) offers ‘Magical Madeiran Adventure’ from £1,305 b&b including guided activities. Departs Oct 21

Young girl in the sea with diving mask
Snorkelling trips are a hit with all ages - Getty/iStockphoto

11 and up

For a relaxing, fly-and-flop stay with spectacular views, outdoor heated pool, tennis court, games room and exotic ­gardens, Sunvil can arrange a family stay at five-star Quinta da Bela Vista, in a building dating from 1844, furnished with stylish antiques. In the hills near Funchal, the hotel offers a courtesy ­minibus shuttle service to the city, an onsite restaurant and poolside snack bar.

Book it: Sunvil (020 8758 4722; sunvil.co.uk) offers stays at Quinta da Bela Vista from £1,675 b&b, based on two garden view rooms. Departs Oct 21


An Egyptian odyssey

Heat-seeking families can head to the Red Sea coast for temperatures peaking at around 29C (though bear in mind the five-and-a-half-hour flight time). Inland, around Luxor, it can get even hotter, so pack sunhats.

10 and under

Overlooking the sea at Sharks Bay in Sharm El Sheikh, the DoubleTree Hilton offers a trip aimed at children under 12, including themed bedding and equipment ranging from baby baths to booster seats. Seven pools, water slides, a playground and boat trips add to the fun.

Book it: Southall Travel (020 8705 0071; southalltravel.co.uk) offers stays at four-star DoubleTree by Hilton Sharm El Sheikh from £1,025 all inclusive (book by September 30), based on a deluxe room. Departs Oct 22

Family in Egypt
Visit Luxor to explore some of Egypt’s most famous ruins – or meet camels - Getty/E+/Moment RF

11 and up

Your children are sure to study the ancient Egyptians at some point, so take them to see the highlights for themselves. Trailfinders offers a ­family-friendly group tour aimed at older children, which includes an opportunity to explore Cairo, Luxor and Aswan, and to sail along the Nile in a traditional felucca.

Book it: Trailfinders (020 7368 1317; trailfinders.com) offers ‘Uncover Egypt as a Family’ from £2,569 including most meals, six nights in hotels and one overnight train journey. Departs Oct 21


Out and about in Iceland

While temperatures may barely reach 6C in October, dropping much lower at night, a half-term trip to Iceland can’t fail to impress with its extraordinary range of landscapes and wildlife.

10 and under

Families with children aged five and older can travel with Families Worldwide on a tailor-­made itinerary based in Reykjavik, which includes the magnificent whale museum and a ride in the flight simulator “Fly Over Iceland”. Further highlights include an excursion to the black-sand beaches on the south coast and the Strokkur geyser, plus a boat trip to spot whales, porpoises and dolphins.

Book it: Families Worldwide (01962 302062; familiesworldwide.co.uk) offers a five-night ‘Iceland Explorer’ from £1,745 (adult), £1,545 (child) b&b. Departs Oct 23

Children playing on a beach in Iceland
Extraordinary landscape: Iceland can’t fail to impress - Getty/Moment RF

11 and up

Older children can take part in more derring-do activities, like those offered by Discover the World on a half-term break based at the four-star Berjaya Iceland Hotel Reykjavik Marina hotel. Included is a full-day Golden Circle super-jeep excursion, while optional additional excursions include snorkelling in the Silfra fissure, a half-day Lava Falls Adventure Tour, and an adventurous trek on Icelandic ponies.

Book it: Discover the World (01737 428473; discover-the-world.com) offers a three-night ‘Reykjavik Family Adventure’ from £747 b&b, based on a family room. Excludes flights. Departs Oct 25