Of all the half terms, February surely offers the most interesting variety of family holidays. Sure, the British weather is not at its best. But it’s the peak month for skiing, the Canary islands are warming up, as is the Middle East and the Red Sea coast, and the first signs of spring in the Med make this a great time for outdoor activities. It’s also off-peak in Europe’s great cultural destinations, so an excellent time to squeeze in a family city break.
But with the holidays just a couple of weeks away, is it getting too late in the day to think about booking? This year, operators and airlines all report a surge in demand – especially over the last couple of weeks. You will also be facing heavy competition with other families: the vast majority of schools are breaking up on the same weekend this year (February 11 and 12). And that week also clashes with Valentine's Day – a popular time for couples to take a break.
So there is no doubt that availability is tight. Adventure operators like Explore and Exodus say their family tours are virtually full, the cost of long haul flights – especially to Florida, the Caribbean and Mauritius – is creeping up, and popular destinations like the Canaries are heavily booked. Much improved snow conditions have also encouraged more families to head for the Alps.
But there are still some interesting – and sometimes surprising – options out there. We have contacted operators and airlines, scoured the websites and racked our collective brains to come up with the best solutions for late-booking families in need of a break, whether you’re after sunshine, snow, culture or a bit of family action. There are still lots of possibilities during the February half term break: here are 20 of the best.
Prices quoted are per person for a seven-night stay based on a family of four, (two adults and two children aged under 12 years), including breakfast, flights (from London airports) and transfers, unless otherwise stated. They are subject to availability. Note that older children may be charged the same rate as adults.
Get some action
February is a great month for active families who like to get out and enjoy some milder weather, get some exercise or get out and explore some more exotic destinations before things heat up in the summer.
Cooking to kite surfing
This immersive trip organised by Families Worldwide doesn’t just include camel rides and souk visits, children also learn to cook a traditional tagine dish, stay on a working farm in the Atlas foothills and visit the atmospheric sandstone town of Ait Benhaddou, location for films including Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia. There’s also time on the beach at Essaouira to try some kite-surfing before sampling street food on the quayside.
Book it: Families Worldwide (01962 302 062; familiesworldwide.co.uk) offers “Kasbahs and Coast - Morocco” for families with children aged ten and over, from £945 (adult)/£795 (child up to 11 years) including three lunches and two dinners. Departs February 11.
Far prettier and less crowded than Malta, its smaller neighbour, Gozo is a great place to find some mild early spring weather and get the family out into the open air. New for 2023, Exodus has launched a self-guided walking short break based at the five-star Ta’Cenc hotel in Sannat. There are suggested coastal hikes for each day which follow ancient mule tracks and include some engaging sights including Neolithic standing stones, bamboo groves, salt pans and Mgarr, the island’s port with its 18th-century fort.
Book it: Exodus (0203 131 2007; exodus.co.uk) offers a new, four-night self-guided “Walking on Gozo – Calypso’s Isle” itinerary from £1,049 half board, for children aged 12 and over. Departs February 11.
Fancy heading across the Atlantic to Orlando? There is still some last minute availability with Virgin to catch the last of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations, which end on March 31, 2023. Stoke up excitement levels at the Magic Kingdom Park and the futuristic Epcot centre, and try the high adrenaline rides at the Typhoon Lagoon Water Park and get a taste of showbiz razzamatazz at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s a chance to soak up some warm sunshine too – average temperatures peak at around 22C this time of year, with eight hours of sunshine a day.
Book it: Virgin Holidays (virginholidays.co.uk) offers stays at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort in Orlando from £1,247 based on a Wilderness Cabin including extra time in the parks with Early Park Entry and park transfers. Departs February 11.
Journey through Jordan
From floating in the salty Dead Sea to a night sleeping under the stars in a Bedouin camp, there’s plenty to distract older teens from their phones on a week-long tour of Jordan. Explore’s itinerary includes free time in the capital, Amman, two days exploring Petra, the “Rose Red City”, with an optional candlelit tour, and a jeep drive through the desert of Wadi Rum and snorkelling in the Red Sea at Aqaba. Highlights also include Mount Nebo, Madaba’s Byzantine mosaics and the Roman ruins at Jerash.
Book it: Explore (01252 240458; explore.co.uk) offers “Jordan Discovery” from £1,963 for families with children aged 16 years and over including one lunch and two dinners. Departs February 11.
Live and Learn
Short city breaks work exceptionally well at half term because you don’t have to travel at the weekend – meaning you can find off-peak midweek fares instead. We’ve picked out three classics in southern Italy and Spain, where the weather should be warm and pleasant, and also Brussels – excellent value and a surprisingly entertaining city for kids, with the added fun of travelling on the Eurostar.
Waffles, chocolate and chips may be chief among the attractions for children in the Belgian capital, but there are some fun museums too. Highlights include the entertainingly surreal imagery in the Magritte Museum, the engaging and colourful Brueghel paintings in Royal Museums of Fine Arts and the Hergé Museum – a must for all Tintin fans. The city is compact and easy to get around, and the two-hour rail journey from St Pancras is generally much cheaper than travelling to Paris.
Book it: Eurostar (0343 218 6186; eurostar.com) offers a three-night stay at Citadines Sainte-Catherine Hotel from £254 room only, based on a serviced, one-bedroom apartment with kitchen facilities, including rail travel. Departs St Pancras on February 14.
Lesson in lava
Have your children done the Romans at school yet? If they have – or are about to – there is no excuse not to show them the real thing if you possibly can. We suggest two possibilities: Rome (below) and Naples, where Pompeii, just 30 minutes away by train, is an astonishing insight into the everyday life of 2,000 years ago. It’s a big site, so plan your day carefully and budget for refreshments. And spend some time enjoying the old town of Naples itself – the maze of narrow streets is fun to explore, and the kids will love the little pasticcerias selling mouth-watering pastries stuffed with ricotta (sfogliatella).
Book it: EasyJet Holidays (0330 5515151; easyjet) offers a four-night stay at four-star Palazzo Caracciolo Mgallery from £451 based on two standard rooms. Departs February 13.
This is a great time to come to Rome – before the pilgrimage season kicks off at Easter and the tourist sights get busy in spring. There is so much to see and enjoy – from the Forum and the Colosseum, with all its gladiatorial gore to the grassy race tracks of the Circus Maximus. Consider also a day trip out the ruins at Ostia Antica – which are like a mini Pompeii, and brilliantly brought to life in the Roman Mysteries series of children’s storybooks by Caroline Lawrence. And with pasta and ice cream on every menu when the sightseeing is done, meal times in Rome will never be a battleground.
Book it: Citalia (01293 324713; citalia.com) offers a three-night stay at four-star Starhotels Metropole in Rome from £580 based on a shared room. Departs February 13.
Famous for its flamenco and tapas bars, the atmospheric cobbled streets of the Santa Cruz quarter are great fun to explore with older tweens and teens. Take the family to see the city’s ornately tiled Alcázar in its garden of orange groves and fountains, or enjoy the views from the top of the Giralda bell tower in the city’s 12th-century cathedral, then take a walk along the banks of the Guadalquivir, where 15th and 16th-century mariners, including Christopher Columbus, set off to explore the Americas. It should be warm and dry too – with daily temperatures topping 18C.
Book it: Osprey Holidays (0131 243 8098; ospreyholidays.com) offer three nights at three-star H10 Corregidor from £625 based on a family room. Departs February 14.
Have fun in the sun
Airline seats and hotel rooms are getting thin on the ground, especially in popular destinations like the Canary Islands, Morocco and Dubai, which are the closest options for reliable February heat. But there are still some options out there, and if you are feeling flush, one or two possibilities in Barbados and Mauritius, too. Note that if you can depart on Sunday 12, it’s often cheaper than flights on the Saturday.
While the UK shivers in February, temperatures in the Canary islands average around 20C in January, with up to seven hours of sunshine a day. Tenerife is the classic pick for beach-loving families who want watersports and – for older teenagers – even a bit of nightlife. It’s also worth hiring a car to explore the inland villages among banana plantations, and the dark lava fields of the National Park which surround the high volcanic peak of Mount Teide.
Book it: Jet2 holidays (0800 408 0778; jet2holidays.com) offers three-star Laguna Park Apartments in Costa Adeje from £927 half board based on a one-bedroom apartment with pool view. Departs February 12.
A place on the playa
Another fly-and-flop option for a half term of swimming and sunbathing, Lanzarote is a great pick for a family holiday – especially if you base yourself near the beaches along the south coast around Playa Blanca. The remote white-sand beach of Papagayo also makes a great day out, and if you can tear the kids away from the water, take a tour inland to see the lunar landscapes of Timanfaya National Park.
Book it: Sovereign (01293 324479; sovereign.com) offers five-star Princesa Yaiza Suite Hotel Resort in Playa Blanca, with eight pools, kid’s club and indoor play area, from £1,285 b&b based on a family suite (this includes a discount of £150 if booked by January 31). Departs February 12.
Snorkel like an Egyptian
The warm waters of the Red Sea which lap the resort of Sharm el Sheik are ideal for young children, while older teens can snorkel or scuba dive among the coral reefs which scatter the shores. You can even take jeep safaris into the desert. For stay-put family time, this resort offers a great choice of big all-inclusive hotels with waterparks and entertainment on tap.
Book it: TUI (0203 451 2688; TUI.co.uk) offers stays at four-star Coral Sea Water World in Sharm el Sheik, with two pools, waterpark tennis, football pitch and spa, from £1,331 all inclusive, based on a partitioned family room with balcony. Departs February 11.
Good-value top-end hotels, white-sand beaches and lots of family-oriented activities make Dubai a winner for pepping up a February half-term week – especially since temperatures reach 25C, with up to eight hours of sunshine a day. Resort hotels come with plenty of family-friendly facilities, and there are enough theme parks, aquariums, mini-golf courses and huge shopping malls to satisfy the most energetic of kids.
Book it: Trailfinders (020 7368 1200; trailfinders.com) offer a six-night stay at five-star Grand Hyatt Dubai Hotel with four pools, spa, kids’ club and tennis courts, from £1,529 room only, based on a shared grand room double. Departs February 12.
White-sand beaches, clear waters and sheltered lagoons, a trip to the tropical island of Mauritius will come as a welcome break from the February gloom. Rich in wildlife, it’s a particularly good option for families inspired by nature programmes, with Porte Lafayette’s National Park home to rare geckos and birds, and the huge barrier reef perfect for keen snorkelers and scuba divers. Foody families will also enjoy the distinctive local creole cooking.
Book it: Inspiring Travel (01244 729744; inspiringtravel.co.uk) offers five-star Sugar Beach on the island’s west coast, with kid’s club, evening entertainment, sports programme and watersports, from £2,232 half board, based on a premium sea view room. Departs February 11.
Best in class
It’s not surprising that Barbados remains one of our favourite winter escapes. Temperatures peak reliably around 29C with nine hours of sunshine per day, and there is always a gentle sea breeze to take the edge off the heat. Add in the picture-perfect palm-backed beaches and calm turquoise waters, and it makes a glorious place to spend a winter week. With younger children, look for a hotel with a kids club – just to make sure you have time to enjoy the beach yourself.
Book it: Caribtours (020 7751 0660; caribtours.co.uk) offers four-star Turtle Beach by Elegant Hotels in Barbados, with two pools, watersports, kids club and nearby golf, from £3,999 (adult)/£2,749 (child) all-inclusive based on a junior suite queen (saving up to 46 per cent if booked by January 31). Departs February 11.
Go to the snow
Beggars – or at least late bookers – can’t be choosers when it comes to February half-term ski holidays. This is by far the busiest week of the year, but – perhaps surprisingly – it is still possible to find some availability, even at classic resorts such as Tignes, Les Arcs, St Anton and Whistler. Overall though, Italy is the place to find the best value – as our package to Selva shows.
One of the great advantages of skiing in Italy is that you avoid the half-term scrum at Geneva airport. Selva, one of the prettiest resorts of Superski area in the Dolomites, is accessed via Innsbruck airport, about two hours away. It offers very good value and also has excellent snow at the moment. There’s lots of variety for families of all standards too – suitable for beginners but with plenty to entertain better skiers and snowboarders. It’s linked to the resorts of Arabba and Cortina, and a gateway to the Sellaronda skiing circuit, a 25-mile tour of the red-tinted and craggy Gruppo Sella mountains which rise dramatically above the pistes.
Book it: Inghams (01483 944 384; inghams.co.uk) offers four-star Hotel Oswald in Selva, a five-minute walk to the gondola with après bar and sauna, from £679 half board based on a shared family room. Departs Manchester on February 11.
Time for Tignes
The snow is in great shape up here, and the good news is there’s still some half-term availability. Tignes itself is not beautiful, but it does have an excellent location, with lots of good-value family accommodation and access to a total ski area with 300 km of pistes and plenty of blue and red runs. Non-skiing activities include ice diving, tobogganing, dog-sledding and snow-shoeing, and there’s also a big aqua centre with pools and waterslides.
Book it: Peak Retreats (023 9283 9310; peakretreats.co.uk) offers four-star Altaviva Residence, next to the Bosses gondola in Tignes 1800, with indoor pool, sun terrace, hot tub, hammam and sauna, from £821 self-catering and self-drive, including Eurotunnel crossing with a FlexiPlus upgrade. Departs February 11.
Compact and ideal for families, Arc 1950 – the highest, most luxurious and most attractive part of Les Arcs – didn’t have great Christmas snow, but there have been some serious falls since then and it now looks well-set for the rest of the season. The ski-in ski-out convenience is a big plus point, and there are plenty of easier runs and a link to neighbouring La Plagne for those who enjoy doing some serious mileage. This self-drive option keeps costs down.
Book it: Erna Low (020 7584 2841; ernalow.co.uk) offers five-star Residence in Arc 1950 from £942 self-catering and self drive, based on four sharing a ski-in ski-out apartment and including Eurotunnel crossing. Departs February 11.
Sure, St Anton is a serious resort with plenty of challenging skiing, but it can also work well for families. The slopes around Nasserein and Rendl are good areas for building confidence, but there are lots more options for more confident children and parents – including the link to Zürs and Lech. If you have teenagers who enjoy some nightlife, you may want to set a curfew, however: this is a resort where the après ski goes on and on.
Book it: Crystal Ski (020 3451 2821; crystalski.co.uk) offers four-star Hotel Arlberg in St Anton, a few minutes’ walk from the gondola and town centre with indoor pool and spa, from £1,402 half board, based on a superior room. Departs Newcastle on February 11.
The village of Pertisau on the shores of Lake Achensee in the Austrian Tyrol is an interesting suggestion from Inntravel, which still has availability over half term. It offers families a gentle introduction to skiing, mixed with a variety of other winter activities: you can try horse-drawn sleigh rides, snowshoeing and tobogganing, for example. There’s a ski school offering lessons for children aged between three and 12, with a practice slope in the village centre and access to the small Zwölferkopf ski area.
Book it: Inntravel (01653 617000; inntravel.co.uk) offers four-star Hotel Wiesenhof, with spa, indoor pool, playroom and babysitting service, from £1,629 half board, based on a family room, including local bus pass. Departs February 11 or 12.
Make a virtue of the fact that Canadian schools have no half term holiday in February, so the slopes are less inundated with families and prices don’t spike in the same way as in Europe. Whistler is a top choice – not only does it offer world class skiing, with every level of skier and snowboarder catered for, but also plenty of off-piste activities including tobogganing and snowshoeing – and the Whistler Sliding Centre on Blackcomb mountain offers beginners aged 14 years or older a chance to try bobsledding too.
Book it: Ski Solutions (020 3918 9392; skisolutions.com) offers three-star Blackcomb Spring Suites in Whistler, the resort’s highest hotel with indoor pool, kitchenettes and ski-in ski-out access, from £2,735 room only, based on two rooms. Departs February 11.