The best places to go for October half-term
I know the kids have only just gone back to school but the October half term will be here before we know it (which is both a good and a bad thing, I think!). We’re still trying to work out where we’ll go for the half-term break and so I sought inspiration from some of the UK’s best family travel bloggers and asked them to share their top recommendations for an autumnal getaway (I’ve also thrown in some of my favourite short-haul destinations). Their choices include sunny beach destinations, beautiful cities, holidays in the Great Outdoors and even a fairy tale theme park. If you’re wondering where to go this October then you can’t go wrong with any of these suggestions!
1. Kos, Greece
Whenever I’m planning half-term escapes, the Greek islands are always on the list – still sunny out of peak season, kids are welcome everywhere, and you’re guaranteed beaches and history so there’s always plenty to do. Even better, it’s just a short flight away, so you don’t spend your limited holiday time recovering from jetlag!
Kos is one of my favourites after a visit last year: you can fly direct, there’s a big choice of family-friendly accommodation to choose from, and plenty to do to fill a week. The beaches range from powdery golden sand to some volcanic coves, many with gentle waves for younger kids not to mention two waterparks to discover. Older kids will love scrambling down to the thermal pools, and there are boat trips galore including the chance to hop over to Bodrum in Turkey, or take the ferry for a speedy day trip to Rhodes.
When you’ve had your fill of sun and water, discover Greek traditions at a house left as it would have looked 100 years ago or the island’s working windmill, along with the medieval Castle of the Knights in Kos Town, plus more ancient history with temple ruins at the Asklepion.
Chosen by Cathy, MummyTravels
2. Essaouira, Morocco
Essaouira is a bustling port city, with a beautiful windswept beach on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. With temperatures hovering around 20 degrees, 8 hours of sunshine and a warm sea to paddle in, October half term is the perfect time to visit Essaouira with kids; winter can get surprisingly chilly and in summer, temperatures can soar along with visitor numbers.
There is so much to keep the kids entertained; sandy beaches with safe, shallow waters, camels to meet and ride, the medina, souqs, fishing port and ramparts to explore. Essaouira is the perfect sensory playground for your little ones, and so many of these activities are FREE! There is more than enough to fill the half term week in Essouira alone, although it is very feasible to tag on a visit to the Atlas Mountains or a day trip to Marrakesh.
Unfortunately there is no longer a direct flight from London Luton with EasyJet. However, you can fly to Marrakesh (3.5 hours) and then take the 3 hour bus with Supratours to Essaouira. Plus, there’s no dreaded jetlag for UK visitors as Morocco is the in the same zone.
Chosen by Jenny, Travelynn Family
3. Venice, Italy
Venice is the perfect city for a family half term break in October. The city of canals is quieter as the crowds of summer disappear
and the autumn light is magical. One of our favourite family destinations in Italy, Venice is car free, compact and walkable. And of course so unique and beautiful. The city captures children’s imaginations as soon as they arrive.
Start by riding the vaporetto down the Grand Canal – it is a highlight of any visit to Venice. Take Line 1 and sit at the back. Here you can watch gondolas dodge the water traffic. Look for the fire engine, rubbish boats and other vessels doing normal city jobs on the water. It’s the best gam of eye spy we have ever played. St Mark’s Square is a great place to do some pigeon chasing after you have marvelled at the Doge’s Palace and cathedral. Take a walk to see the Bridge of Sighs and off course you must ride in a gondola.
Our top tip for your visit is to head to the small squares and side canals. This is the best of Venice. Around every corner there is a little mystery waiting to be discovered.
Chosen by Katy, Untold Morsels
4. Algarve, Portugal
If you’re looking for some autumn sun without clocking up the air miles, Portugal’s Algarve region is an excellent option. At less than three hours away, it’s a short hop from the UK and has plenty to offer families.
When we visited during half term in 2016, temperatures were a balmy 24 degrees and its long sandy beaches were almost deserted. Although it’s a popular destination in the summer, at this time of year it felt very laidback with few tourists. I was with my husband and two girls aged 4 and five months. We stayed east of Faro at a boutique hotel in a small village, Olhao. It was a good base to visit nearby towns such as Tavira and plenty of quaint fishing towns to eat seafood, including the region’s famous octopus.
There’s still plenty to do even if the mercury dips: from hiking or cycling in its National Parks to dolphin watching and day trips to entertainment parks such as Aquashow or Zoomarine. The Algarve has a beautiful coastline and geology while it’s southern position in Southern Europe means it’s a warm and sunny option for an autumn getaway.
Chosen by Elizabeth, Wander Mum
5. Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
In Scotland, there’s an alternative to the Scandinavian hygge: còsagach. If you want somewhere that oozes snug, warm and cosy for your Autumn getaway, then Dumfries and Galloway, in Scotland’s south-west, could be the perfect alternative to Sweden, Denmark or Norway. Not that we don’t love those destinations, but there’s something magical about the Galloway Forest. It was named Europe’s first ever Dark Skies park, and 3,000 stars twinkle above its 373 square miles of dense pine trees, mossy pathways and hidden lochs.
Visitors can stay in hotels full of character in Gatehouse of Fleet, or New Galloway. A red kite trail begins there, for enthusiasts wanting to catch sight of the majestic bird. Wild rabbits, badgers, hedgehogs and deer all roam freely in the forest. Away from the Dark Skies Park, Kircudbright, on the coast, is charming, and film buffs might spot some familiar sights. Kirkcudbright was the location for some parts of hit 1970s cult film The Wicker Man. Wigtown rivals the English Hay-on-Wye for its literary festival, and its cavernous bookshops. And Castle Douglas boasts a number of fine butcheries, where the best in home-made haggis can be found.
It’s not too far from the more well-known Gretna Green, but Dumfries and Galloway’s a hidden gem. We don’t like to shout too loudly about it. Will you keep its secrets?
Chosen by Nell, Pigeon Pair & Me
6. Durbuy, Belgium
One of our best trips this year was to Durbuy, a ridiculously pretty city in Belgium’s Wallonia region that’s filled with winding cobbled streets, timber-frame houses and surrounded by emerald-green rolling hills. But there’s more to Durbuy (pronounced Dur-bwee) than its story book looks, this medieval village is in fact “la plus petit ville du monde” (the smallest city in the world).
But for a small city, Durbuy has a lot to do and you could easily spend your week-long half term holiday here and still not enjoy everything! The city is home to Belgium’s largest adventure park, Adventure Valley, where you can zip down a tubing slide, whizz along a zipwire, navigate the bike park, jump from a wooden tower onto a giant inflatable bag, go rock climbing and much, much more. Visit the local goat farm and try your hand at herding goats (it’s harder than it looks!), wander the local topiary park and its 250 figures sculpted from Boxwood plants, or learn to fish at the wonderful Riveo centre. Explore underground at the Grottes de Hotton, the Hotton Caves, search for mysterious stones in neighbouring Wéris and then finish the day with the biggest Belgian waffle with ice cream that you can find! If you’re looking for somewhere to go for half-term, you can’t go wrong with Durbuy.
Chosen by Katja, globetotting.com
7. Conwy, North Wales
Conwy in North Wales is a great place to go on holiday during October half term. This historic town is characterised by its famous castle, and is also bordered by the dramatic mountains of Snowdonia dropping down into sea. There is a pretty marina with boats bobbing around in it, and you can take boat trips out into the sea to get views of Conwy Castle against a backdrop of Snowdonia. Don’t miss a trip to Conwy Castle with its eight towers, or walking around the city walls to explore the city from up high!
There is loads to do in the local area too. The seaside town of Lllandudno is nearby, where you can get the historic tramway up to the top of Llandudno’s mini mountain called the Great Orme. There is a country park and nature reserve at the top, and on a clear day the views stretch out as far as the Isle of Man. North Wales is known for its narrow gauge railways, and basing yourself in Conwy gives you a great opportunity to try some of these out. The Llanberis Lake Railway takes you on a gentil ride around Lake Padarn taking aprox 60 minutes. You can stop off along the way for a picnic, or head to the fascinating National Slate Museum afterwards to learn about the history of slate mining in Wales. The Snowdon Railway takes you up to the top of this famous mountain without having to walk! Whatever the time of year, North Wales is great to go on holiday.
Chosen by Jo, Kiddie Holidays
8. Normandy, France
Normandy in France is full of surprises for the History lover, nature lover or even the food lover. Normandy is also easily accessible by Eurotunnel, Ferry or a flight in to Caen making it a perfect travel choice for half term. The list of activities and places to visit is endless, from the World UNESCO site of Le Mont Saint Michel to the war torn coast and bomb craters of the D Day beaches. There are many Historic places to visit such as Chateau Vendeuvre or Chateau Falaise or even The Bayeux tapestry.
If it’s adventure you are looking for there are plenty of bicycle trails to follow as well including zip lining and tree walks. Do not be put of by the weather, just imagine all of the pretty French restaurants and gîtes with their roaring fires. You could easily spend a few days in Normandy or even a few weeks as it is only a short hop away.
Chosen by Donna, Like, Love, Do
9. Puy Du Fou, France
Puy Du Fou, in Les Epesses, is a household name in France but still relatively known elsewhere. It calls itself a theme park but there’s not a single rollercoaster or ride to be seen. Instead, the park stages big, spectacular, blockbuster shows based on moments in European history. If this all sounds a little odd, it’s because it is. But it is also absolutely brilliant.
Set over 55 hectares of forest Puy Du Fou stages 19 spectacular shows, including seven blockbusters, each lasting between 26 and 40 minutes (the perfect length of time to ensure kids’ attentions don’t wander!). The performances are staged up to seven times a day, welcoming some 2,400 to 6,000 visitors per performance. Most of the shows take place in outdoor theatres (and go ahead rain or shine), some are indoors and there are four immersive experiences. La Cinéscénie, the show to outdo all other shows, lasts 1hr30 and is only performed on Friday and Saturday nights during peak season.
The shows are, quite simply, mind boggling. In any given performance you can expect extreme stunts, buildings (and boats) magically appearing and disappearing and fire – lots of fire! Puy Du Fou is a wonderful destination for families and the perfect choice if you can’t go away for the entire half term week; a long weekend will give you plenty of time to enjoy everything the park has to offer.
Chosen by Katja, globetotting.com
I know it seems odd for me to tell you that an entire country is ideal for a half term break, but I absolutely promise that with Austria, that is 100% true. You can choose from sophisticated cities such as Graz or Vienna – packed full of wonderful museums such as the Haus der Musik or the Kindermuseum Schloss Schönbrunn… Or spend a few days by one of its iconic lakes. We love Hallstat – everyone should see it once, but Wolfgangsee is far more peaceful and equally beautiful, especially in all its autumn glory.
By far my favourite Austrian half term setting would be up a mountain though! Gone are the summer crowds, and you won’t find any queues for the ski lift (there’s no snow just yet!), but you will find some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, and great hikes that are suitable for the entire family (with plenty of forest/mountain top playgrounds and alpine roller coasters to keep small people happy!). We loved following the Emerald Trail last Autumn (an ancient gem stone mining route) climbing high up through the clouds, where at the end we found something far better than any pot of treasure… I would happily choose Austria for a half term break any day of the week.
Chosen by Emma, Bavarian Sojourn
11. Hamburg, Germany
If you are looking for a city break to enjoy with your family I cannot recommend a visit to Hamburg enough. Firstly it’s really flat and easy to navigate so it’s really easy on little legs. Hamburg also works well if you are visiting with babies or toddlers in pushchairs. I took my 3 year old and we used a stroller for the whole trip without any issues walking around the city or on public transport.
Hamburg also has lots of things to do that families will enjoy. It’s a perfect place for a boat tour around the harbour or visit the Chocoversum and create your own unique bar of chocolate to bring home. Our personal favourite place to go in Hamburg was Miniatur Wunderland. Describing it as a model railway simply does not do it justice as during your visit you will literally explore the world. It’s pretty mind blowing not only for kids, but their parents too!
For more information check out Zena’s post about things to do in Hamburg with Kids
Chosen by Zena, Zena’s Suitcase
12. Zakynthos, Greece
If you’re looking for some last-minute sunshine but don’t want to travel too far then perhaps consider Zakynthos. Only three hours from the UK, this Greek island is still a balmy 25 degrees, and with over 28 beaches, breathtaking azure waters and a plethora of family-friendly restaurants and activities, there’s much to suit the whole family. And if you’re lucky enough you may even catch a turtle, as Zakynthos is home to the largest nesting ground in the whole of the Mediterranean.
We found that it was possible to have a superb mix of exploration and adventure with our two boys as well relaxation, and for once we came back not only feeling rested, but having fallen in love with Greece again as a beautiful destination.
Chosen by Ting, My Travel Monkey
13. Lanzarote, Spain
My recommendation for the October half term holidays in Lanzarote. With an average high temperature of 27ºC in Lanzarote during October, short flights from the UK (a very doable four-hours with even energetic toddlers), great beaches and lots of attractions for all ages it’s the perfect place to head to for the October half term holidays. I’ve summed up my 15 favourite attractions in Lanzarote in this post
Chosen by Lisa, Travel Loving Family
14. Leipzig, Germany
Leipzig may not be the obvious choice for a city break with kids but if your family likes music and art this former East German city in Saxony will keep them happily engaged. Begin by taking the 5km music trail, a self guided tour visiting interactive stations that link up musical places in the city. Stop off at the Mendelssohn House museum and have a go at conducting a virtual orchestra. You could also divert to the nearby Grassi Museum that offers the chance to see and play a huge collection of musical instruments. Then have coffee and strudel at Café Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum, where Schumann and his colleagues wrote. At the Thomaskirche, where Bach worked, you might enjoy hearing the choirboys practice at weekends, or catch one of the many buskers doing their thing in the city centre.
If your kids are more interested in art, the Spinnerei is a converted cotton mill with over 100 artist’s studios and thirteen galleries. You can book onto a tour with one of the artists. And the KunstKraftwerk digital gallery lets you get interactive with photography and sound. If this all sounds like too much walking you can always get around on a skateboard. There’s even a coffee shop that can rent you one.
Chosen by Kirstie, The Family Adventure Project
15. Languedoc, France
For a luxury break this October half term, I can’t recommend Chateau Les Carrasses enough. Located in the Languedoc region of France, this family-friendly chateau has everything you could need to enjoy a proper holiday (and by that I mean you might even have time to read a book!). The chateau itself is reminiscent of something out of the pages of a fairy-tale. There are Rapunzel towers and witch-hat turrets, Juliet balconies and grand wooden shutters painted cornflower blue. Sun-filled patios dot the grounds, filled with the scent of lavender, honeysuckle and jasmine and there’s a beautiful greenhouse, reputedly designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes, the very same Eiffel!).
The accommodation is very family-friendly; there are 28 properties (soon to be 30) and all rooms come with self-catering facilities. There’s also a restaurant on site if a holiday for you means having someone else cook your dinner. Or, if you fancy something between the two, you can order a pizza, get the chefs to whip up a takeaway meal or ask front of house to organise a grill box to cook on either your private BBQ or one of the communal ones. During the summer months (July and August), the château runs a kids’ club, which means that at all other times of the year you’ll have to make your own fun. Fortunately, however, that shouldn’t be hard as there are bikes to ride, swimming pools to jump in and nearby castles to explore.
Chosen by Katja, globetotting.com
16. The Netherlands
Rather than chase the sun, why not try the Netherlands and grab some bargain off season deals? Travel by Eurostar, ferry or plane to reach this friendly nation. In Amsterdam, why not visit Anne Frank’s house, where her family hid in a secret room until they were sadly captured and sent to prison camp.
Just over an hour away, for kids of all ages, the Efteling fairy tale theme park will delight in very single way. For little ones, there is a talking story-telling tree, a magical fairy tale walk – where you will recognise so many characters and feel immersed in the atmosphere and the attention to detail. In particular, the witches cottage where Hansel and Gretel become trapped, smells of real vanilla! From enchanting rides to thrilling rollercoasters, you will need at least two days to spend at Efteling.
Holland is home to some fantastic museums for children. At Corpus in Leiden, families can travel through the human body. NEMO in Amsterdam lets you discover science and technology and Deltapark Neeltje Jans offers an exploration of the secrets of the sea. If you are have some great weather, head to the perfect sandy beaches in Zeeland.
Chosen by Carrie, Flying with Baby
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