The children are barely back at school and bang – October half term looms on the horizon. Unless you’re planning on a hot holiday over the Christmas holidays this could be the last chance to see the sun for months, so plan accordingly!
While Egypt remains pretty much off limits, another Middle Eastern staple – Oman – continues to get ever more popular. Direct, shortish haul flights; excellent family-friendly hotels in the capital Muscat (The Shangri-La Barr al Jissah, with its three hotels in one, is best) or at Zighy Bay (reached from Dubai instead), and almost guaranteed lovely weather make this an autumnal winner. Even better, little ones will love a private 4×4 adventure to explore the magnificent Hajar mountains and then a night spent among the dunes of the Wahiba Sands. The only problem is that everyone has now cottoned on, so hurry!
Get there: BA and Oman Air fly to Muscat, BA and Emirates fly to Dubai.
And while we’re on the subject of Dubai, the Emirate might be something of a cultural black hole but then the kids won’t want to wander around museums on half term anyway. The same benefits as Oman apply (weather, accessibility, hotels that work brilliantly for families etc) and the young ones will, as the name suggests, go wild for the Wild Wadi Waterpark. For a change of the scene from the beach, it’s worth heading into the desert to Bab al Shams, a hotel in the dunes designed like an Arabian fortress where little ones can learn about falconry and enjoy (if that’s the right word) camel rides.
Get there: BA and Emirates fly direct to Dubai.
Away from Arabia and somewhere altogether nearer to home, Cyprus remains warmer for longer than pretty much anywhere in the Mediterranean (think 22 degrees in October). It gets better – many of our favourite hotels in Cyprus (take a bow the Anassa and the Almyra) have somehow managed the magical alchemy of being child-friendly hotels that aren’t by default parent unfriendly.
Get there: BA and Easyjet fly to Paphos.
The three-pronged peninsulas at either end of Greece happen to have the added synchronicity of being excellent half term haunts for families. Introducing the Sani Resort, a four (soon to be five) hotel set-up on the Aegean Coast catering to different budgets and age ranges of children. Whichever you plump for, expect excellent service and the chance to enjoy fun activities like beekeeping courses and eco-adventures in the dunes around the resort. At the other end of Greece, in the Peloponnese, The Westin Resort, Costa Navarino is new competition for the Sani brand, on a coastline that is being developed as sensitively as the Costa Smeralda in Sardinia. Oh, and the kids’ club might just be the best in Europe.
Get there: Easyjet fly to Thessaloniki (Halkidiki) and Kalamata (Peloponnese).
Another short haul destination where the weather holds out for longer, Morocco has the added advantage of being – without question – the most exotic destination in close proximity to the UK. We defy any youngster to be anything but wide-eyed with wonder on an evening visit to the extraordinary Djemaa el-fna square in Marrakech when soothsayers and sword swallowers entertain crowds of tourists and locals alike. There are several characterful riads in the medina that cater for kids, as well as a range of excellent hotels with more facilities outside the ancient city walls. The Royal Palm and Four Seasons Marrakech are two in particular. Marrakech is a winner in its own right, but it’s worth considering a combination with the coast, with the charming Rebali Riads near Essaouira a great place for families thanks to great watersports and other activities such as riding.
Get there: BA, Easyjet and Royal Air Maroc fly to Marrakech.
We’re starting to head further afield now, and there’s no better place for children to experience that alluring combination of ‘bush and beach’ (a safari followed by time by the sea) than the spiritual home of the concept, Kenya. There are any number of excellent family-friendly safari camps in the Masai Mara and further north in Laikipia, and then the beaches of southern Kenya (with the private hire properties on Diani in gold medal position) offer fantastic watersports and R&R potential.
Get there: BA and Air Kenya fly to Nairobi.
Fall for the fall colours in beautiful, autumnal New England or for the easy going beach life in California (and Disneyland, Universal Studios et al), safe in the knowledge that you’ll experience the near universally excellent service on offer in the States. Alternatively, make a city break of it in New York. None of the above are going to boiling (LA averages 18 degrees celsius in October) but that’s balmy compared to Blighty at the same time of year.
Get there: BA flies to Boston (for New England), LA & San Francisco in California, and New York.
A destination that caters perfectly to both honeymooners and families might sound a bit suspect, but Mauritius manages to pull off the trick, with the island’s wide selection of beachfront hotels designed with one or other audience in mind. Of the family-friendly options that might not be on your radar, consider The Paradis. Not the smartest hotel on the island, but a good choice for its excellent facilities. Whichever hotel you go for, there’s always plenty going on on the wider island, from quad-biking safaris in the hills, boat trips along the coast, a visit to a crocodile park and even a submarine adventure in a mini-sub to see shipwrecks and marine life.
Get there: Air Mauritius flies to the wonderfully named Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport direct and daily.
Tom Barber is one of the founder of Original Travel, and the Travel Editor for Esquire Magazine.