From zip-wiring in Costa Rica to driving tanks in Scotland, the best breaks to book now
This itinerary has it all: a 37km off-road mountain biking trail that passes two Omani forts, date plantations and a dry wadi bed; a stay in the stunning Al Hajar mountains; and a trip to the dunes of the Wahiba Sands, where camels await for a sunset safari before a starlit dinner and camping among the dunes. Swim in wadis, snorkel in the sea, see nesting turtles and visit a dhow-building factory. If all that sounds exhausting, at the start and end of the trip, you’ll be staying in Shangri-La’s luxury Al Bandar Hotel.
Details A nine-day half-term trip costs from £2,975pp, based on a family of four, including flights, B&B and activities (01242 787800, redsavannah.com)
Coasteering in Cornwall
If Poldark has inspired you to explore Cornwall’s rugged coastline, you could walk the South West Coast Path. Or you could don wetsuits and take to the water on a coasteering trip, kayaking round some of the Lizard Peninsula’s hidden bays in search of seals, trying to ride the waves on a stand-up paddleboard and leaping into the sea. All this is on offer if you book two nights at the Mullion Cove Hotel, along with the chance to channel your brood’s inner Bear Grylls during lessons in how to light a fire, build a shelter, forage in hedgerows and — for those with strong stomachs — how to gut and cook a rabbit.
Details A two-night adventure package starts at £280 B&B for two adults in a standard room, including one lunch and one activity session for two people. Children under 12 sharing a room with their parents stay free (B&B) and will be charged £40 for each activity session (01326 240328, mullion-cove.co.uk)
Short break in Sri Lanka
The negative publicity about taking children out of school during term-time has persuaded at least one tour operator to shorten some of its more popular trips so that they can be taken during the October break. Families Worldwide is offering a seven-night Ceylon Discovery itinerary, including a trip to the caves and temple at Dambulla, a cycle ride through local villages (plus a cookery lesson), climbing the rock fortress at Sigiriya, a city tour of Kandy, and a train ride up to Nuwara Eliya’s tea plantations and creaky colonial clubs and hotels.
Details The escorted group trip leaves October 22 and costs from £1,814 a child (minimum age five) and £2,034 per adult, including flights and seven nights’ B&B (01962 737560, familiesworldwide.co.uk)
Sea kayak in Scotland
Notch up some family bonding time by learning to sea kayak on the beautiful and reasonably sheltered Sound of Arisaig, near Fort William. During Wilderness Scotland’s four-day family trip there’s the chance to paddle in double and single sea kayaks and you might spot otters and dolphins. It’s not a gruelling itinerary: the tuition is relaxed and plenty of breaks are factored in. The base for the trip is a comfortable, traditional inn whose owner is an enthusiastic sea kayaker, so expect some useful tips.
Details It costs £695pp for a family of four sharing a family room, three nights’ B&B, three packed lunches, guiding and specialist safety equipment (01479 420020, wildernessscotland.com). The maximum group size is eight and the minimum age is 10.
Desert safari and Indian Ocean
If chilling on a beach in the Maldives all week is too sedate for your family, mix it up with a desert safari first. In Ras al-Khaimah (a short hop from Dubai) falconry, sandboarding and camel riding are on the menu if you stay at the Banyan Tree Al Wadi hotel, which has its own nature reserve. Then it’s a four-hour flight to Malé and a seaplane ride to Per Aquum Niyama, a resort spread across two islands named Chill and Play. The infinity pool should wow the family and the Explorers Children’s Club will keep them entertained.
Details A week costs £8,986 for a family of four with two children under 12. This includes Emirates flights, B&B at the Banyan Tree staying in an Al Rimal Deluxe Pool villa, and half-board at Niyama, staying in a Beach Studio with Turquoise Holidays (01494 678400, turquoiseholidays.co.uk)
Explore Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one big family playground, whether you’re kayaking through the waterways and mangrove forests of Tortuguero National Park, zip-wiring through the jungle, swimming under a waterfall, or exploring a volcano. Budding Attenboroughs can spot caymans, iguanas, river turtles, basilisk lizards and poison dart frogs, and October is a great month for seeing green sea turtles in Tortuguero.
Details Journey Latin America’s eight-day Wildlife and Volcanoes tour starts at £8,448, based on a family of four staying in double and twin rooms, breakfast, full board in Tortuguero, excursions, transfers and flights. (020 8600 1881, journeylatinamerica.co.uk). The minimum age is eight
Swim with stingrays in Tobago
The family-friendly eco-resort Castara Retreats, on Tobago’s northwest coast, is perfect for a laid-back Robinson Crusoe-inspired jaunt. Consisting of 15 lodges backed by rainforest with cracking views over the Caribbean, it’s a magical place where you can swim with stingrays, snorkel, watch pelicans fish and hummingbirds fly, beach-hop and generally unwind. Tobago lies outside the hurricane belt so the weather should be fine (the average temperature is 29C).
Details Seven nights for a family of four starts at £1,750, staying in a Treetops apartment on a room-only basis (castararetreats.com). Flights from Gatwick with Virgin (virgin-atlantic.com) start at £586.62pp on October 23
Last of the summer glamping in Herefordshire
In the middle of a 3,000-acre estate in the heart of Herefordshire’s cider country and surrounded by apple orchards, Maddle Brook Safari tent is an idyllic base for a family digital detox. The setting is pure fairytale, over a small wooden bridge and close to a babbling brook. Inside the tent there’s a double bedroom, separate bunk-bed den, cottage-style lounge area and a kitchen with a log-burner. Mercifully, there’s also a separate heated shower hut. (The camp is dog-friendly too, but this is a working farm so sheep will be near by.) Build dens, play pooh sticks and stroll over to the River Wye. If you’re feeling active, you can join stand-up paddleboarding and guided canoe trips, or go mountain biking and gorge walking. The area is packed with cider producers and there’s a cider museum in Hereford (cidermuseum.co.uk) for any wet days.
Details Quality Unearthed (01348 830922, qualityunearthed.co.uk) has three nights for £360, or seven nights for £800, based on up to five sharing.
Tank driving and stargazing in Scotland
Glenapp Castle in Ayrshire has pulled out the stops for half-term with activities that should keep even the stroppiest teenager entertained. Study the night skies with an astrophysicist in the national park surrounding Glenapp, drive a tank, go off-road quad biking or sea fishing, or visit the Laggan outdoor centre (with what is claimed to be Europe’s longest zip wire). The castle has 17 huge, comfortable rooms, all with open fires, great food and wonderful views over Ailsa Craig and the Mull of Kintyre.
Details It costs £395 a night half-board, for a family room sleeping up to four: you get two activities with a three-night stay, three activities with five nights, or five activities with seven nights (01465 831212, glenappcastle.com)
Superjeep safari in Iceland
For an intrepid half-term, it doesn’t get more adrenaline-pumped than a trip across southern Iceland in a superjeep — equipped with huge tyres to bounce over the rugged terrain. Exploring the black sands of Skaftafell National Park, tackling steep climbs up icy glaciers, getting up close to volcanic Mount Hekla, visiting waterfalls and relaxing in natural hot pools are all part of the deal. Best of all, you don’t have to take the wheel because a driver/guide is part of the package. Snowmobile jaunts are extra, as are boat tours in search of whales — there are more than 20 different species in the waters around Iceland.
Details A four-night superjeep trip starts at £1,670pp, including flights and B&B. There are departures throughout October half-term (020 7666 1290, regent-holidays.co.uk)
Glacier skiing in France
If you’re a skiing-mad family and can’t wait for winter, Snoworks runs kids’ ski-race camps during October half-term in Tignes, high up on the glacier (conditions have been very good this summer) and there are plenty of courses for parents too. The minimum age for junior race camps is seven, ski-level 4 upwards (confident on red runs and able to negotiate the easier black runs) and each camp runs from Monday to Friday. Extra activities include fitness, co-ordination and agility training, volleyball, basketball and football. There’s also a race day at the end of the week with prizes.
Details Prices start at £3,240 for a family of four, including ski courses and seven nights’ half-board at the Mark Warner Chalet Hotel L’Ecrin, plus airport transfers (0844 5430503, snoworks.co.uk). Flights to Geneva with easyJet (easyJet.com) departing on October 22 start at £110pp, including one hold bag.
Diving in Malta
Malta is the perfect destination for a half-term diving holiday because of its year-round sunshine and calm waters — and it’s good value too. The PADI Open Water Course operated by the Maltaqua dive centre lasts four days, with a mix of classroom, pool and open-water diving in the sea to complete the qualification. Stay at the Sands Apartments in the village of St Paul’s Bay, which has a range of one to three-bedroom apartments and is a five-minute walk from the seafront.
Details Adults pay from £795pp, children from £750pp, including flights, seven nights’ self-catering, transfers, PADI Open Water Course, tuition and equipment (01962 302087, diveworldwide.com)
Cycling in Spain
Cambrils in Tarragona on the Costa Dorada makes a great base for a family cycling holiday. The town has 17 miles of bike lanes and it’s the starting point for routes inland. Stay at the Estival Eldorado Resort, just outside the town on the coastal path, which doubles as a bike hotel and offers cycling packages for all abilities, bike hire, an indoor cycling room and specialist guides and coaches. For a day out of the saddle, PortAventura theme park is an eight-minute train ride from Cambrils.
Details A week’s half-board in a junior suite costs £840 for a family of four (doradoplaya.com). Flights from Stansted to Reus with Ryanair start at about £220 return
Bouldering near Paris
Turn a city break in the French capital into an adventure by tacking on three days’ bouldering (rock climbing without ropes) in Fontainebleau Forest southeast of the city — and watch your eight-year-old scamper like a mountain goat. Fontainebleau’s rocky gorges, where Alpine climbers have practised since the end of the 19th century, have thousands of sandstone boulders of all grades.
Details Rock and Sun (rockandsun.com) has a three-day package that includes instruction/coaching, three nights in an apartment or gite and transport to and from the crags from £399pp. There’s no minimum age, but adults must boulder at the same time as their children, or at least be in attendance. It’s best to fly to Charles de Gaulle airport, from where it’s an easy train trip to Fontainebleau. Flights with Air France (airfrance.co.uk) start at about £110 with one piece of hold baggage
Riding in Dorset
If you’re looking for a gentle adventure for small children, book a cottage at Luccombe Farm in a hidden valley in Dorset and you’re next to Pound Cottage Riding Centre. Lessons are available for ages two and over, and there are 650 acres of rolling countryside to explore. Kids can tend to the horses and feed alpacas, and the six cottages in the complex share a heated indoor pool, sauna and games room.
Details Seven nights from October 21 start at £865 for The Tackroom, which sleeps four, through Farm Stay (farmstay.co.uk). Riding lessons at Pound Cottage Riding Centre start at £18 for children (16 years and under) and £20 for adults (pound-cottage-riding-centre.com)