Water view: Villa Shambhala / John Armstrong -Millar

If you've got pre-school children, the chances are you're waiting for the heat, crowds, and inflated prices of the summer holidays to subside before booking a break. And who can blame you?

There's still good weather to be found relatively close to home during September, while holiday prices can be 30 to 50 per cent less than in August.

La Casona, a beautiful stone cottage in the Cantabrian hills of northern Spain, sleeps six and is a 15-minute drive to the beach. A week costs £495 in late September, excluding international travel. The closest port and airport is at Santander (01223 328721; casas.co.uk).

Also ideal for young families, Shambhala is a four-bedroom cottage in France with steps down to the Dordogne river and plenty of baby-friendly fittings (cots, stair gates and more). A week costs £927 in September, excluding flights (0800 133 7999; oliverstravels.com).

A short walk from the sandy beach of Halikounas on Corfu, the Villa Persephoni is all on one level and has a pool in a walled garden, costing £2,527 per week with flights from Gatwick (020 8232 9780; gicthevillacollection.com).

For childcare and lots of activities on an all-inclusive basis, try Mark Warner's Lemnos Beach Resort in Greece (0844 2732 493; markwarner.co.uk, a week from £599 per adult and £391 for under-12s, including flights from Heathrow) or Club Med Napitia in southern Italy (020 3642 6762; clubmed.co.uk; a week from £665 per adult, including flights from Heathrow, children under six stay free, but pay from £65-£329 for flights).

If you don't want to fly, pray for an Indian summer and stay put in the UK. Holiday rental rates take a tumble in September. A week in a self-catering farm cottage near Lustleigh on the edge of Dartmoor, for example, costs just £375 – compared with £803 in high season – and has shared use of a heated indoor pool and games room (01647 434063; helpfulholidays.com).

In Pembrokeshire, Hill Top Farm Cottage (01244 356695; sykescottages.co.uk, from £409 per week) sleeps up to six and has a safe, enclosed garden. Local attractions include Folly Farm, the Welsh Zoo, and Oakwood Theme Park.

Family friendly hotels in the UK also have some great deals. Sands Resort, on the north Cornwall coast, has a four-nights-for-three offer between 20 September and 14 October (01637 872864; sandsresort.co.uk, £126 per night, B&B, for two adults and a baby in a suite), while the Merton Hotel on Jersey (0845 800 5555; seymourhotels.com) is offering free half-board for stays of four nights or more from 29 August. Family suites start at £189 per night.

William Gray is the editor of 101familyholidays.co.uk