School's out for the sunshine
The half-term holidays are the perfect chance to grab some autumn warmth with your family, whether you fancy the Algarve or Marrakech
Wednesday 10 October 2012
What's the attraction?
The school half-term holidays are almost upon us again, but there is still time to escape the country before the winter chill really sets in.
This year, the mid-term break for schools spans anywhere from 20 October to 4 November. Temperatures in some corners of Europe are still respectably warm and there are still lots of affordable options available throughout the United Kingdom – you could relax in a rural corner of France, travel to Morocco for some sunshine or introduce your family to the wonders of the desert in Oman.
And – happily – a more favourable exchange rate also means that your pound will go 10 per cent further in the eurozone than it would have done a year ago.
With direct flights from the UK and October temperatures in the upper 20s, Oman is a good option. Explore the dramatic landscape of the country's Empty Quarter with KE Adventure Travel's Oman Adventure group trip (01768 773 966; keadventure.com). It includes the chance to see dolphins and turtles, and spend two days camel trekking, meeting Bedouins and sleeping under the stars. There is also a hike in Wadi Ghul – Oman's answer to the Grand Canyon. Departs on 27 October; £2,045 per adult and £1,670 per child; includes return flights from London to Muscat, accommodation, meals, transfers and activities.
A little luxe
The brand new Conrad Algarve (00 351 289 350 700; conradalgarve.com) is set in Quinta do Lago, a handy 20-minute drive from Faro airport. Despite the obvious sophistication of its Gusto restaurant, overseen by Michelin-starred chef Heinz Beck, and the contemporary chic decor, the 154-room hotel is family-friendly. Local children were enlisted to help to devise its Little C Palace children's club, which offers treasure hunts, baby yoga and "mocktail"-making classes. It opens from Wednesday to Sunday for three- to 12-year-olds and costs €29 per day. There's an indoor and three outdoor heated swimming pools – plus a regular shuttle to the beach. A suite sleeping two adults and two children costs €269 per night, with breakfast.
Pizza the action
October is a great time to visit Italy's Sorrento coast, when the weather is invariably balmy and the crowds have dispersed. Set in the hills is the Oasi Olimpia Relais, a small hotel and cookery school. Children can roll up their sleeves for pizza-making classes, using ingredients from the garden. It has 11 rooms and four cottages, each with a garden and the use of a pool and tennis court. Teenagers can gen up for term time with a visit to nearby Pompeii. ExpertoItaly (020 7520 3100; expertoitaly.com) offers a stay in a cottage sleeping up to four from 27 October to 2 November for £705 per week, room only. Flights to Naples are extra.
Rock the kasbah
Morocco is a popular half-term escape. The Kasbah Angour (00 212 524 484 121; kasbahangour.com) is a Berber castle in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains near Marrakesh. As well as a large pool, it has lots of child-friendly activities such as donkey treks. A four-night B&B stay starts at €388 per person, based on a family of four, including transfers from the airport. Flights cost extra. EasyJet Holidays (0843 104 1000; holidays.easyjet.com) is offering a week closer to the action of Marrakesh for £852 per person, including flights from Gatwick on 27 October and half-board at the Hotel El Andalous, just outside the medina walls.
The Château Les Carrasses (0845 686 8067; lescarrasses.com) is a grand 19th-century mansion surrounded by vineyards in the rolling countryside of the Languedoc in France. The estate is home to 28 self-catering apartments and houses, all done in a chic and understated French style with all the mod cons. A brasserie, bar, tennis courts, boules, a heated pool and children's HQ with toys, games, television, DVD player and a Wii, make it a good option for half-term getaways. There is still availability at the end of October with a three-bedroom house costing €1,652 for seven nights. Travel to France is not included; however, Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) flies to nearby Béziers.
Close to home
If you'd rather not stray too far, younger children will love a stay on a farm – Farm Stay UK (02476 696 909; farmstay.co.uk) offers more than 1,200 properties set on farms – Cyfie Farm Luxury Cottages in Powys has a cottage that sleeps four available from 25 October for £400 for seven nights. The Rosevine (01872 580 206; rosevine.co.uk) in Portscatho, Cornwall, has boutique-style self-catering apartments with hotel facilities available from £255 for up to four guests.
Two-, four- and seven-night Family Active Breaks are still available at several PGL (0844 371 2424; pgl.co.uk) properties. Families can enjoy everything from abseiling and fencing to climbing and kayaking. From £145 per adult and £129 per child for two nights at Caythorpe Court in Lincolnshire.
Budding David Beckhams will enjoy a stay at the Lowry Hotel (0870 460 5040; roccofortehotels.com) in Manchester, which is offering a Manchester Football Package: an overnight B&B stay and guided tour of the National Football Museum. £195 per double; £50 per extra child.
Who said that?
"One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things" – Henry Miller
"Travelling in the company of those we love is home in motion" – Leigh Hunt
"There is no such thing as fun for the whole family" – Jerry Seinfeld
A four-hour time difference and direct flights mean hitting the pristine beaches of Mauritius is a viable option. The Residence perches on a blissful, mile-long slice of powdery white sand. During half-term it will also be offering free swimming lessons for young guests, which certainly beats chilly afternoons spent at the local pool. There is also a complimentary Planters Kids Club with a host of supervised activities for three- to 12-year-olds from morning until bedtime. Departing 20-31 October, Turquoise Holidays (01494 678 400; turquoiseholidays.com) is offering seven nights from £1,495 per person, based on a family of four sharing two interconnecting Garden View rooms. Includes flights from London, transfers and half-board.
"For children… I'd advise slowing down. If touring, spend three or four days at each place. Travelling point to point is a challenging part of going away with children so it's best to compromise this with the number of places you will visit." – Duncan Middleton, Audley Travel (01993 838 015; audleytravel.com)
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