Q. I'm currently perusing holidays suitable for a family of five in mid-September: two adults, twins aged two and an eight-month-old baby. We are looking to travel independently to somewhere quiet and picturesque. A nice little beach is most important to us with safe accommodation close by. We went to Scarborough and loved it, but there is no guarantee we will get good weather. We want a flight no more than two hours with a short transfer. Name withheld, Sheffield
A. Could you be persuaded to be a little less independent? The location that looks just right for you is the beautiful and tranquil island of Menorca, pictured. It's closest of the Balearics, but is most easily experienced on a package holiday with an operator such as Thomas Cook or Thomson. They have plenty of simple beachside accommodation options. Thomson is offering a self-catering week in an apartment at the Son Bou Gardens in the middle of Menorca's south coast for a total of £1,339 for your family group. The price includes flights from your nearest airport, Doncaster, on 13 September, and transfers (taking about half an hour). This works out at £267 for each member of your group, which looks reasonable.
If you insist on the independent approach, then try southern France. Fly into Biarritz, whose airport is only 3km from the resort. Ryanair is quoting £101 return from Stansted on 14 September for a week – though, of course, the cost will increase when you add in luggage, etc. In September you should find plenty of good accommodation deals around, since the main French holidays have ended. For somewhere quieter, take the train from Biarritz down the coast to the resorts of St-Jean-de-Luz or Hendaye, both with wide, sandy beaches. Whatever you choose, your infant should travel for a nominal price, while the two-year-olds will be classed as adults for the purposes of flying.
One final option: travelling by train from Sheffield to London St Pancras, where you transfer to Lille on Eurostar with onward connections to a range of Mediterranean destinations; Montpellier is an excellent choice. Your children will travel free, but this is likely to be a day-long journey so may not appeal.