The best half-term holidays are the ones where everyone is happy: your on-the-go toddler, inquisitive juniors, independence-craving teens, and the adults too, of course. We’ve picked the destinations for October that pack family holidays full of wildly imaginative adventures and child-friendly hotels that offer quality time with a luxurious touch.
Half-term coastal adventures
Classic seaside break destination Cornwall is a firm family favourite for half-term, with ice-creams on tap, safe beaches for sandcastle building and the UK’s best chippys. Head to Penzance to pick up eye-patches and (fake) cutlasses for piratical adventures, with a stop at Harry Potter-esque St Michael’s Mount, dramatic Minack Amphitheatre to climb over the stepped seats and gaze out to sea, and Jubilee Pool for paddling and U-rated open-air screenings. Tiny minds will also be blown by the magical Lost Gardens of Heligan and nature-lesson-in-action Eden Project, and Charlestown’s tall ships are toy boats on a grand scale.
Where to stay
The Artist Residence Penzance has cosy cottages with full kitchens and bunk beds, plus swing seats and ping-pong in its garden and a kids’ menu.
A child-friendly city-to-country break
For the best family holiday in France, pair a stay in Paris with a spell in the country. Spend your city break musing on the art within the Centre Pompidou’s crazed Duplo-build shell, immerse yourself in scaled-up projections of Klimt and Van Gogh works at L’Atelier des Lumières, and ride donkeys in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. And see the Gallic take on an American institution at Disneyland Paris. The ideal destination for a fuss-free half-term break, leafy Bonnelles is just an hour’s drive or train ride from the capital. My Little Pony lovers will thrill at the expansive stables; pint-sized bikes are easily acquired; and country pursuits such as trail-trekking, archery and fishing will keep young ‘uns engaged.
Where to stay
Résidence Nell Paris is a stylish modern stay in the 9ème arrondissement with rooms large enough to fit a smalls-sleeping sofa bed and a handy kitchenette. In Bonnelles, Le Barn Hotel is a summer-camp style hideaway with leafy grounds, a herd of horses and family fun aplenty.
October half-term for creative types
Berlin’s mind-opening art galleries, avant-garde fashion, ethical ideals (those trying veganism out for size will do well here) and innate creativity, will entrance formative minds. Plus, it approaches even the starkest of GCSE history subjects with engaging verve. So, while insight into life in East Germany during the Cold War might not sound like a fun day out, the DDR Museum wins by the simplest of means: buttons. Lots of buttons. Then there’s the Naturkundemuseum in Mitte, a behemoth every inch as eye-widening and immersive as its London counterpart. Each area, from Evolution in Action and the Cosmos to (our favourite) the giant insect room, will fire a child’s imagination.
Where to stay
Max Brown Ku’damm hotel is a budget-friendly base with a playful feel. Alongside its Berlin-in-a-nutshell style (colour, print, industrial accents), rooms have mini basketball hoops and Crosley record-players, and teens can play pool, pick up vintage-style wares in the onsite boutique and rise as late as they like for all-day breakfasts.
A cultural family holiday across the pond
If you want wall-to-wall distractions for October half-term, the city that never sleeps will tucker out little ones with its lifetime-filling list of things to do. First, tick off New York’s big-hitters (One World Observatory, Central Park, Broadway, Lady Liberty…), then see NYC’s more niche sites. Children’s Museum of the Arts offers cultural cool on a kid’s level, and they can try sports of all nature, watch films, bowl and much more at Chelsea Piers. The High Line is an enjoyable way to map out the city, too. Cross over to cooler Brooklyn for a ride on historic Jane’s Carousel, vertiginous slides and interactive water features at Brooklyn Bridge Park and Rock and Roll Playhouse concerts at Industry City (think Led Zeppelin and David Bowie, rather than Baa Baa Black Sheep).
Where to stay
Freehand New York has a shuffleboard and arcade games to play, and its multi-person rooms are budget-friendly (hire a babysitter if you want a night propping up the bar). 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge has the park on its doorstep and engaging eco activities for smalls.
Half-term for castaways
Family holidays in the Maldives are largely spent in the water, whether paddling in a private pool, scuba-ing through neon-flecked coral reefs or a gentle ‘my first Padi-course’ dives to see rays, IRL baby sharks and shoals of exotic fish, so swim-confident juniors will fare best here. But, from the beginning to end of half-term, kids out of water will be well entertained too, with beach pottering, dolphin-spotting boat trips and jungly nature trails. The Maldives excel at a ‘you’re the boss’ attitude and living-it-large kids’ clubs, so you needn’t fear fussy eaters, left-at-home essentials or temper tantrums.
Where to stay
Soneva Fushi is a kids’ paradise; its club has everything from a pirate ship and Lego room to a mocktail bar and zipline, and there are rooms dedicated to ice-cream and chocolate to be raided at will. Elsewhere, Soneva Jani has vast overwater villas fitted with waterslides.