‘Plan now and breeze through the school year’

Whether you’re after ad­ven­ture or plenty of sunshine, Sally Peck has the formula for half-term hap­pi­ness

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE -

You should know that there is a se­cret to sur­viv­ing – and even en­joy­ing – half-term hol­i­days. Bri­tish chil­dren spend less time in pri­mary school than their peers abroad (in Amer­ica, for ex­am­ple, or In­done­sia). Nat­u­rally, this puts the onus on par­ents, as yet an­other mid-term break rolls around, to pull some­thing re­ally mag­i­cal and sur­pris­ing out of the hat.

Lack­ing the length and pre­set agen­das of Easter and Christ­mas, and de­void of the clear man­date (bucket, spade, sun) and rel­a­tively fair lo­cal weather of sum­mer, the Oc­to­ber, Fe­bru­ary and May half-terms can eas­ily be squan­dered. And yet, these are some of the best times of year to travel with chil­dren if you pick your des­ti­na­tion care­fully.

Find­ing the right des­ti­na­tion at the right time of year is not straight­for­ward; trop­i­cal weather can be fickle. You might be tempted to book in south­ern Europe in Oc­to­ber, but you’d be tak­ing a big chance: Cyprus and Turkey are your best bets then, but you still have a 25 per cent chance of en­coun­ter­ing rain.

Come May, however, and it would be a shame not to take ad­van­tage of the lower prices and mod­er­ate heat in Greece, or south­ern re­gions of Italy and Spain. An­other con­sid­er­a­tion: you must be re­al­is­tic about what you and your chil­dren are ready to take on in a short time pe­riod. In many ways, Thai­land, Ja­pan and Brazil are among our favourite des­ti­na­tions for fam­i­lies: each coun­try of­fers cul­ture, food and beaches that beckon peo­ple of all ages. But given a week, we would ad­vise stick­ing to shorter flights, or des­ti­na­tions where flop­ping or beach sports are more of the focus; leave longer trips for Easter or sum­mer.

Fe­bru­ary, for ex­am­ple, is one of the best times of year to visit Kenya, says Ge­of­frey Kent, founder and CEO of Abercrombie & Kent, be­cause “water is scarce and so wildlife is abun­dant close to any avail­able water sources.

“For those who want to avoid tak­ing malaria treat­ment, South Africa and Namibia are favourites, with Oc­to­ber and Fe­bru­ary ideal times to visit.”

With so lit­tle time dif­fer­ence be­tween Lon­don, Nairobi, Cape Town and Wind­hoek, chil­dren can hit the ground run­ning as they ex­plore.

The sub­trop­i­cal cli­mate of the Ca­naries, and the rel­a­tively short flight-time to this Span­ish ar­chi­pel­ago off the south-western tip of Morocco, make this the most pop­u­lar choice for fam­i­lies trav­el­ling with Thomas Cook in Fe­bru­ary. Tener­ife and Lan­zarote re­main pop­u­lar in Oc­to­ber with the op­er­a­tor, though Turkey is favoured for the autumn half-term, as it is in May. At a slightly higher price, Kuoni, spe­cial­ists in long-haul sun, sees the Mal­dives dom­i­nate the Fe­bru­ary and Oc­to­ber half-terms for fam­i­lies, while Spain is top choice over the Whit­sun half-term, though the United Arab Emi­rates and Mau­ri­tius make strong show­ings in each hol­i­day pe­riod, too.

Whether you’re after an ad­ven­ture or guar­an­teed sunshine, plan your trips now and breeze through the school year with­out last-minute pan­ics with our ex­pert guide to where to go when, and at what age.

Read on for our favourite picks for Oc­to­ber, Fe­bru­ary and May, plus the most re­li­able year-round des­ti­na­tions and the best of Bri­tain, at any time. Fol­low­ing the school year’s long­est stretch with­out a break, Oc­to­ber half-term is the per­fect time to es­cape Bri­tain – but un­less your child’s school has a two-week hol­i­day, you’ll be com­pet­ing with ev­ery­one else for the same fares and want­ing to avoid ex­ces­sive flight times.

This is the time of year to pur­sue three things: sun, an­i­mals and cul­ture. If it’s warmth you want, you might chance it around the Med – Cyprus or Morocco are your best bet weath­er­wise, with tem­per­a­tures in the high 60Fs (low 20Cs) – but you’ll have to fly a bit fur­ther for true heat be­fore the dark days de­scend.

You might also try ex­plor­ing some­where dif­fer­ent that doesn’t rely too much on the weather – this is a fine time for city breaks around Europe, as the flights are short and you can be flex­i­ble on the amount of time you de­vote to the trip: if work sched­ules al­low only for a long week­end in Ber­lin, you’ll still get a break from daily life, and an in­jec­tion of art, his­tory and culi­nary ad­ven­ture for your fam­ily.

GO­ING DUTCH

Am­s­ter­dam’s canals, gal­leries and parks are well suited to ex­plo­ration with pri­mary-aged chil­dren. Kid & Coe’s stylish, fully equipped (that means toys) fam­ily apart­ments make life even eas­ier. After a few days of cul­ture, head south-east to Eftel­ing, a fairy­tale theme park based around wood­land cab­ins.

Kid & Coe (0203 962 0784; ki­dand­coe.com) of­fers four nights at the Oud West Res­i­dence in Am­s­ter­dam from £1,632 for a fam­ily of four, ar­riv­ing Oct 22 and Eftel­ing (0416 537777; eftel­ing.com) of­fers one night at the Loon­sche Land Ho­tel from £312, ar­riv­ing Oct 26, in­clud­ing park tick­ets. You could fly (easyjet.com) or take Eurostar (eurostar.com) to Am­s­ter­dam and Dutch trains (ns.nl/en).

REEF LIFE IN MAU­RI­TIUS

Sunshine is vir­tu­ally guar­an­teed and sail­ing and glass-bot­tom boat trips should keep school-age chil­dren busy at Con­stance Belle Mare, a re­cently re­fur­bished re­sort on one of Mau­ri­tius’s best beaches. The kids’ club here features com­put­ers and cook­ery, while the more ad­ven­tur­ous can learn to dive. Turquoise Hol­i­days (01494 678400; www.turquoise­hol­i­days.co.uk) of­fers seven nights from £8,599 for a fam­ily of four on a half-board ba­sis at Con­stance Belle Mare, depart­ing Oct 20, in­clud­ing flights from Heathrow.

BOWS AND AR­ROWS IN TAN­ZA­NIA

Older chil­dren will love a sa­fari in Tan­za­nia, which can be less busy than the Ma­sai Mara at this time of year. They can try shoot­ing ar­rows with tribes­men, hike along­side ze­bra and gi­raffe and pad­dle across lakes in search of hip­pos.

REACH­ING OUTCon­stance Belle Mar Plage in Mau­ri­tius, right; fan­tasy-themed Eftel­ing, above; get­ting tribal in Tan­za­nia, be­low

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