Summer is barely over, and with the pandemic, we know not everyone feels they’ve had an opportunity to take a proper family holiday yet this year. All eyes immediately turn to the much-anticipated October half-term school holidays to plan an overdue family escape.
Days are getting shorter in late October, and it’s creeping into “too cold for the beach” weather but not cold enough yet for skiing and winter sports. This is why October is always our favourite time for packing the most into an adventurous family holiday abroad.
Usually a 9-day break, there’s plenty you can pack into this mid-autumn mini-break from school
Europe may be cooling, but we’ve picked out our favourites from island retreats within easy reach of the UK to fabulous family adventures that can be enjoyed around northern Africa and the Middle East, plus a few European favourites that still appeal in autumn.
Note pad and pen ready? Let’s dive into 12 Incredible destinations to get on your October half-term bucket list.
Please note, COVID-19 means travel restrictions are constantly changing. We have flagged where we are aware of current Red/Amber list issues. October 2021 may not be the best time for international family travel but do bookmark this page for later inspiration.
Planning resources for October Half-term Travel
- Find the exact dates your UK school district will take October half term holidays here
- See entry restrictions for re-entering the UK including Red, Amber & Green listed countries
- We recommend booking accommodation using online booking tools such as Booking.com for your accommodation and Get Your Guide for your tours and attractions. Both of these companies we use extensively ourselves as they offer fabulous last-minute cancellation policies should plans need to change – as they often do in the 2020’s!
- Take out travel insurance! It’s more important than ever to think about trip distruptions, cancellations, delays – look for comprehensive traveller coverage here.
1. Do the Theme Parks in Dubai
- Distance from the UK: About a 7 hour flight
- Weather in October: Average day time highs 35.6°C/96°F
A super popular October holiday spot for families looking for some fun in the sun, Dubai is an action-packed centre of activity. There are so many family-friendly activities in Dubai it’s hard to know where to start! Certainly, the water parks and theme parks will be hot favourites in October. A much shorter flight than trekking to Orlando, and most definitely fewer crowds.
You’ll find water temperature in the Persian Gulf is still a really pleasant 31°C/88°F and rainfall is almost unheard of in October (though not impossible!). Get on the road and explore the mountainous regions of Hatta and Ras Al Khaimah – even a day trip to the very tip of Oman, Musandam for some dolphin spotting!
Where to stay: There are so many great family-friendly choices in Dubai. On the beach try Doubletree by Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Beach for serviced apartments and space, or for a luxury resort favourite with a waterpark thrown in you can’t beat Atlantis The Palm, Dubai
2. Beachcomb the Canary Islands
- Distance from the UK: Just over 4 hours to Tenerife or Lanzarote
- Weather in October: Expect highs around 21°C/70°F and overnight lows of 9°C/48°F
Some 100 kilometres off the coast of Africa, there is a small collection of seven islands called the Canary Islands. An autonomous community of Spain, these beautiful islands offer a cultural blend that your whole family will love. The Canary Islands are perfect for the October half-term holidays because it always feels like spring in the Canary Islands!
Some of the fun water activities you can do on the Canary Islands include windsurfing, sunbathing, sailing and paddle boarding. Kids will be fascinated by the black sand beaches of Tenerife or laze away on Lanzarote.
October is when you’ll find the warmest water temperatures in the Canary Islands (around 21°C/70°F). For the least chance of rain, head to the southernmost islands of Tenerife or Gran Canaria.
3. Jaunt down history’s lane in Jordan
- Distance from the UK: A bit over 5 hours flight time to Amman
- Weather in October: Expect highs of 29°C/84°F in Petra and lows overnight 13°C/55°F (warmer in the south/Red Sea)
If you and your family are looking for a complete change of scenery this October half term, why not tackle a trip to Jordan? Located in the Middle East, Jordan provides you with an easy getaway to explore new cultures.
Take a step back in time from the remains of the temple of Hercules found in Amman to the breathtaking Lost City of Petra. The lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea is also located in Jordan, and if you are daring enough you can float on its calm but exceptionally salty surface!
Enjoy glamping in the vast plains of Wadi Rum Desert and take in the incredible ancient Decapolis city of Jerash in the north. Truly one of the best educational trips of a lifetime that we cannot recommend highly enough for families with a sense of adventure.
Where to stay: We like the Movenpick chain in Jordan for families, the convenience of their Petra property, or try Tala Bay, Aqaba if it’s the Red Sea relaxing you want. There are lots of family-friendly resorts lining the Dead Sea to choose from.
4. Experience the natural wonders of Iceland
- Distance from the UK: Approx 3 hour flight time
- Weather in October: Highs of 7°C/44.6°F Lows of 2°C/35.6°F
Iceland is fast becoming a favourite family vacation location for adventurers. It is a lovely country with so much natural beauty and rich history because of its Viking affiliations.
There is so much to do in Iceland; a week will allow you plenty of time to take a Golden Circle tour around some of the most famous landmarks of Iceland. Don’t miss visiting the Blue Lagoon and a hike to Bruarfoss Waterfall is manageable with kids.
It will be quite cool in October, and daylight hours are limited, but for this reason, much less crowded than in the summer as it is the start of the winter season. October is also considered a great time of year in Iceland for seeing the Northern Lights making it one of our favourites for the October half-term break.
Where to stay: We recommend with a full week to avail, get yourself a camper van and make it a road trip! Staying in Reykjavik try Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina
5. Go island hopping in the Azores
- Distance from the UK: Under 4 hours
- Weather in October: Expect daily highs of 22°C/72°F and overnight lows of 15°C/59°F
The Azores is a beautiful archipelago made up of four main islands that are believed to be the remnants of Atlantis, the underwater city that was engulfed by one of the Azores’ volcanic lakes. An autonomous region of Portugal, the islands benefit from the Gulf Stream delivering year-round mild temperatures.
The best way to do this is by exploring the four islands; Faial, Pico, Terceira and São Miguel. Each island has something that makes it unique.
São Miguel is the most popular of all four islands with its exotic plants and vividly coloured lakes, nature trails galore. Faial is popular for being a quaint island with small harbours that were safe spaces for sailors while Pico is a perfect place to go whale watching with your family.
Terceira is known for its underwater treasures and beautiful architecture. You and your family will enjoy picnics in its natural caves for some well-earned quality time away from screens.
The weather on all four islands is nice and exploration friendly in October. You may run into a little rain, but plenty of sunshine and high humidity keeps it warm enough for beach weather (expect ocean temperatures around 22°C/72°F).
6. Admire ancient Egyptian artefacts
- Distance from the UK: Under 5 hours to Cairo, 5.5 hours to Hurghada (Red Sea coast)
- Weather in October: Expect highs of 30°C/86°F in Cairo (hotter as you head south and to the Red Sea)
October is a great time of year to explore Egypt. It is hot enough to enjoy the spoils of the Red Sea and get in some snorkelling, whilst the daytime highs are not excruciatingly hot to spoil the enjoyment of Egypt’s cultural side too.
We would still recommend families looking to tour the temples along the Nile do their exploration early in the day, before settling back to enjoy a splash in the pool aboard their Nile Cruise. You can read more about what to expect on board a Nile cruise with kids here.
A trip to Egypt is quite literally taking a step back in time with thousands of years of history skirting the banks of the Nile, from the Great Pyramids of Giza near Cairo to the Valley of the Kings and Aswan in Upper Egypt.
Got a kid in Grade 3? This is a must to fit in with their curriculum! One of the most culturally enriching experiences with kids, this is one of the best destinations to visit in late October.
Where to stay: Other than cruising the Nile, of particular interest to families will be the ever-expanding resort areas of the Red Sea around Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh. We’ve had our eye on Rixos Premium Seagate, a stunning and luxurious ultra all-inclusive option complete with its own water park!
7. Nature at its best in Namibia
- Distance from the UK: Approximately 14 hour flight (with connections) to Windhoek
- Weather in October: End of winter, expect lows around 18°C/65°F and highs around 29°C/85°F
If you are looking for an enjoyable nature-rich adventure, we recommend that you and your family look at Namibia. October is a perfect time for wildlife viewing in Etosha National Park as the country is dry, encouraging a lot of watering hole activity.
Home to lions, elephants, hippos and rhinos, to name but a few, you’re in for a real treat! You can join a tour or self-navigate and camp in Namibia if you can get your hands on the right gear. It’s the perfect destination for adventures in the great outdoors.
Aside from the wildlife, Namibia has a stunningly rugged coast worthy of exploring. Swakopmund and Walvis Bay offer further marine animal spotting experiences, whilst the perhaps more famous Skeleton Coast offers shipwrecks, immense sand dunes and incredible sea lion colonies.
Aside from the flights, you will find Namibia to be one of the cheapest countries to visit with kids for October half-term break.
8. Insightful Istanbul
- Distance from the UK: Approximately 4 hours flight
- Weather in October: Expect highs of 20°C/68°F and lows of 13°C/55°F
If you want to embark on an educational adventure with your family, we recommend spending your October half-term holidays in Istanbul. A city rich in culture and history, there is so much to learn and do in Istanbul. Istanbul is a meeting place of two worlds, the contemporary and the ancient.
Straddling both Europe and Asia, you can find strong cultural influences from both sides. In Istanbul, you will find relics of the Ottoman Empire, which can serve as a good start to introduce your children to world history. Enjoy the rich cuisine of Istanbul and take in the eclectic architecture, palaces and museums. A boat trip on the Bosphorus will be a truly memorable experience for kids.
9. Spend some time in Southern Spain
- Distance from the UK: Under 3 hour flight time to Seville or Malaga
- Weather in October: Expect highs around 21°C/70°F and overnight lows of 9°C/48°F
Are you and your family interested in spending your October half term visiting a mild destination with great beaches and maybe learning a few phrases in a foreign language? We recommend heading to Andaulisa and exploring the southernmost corner of Spain.
With the great temperatures in October and soothing sun, the cities of Cordoba, Cadiz, Malaga and Seville offer a lot of family-friendly opportunities to have fun. Not quite beach season along the Meditteranean coast, but you can certainly still try and squeeze some final rays out of the autumnal weather with water temperatures around 20.5°C/69°F.
10. Emmerse yourself in Morocco
- Distance from the UK: Just under 4 hours to Marrakech and 3.5 hours to Fez or Casablanca
- Weather in October: Expect highs aorun 29°C/84°F and lows overnight of 15°C/59°F
Morocco is a land that offers much mystery and excitement for travellers, from beautiful beaches to exotic markets. Your family can enjoy an affordable and family-friendly trip to Morroco for the October half-term holidays. Temperatures in October have cooled off summer peaks, making it ideal for exploration.
The climate is temperate and great for relaxation. It is also within surprisingly easy reach of the UK, meaning you do not have to worry about jet lag and calming agitated children.
Let your children get an introduction to North African culture in the markets of Marrakech. Go hiking in the Atlas Mountains. Or if you’re looking for that perfect combination of a Moroccan medina and beach time, head to the chilled out port town of Essaouira.
You can choose to self-drive, join a family-friendly tour or even take a domestic flight – the distances by road can be deceivingly long if you’ve not got long to spend and want to make the most of a short break in Morocco.
11. Plan an authentic Portuguese experience
- Distance from the UK: Around a 2.5 hour flight
- Weather in October: Expect highs of around 21°c/70°F and lows of 12°C/54°F
Take an easy flight to Porto and begin your journey through the wonders of Portugal. If you are looking for a city that embraces its flaws and is not too fancy, Porto is perfect for you. It can provide a great lesson on the duality of life to your kids, as new elegant buildings stand side by side with old, dilapidated buildings.
Enjoy the beautiful music of the city. Savour the cuisine while dining with your family on terraces as Europe on the Atlantic coast gracefully slips through autumn.
12. Indulge in Italy
- Distance from the UK: Under 4 hour flight time to Rome
- Weather in October: Expect highs around 22°C/72°F and overnight lows of 12°C/54°F in Rome
Our list of October half term ideas wouldn’t be complete without Italy, of course! Italy in October is the perfect half-term travel destination for families who want to enjoy the cultural highlights of places such as Rome or Florence without the summer crowds.
Trying the local cuisine is bound to be high on your family’s wishlist, as well as experiencing much of the culture and rich history they have no doubt studied at school. Capturing the Eternal City in its full autumn glow is truly one of the highlights of European travel for any family.
Where to stay: So many choices! See this great guide to family-friendly hotels in Rome. If Venice is your destination try Hotel Olimpia Venice with great family-sized rooms, or Florence try centrally located 7Florence B&B
More Family Travel Inspiration
Looking for more inspiring ideas on where to take your next family holiday? Why not also check out:
- The best European destinations for seeking out summer sun
- The best European family ski resorts to try this winter
- Travel bloggers share their 20 favourite road trips from around the world
- Learn how to snorkel at one of these ideal destinations for families
- Winery trips and kids? Yep, here are our favourite destinations for taking the kids along
- 17 Unbelievable hidden gems for family travel – take yourself off the beaten path with these unique locations
- How to visit the 7 Modern Wonders of the World – with Kids!
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