October half term getaway guide: The hottest staycations and jet-set holidays to book now

·9-min read
 (Alamy Stock Photo)
(Alamy Stock Photo)

It’s official. The amber list has been scrapped for the double jabbed, and with it the pricey PCR tests that had been doubling the cost of that end-of-season minibreak to Hydra you’d been dreaming of since June. Hurrah!

Even better, the red list has been slashed with favourites like Mexico, Thailand and South Africa back on the cards. And, it’s just in time for the October half term, so that school holiday getaway is back on - if you act quickly. According to travel agents, holiday bookings have surged by 200 per cent compared with August since the rules change last week.

So where to go? From last-minute end-of-season sun to half-price luxury only an hour from London, these are the half term heroes to book now.

For late-season sun: A beachside balcony in Tenerife

Gran Melia Palacio De Isora, Canary Islands

Hours from London: Four

 (Gran Melia Palacio De Isora)
(Gran Melia Palacio De Isora)

You can still salvage summer. In the Canary Islands, it’s still 27 degrees in October - ideal for some late-season glow before hunkering down for autumn. Gran Melia Palacio De Isora on Tenerife’s western coast makes the perfect hotspot, with uninterrupted views of the azure blue Atlantic and backed by majestic mountain ranges - if you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike to the Cueva del Viento, one of the world’s biggest lava tubes, and explore the mystical Pyramids of Guimar, six pyramid-shaped structures built from lava stone.

 (Gran Melia Palacio De Isora)
(Gran Melia Palacio De Isora)

Dolphins are regularly spotted from balconies and you don’t need to worry about unexpected Covid costs as Spain’s local government in the Canary Islands is currently covering all travellers’ expenses if they contract the virus during their stay.

From £419 for a Deluxe Double Room on a B&B basis based on two people sharing, melia.com

For an all-inclusive idyll: A bougainvillea-covered bungalow in Crete

Creta Maris, Greece

Hours from London: Four

 (Creta Maris)
(Creta Maris)

All-inclusive ease with the elegance of traditional Greece. This charming resort, next to a Blue Flag beach on Crete’s rocky coastline, has been designed to resemble a Greek village, with bougainvillea-lined alleyways, hibiscus flowers, olive trees, gleaming white walls and hidden squares - made for Instagram. It’s the sister of honeymoon favourite Santo Maris on the nearby island of Santorini, but with more of a family feel: think six restaurants, nine bars, 15 pools, a spa, waterpark and Europe’s biggest open-air cinema (plus Netflix in the rooms if you need a quiet moment).

 (Alamy Stock Photo)
(Alamy Stock Photo)

Choose a deluxe room in one of the resort’s seafront bungalows - each comes with its own balcony or terrace directly overlooking the water - or upgrade to the pool villa apartment, big enough for five guests and a child, featuring its own sauna, hot tub bath and walk-in wardrobe. Kids will love the local stray cats wandering the resort - they’re not owned by the hotel but staff have put up cat houses to feed them and if you’re lucky, they’ll come to say hello when you’re on your sun lounger.

From £200 for a sea view room for two guests at an all-inclusive rate, cretamaris.gr

For a city break with the kids: An indoor tepee in Barcelona

El Palace Barcelona, Spain

Hours from London: Two

 (El Palace Barcelona)
(El Palace Barcelona)

Ronnie Wood, John Wayne and Josephine Baker have all stayed here - now your kids can too. Barcelona’s former Ritz hotel might not sound like the obvious spot for a break with the little ones in tow, but it’s one of the most family-friendly in town, with kids’ bathrobes and slippers, tents in the rooms and an adorable dachshund called Lulu to greet you on arrival (staff have dubbed her the hotel’s Pet Relations Manager).

 (El Palace Barcelona)
(El Palace Barcelona)

Families can opt for two large bedrooms connected by a private hall, or there’s a family suite featuring three separate bedrooms and a central sitting room. Under-11s stay for free and little ones will be gifted with a stuffed teddy of Lulu to take home afterwards.

From £235, hotelpalacebarcelona.com

For island living 60 minutes from London: A garden studio in Jersey

The Atlantic Hotel, Channel Islands

Hours from London: One

 (The Atlantic Hotel)
(The Atlantic Hotel)

One for taking the grandparents - The Atlantic’s ground-floor, pool-side garden studios are perfect for multi-generational stays and there’s still availability for October half term. The hotel is the only member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World in Jersey and is set among 10 acres of private grounds overlooking St Ouen’s Bay, the longest beach in Jersey and a surfers’ paradise, on the north-western corner of the island.

 (Alamy Stock Photo)
(Alamy Stock Photo)

Expect miles of unspoilt golden sand, 19th-century lighthouses and world-famous seafood (the hotel’s latest package is a two-night gourmet dining break for £320 per person). La Moye Championship Golf Course and Jersey National Park are right on the doorstep.

From £220, theatlantichotel.com

For a Centre Parcs feel without the crowds: A lakeside villa in the Cotswolds

The Lakes by Yoo, Gloucestershire

Hours from London: Two

 (The Lakes by Yoo)
(The Lakes by Yoo)

The founder, Olympia London developer John Hitchcox, puts it best himself: “it’s essentially a posh commune,” he says of his 800-acre Cotswolds estate, The Lakes by Yoo, which he compares to the Hamptons.

Sky News presenter Kay Burley owns a house here, countless footballers and heads of industry have checked in for a minibreak, and everyone from Philippe Starck to Elle McPherson and Kate Moss have been asked to help design the growing portfolio of millionaire lakeside properties. The estate has predominantly been built for the super-rich, with the security of a gated community and a five-star concierge service offering £100 Bamford facials and £72-an-hour private mixologists.

 (The Lakes by Yoo)
(The Lakes by Yoo)

But rentals are available, too, for anyone who wants a taste of the magic (on-site activities including paddleboarding, sailing and zip-wiring). Several properties are still available during half term week, from the 14-bedroom Pool House to a 12-person, three-storey modern lodge, The Tardis, with its own infinity pool right on Bowmoor Lake.

From £13,000 for the week, thelakesbyyoo.com

For a staycation with little ones: French cricket and den-building in Essex

Down Hall Hotel & Spa, Bishop’s Stortford

Hours from London: One

 (Down Hall)
(Down Hall)

Croquet and massages for the grown-ups. Den-building and truffle-making for the kids. Down Hall in Essex is an ideal getaway for burnt-out parents looking for a break - without the hassle of trekking to the airport or long car journeys.

The luxury Essex property is set within 110 acres of woodland and from October 16-31, children under 12 are invited to stay and eat for free.

 (Down Hall)
(Down Hall)

Expect beautiful gardens, a babysitting service for date night and a Sharky & George Adventure Camp all week - t-shirt tie-dying, French cricket and DIY volcano crafting are among the activities on offer.

From £185 per night based on two adults and two children sharing, with breakfast included, downhall.co.uk

For autumn charm: Steeples and stargazing in York

The Grand, York

Hours from London: Two

 (The Grand, York)
(The Grand, York)

Jump on the train at King’s Cross and you can be soaking in a bathtub overlooking York’s iconic spires in less than two hours. The Grand sits right next to the city’s station and offers all the essentials for an autumn city break: cobbled shopping streets, historic attractions and afternoon tea next to a roaring fire for cosying up after a walk on the North York Moors.

The hotel’s £359-a-room family package includes a dedicated kids’ check-in station, child-sized spa robes, goody bags and complimentary movies.

 (Alamy Stock Photo)
(Alamy Stock Photo)

For extra magic, book in on October 12 or November 25 and enjoy the hotel’s Dark Skies Package, featuring a stargazing experience under the clear Yorkshire skies with guidance from astronomy expert Richard Darn.

From £419 for a Deluxe Double Room on a B&B basis based on two people sharing, thegrandyork.co.uk

For fairytale magic: A Grade II-listed cottage in Rye

Dot Cottage, East Sussex

Hours from London: One

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Dot Cottage is just over an hour from London in the medieval centre of Rye. It couldn’t be better located, right next to the Landgate Arch, which dates back to 1340 (useful if you get lost as there are signposts to the Landgate all over town). But what’s really special about this Grade II-listed cottage is the design. Owner Catherine Reynolds has a marvellous eye and has lovingly filled it restored vintage furniture, objects and fabrics. She likes things that have a story and Dot Cottage feels straight out of a fairytale.

A private chef is available on request and there is no shortage of things to do - cycle or walk to Pett Level or Camber Sands for a swim and a sandwich from the Red Pig food truck, check out the extraordinary landscape at Dungeness and pay homage to Derek Jarman at his cottage or pretend you are in the South of France, with wine at Tillingham vineyard (there’s brilliant pizza too). After a day’s exploring, Dot is the perfect place to return with its welcoming polka dots on the curtains.

From £170-200 a night for two people, kiphideaways.com; on Instagram @dot_cottage

For an all-inclusive idyll: A waterfront Mexican resort

Riviera Maya Resort, Mexico

Hours from London: 15

 (Grand Velas Riviera Maya)
(Grand Velas Riviera Maya)

Hugging the coast where the Caribbean Sea meets the Yucatán jungle, Grand Velas Riviera Maya is an award-winning resort promising the perfect getaway for families. Adults can savour gourmet cuisine from renowned chefs, bring balance to body and mind with treatments in the holistic spa, and unwind in suites with private terraces, plunge pools, and uninhibited water views.

The family-friendly Ambassador rooms, meanwhile, are ideally located close to the Kids’ Club, Teens’ Club, and fitness centre, and offer plenty of space to relax in 195 spacious suites that feature jacuzzi tubs, sitting areas, and home-style amenities. The resort also offers beach games and snorkel tours for all sorts of family fun.

Daily rates start from $1386 for a family of four; rivieramaya.grandvelas.com

For lush tropical beaches: An elegant Thai retreat

Rosewood Phuket, Thailand

Hours from London: 12

Phuket, Thailand (Getty Images)
Phuket, Thailand (Getty Images)

Just moments from a secluded beach with views over a sparkling bay, Rosewood Phuket is an elegant resort for anyone hoping for a tranquil getaway. Natural furnishings, neutral colour palettes, and subtle Thai influences combine to create a soothing atmosphere perfect for all ages, with accommodation promising a private sanctuary opening onto a garden terrace and plunge pool.

If the kids are coming along for the ride, the hotel offers daily complimentary family wellness activities and the Rosewood Explorers Kids Club, featuring a mini water park playground. Complimentary meals can also be included.

Daily rates start at £1488 for a family of four; www.rosewoodhotels.com

For stunning mountain views: A peaceful South African villa

Babylonstoren, South African

Hours from London: 12

 (Babylonstoren)
(Babylonstoren)

Babylonstoren is one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms, set at the foot of Simonsberg in the Franschhoek wine valley. It has am organic fruit and vegetable garden, unique accommodation, fine food and wine, and all with an emphasis on wellbeing.

Families or friends can opt for a large, luxurious villa - the Fynbos Family House - nestled at the foot of the Simonsberg and Franschhoek mountains. It’s an elegant, exclusive-use home in Cape Dutch-style in the heart of the Cape Winelands. Designed to offer families and friends an intimate shared space, and the relaxed freedom to tailor-make their days any way they choose, this secluded spot is a peaceful retreat like no other.

High season bookings start at £3,262 for 10 guests; babylonstoren.com

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