We have another strange summer in prospect. After two frustrating years of stop-start travel, there has been a surge in peak season bookings – many by people who haven’t travelled since 2019 and are desperate for some Mediterranean sun.
So what do you do if you also want to get away, but haven’t yet booked? And is it too late if you are limited to travel during the school holidays? The answer is that there are still some options out there if you know where to look, but you will need to be flexible and prepared for the fact that the usual cheap, last-minute options may not be available.
We have tracked down 30 of the best family breaks that still have availability during the school holidays and have themed them according to different tastes and budgets. Whether you like to lie on a beach, get active, book a private villa or enjoy some long-awaited luxury, we have some suggestions. We even have a selection for those who have been put off by the latest spate of airport disruption and want to avoid flying altogether.
There is undoubtedly significant pressure on flights, which was already high and has intensified further because of the recent raft of advance cancellations – especially those by easyJet and Tui. Airfares are now at historic highs for many of the most popular destinations – especially at weekends. So be doubly careful about booking arrangements independently, and don’t confirm accommodation until you are completely sure that you can find an affordable way to get there.
Be aware, too, that accommodation is also tight in some areas. For example, it can be hard to find a villa anywhere in the classically popular areas of Andalucia, Umbria and Tuscany. But use our selection as a starting point and you will certainly be able to find something that ticks your boxes, and gives you the break you are so looking forward to.
This may well be a strange year, and demand may be high, but holidays won’t run out altogether. Here’s to summer!
Classic sun and sand
A 10-minute walk from a sandy beach, the four-star Holiday Village Lanzarote in Playa Blanca suits families looking for kids’ clubs, swimming sessions and football tuition. There are three restaurants and three bars, plus a splash park for small children and an aerial adventure course for over-6s.
How to do it: Tui (020 3451 2688; tui.co.uk) offers stays at the 4T Holiday Village Lanzarote from £1,002 all-inclusive, based on a family room. Departs July 25
By the sea near Bodrum
On the beach in the small resort of Ortakent, the low-rise Tamarisk hotel has flower-filled gardens surrounded by a large swimming pool. There is windsurfing, sailing, waterskiing and kayaking available locally, and Bodrum is only 20 minutes away.
How to do it: Cachet Travel (020 8847 8700; cachet-travel.co.uk) offers stays at Tamarisk Beach Hotel, from £1,245 half-board. Departs August 4
Algarve kids’ club
Ideal for families who want space and kitchen facilities, the Pestana Dom Joao II villa-hotel is a short walk to the town of Alvor with kids’ club activities for 4-12s. Sports include tennis and volleyball and it has two pools in its leafy grounds, plus live music and shows in the evenings.
How to do it: Easyjet Holidays (easyjet.com) offers stays at Pestana Dom Joao II villas from £1,145, based on a superior two-bedroom villa. Departs August 2
Lesvos island escape
A simply furnished, family-friendly place on the edge of Skala Kalloni on the island of Lesvos, with a large sun terrace and freshwater swimming pool in grassy gardens, the Pela Hotel is just under five minutes’ walk from the beach and there are child-friendly tavernas close by.
How to do it: Sunvil (020 8568 4499; sunvil.co.uk) offers stays at the Pela Hotel from £1,298 based on a family room (children must be under 11). Departs August 4
Masseria in Puglia
Originally a farmhouse, the four-star Masseria Santa Lucia has guest rooms in the main building and more scattered around its gardens, overlooking the Adriatic. Within easy reach of Ostuni and the “trulli” of Alberobello, it has a swimming pool, sandy beach, wellness centre, tennis, golf and a restaurant specialising in traditional Apulian cuisine.
How to do it: Citalia (01293 324671; citalia.com) offers stays at Masseria Santa Lucia from £1,125 based on two interconnecting rooms. Departs July 27
Calvi in Corsica
Calvi, in the north of the island, offers families a good choice of restaurants, watersports and a lovely sandy bay. Boat and catamaran trips are readily available from Calvi harbour to some of the surrounding bays and to Scandola Nature Reserve, a World Heritage site with spectacular rock formations.
How to do it: Serenity Holidays (01489 866931; corsica.co.uk) offers stays at Hôtel Casa Bianca from £1,244 based on a suite. Departs August 7
Coast of Cantabria
Discover one of northern Spain’s best beaches, plus the summer resort and old town of Comillas, with its cobbled streets, fishing harbour and art-deco architecture, including Gaudi’s El Capricho villa, which is decorated with ceramic sunflowers. Activities include a range of watersports, as well as excursions to Oyambre and the Picos de Europa national parks.
How to do it: Brittany Ferries (0330 159 7000; brittany-ferries.co.uk) offers the Hotel Abba Comillas Golf in Comillas, with swimming pool and nine-hole golf course, from £650 based on a family room, including a Plymouth-Santander return crossing. Departs August 7
Timed for the school holidays, P&O’s family cruises offer an on-board kids’ zone, the Reef, aimed at 2-17s, with activities ranging from sports coaching to talent shows. The itinerary along the Norwegian coast includes stops at the fjords’ gateway harbour town, Stavanger, and the Viking homeland of Haugesund.
How to do it: P&O Cruises (0344 338 8003; pocruises.com) offers this Norwegian Fjords cruise from Southampton on Iona from £749 full-board in a sea view cabin (children aged 2-17). Departs July
Camping à la Francaise
Head to Biscarrosse for a stay at five-star Campsite Mayotte Vacances with pine-shaded pitches, four outdoor swimming pools and sandy, lakeside beaches. On-site activities include mini golf, volleyball, pétanque, table tennis, beach soccer and a supervised children’s club.
How to do it: Canvas Holidays (0345 268 0827; canvasholidays.co.uk) offers Campsite Mayotte Vacances from £263 (tent) or £291 (mobile home). Channel crossing costs extra. Departs July 30
Normandy Center Parcs
Discover the Aqua Mundo water park at Les Bois-Francs Center Parc in Normandy, with slides, wave pool and water playhouse. Further highlights include a mini-farm, a pony club and a new action factory with climbing wall.
How to do it: DFDS (033 0587 8787; dfds.com) offers Center Parcs Les Bois-Francs in Normandy, a two-hour drive from Dieppe, from £606 full-board based on a comfort cottage including a Newhaven-Dieppe return crossing. Departs August 12
Escape to the beauty of Co Kerry for a scenic stay at Raheen, a stone-built farmhouse sleeping six, near Waterville with views over Lough Currane. Activities include walking, fishing and lake swimming, with golf, riding, windsurfing, scuba diving and a choice of sandy beaches close by.
How to do it: Shamrock Cottages (01823 660126; shamrockcottages.co.uk) offers Raheen from £1,675 including Stena ferry crossings between Fishguard-Rosslare. Departs August 6
Dutch water park
With a theme park offering over 40 rides and attractions and a Tiki Pool Waterpark with 21 waterslides, the Duinrell in Wassenaar, southern Holland, offers plenty of high-octane family entertainment. On-site sporting activities include football, volleyball and crazy golf.
How to do it: Eurocamp (01606 787125; eurocamp.co.uk) offers an eight-night stay at a two-bedroom comfort mobile home at Duinrell from £1,628 rental only. Channel crossing costs extra. Departs August
Casa in Andalucia
Casa Acogedora, a rural retreat sleeping four, is located in a peaceful hillside spot with views of the Tajo Algarin and Sima de las Grajas mountains, near the whitewashed village of El Gastor. It is only a 30-minute drive from the Andalucian town of Ronda and is a great base for walking in the Grazalema national park, visiting Seville or simply flopping by the pool.
How to do it: Vintage Travel (01954 261431; vintagetravel.co.uk) offers Casa Acogedora from £287, based on four sharing. Flights and car hire cost extra. Departs July 29
Hideaway in Turkey
Take in the sea views from the sun terrace at the House of Dreams, sleeping four, in Kalkan. It’s a sophisticated, modern villa, furnished in cool, contemporary style, ideally suited to families with older children looking for independent access to the bars and cafés of the small, harbourside resort.
How to do it: Simpson Travel (020 8003 6557; simpsontravel.com) offers House of Dreams from £1,370, based on four sharing, including a complimentary hammam at a local spa and an all-day gulet excursion. Departs July 31
Villa in Paxos
Characterful Villa Pelagos is close to the small village of Magazia, with its two tavernas and traditional cafeneion. High in the hills on the west coast near Erimites beach, it sleeps five, has lofty ceilings and is decorated in soothing seaside colours. Plus points include the sweeping views over cypress and olive groves from its infinity pool and terraces.
How to do it: GIC The Villa Collection (020 8232 9780; gicthevillacollection.com) offers Villa Pelagos, from £1,412, based on five sharing. Departs August 15
Finca in Mallorca
Relax over long, leisurely lunches on the shady dining terrace at Rural, a sensitively renovated 18th-century farmhouse sleeping eight, in the north of Mallorca, just outside the village of Búger. Set among 15 acres of almond and carob trees, it has a 52ft-long pool with children’s area.
How to do it: Thinking Traveller (020 8131 5646; thethinkingtraveller.com) offers Rural from £1,705, based on eight sharing. Flights and car hire cost extra. Departs July 30
House in Hvar
Stroll to the waterfront restaurants of Hvar Town, less than five minutes’ walk away, and enjoy the views of the harbour from Hvar House, a stone-built retreat sleeping eight. With its gated pool, four en-suite rooms and the option of booking an additional annexe bedroom, the house is ideal for multi-generational groups.
How to do it: CV Villas (020 3993 9866; cvvillas.com) offers Hvar House from £1,528, based on eight sharing. Car hire costs extra. Departs July 30
Farmhouse in Crete
Combine outings to the sandy beaches of Kalives with its tavernas and shops, with days by the pool at Villa Chryssa, sleeping four. It is in the small village of Neo Chorio with its two tavernas and village shop, surrounded by olive groves and backed by the White Mountains between Chania and Rethymnon.
How to do it: Pure Crete (01444 880404; purecrete.com) offers Villa Chryssa from £516 based on four sharing. Flights and transfers cost extra. Departs August 13
Activities for all
Spend a full-on week sailing, windsurfing, playing tennis, mountain biking, paddleboarding and kayaking on Rhodes. Supervised clubs catering for children aged 2-17 years are also included in the price.
How to do it: Neilson (0333 014 3351; neilson.co.uk) offers stays at the newly-opened Levante Beach Beachclub, by Afandou beach, on the island’s east coast, from £1,840 half-board, based on a pool view suite, including activities and four dinners. Departs August 5, 12 and 19
Fun in Croatia
Hike in Plitvice Lakes National Park and take a boat ride across Lake Kozjak on an action-packed itinerary, which includes archery, a guided bike tour and kayaking through the deep gorges of the Mreznica river. Optional extras include horse riding, climbing and walking on a rope course.
How to do it: Families Worldwide (01962 302062; familiesworldwide.co.uk) offers a six-night Croatia River Adventure from £1,299 (adult), £1,099 (child aged 12 and under) half-board, including activities. Departs July 31, August 7 and 14
Cycling in Holland
Pedal along quiet cycle paths and riverside lanes, passing windmills and small Dutch villages, on a relaxed itinerary from Edam to Oudewater. Covering up to 40 miles per day, accommodation is in small, family-run hotels and the price includes two nights in Amsterdam with a guided city tour.
How to do it: Inntravel (01653 617001; inntravel.co.uk) offers a Dutch Discovery tour from £1,045, including bike hire and two dinners. Flights and transfers cost extra. Tailor-made departures in July and August
Adventure in Sweden
Activities on this Scandinavian adventure week include a trek through the forests of Ostanas, paddling a canoe to Olsater and a night in a teepee tent on a small island near Ransater where children can cook supper over a campfire. It all happens in Varmland, a scenic region of lakes, mountain plateaus and unspoilt woodland to the west of Oslo.
How to do it: Discover the World (01737 214250; discover-the-world.com) offers a Varmland Summer Adventure from £832 full-board (£632 children 6-16 years) including activities. Flights cost extra. Tailor-made departures in July and August
Delight in Turkey
Explore the spectacular waterfalls and deep gorges of the Kibris Canyon in the Taurus Mountains on a full day of swimming, abseiling and river jumping, one of the highlights on a week that also includes a sea kayaking expedition, hiking excursions and a chance to try scuba diving and paragliding.
How to do it: Exodus (020 3733 0568; exodus.co.uk) offers a Family Lycian Activity Week from £1,599 (adult) £1,199 (child) including three lunches. Departs July 23 and August 6
Walk in the Austrian Alps
Opt for gentle valley strolls or stride out on more challenging steep mountain hikes from the Alpine resort of Mayrhofen in the scenic Ziller valley, taking in the panoramic views from the top of the Penken and Ahorn cable cars.
How to do it: Inghams (01483 944178; inghams.co.uk) offers stays at four-star Sporthotel Strass, with three indoor pools, games room, tennis courts, spa and free daily activity programme of guided walks and e-bike tours in Mayrhofen, from £614 half-board (a saving of £405 per person) based on two rooms. Departs July 23
Active break in Barbados
With watersports, a kids’ clubs and an entertainment programme, the five-star Colony Club hotel also offers family-friendly excursions, including a fishing trip for children aged eight years plus, and a Colony Island Safari with a visit to the stunning Hute’s Gardens.
How to do it: Elegant Resorts (01244 897581; elegantresorts.co.uk) offers the Colony Club from £2,972 (includes a room rate reduction of £305 per person if booked by June 30) based on a pool or garden view junior suite. Departs August 6
Garden villa in Cyprus
Children aged 3-12 years can join a programme of activities provided by the Angel’s Kids’ Club at the five-star Elysium hotel in Paphos, where staff supervise face painting and crafts in a well-equipped play area. A sandy beach with watersports, plus indoor and outdoor pools add to the fun.
How to do it: Sovereign (01293 306252; sovereign.com) offers stays at Elysium in Paphos from £1,725 based on a royal garden villa with private pool. Departs August 4
Non-stop action in Mauritius
Overlooking a superb sandy beach on the island’s east coast, five-star Long Beach offers golf and scuba diving, plus a wide range of children and family activities, such as water sports, mini golf, archery, DJ classes, karaoke nights and painting lessons.
How to do it: Kuoni (0800 047 3492; kuoni.co.uk) offers an eight-night stay at Long Beach on Belle Mare beach from £1,720 half-board based on a junior suite. Departs August 7
Deluxe suite in Ibiza
The five-star Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay in Talamanca, a mile from Ibiza Town, is one of the island’s most indulgent hotels and adapts well to families in the summer holidays. Foraging and craft sessions are offered to children aged 4-14 years, and there are two pools – including one for families. All the restaurants cater for children.
How to do it: Scott Dunn (020 8682 5080; scottdunn.com) offers stays at Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay from £5,410 based on a deluxe suite seaview room. Departs July 23
Garden suite in Marbella
Teenagers have a dedicated lounge for watching movies and gaming at the five-star Puente Romano Beach resort in Marbella, plus a private, outdoor gym reserved for under-18s. On the long, sandy beach there are three outdoor pools plus aerobics, dance classes, pilates, tennis and yoga classes. A children’s club caters for 4-11s.
How to do it: Indulgent Escapes by jet2holidays (0800 408 6264; jet2holidays.com) offers stays at Puente Romano Beach Resort from £2,995 based on a garden suite room. Departs August
A variety of child-focused programmes include football and swimming academies overseen by qualified coaches, as well as a cookery school, astronomy and gardening sessions at five-star Verdura resort set in olive groves on the south-west coast, near the seaside town of Sciacca. The Verdura Golf Academy offers tuition for young beginners.
How to do it: Abercrombie & Kent (03301 734712; abercrombiekent.co.uk) offers stays at Verdura Resort, a Rocco Forte Hotel, from £4,799 based on a two-bedroom family room. Departs July 23
Your guide to stress-free summer travel
Sidestep key dates
We have already seen the chaos at airports caused by a surge in passenger numbers without staff and systems to match. The real test this summer will be the weekend of July 23/24 when state schools break up – one of the busiest of the year. The August bank holiday week will also be a major stress point, so avoid these if you can.
Timing is everything
Try to travel midweek and in the middle of the day when airports are quieter. If you can, fly to smaller airports where there is less pressure of numbers. This is also true of ferry travel. You are likely to find it easier on the longer Channel crossings from Portsmouth, say, rather than going via Dover.
Book a package
If you do face delays and cancellations, you will be in a stronger position if you have booked a package of flights and accommodation through a tour operator, which is legally bound to look after you until you return home. If your holiday is cancelled, you will get your money back in one go rather than having to reclaim each element.
Check in early
Consult your airport’s website the day before departure and see how far ahead you should be checking in. You may need to allow more than the usual two hours. Consider also paying for fast-track security. At Stansted, it costs £7 per passenger and takes away the stress of long queues to get into the departure lounge.
Mind how you pay
You will have far more protection against the financial failure of an operator or airline by paying with a credit card than with most debit cards. Paying through a direct money transfer is the least secure method.