Africa

Top 6 family travel destinations for October half-term

As the nights begin to draw in and the temperatures start to fall, it’s tempting to get away with your family for a change of scene. October half-term is the last chance in the school holidays calendar to make tracks before Christmas. You don’t always have to choose the most obvious destinations. These six family friendly destinations all work well for travel in October. Make the most of cooler temperatures in Turkey, autumnal colour in New England and great game viewings in South Africa.

Morocco

Often wrongly perceived as a challenging destination for families, the range of well facilitated hotels, charismatic guides and the option to self-drive means that Morocco, in reality, is a great fit. Moroccan people adore children, and you’ll find yourselves being welcomed into the local community wherever you visit.

The foothills of Atlas Mountains in Morocco

Marrakesh is a great introduction to Morocco. The winding pathways of the medina hide tantalising nooks to explore with inquisitive children. The old souqs seem to sell everything from cactus silk scarves to aromatic herbs and Arabian-style lamps.

Morocco’s snow-capped Atlas Mountains can be glimpsed from Marrakesh on a clear day and are only a short drive away. With a variety of trails across the foothills of the Atlas, you can spend a few hours walking ambling through a lush valley or take the day to hike to a Berber village. Most of the hotels have bicycles on hand, and you can even try a camel trek.

South Africa

October is an ideal time to visit South Africa, when its climate is warm, sunny and dry. The end of the dry season, animals are easier to spot as they travel to watering holes. While it’s a long-haul flight away, the time difference is only two hours.The cosmopolitan city of Cape Town, often your entry point into South Africa, nestles into the foot of Table Mountain. You can take the cable car up to the top for panoramic views over the city. Task the children to try to spot the resident dassies, related to the elephant but resembling giant fluffy hamsters.

The flexibility to travel at your own pace makes self-driving a popular option for families. Heading east from Cape Town, the Garden Route is the stretch of road that joins Mossel Bay and Plettenburg Bay. Easy to navigate and blessed with little traffic, it’s a playground for families, offering canoeing, hiking and horse-back riding to name but a few outdoor activities. There are plenty of restaurants to stop off at along the way and some hotels will provide a picnic lunch, which you can enjoy at one of the viewpoints you pass.

South Africa is well known for its wildlife and many lodges offer activities aimed directly at children, from making plaster casts of animal footprints to tracking wildlife with a ranger. Some of the national parks, including the Eastern Cape on the garden route, are malaria free, which takes the worry out of game viewing.

Camps Bay in Cape Town, South Africa

USA

In October, the forests of New England turn to their fiery autumn shades as the temperatures cool – ideal for families who don’t like the blazing heat. Six hours on a plane will take you directly to Boston, Massachusetts. The largest city in New England – which is spread over six states – Boston is also one of the oldest. The Freedom Trail is one of the best ways to explore the city. A two and a half mile walking route, it passes 16 historical sites including America’s oldest commissioned warship, The USS Constitution, as well as parks and some mouth-watering food stalls to keep the children going.

Going to watch the local baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, is another quintessential way to experience the city.

North of Massachusetts, head to New Hampshire. There are plentiful hiking trails through the White Mountains, where it’s possible to spot a moose or deer. As well as walk, you can arrange to canoe or horse ride.

New England in the Fall

Mauritius

Cosseted by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Mauritius offers families a blend of adventure and beach. With a coastline of over 160km, there are many sheltered bays ideal for families to feel at ease when swimming and snorkeling.

With a backdrop of powder white sands, Mauritius has plenty of family orientated activities to make the most of the clear waters, including dolphin watching, kayaking and submarine diving. Often underestimated, the national parks in the island’s interior are criss-crossed with hiking trails meandering past waterfalls and breaking out on to scenic lookout points. You might spot wildlife such as the vibrantly decorated geckos or parakeets.

The island’s small perimeter means it’s just an hour and a half’s drive, coast to coast. Mauritius has safe and well-maintained roads, so self-driving is a great way to explore. You can hire a car for as little as a day.

Many of the hotels cater specifically for families, offering well sized family villas, children’s activities and special food menus.

The southwest coast of Mauritius

Japan

With smooth running transport, quirky attractions and a safe, child-friendly culture, we’ve found few countries in the world better suited for family travel than Japan. In October, Japan is transitioning into autumn and relaxing into cooler temperatures. Compared to the sweltering heats of summer, it’s a good climate for actively exploring. You’re also treated to the vibrant foliage of the maple trees.

Connected by bullet train, Tokyo and Kyoto are good starting points. Bullet trains are a favoured way to travel around Japan for their efficiency and punctuality, and almost sci-fi modernity.

For families, the two cities cater well. Disneyland Tokyo is home to two separate theme parts and numerous hotels. The quirkier Studio Ghibli’s Museum will keep you occupied for hours complete with ginormous plush toys to climb on and a film screening room. Arashiyama on the outskirts of Kyoto is a great spot for appreciating the autumnal foliage and the children can run through the maze of bamboo groves.

Souvenirs on a street stall in Asakusa, Tokyo

Turkey

Although often seen as a Summer destination, October’s temperatures are still gently warm in Turkey, the crowds have dissipated and prices are lower. Looking beyond the beaches, the Cappadocia region in central Turkey is a haven for active families. You can bike, hike or drive a jeep through the volcanic landscape of jagged rock formations. As a finale, take a hot air balloon ride over the plateau. At sunset the light catches the rocky pinnacles creating an otherworldly landscape.

Since the area was first settled, local people have carved their homes out of the soft rock. Many of these traditional cave dwellings have been transformed into boutique properties with well sized rooms and antique furnishings. You can enjoy a comfortable stay while the children can explore the subterranean passageways.

Balloons over the Pinnacles in Turkey

Craig Burkinshaw is Founder of Audley Travel.

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