School's out for winter

School's out for winter

It may be the height of summer, but get ready for the next family holiday, says Katie McGonagle

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As the plane touches down on British soil, bringing the summer holiday to a close for another year, it’s only natural to stave off the post-break blues by looking ahead to the next escape abroad.

For many families with school-aged kids, that means October half-term and the Christmas holidays. So while your clients are shuffling home from the airport a few shades pinker and a few pounds poorer, you should be anticipating their next trip by preparing some school holiday suggestions.

Whether they want a quick trip to the Continent, a magical visit to Lapland or a splash of much-needed winter sun, there are countless options to help them banish those blues.

Happy half-terms


If the typical British summer continues, families will be more desperate than ever for a bit of sun come autumn.

Perennial favourite Egypt is popular at this time of year after the stifling summer heat has died down. Red Sea Holidays recommends the Moorish-style Makadi Palace in Makadi Bay, home to a kids’ club, playground, supervised children’s pool, daily mini-disco and kids’ movie screenings (from £2,908 for a family of four with flights from Gatwick).

The operator offers a guaranteed child price of £419 at each of its hotels plus a £75 discount for single parents, pre-bookable baby service and free late check-out.

The Turkish coast also remains pleasantly warm. Anatolian Sky recommends the Yucelen Hotel in the quiet resort of Akyaka (from £1,875 for four sharing a family room, including flights from Gatwick), which has direct access to a sandy beach with water shallow enough for even the smallest swimmers, plus two pools, waterslide and kids’ play area.

Fun and games are also the order of the day at Mark Warner’s Ocean Club resort in the Algarve, and at Keycamp’s La Croix du Vieux Pont in northern France – 90 minutes from Disneyland Paris.

The former has five age-specific kids’ clubs, from tiny tots to demanding teens, plus evening entertainment and crèche facilities so parents can have dinner in peace (from £2,160 half-board with flights for two adults and two under-12s).

The latter, meanwhile, offers archery, canoeing, go-karting, a zip wire and climbing wall, plus pony trekking and cycling in a forest (from £393 for up to four adults and two children for seven nights’ self-catering in a two-bedroom Villanova mobile home, including ferry crossings).

However, if they want a bit of family fun without travelling too far, there are plenty of Halloween-themed activities on their doorstep.

Butlins’ three seaside resorts are hosting Trick or Treat treasure hunts, plus a silent disco for teens and a Billy’s Monster Band performance for younger visitors, while Haven will have spooky story time with Rory the Tiger, ghoulish face painting and a fancy dress party, plus half-term shows like It’s Not Rocket Science and a seaside talent contest.

Autumn escapades


If your clients want to expose their teenage offspring to some culture, suggest the October 27 teens’ departure of The Adventure Company’s Journey to the Lost City in Jordan (pictured below).

The trip includes floating in the Dead Sea, staying in a desert camp in Wadi Rum, and visits to the magnificent Roman ruins of Jerash and Petra (from £1,229 for adults and teens, £1,089 for children).

If theme parks are more up their street, Funway Holidays recommends the reopened Spiderman feature at Universal Orlando Resort, with new high-def animation (seven nights at the Holiday Inn & Suites Main Gate to Universal hotel costs from £2,499 for four with Funway, flying out on October 26).

For a bit of luxury that won’t break the bank, take advantage of deals for free child places. Hayes & Jarvis suggests the four-star Centara Karon Resort in Phuket, Thailand, with Camp Safari kids’ club and dedicated children’s pools (from £3,899 for a family of four with flights).

Or try Saint Lucia, where half-term is a good alternative if Christmas is booked up. Kevin Coles, Travel 2’s Caribbean product and purchasing manager, says: “Smugglers Cove is big on family fun and designed to accommodate families of all sizes, with age-appropriate activities. Parents can relax and enjoy themselves knowing their children are supervised by fully qualified staff, or join them in family activities.”

Travel 2 offers a week’s all-inclusive at Smugglers Cove Resort & Spa from £3,659 for four, where little ones can be some of the first to play in the new wilderness kids’ play area with butterfly garden, treehouses, climbing frame and rope swings, as well as taking part in a special Halloween fancy dress ball.

Jordan

Festive fun


What could be more magical than enjoying the Christmas season with Santa Claus himself? Tug your clients’ heartstrings by helping their little ones create precious childhood memories in Lapland, complete with winter wonderland scenes and a chance to chat to the red-suited fellow.

Transun prides itself on its remote breaks to Enontekiö in northwestern Finland, where reindeer outnumber people 10 to one. Head of trading Nico Kostich says: “Over the many decades we have been operating these Christmas breaks, we have seen an increase in the number of passengers wanting a more authentic Lapland experience in remote, uncommercialised locations. Children don’t want to be left under the impression that Santa lives in a theme park.”

Short breaks include reindeer sleigh rides and husky sledding, with regional departures from November 16 (full-board from £869 adults/£749 children for three nights including flights, transfers and activities).

Cosmos Holidays bases its Lapland holidays near the Levi Fell mountains in Finland, where reindeer, husky and snowmobile safaris, ice fishing and skiing are available.

Trips of three to five days run throughout December from Gatwick and Manchester (four nights’ full-board with activities, a visit to the elves’ workshop, Santa’s post office and a festive feast on the last night costs from £1,022/£762 for December 19 departures).

Two and three-night breaks are most popular for Inghams, which has introduced a charter flight from Birmingham for 2012-13, but seven-night trips are also available from £725 self-catering.

Cool Christmas


It’s essential to have a few non-Santa options for older kids. Mark Warner recommends skiing at the Chalethotel Hauts de Tovieres in Tignes, France (from around £3,620 for a family of four), while The Adventure Company’s Winter Activity Week in Andorra is chock-full of snow-centred fun – there’s cross-country skiing, dog-sledding, snowboarding and an igloo-building lesson (from £879/ £859 departing December 26).

Explore’s family-focused Ice Hotel Adventure in Romania ticks the same boxes, with tobogganing, snowshoeing and ice-skating in the Transylvanian Alps plus a night in a hotel made entirely of ice (five days departing December 27, from £735).

Short-haul sunshine


If escaping British drizzle for even colder climes is the last thing on your clients’ minds, suggest a welcome dose of winter sun. Egypt remains a good choice even in mid-December.

Olympic Holidays suggests Sonesta Beach Hotel in Sharm el-Sheikh, complete with seven swimming pools, its own beach and a vast casino (from £3,070 for two adults and two children staying all-inclusive from December 27). Similarly, the United Arab Emirates is a manageable 27C over Christmas, so sun-sensitive youngsters can play safely outside by the Hilton Ras al Khaimah Villas’ three pools and try the waterslide at the adjacent Hilton resort (from £4,399 for four travelling for a week with Funway on December 20).

Gambia is gaining popularity, and with just a six-hour flight and no time difference from the UK, you don’t even have to allow time to get over jet lag.

The Gambia Experience product manager Karen Durham says: “It’s not just a great place for a beach holiday, but an excellent and safe place to learn about different people and new cultures. Independent and adventurous children will find a holiday in Gambia enjoyable and culturally stimulating – seeing a monkey or baboon in its natural habitat is memorable at any age, and visiting a school and meeting local children is very educational.”

A week at the Sheraton Gambia starts at £1,550 (adults) and £1,375 (children) all-inclusive departing Gatwick on December 21.

Exotic escapes


Soak up a bit of culture – and some sunshine – with a family-friendly escorted tour. Explore’s budget range includes a 16-day Beijing to Hong Kong itinerary taking in the Terracotta Army, giant pandas in Chengdu and the spectacular Dragon’s Backbone rice terraces (from £1,786/£1,626 departing December 21, minimum age 11).

Similarly family-friendly is Virgin Holidays’ Taj and Tigers Family Adventure through India, sampling the best of Delhi, Agra, Ranthambore National Park and Jaipur, with a chance to glimpse the rare Royal Bengal tiger plus deer, crocodiles, leopards and monkeys (eight days, from £1,625/£1,165).

Wildlife-watching is also the focus of The Adventure Company’s safari and beach adventure in Tanzania, open to those aged 12 and upwards who want to spend Christmas with elephants, hippos, crocodiles and zebras in Selous game reserve (from £2,899 on December 18).

For a chilled out adventure, Babylonstoren is a 250-hectare farm in the heart of South Africa’s Cape Winelands, where little ones can roam around, collect eggs and pick carrots from the garden (from £6,600 for four including flights and a two-bedroom cottage on bed and breakfast, with Africa Odyssey).

Or take up Western & Oriental’s suggestion of the Shangri-La Tanjung Aru in Borneo. In-resort arts, crafts and video games will keep kids busy, as will family outings to the nearby orangutan sanctuary and Turtle Island (from £1,435/£839 for two adults and one child on a week’s B&B).

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