Top 5 Alternative October Half Term Ideas

October in the UK is very much a transition month, with dropping temperatures and days getting shorter. But in Southern Europe and North Africa it still feels like summer. For families the school half term holidays may be the last chance of the year to benefit from warm, sunny weather. That’s only if you book the right destination. So where should you go for your October break?

Beaches and Balls in Barcelona

Park Guell's amazing buildings in Barcelona

Can’t choose between a city or beach destination? Then pick Barcelona and you get a family-friendly destination that has both. It’s the largest settlement in Catalonia and the second biggest in Spain. The city is famous for its architecture designed by Antoni Gaudí, who died in 1926. One of the buildings he designed, the Sagrada Família, is still not complete with the final touches expected to be installed by 2026. The best thing is if you visit it now you will see features that weren’t there a few years ago.

The sandy Barceloneta Beach is nicknamed the Miami Beach of Barcelona - it’s where people go to be seen. If, after sunbathing and splashing around in the shallow waters, you get peckish then there’s plenty of places to fill your tummy nearby. Did you find the paella delectable? Well, don’t tell the Valencians as they consider it to be their regional speciality! Rather play sport than top up your tan? Head to Mar Bella, Nova Icària or Llevant Beach, where you can make use of the volleyball courts for hours of family fun.

FC Barcelona are one of the biggest football clubs in the world. Their home games are played at Camp Nou boasting a capacity of over 99,000. (Even bigger than the new Wembley stadium!) If a match coincides with your trip you may be able to pick up tickets. If not, a range of stadium tours are available, some include immersive VR experiences. Tickets aren’t cheap but children under four can join the tours for free, so if you’re holidaying with a three year old it’s the perfect time to visit!

Top tip: For Saturday night entertainment, suitable for the whole family, head to the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc. Here, you can experience an illuminated display of roaring water jets, accompanied by music. The best bit - it’s free to watch.

How to get here: The majority of UK airports offer direct flights to Barcelona. Some even have multiple flights per day, allowing you to choose between morning and afternoon departure times. Typically you will be in Catalonia within 2.5 hours of departure.

Why October? Daytime highs in October tend to be warm but not too hot for exploring a bustling city.

Sailing and Seafood in Split

A view of Split, Croatia from the water at dusk

Like Dubrovnik, Split has been used as a filming location for Game of Thrones. But as the second largest city in Croatia there is plenty to see and do, even if you’re travelling with children who are too young for some of the TV show references. The centrepiece of the Old Town is the Diocletian's Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating from the Roman era.

Fancy a boat trip to an island? Firstly, you’ll have to decide which one as there’s plenty to choose from! Brač features unspoilt beaches to relax on and windsurfing opportunities. While the aqua park in the town of Supetar doesn’t just boast slides and pools, there’s also a fun-filled obstacle course set in the shallow waters of the Adriatic. History lovers shouldn’t miss Vis with its ancient remains. Or there’s Solta, a hidden gem with picturesque harbour towns.

The Peljesac Bridge opened in July 2022, which now allows you to drive directly to the Peljesac Peninsula, without having to cross into neighbouring Bosnia & Herzegovina. This means a day trip to Ston is now a lot easier and you don’t have to remember your passport! In Ston you can climb the well-preserved town walls (if you’re feeling fit enough) and see the ancient open pan saltworks. Before you go you must visit one of the seafood restaurants in Mali Ston, the oysters farmed here are so renowned that Italian foodies drive all the way here for a short summer break!

Top tip: Krka National Park is the closest to Split but many consider Plitvice Lakes National Park to be the best. Maybe the longer drive will be worth it? You also don’t need to go all the way around on foot, there’s the option of taking a boat trip to get across, perfect for those with little legs who can’t walk as far.

How to get here: Direct flights operate from Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds-Bradford, London and Manchester. The journey time is up to three hours.

Why October? Flights to Split generally operate from the first week in May, until the last week of October. The average daytime high in October is in the low 20s, so if you don’t like it too hot, then it’s the best month to visit.

Cakes and Caponata in Catania

Catania in Sicily with Mount Etna in the background

Italy has so many amazing places to visit that Sicily sometimes gets overlooked. But you can spend days admiring Baroque architecture, stumbling upon spectacular fountains and consuming the regional cuisine. The city was founded by the Chalcidian Greeks in the 8th century BC and has since been part of the Roman and Spanish empires, so has a rich and diverse history.

Catania isn’t just a city break destination, it’s a gateway to a rich, diverse land. Mount Etna is responsible for the rich soil that supports extensive agriculture, complete with vineyards and orchards. The volcano was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013, and families will love seeing the island's biggest resident up close with an organised tour. But be warned it’s active, so you may have to postpone your tour if Etna becomes too lively - although very unlikely.

Time to sample the local cuisine? You should try caponata, consisting of aubergines, shallots, tomatoes, celery and nuts. As it’s prepared using olive oil and doesn’t contain meat, this traditional meal is suitable for vegans. Have the kids just burnt off some calories playing football? Why not stop off at one of the cake shops, as the Sicilians are renowned for producing scrumptious sweet treats. Perhaps the most famous is cassata, a liquor-drenched sponge cake with sweetened ricotta, marzipan and fruits.

The Sicilians are very proud of their food and if you want to learn more you can book a cookery class. Young children might enjoy a pizza making class, while teenagers could try their hand at baking a cake.

Top tip: There’s a wide range of boat tours to suit families and couples. Don’t just go for the cheapest or the first one you find, choose the one that you’ll enjoy the most. Dolphin safaris, snorkelling trips, dinner cruises and leisurely sails are all available options here.

How to get here: Year round flights operate from Bristol, London and Manchester. While seasonal flights from Birmingham and Leeds-Bradford run from the beginning of May until the end of October. The journey time is around 3.5 hours.

Why October? Catania is almost as far south as Tunisia, so the summers can get very hot. Leaving your Sicily break until October means the air temperature is more bearable, while the sea is still warm enough for swimming.

Medinas and Markets in Marrakech

A busy Jemaa el Fna square in Marrakech, Morocco

There may be just eight miles of water separating Spain and Morocco but the two countries seem a world apart. Instead of hearing Christian church bells ring out in the middle of the day, you’ll hear an Islamic call to prayer. And the cuisine is very different too - sheep’s eyeball is considered a delicacy here! Don’t fancy that? Well there’s plenty of other local foods to sample such as tagine, bestilla (meat pie) and couscous. You don’t need to go and sit in a restaurant to taste all the different local dishes, just walk around the city’s Jemaa El Fna square and let your nose guide you to the street food trader who will best satisfy your appetite. Afterwards relax with a mint tea, it won’t be served in a cup but a glass.

One of the top attractions is Jardin Majorelle, a spectacular one-hectare botanical garden designed by the French architect, Paul Sinoir in the 1930s. This stunning spot will capture the imagination of children no matter their age. If it’s fascinating architecture you’re after then you can’t miss the Bahia Palace. And of course as an Islamic country there are plenty of mosques. The largest, Koutoubia, is well worth a visit as it’s over 800 years old and its minaret is one of the main landmarks of the city.

Top tip: It’s possible to see crafters undertake the traditional leather tanning process. But be warned the method used is quite smelly!

How to get here: Year round flights operate to Marrakech from Birmingham, Edinburgh, London and Manchester. You will land in North Africa less than four hours after departure, so a holiday in Marrakech is just as near as a trip to Greece.

Why October? The average daytime high in October is around 29°C, compared to almost 40°C in the summer. Leaving your Marrakech trip until winter comes at a price with less sunshine and more rain.

Lobster and Lighthouses in Lagos

The beautiful Praia do Camilo Beach, near Lagos in Portugal's Algarve

Portugal’s long Atlantic coast means two things - lots of beaches and plenty of seafood. So if your idea of a dream trip involves lying on a sandy beach in the most southerly point of Europe as the little travellers build a sandcastle, you should consider a trip to the Algarve. In Lagos there’s the option of walking out to the Farol da Ponta lighthouse to see some of the more rugged and spectacular natural formations.

A lot of Brits head for Albufeira but if you want to stay somewhere different Lagos offers a variety of fun activities, perfect for young kids. There’s numerous opportunities to partake in watersports and biking, or you can take it easy and join a boat tour. Younger children can spot the monkeys at Lagos Zoo, while teenagers can act like monkeys at the Adventure Park. If you encounter some less pleasant weather you can enter the realms of an escape room with your friends or family.

Menus here are some of the most favourable in Europe for pescetarians. It’s common to see a few different seafood options, which may include salted cod, sea bass and lobster. Then there’s the vegetarian and vegan options as well.

Top tip: There are a number of small restaurants here. We advise reserving a table or turning up early as tables are limited in the most popular spots.

How to get here: There are plenty of flights operating between the UK and Faro everyday, from a wide selection of airports. Faro Airport even has a separate departures area for UK and Ireland flights, due to the high number of holidaymakers travelling between the British Isles and Faro. It takes around three hours to reach the southern coast of Portugal.

Why October? The Algarve is one of the top sun destinations, so in peak season it can become very busy. Wait until October and you won’t be complaining about the crowds.

Edmund Myerscough

About the author

Edmund Myerscough loves exploring new destinations. His favourite holiday, so far, was a trip to the Balkans that included Dubrovnik, Mostar and Kotor.