If you have pre-school-age children, then summer needn’t end now. Make hay while the sun shines and head to southern Europe, which is pretty much guaranteed an Indian summer in September and October; prices are lower, too! Here are a few of our favourite spots, along with suggestions on where to stay…
An easy drive from Lisbon airport, this charming coastal town has it all: Atlantic beaches, buzzing restaurants, and top-notch facilities for adults and kids alike. It’s crowded in July and August, but come in autumn and you’ll beat the crowds.
Stay just inland at Martinhal Cascais, a super family resort which is brand new for 2016. Expect the loveliest of staff, kids’ menus in 3 eateries (with play spaces beside them), a kids’ club, 2 swimming pools, a superlative playground, and a plethora of equipment so you can attempt to travel light. There’s a spa and a restaurant for the grown-ups, too.
Offer: stay 5 nights, pay for 4 (all rooms and suites), or stay 7 nights, pay for 5 (Grand Deluxe Villas). Both valid until 31 October.
The Canary Islands can be sweltering in high summer, but September and October bring much more bearable temperatures – ideal for exploring Tenerife’s rocky coastline and lush mountains.
The south of the island is the sunniest, and it’s here you’ll find La Malvasia, a trio of self-catering cottages with playful décor. Each sleeps 4-6 in 3 good-sized bedrooms, so you could bring the grandparents or travel with another family. They share a swimming pool and sundeck, and they’re only 30 minutes from the airport; the rates are reasonable, too.
Offer: a 20% discount throughout September (stays of 3+ nights).
We love early autumn in the south of France – the trees are just beginning to turn, but the weather is still gloriously sunny.
For rural family escapes, our Head of Bookings Kate rates farm turned mini-resort Country Kids. It’s a paradise for those with young children thanks to its array of kid-friendly activities. The well-equipped crèche and play group cater for ages 3 months to 6 years, and there are 3 pools to splash in (one just for toddlers). Wine tasting, tennis lessons and spa treatments ensure everybody gets a holiday, and rates include 2 nights of babysitting plus a Friday morning pyjama party so parents can lie in – bliss!
Offer: a free family photo shoot with a professional photographer for all bookings of 7+ nights until 30 September.
September and October are perhaps our favourite months on Crete. The sea is still warm enough for swimming, and the visitors who swamp its beaches in summer have departed. You might catch the olive, grape and chestnut harvests, too.
To get the most out of the island stay at Elounda Gulf Villas, which offer privacy alongside an excellent concierge service. Set in a gated enclave overlooking the azure Mediterranean, the swish houses have private pools with a Jacuzzi. All have kitchens for easy self-catering, and creative Med fusion food is available in the 2 restaurants (complete with kids’ menus). The crèche and kids’ club are open 6 days a week, giving parents the chance to indulge themselves in the lavish spa, and a shuttle can whisk you to a private beach club in just 10 minutes.
Offer: a 15% discount and free half-board in all pool villas, and a 15% discount in all beachfront villas. Valid until 31 October.
The Costa Blanca, Spain
Don’t be put off by Benidorm; the Costa Blanca offers plenty of secluded beaches and quaint country villages. What’s more, both Alicante and Valencia airports are served by budget airlines, making for easy and affordable off-season breaks.
Caserio del Mirador, a mountainside mini-hotel just half an hour from the coast, has a stunning setting and a wonderful house-party vibe. Choose from one of 5 stylish apartments, an Airstream trailer or a cute casita, all of which can take an extra bed or baby cot and 3 of which can house a family of 4. The whole place is designed for pre-schoolers (particularly those under 3), with babysitting, oodles of kit, a warm swimming pool, toys, a sandpit and a trampoline.
Dubbed Italy’s Cornwall for its long coastline, rugged landscapes and beautiful Adriatic beaches, Puglia’s Salentine Peninsula is a firm family favourite – and, as it sits right at the heel of Italy, it stays hot and sunny well into autumn.
Base yourselves at Masseria Prosperi, a beautifully conceived 6-room villa (available by the room or as a rental for up to 18), which boasts both outdoor and heated indoor pools. The owners live next door and have kids of their own; there are also horses, chickens, goats, donkeys and dogs to meet. The food is fabulous, and the sea is only a few minutes away.
The Algarve, Portugal
The Algarve may conjure up images of tacky resorts and package trips, but its western coast is a different matter – a protected national park with spectacular cliffs and sandy shores washed by Atlantic rollers.
Relaxed rural retreat Muximais one of our favourite spots, and all who stay rave about its charms: the great homemade breakfasts, the eco pool with dragonflies and frogs (and a shallow end), the warm welcome from hospitable owners Jorge and Sofia, and the 28-hectare estate of cork and eucalyptus. The rates are low, the colourful suites have kitchenettes for self-catering, and superb beaches are an easy drive away.
You often have to fight for a hotel room in ever-popular Mallorca during the summer high season, so make the most of an autumn visit while you can.
We love the scenic mountain-ringed harbour town of Puerto de Soller, where Esplendido Hotel makes a great base for those with small children. It’s set right on the seafront, with a safe sandy beach on the doorstep. There’s also a kids’ menu, a dedicated pool for families, and toys and inflatables to borrow. In the evenings set up your baby monitor (ask for a room near the restaurant) or book a babysitter, and enjoy a romantic meal à deux on the stylish sea-facing terrace.