May half term breaks might be short, but we’ve found plenty of ways to make them sweet. From easy UK escapes to certain sun in Portugal and Spain, take a look at where the Family Traveller team think you and your kids should go this May.
Sensational cities for easy, peasy May half term breaks
Take a quick hop to Valencia in Spain
We fell for laidback Valencia when our boys were tiny and have been repeat visitors ever since. It’s a winning mix of kid-friendly culture, dreamy architecture and cracking city beaches.
A two-hour flight makes Valencia perfect for quick May half term breaks. It’s our favourite time to go. Orange blossom is in full bloom. The weather’s gloriously sunny. But there’s none of the scorching summer heat that makes sightseeing a drag.
We start with a pootle around the higgledy-piggledy old town, pausing for churros outside Mercado Central. Then, because Valencia is criss-crossed with cycle paths, we opt for two wheels. Try a pedal down the Turia, a dry riverbed-turned-park shaded by date palms. Or for brilliant family bike tours try Bike Guy VLC . Oceanogràfic aquarium and Bioparc zoo are must-sees with kids. Then head to the beach for swimming and Valencia’s best paella at La Pepica.
Book budget breaks in Budapest this May
Short, cheap flights from several UK airports should put Budapest on your half term list. The city is usually sunny in May with temps around 21°C. But if not, you can splash around in Budapest’s famous thermal baths. Gellért is the elegant indoor option and Széchenyi is an outdoor legend.
When the sun shines, however, let the kids charge through the sprawling riverside castle complex. Climb up to the playground on Gellért Hill. Then hit Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube for fun forest trails and gardens.
Think about hiring bikes by the bridge and exploring on two wheels. Or head to the open air Palatinus Strand Baths to nip up the water towers and whizz down slides
May half term breaks you can do in no time
Make a swift escape to Somerset this half term
In the words of Sir David Attenborough, “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.”
Michael and Tricia have taken these words to heart at Upper Vobster Farm in Somerset. Here guests are encouraged to get up at the crack of dawn – okay, 8am. Feeding livestock on the sprawling 55-acre farm is a fun start to the day. You can wander in woods planted more than 30 years ago. Or go search for kingfishers, kestrels and red kites that call the farm home.
We loved just having the time to breathe and remember life isn’t just school, work or screen time. Although our cosy Courtyard Cottage was a little difficult to leave in the morning.
A trip up nearby Glastonbury Tor felt steeper than when I climbed it as a child, but the views were worth the effort. If all the open space is too much – or it’s raining – Shepton Mallet Prison is a great day out with older kids. We were locked up in our own cell by a very shouty prison guard. And the Cell Escape Room was a big hit, even if we got a bit stuck and had to plead for clues.
Explore Exmoor National Park for a big adventure with little travel
Exmoor is famous for wild ponies but not many know about spectacular Wimbleball Lake. Far quieter in May than in summer, the lake is packed with activities including dinghy-sailing courses for kids from age eight.
Few crowds means fewer learners while kids work out their starboard from their port. So it felt safe to leave our 10-year-old with instructors, while we took our youngest horse riding. Brendon Manor Stables is bang on the moor, so no iffy roads to navigate. It’s all just yellow-gorse-studded moors, wide views to the sea and wild ponies a wandering.
Our holiday cottage near Dulverton was also perfect for visiting Valley of the Rocks. This dizzying coastal runs past gravity-defying boulders and the tumbling river at Tarr Steps. Here you’ll find stepping-stones, rope swings and BFG-sized cream teas.
Back at the lake, we took to the water en famille. Canoeing was a success, paddle-boarding not so much – we ended up stranded in the bushes. But skippering our own small dinghy across the glassy lake was the best thrill. No need to ask if our eldest was enjoying herself, her cartoon grin as she sailed past us spoke for itself.
Try Mallorca, Algarve or Istria for certain sunshine in May
May half term breaks in Mallorca mean peaceful beaches
May half term can be tricky for sun seekers. It’s still too fresh in much of Europe for bikinis, so holiday prices spike in the likes of warmer Greece and Italy.
Avoiding both costs and crowds, we always plump for Mallorca. It’s a big enough island for affordable year-round flights to Palma from many UK airports. And unlike Ibiza, Menorca or Formentera there’s always tons to do in this Balearic even if the sun doesn’t shine.
That said, it usually does, so we head straight for Es Trenc beach. This stunning six-kilometre strip of sand wins Best Beach in Europe awards year after year. We’ve been in August when it’s towel-to-towel crowded and influencers jostle for space in the crystalline shallows. It might resemble a short-haul Maldives but it’s also manic in high-season and we vowed never to return.
However, in May we have Es Trenc practically to ourselves. My toddler daughter loved the softly shelving sand and we loved the short distance between loungers and the sea. Now she’s older, she’ll happily snorkel or SUP while we relish the queue-less chiringuito – Ana-Maria mixes a mojito at the speed of light here, so seek it out.
Es Trenc is part of a protected nature reserve and it’s almost impossible to stay near the beach. But tiny, sandy-tracked Ses Covetes sits back from the dunes, halfway down the beach and it’s easy to find somewhere to stay here in May.
If it’s too chilly for the beach, we’ll always make for Palma. The island capital is like a mini Barcelona, right down to Gaudi’s hand in its spectacular medieval cathedral. Other Mallorca must-sees include Inca town for the excellent market and Port de Sóller for a long fish lunch.
May is perfect timing for sun and serenity in the Algarve
The Algarve is too chilly at Easter and sweltering hot in summer. So why does everyone love it here?
Visit during the May sweet spot and it’s easy to see the reasons. This is when the legendary southern coast of Portugal shuns its tourist resort reputation and becomes the land of plenty.
You’ll find plenty of taverna tables in Lagos’ tiled old town. There’s plenty of elbow room in sandy swimming coves. And if you want to cruise Ria Formosa, expect plenty of spare seats on boats.
In summer, you always have to book, for everything. But in May, tethering our boat to the pier on quiet Ilha Deserta (no misnomer), we walked right into the only restaurant and bagged a picturesque window seat.
With so little traffic, driving north to surf towns such as Odeceixe felt like touring the Outback. We just wish there’d been someone around to warn us about the fierce waves in Sagres that
swept our towels away. At least nobody saw.
Pick Istria for May half term breaks on a budget
Family-focused hotels in Istria, the love-heart-shaped province in northern Croatia, are cheap and sunny with knockout facilities. And the sunny Istrian coast is a daily adventure of bike rides, vineyard visits and Adriatic kayaking.
For luxury on a budget, think about glamping on Istria’s west coast. Lanterna Premium Camping Resort close to Porec offers a range of mobile homes and features a fabulous waterpark, as well as four swimming pools.
Dubrovnik and Split may be equally pretty, but they’re far pricier. And during the German and Italian summer holidays from late July onwards, far busier. By contrast, Istria’s stunning capital of Pula has a Roman amphitheatre to rival anything in Italy and better seafood. Pula Airport has direct UK flights and is no more than 45 minutes from every major family resort.
Take an easy family road trip round Portugal with kids. Don’t forget to follow Family Traveller Instagram and Facebook and listen to new episodes of the Family Traveller Podcast on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
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