Apartments in Tuscany, Italy
It’s rare to come across good-value family accommodation in Tuscany in peak season, so Fattoria Santa Vittoria is quite a find. The 18th-century, ivy-clad farmhouse is split into five apartments so your children are likely to find playmates but the pool will never get too busy. Classic Tuscan views of vines and, more importantly, the award-winning wine produced on the estate, will keep the adults happy, not to mention the location between the idyllic cities of Siena, Arezzo and Cortona.
• £780 per week for a family of four, peak season, essentialitaly.co.uk. Fly to Pisa (then a 1¾-hour drive)
Camp on the beach in Halkidiki, Greece
Set on a pristine beach on a finger of land in northern Greece, Areti Camping and Bungalows is a four-hectare, family-run site with a beachfront restaurant and shop. There are plenty of on-site activities, including tennis, volleyball and watersports. Beyond the site you can take a boat, or even swim, to one of three nearby islands to snorkel the clear waters, or explore ancient sites, including Mount Athos.
• Tents £14, adults £7, kids (1-12 years) £3.50, (£3 for electricity); bungalows (sleep 4) £110 a night. Excludes breakfast. coolstays.com. Fly to Thessaloniki (then 1½ hours by car)
Domes, southern Spain
The aptly named Otro Mundo (another world) features two cute, space-like domes incongruously set in rural southern Spain. Inside, the domes hark back to the 1960s with loud but stylish wallpaper and retro lampshades. Outside, walking and cycling tracks crisscross the green slopes of the Sierra de Segura, and there’s a spring-fed natural pool to cool off in. The domes share a kitchen and there’s a play area for kids too.
• Family dome (sleeps 7) €80 a night, year-round; breakfast is €7.50. canopyandstars.co.uk. Fly to Alicante (then a 2½-hour drive from the airport)
A cabin in the south of France
Layénie Under The Stars looks like a cartoon cabin: all wonky walls and bright splashes of colour inside. That’s because it was handmade “from the heart” by Fred, the owner who lives next door and is a great source of local tips. It’s the perfect spot for an adventurous family who are happy to have nature as their playground. There are walks and cycle routes around the lake, an open-air pool in Bajamont, two miles away, and lots to do in historic Agen 13 miles away.
• From £50 a night (sleeps two adults and two children), £17 a child a night surcharge, canopyandstars.co.uk. Fly to Toulouse (then a 11/2-hour drive) or Bordeaux (1¾ hrs)
Farm holidays in the Austrian Tirol
More outdoor fun – this time down on the farm. The Kinderbauernhof Albeineler in the Pitztal, an alpine valley, is a traditional farmhouse with three apartments. Children can take tractor rides, meet the animals (a horse, three ponies, two dwarf goats, as well as guinea pigs, rabbits and cats), collect eggs while adults can loll in one of three saunas. Guests automatically receive a Pitztal card that gives them access to free guided hikes, bike rides and runs; while you’re making the most of the mountains, you can park the kids at the free Pitzi Kid’s Club (aged 4-14), a 10-minute drive away.
• A seven-night stay at the Albeineler farm, starts from £505 peak season in a two-bedroom apartment. Fly to Innsbruck (then a 50-minute drive)
Self-catering in Brittany, France
The name of this collection of cottages – Little Houses on the Prairie – may conjure up a very different image of empty mid-western plains, but it reflects the rural setting and romantic interiors. The seven immaculate cottages are surrounded by fields but are only 10 minutes from the sea, and are available with or without breakfast (€9.50). The family’s restaurant Le Char a Bancs is three miles away, with a shop and a great kids’ play area.
• From €750 per week, for a cottage (sleeps 4; minimum 14 nights in July and August), holiday-cottage-brittany.co.uk
Tipis in the Algarve, Portugal
This is an eco-friendly camp of brightly-coloured tipis, plus a yurt, safari tents and a cottage with a small pool, organic vegetable garden, and a shaded yoga platform. Communal barbecue nights, table football and pool table ensure there’s plenty of opportunity to mix with fellow campers. There’s a sandpit on site but for more ambitious sand-castle builders the closest beach is just a 15-minute drive away.
• Seven nights in a family tipi €575, tipialgarve.com. Fly to Faro (then a 45 minute drive).
VW-ing round France or Spain
If you fancy a slow family road trip, check out WeDubYou, which is currently offering £100 off July bookings of its customised VW camper vans, which come with iPhones pre-loaded with music and a navigation app and iPads with films. Pick up a van from Bergerac in south-west France for a mosey around the Dordogne, past vineyards and via bastide towns, or from Girona in north-east Spain to pootle along the Costa Brava. Or do a cross-border trip, picking up in one city and dropping off in the other. WeDubYou can pre-book campsites for the trip.
• Week’s rental in July £695 (sleeps 4), pop-up tents £45 a week extra, wedubyou.com. Fly to Bergerac or Bordeaux (and train to Bergerac), Girona or Barcelona (and train to Girona). Wedubyou will pick you up at the airport.
An green activity holiday in Galway, Ireland
The Three Towers in the Slieve Aughty mountains near Loughrea started off as an organic garden and horse-riding centre and now operates a nine-room guesthouse, cabins, a cottage and a cafe. As well as horse- or pony-riding, and walks with donkeys, there are 2,000 acres of forest on the doorstep where you can follow the centre’s guided walks, or hire bikes to explore further. Small children may prefer the charms of The Enchanted Forest where fairies, gnomes and trolls live alongside the woodland animals – spot their houses in among the trees – and they can recreate their own fantasy world in the play area and art room (€5 per child).
• Family room €130 a night, family cabin €170, thethreetowers.com. Fly to Galway (then a 45-minute drive).
Eco village, Lake Bled, Slovenia
The Garden Village is an impressive new eco-village of treehouses, fancy tents, a wellness centre and, yes, a garden, which supplies the on-site restaurant with fruit and vegetables. The treehouses are more like raised cabins with two levels, indoor nets to lounge about on, kitchenettes and bathrooms. The wooden-floor pier tents are by a stream and fishpond, while glamping tents have a mezzanine level, bathrooms, TV and hot tub. There’s no roughing it here. There’s a pool, and the lake with all its activities – from walks to watersports – is a 10-minute walk away.
• gardenvillagebled.com. Treehouses are expensive in peak season (€290 a night) but apartments are a more affordable €200 a night (£148 at the current rate). Fly to Ljubljana (then a 30-minute drive)