May half term holidays abroad are a tricky one – only ever a week for everyone, they have to be within reasonable travel time of the UK and rule out anywhere you might suffer jet lag. Luckily, there’s a whole array of exciting family holiday destinations only a three- to four-hour flight from the UK, and a couple of great options within five hours.

The beauty of all of them, save Iceland, is that they offer a really good chance of some sunshine and more reliable weather overall than the UK. And while we Brits are generally quite happy to leap into the water at this time of year, locals in places such as Greece and Croatia aren’t – meaning you may have the beach and sea almost to yourselves. On the other hand, the milder temperatures make for more comfortable hiking, cycling and so on, than in high summer.

Our Top 10 May half term holidays

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1. Peloponnese – Greece

Mum and daughter on family holiday in Greece, exploring ancient ruins

Start in Athens before heading out on your Peloponnese Adventure

One of the more remote parts of mainland Greece, the Peloponnese Peninsula has lots of secluded beaches and coves with the scope for wonderful sea-kayaking and snorkelling in crystal-clear waters, along with visits to sea caves.  All part of our Peloponnese Adventure, we can shorten our 11-day itinerary to fit with the half term. This being Greece, there are also some spectacular archaeological marvels to explore, starting with the Acropolis in Athens. Check out our Top 10 Things to Do in Greece with Kids for more.

2. Egypt

Family riding camels at the Egyptian pyramids, Easter and May Half term holidays

Packed with world-famous sights, our Highlights of Egypt trip is a winner

Well worth flying that little bit further for but still a relatively short hop from the UK, Egypt repays you with world-famous sights including the Pyramids, the Aswan Dam and Luxor. Part of your week (or just over) on our Highlights of Egypt family holiday can be a Nile river cruise aboard an atmospheric felucca, where you’ll bed down on deck under the stars – a spellbinding experience none of you will ever forget. You’ll also experience the hectic glory of Cairo, where the new Grand Egyptian Museum is poised to finally open at the time of writing.  For more, see our Egypt family holidays overview.

3. Madeira

Family sightseeing in Madeira on a sunny day

The kids will love all the family-friendly activities offered on this Portuguese island

This island outpost of Portugal is a great bet for May half term holidays, when activities such as hiking its levadas (unique walking trails along irrigation paths), cycling, and canyoning, all amidst gorgeous volcanic landscapes, can be enjoyed before the heat of summer sets in. Madeira is also brilliant for child-delighting activities out, on or in the water, such as whale and dolphin watching, sea kayaking and snorkelling. Check out our Madeira short break to see the kind of holiday we can create for you, or be inspired by our Madeira family holidays feature.

4. Morocco

Family walking in the High Atlas mountains with one child riding on a donkey

May half term is an ideal time to hike in the High Atlas, complete with donkey

May is a great time to visit this intoxicating North African country before the real heat begins. It’s already hot, but you can get up early to take in the sights and then relax in and around your hotel pool after temperatures have risen. Our Morocco family short break gives you an idea of the kinds of things you can expect to pack into a week in Morocco in the May half term: a blend of city break in Marrakech, High Atlas hiking, Agafay desert camping, and kitesurfing and other seaside fun in Essaouira. See more in our Morocco family holidays overview.

5. Slovenia

Family hiking in the Logar Valley, Slovenia

Great for outdoor activities in breathtaking beautiful mountain scenery

Another little country punching high for its size! Slovenia is an outdoor paradise for families, with whitewater rafting, canyoning, hiking in the remote Logar Valley, paddleboarding on Lake Bled or on the river in Ljubljana, and exploring caves and gorges. All these activities can be enjoyed as part of our Highlights of Slovenia itinerary. See our Slovenia family holidays overview for more on this breathtaking gem between the Alps and the Adriatic.

6. Algarve – Portugal

Kids doing cartwheels on sandy Algarve beach, May Half Term Holiday

Gorgeous beaches are a trademark of Portugal’s Mediterranean coast

A classic family holiday destination with an almost ridiculous amount of Blue Flag beaches to its name – along with thrilling activities such as exploring sea caves by kayak and surfing in certain areas – the southernmost sliver of Portugal is perfect for active families or simply for a relaxing beach break. We can cut down our  Portugal Highlights itinerary to fit with May half term dates, including time exploring Lisbon, a catamaran excursion and kayaking trip, and time on the Algarve. For more inspiration see our Portugal with Kids blog.

7. Iceland

Kids and grandma swim in a thermally heated pool in Iceland on a half term family holiday

Enjoy an action-packed May half term and soak in the hot waters of Iceland’s thermal springs

Kayaking, Viking pony riding, sea kayaking, snorkelling in a fissure between continental plates, and even year-round glacier-hiking and snowmobiling… Iceland is very far from just a winter destination. And the longer days and less chilly climes of May make it perfect for an action-packed half term getaway just over three hours from London. See our family holidays in Iceland and check out our sample Iceland summer itinerary, with waterfalls, geysers, and geothermal bakery tours all on the agenda, plus whale, seal and puffin spotting.

8. Crete

Teenager on Crete beach, May Half Term holidays

May half term in Crete can bring together history, outdoor activities and time to chill

Hiking in the Oleander Gorge, mountain biking, sea kayaking, swimming, and learning to surf are among the fabulous outdoor activities on this popular Greek island, outside the heat and crowds of high summer. Add to this exploring epic archaeological sites such as the Minoan Palace of Knossos, where you can conjure up visions of the legendary Minotaur roaming the labyrinth. Our 10-day Crete Adventure immerses you in this wonderful blend of history and alfresco active fun. Find out more in our Greece family holidays section.

9. Croatia

Family with teenagers sea kayaking in Croatia

Kayaking from Lopud to Sipan is just one of many exciting activities to enjoy over May half term

A ruggedly beautiful coastline, gorgeous national parks, secluded canyons, tumbling waterfalls, and dramatic peaks make Croatia one big outdoor playground – one that’s even better in May before the busier main school holidays. Among our top family activities in Croatia are cycling and snorkelling on the island of Sipan (after kayaking there from neighbouring Lopud), cliff jumping in the Kornati National Park archipelago, white-water rafting on the Cetina, and kayaking on the Zrmanja River. Check out our Croatia short break, well suited to the half-term week, and be further inspired by our Top 10 Things to Do in Croatia with Kids.

10. Jordan

Girl in open top vehicle laughing, surrounded by camels

Our short tour is packed with fun activities and Jordan’s historic highlights

Going to Jordan in May half term gives you enough time to take in many of its highlights, including Jerash with its imposing Roman ruins, the simply stupefying once-lost city of Petra, Wadi Rum with its thrilling desert camps, the Dead Sea for floating and the hilarity of smearing yourselves with therapeutic mud, and the Red Sea for sublime snorkelling. Our nine-day Highlights of Jordan itinerary gives you an idea of the sort of things you can look forward to. Also, see our Jordan family holidays section.

What to do next for a May half term holiday

If a May family break appeals, get in touch. You can ring us on 01728 752751 or use our website contact form. We can plan a May half term holiday that’s exactly right for each family member, with the ideal balance of excursions, activities and relaxation.

Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel
I’d love to hear about your experiences of the May half term holiday and see your holiday photos, so do email me at [email protected].