Holidaymakers seeking last-minute bargains should look to Croatia for a budget-friendly half-term holiday, new Which? research has found. A three-star package holiday in Croatia could cost you an average of £350 less than a similar trip to Malta - and it was the cheapest location to visit across the board, including Greece, Portugal and Spain.
Those who missed out on a summer holiday may be looking ahead to the October half-term break for a bit of belated sunbathing. But it can be tricky to match a holiday budget to your aspirations for catching the last of the European summer rays.
To help steer you in the right direction, Which? carried out snapshot research across a number of popular European short-haul destinations to determine which is the cheapest for October package holidays, including flights from London.
We searched for the cheapest three, four and five-star holidays during the half-term break for a family of four across Croatia, Greece, Malta, Portugal and Spain. The tour operators we researched are all well rated and have prices at the cheaper end of the spectrum: , and . All three also have flexible Covid-19 booking policies.
Max average temp:19°C in Dubrovnik
Average cost of a three-star holiday in Croatia:£485pp
Out of all the destinations we looked into, Croatia was the cheapest to visit for a package holiday. At an average of £485pp, a three-star holiday in Croatia is more than £350 cheaper than a three-star holiday to Malta.
Even when comparing the average price across three, four and five-star holidays, Croatia remained the cheapest destination, at £520 per head. That's a difference of £347.
It's worth noting that Croatia isn't the warmest, nor the sunniest destination at this time of year, with six hours of sunshine per day compared with seven or eight hours in other European destinations. But if you don't mind packing a jacket, this could be a decent option for a cheaper half-term break. Those with sights set on the sun, however, may need to broaden the budget.
Max average temp: 24°C in Rhodes, 22°C in Crete and Corfu
Average cost of a three-star holiday in Greece (including islands): £679pp
There are cheaper destinations to visit than Greece. It beats Malta in terms of maximum average temperatures, but even its warmest spots don't reach the temperatures of balmy Seville, Spain. That said, on average Greece boasts an extra hour of sunshine per day, at eight hours in Rhodes during October.
For cocktails at sunset, Greece is your best bet. You might be paying for the privilege of those extra sunrays though: Greece was the second-most expensive place to visit after Malta for three-star holidays. However, at £702pp, it was slightly cheaper overall than Spain when taking an average of three, four and five-star prices into account.
Max average temp: 24°C in Valletta
Average cost of a three-star holiday in Malta: £805pp
Compared with other destinations, Malta is pricey. With seven hours of sunshine per day in the capital of Valletta, and temperatures reaching 'no-jacket-required' levels, Malta is much more expensive than other Mediterranean spots at this time of year.
In fact, the holiday price per head was highest for trips to Malta across the board, reaching £867 across three, four and five-star average prices. Compromising on luxury doesn't really help matters, either - the average price we found for a three-star trip was £805pp, only knocking off £62 per head. If value for money is a priority, try Malta's neighbouring destinations where you'll find sunny strolls for up to £200 less.
Average temp: 23°C in Lisbon, 22°C in Algarve
Average cost of a three-star holiday in Portugal: £671
In terms of the cost of three-star packages, Portugal did not quite live up to its reputation as Spain's more affordable neighbour in our research. In fact, the average three-star holiday in Portugal was about £42 more per head than a similar trip to Spain for October half term. So, if you want to spend less and are thinking of swapping out Spain for Portugal, our research suggests you shouldn't.
However, the story changed when taking into account four and five-star average prices. Then, the average price for a package in Portugal was £668 - £44 cheaper than in Spain. Curiously, a number of four and five-star packages were cheaper than three-star ones in Portugal, so keep your eyes peeled for slightly more luxurious packages at lower prices.
Max average temp: 26°C in Seville
Average cost of a three-star holiday in Spain (including Canary Islands and Balearics): £629pp
Spain falls around the middle of the range of prices we found. If you're hoping to maximise your vitamin D intake while keeping costs low, it offers temperatures of up to 26°C, and seven hours of sunshine per day. Choose a southerly location like Seville to achieve the closest thing you'll get to a summer holiday in October - and for relatively reasonable prices, too. Stick with three stars and you'll find averages of £629 across Spain, or, if you're taking four and five-star prices into account, average prices per person jump up by £83 to £712pp.
*We searched for the cheapest three, four and five-star bed and breakfast holiday packages during the half-term break for a family of four (two adults, two children) via Tui, Jet2 and Co-operative Travel. Each package included flights from London, and destinations researched were Croatia, Malta, Portugal, Spain (including Canaries and Balearics) and Greece (including islands).