Feeling down in the dark days of January? Cheer yourself up: escape to the sun... on the cheap. Book a cheap flight for off-season sunshine or plan your summer holiday now so you've got something to look forward to.
Here are seven sunny short-haul ideas, with return flights starting at less than £70.
1. Alicante, Spain, from £52
More than 300 days of sunshine a year ain’t bad. The holiday season is long and wonderfully warm in Alicante, the 'gateway to the Costa Blanca'. Head to famous resorts such as Benidorm for classic sun, sea and sangria summer holiday fun. Or combine time on the beach with a city break in Alicante itself. It’s a stylish place with spacious plazas, wide palm tree-lined boulevards and a palpable Mediterranean culture. A great time to visit is for Hogueras de San Juan - a bonfire-based fiesta celebrating the summer solstice, when residents party in the streets.
2. La Rochelle, France from £59
Poitou-Charente in south-west France is a lovely part of the world. The region is overlooked in favour of the French Riviera further south, but there are cracking beaches at places like Jard-sur-Mer and family-friendly resorts such as Les Sables d’Olonne (pictured). La Rochelle itself is a pretty medieval port where you can happily spend your time ogling the yachts over a cassis sorbet and splurging on seafood. Take a boat trip out to Île d’Aix for some of the best beaches in France.
3. Rimini, Italy from £55
Rimini's nightlife is legendary. While it's not quite as hip as it was 20 years ago, it could arguably still claim to be the Italians’ answer to Ibiza. Stretching out on the beach by day and strut your stuff on the dancefloor by night. The town is one of Italy's most popular resorts, not just with nightclubbing youngsters but also families. This is no surprise, as its sandy beach - a rarity in itself in Italy - is 15km long and offers watersports, kids’ clubs and a thermal spa. Once you have perfected your golden tan, it’s time to go out on the town in true Italian style with a choice of the thousands of bars, restaurants and discos. Fly to Ancona, 55km down the coast - it's a lot cheaper.
4. Thessaloniki, Greece from £66
Known as Greece’s hippest city, Thessaloniki has produced some of the country’s greatest musicians, artists, poets and thinkers. However, probably of more interest to most Brits is Thessaloniki’s beautiful beaches, fine hotels and what have been deemed the best restaurants in northern Greece. It is also the jumping-off point for the Kassandra peninsula, with its pine forests and white beaches, and hot, hot, hot resorts such as family-friendly Polichron, disco-tastic Kalithea, and the more low-key Kriopigi.
5. Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, from £65
Beaches, beaches, beaches! Fuerteventura has 150 of them around its 120 miles of coastline. Being the quietest of the Canaries, you'll be able to find long stretches of white sand lapped by turquoise-coloured ocean waters all for yourself. Those seeking more active pursuits, like windsurfing and kite boarding, should head to the Jandia coast with its Atlantic rollers. If you can tear yourself away from the beach, explore picturesque valleys, climb majestic Tindaya mountain, or for more leisurely exploration, take a boat trip to the tiny volcanic islet of Isla de los Lobos.
6. Dubrovnik, Croatia from £55
The notoriously fanciful Lord Byron once declared Dubrovnik to be the ‘The Pearl of the Adriatic’, but he had it pretty much bang-on. You simple must take a walk along the walls that are part of the port city’s 13th century UNESCO-rated old town. It gets pretty hot in summer but should be most pleasant early in the season and you can always take the boat out to one of the many islands for a dip in the dazzling blue Adriatic.
7. Ayr, Scotland, from £34
Ayr is a proper old-school Scottish seaside resort. It boasts all the entertainment and recreational facilities required for a fun holiday, from crazy golf to fish and chip shops and a large selection of places to stay. The town beach is massive, with plenty of space for family activities like football and flying kites. Just up the coast, Troon is another popular holiday resort, boasting an award-winning soft sandy beach overlooking the Isle of Arran, while Saltcoats has another superb beach. If you’re bored of building sandcastles, the Firth of Clyde is one of the best places for sailing in the UK.