Ready for sunshine after the long English winter? Book savvy and you can find an early family sun holiday without a hefty price tag. February and early March are the peak season for spring sun destinations so if you can hold off until early May you'll also get more for your money.
We round up our top 10 destinations for value sun in 2012.
Best for March, April and May
The Canary Islands
The closest low-cost place for real spring sunshine, the Canary Islands average mid-20s temperatures, and their popularity generally means great late deals. Monarch has villa holidays in Lanzarote from £390pp, leaving 12 March from Gatwick. If the bigger Canaries are too commercial, try El Hierro or La Palma.
Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Madeira has year-round warmth. The island isn't a beach holiday destination, but there’s a lot to do, whether exploring the capital Funchal or walking the Levada coastal paths. Owners Direct has three-bedroom villas with pools from around £400. TAP Portugal has flights from £52 return.
Egypt's Red Sea
The Red Sea offers year-round sun, competitive package deals and a four-hour flight time. EasyJet currently have a seven-night all-inclusive holiday to the Luna Sharm hotel in Sharm El Sheikh in May from £454.65pp, based on two adults and two children under four, flying from Manchester.
North Africa’s other great sand and sunspot, Tunisia, offers value for money on hotel stays with pools and beaches. Temperatures are around 20-25 degrees, and cool at night. First Choice has a selection of all-inclusive Tunisia holidays from £234pp.
For something more interesting than ‘fly and flop’, look into a family-friendly pad in bustling Marrakech. Riads are great value - Riad Nana, 10 minutes from the Majorelle garden, has family rooms from £54 per night for two adults and three children.
Dubai has been particularly hit by the financial downturn, and prices are competitive. Temperatures are in the top to mid-20s, beaches are child-friendly and a seven-hour flight time only just tips it into long haul. Virgin Holidays is currently having a Dubai sale, with deals from £499pp.
Thailand is a surprisingly reasonable option. Head for the southwestern gulf coast, where it’s dry season until April, with high 20s temperatures. Flights are the most expensive bit, around £450, but beach huts can be as little as £5 a night. HolidayLettings.co.uk has villas from £140 a week.
Best for April and May
Winter season rates for villas and apartments on Cyprus can be up to half the price of high season. Two-bed apartments start from around £250 a week, with Skyscanner currently showing return flight deals to Paphos from £98pp.
South of France
By May, the South of France has mid 20s temperatures in places such as the Languedoc and Provence. Easter deals start from £315 per family per week at Eurocamp campsites, with accommodation from safari tents to chalets. Save 20% by booking before 22 February.
If you're not quite ready for early family sun, there are still some great deals on offer for late family getaways. For example, Florida has some great deals – Orlando or Miami Beach are good bases, with sandy beaches and theme park fun. Flight Centre currently has seven nights in Orlando, including flights, from £469pp for travel 16 September-11 October 2012.