Where better to sweat out the last vestiges of winter than a city with more than a hundred spas? Each has its own particular style, from sixteenth-century Ottoman – the best is Rudas, with a beautiful octagonal pool under a glass dome and a rooftop heated pool with a wonderful view of the Danube – to exquisite art nouveau, such as Gellert.
No visit to Budapest would be complete without stopping at neo-baroque Széchenyi, the largest of the city’s spas, where you’ll see locals combining a hot bath with a game of chess.
A ticket can cost as little as €10, and a 20-minute massage around €15. Cooling down after a steamy soak by sampling one of the many delicious craft beers on offer in the capital will only set you back around €1.50.
Afterwards, go for coffee and calorie-rich Dobos torta (Hungarian sponge cake). Accommodation isn't as good value as it used to be, but you can still find great deals out of town and public transport for getting into the centre is excellent.
Skiing is never cheap, but if you hold out towards the end of the season in Europe, and choose somewhere high up and relatively snow-sure, you can grab a bargain.
Val d'Isère, Val Thorens, Les Arcs and La Plagne, with their high-altitude positions, are the resorts to watch, and if you book last minute it’s possible to get a week’s chalet deal for around €475. Deals often include flights, transfers, breakfast and dinner (with as much wine as you can quaff before the coffee arrives), plus afternoon tea and cake waiting for you for when you return tired and aching after a day on the slopes.
3. For a tropical escape: Guatemala
Tropical rainforest, brooding volcanoes, mountains and lakes and abundant wildlife – what's not to like about Guatemala? Plus, there's ancient Maya sites steeped in mysticism, graceful colonial architecture and colourful markets.
Visit the tremendous Maya city at Tikal deep in the rainforest, or more remote sites tucked away in the jungle, where howler monkeys and toucans will likely form a rowdy soundtrack. Lake Atitlán, flanked by volcanoes, is stunning and a must-see, as is picture-postcard Antigua with its colourful colonial-era buildings.
If you want to learn something on your trip, Spanish classes are the cheapest in Central America, and travel between places on the chicken buses costs little (just don’t expect to get anywhere fast, or on time). Meals, often featuring beans and tortillas can cost as little as $3, and street food is even cheaper.
New Orleans is considered to be the birthplace of jazz. Indeed it’s impossible to spend any time there without drumming your fingers to the beat, or shakin’ your stuff. And much of it can be heard for next to nothing, whether it’s from enthusiastic street buskers or impromptu jam sessions in moody bars.
There’s also great brass music – traditional or energetic, raucous mixes of funk, reggae, hip-hop and R&B.
You can hear thumping talent every night of the week in clubs such as the Spotted Cat and gritty BJ’s Lounge, and world greats at Snug Harbor for as little as $15.
Spring is a fantastic time to head to the city – it’s T-shirt weather but also before the often-stifling heat of summer. Just watch out for accommodation price surges during Jazz Fest at the end of April.