Bear in mind that for the cheapest seats you are likely to be travelling at odd times of the day (such as 7am from Gatwick) and will need to find late-availability tickets. And because the prices given in newspaper ads are always "subject to availability" you may not get the prices listed. Nevertheless, bargains such as Alicante for pounds 59 return do exist. Honest.
LLORET DE MAR
This was the first part of Spain colonised by mass tourism and the first to be abandoned by the middle classes. Approach it for what it is: a Butlins- in-the-sun, full of Chinese takeaways, German wurst and pizzerias and you should have fun (though the weather is unreliable out of season). There are still some remarkably cheap pensiones stashed away amid the high-rises. Quick escapes: Barcelona, Figueras. Nearest airport: Gerona.
This is almost certainly the most maligned of all Mediterranean resorts. Not only does it have three miles of good, sandy beaches, but it is also blessed with palm-tree-lined boulevards as well as a pretty old quarter piled up on a rocky peninsula. Admittedly, the place is packed with British pubs and more than 70 discos, and contains many more northern Europeans than native Spaniards, but if people are enjoying themselves, who cares? There is a surfeit of inexpensive accommodation out of season. Quick escapes: Alicante, Valencia. Nearest airport: Alicante.
Just 30 minutes east of Malaga, this monument to mass tourism is described by the Rough Guide as a "vast, grotesque parody of a seaside resort which, in its own kitschy way, is fascinating". As with Benidorm, the beaches are excellent, if a trifle crowded, and entertainment revolves round Irish pubs. There is a large expatriate population of retired people, transvestite gays, and (allegedly) British crooks. Quick escapes: Andalusian countryside, Ronda, Granada. Nearest airport: Malaga.
The tiny capital city of Rhodes is undeniably packed for the longest part of the year, but part of the reason for this is that it is so beautiful: a perfectly preserved medieval city built by the crusading Knights of St John, with palaces and old city walls, as well as Byzantine and Turkish relics. Rhodes also contains plenty of cheap, pension-style accommodation, even in high season. Airport: Rhodes
In the middle of the Riviera del Sole, (Italian for Costa del Sol), this is the only Italian destination in this category, and does have the distinction of attracting a majority of local Italians. Attacked by John Paul II for immorality, Rimini now boasts more than 100 discos as well as a large transsexual community. Quick escapes: San Marino, Ravenna. Airport: Rimini
On the south-western corner of Cyprus, the Paphos area has recently experienced a sudden burst of rather uninspiring development, and caters largely to the pre-booked market. Immediately beyond the town, however, in almost any direction, are rolling hillsides and traditional Cypriot villages. Airport: Paphos
The largest of the Canaries, it is hard to imagine why this varied volcanic island, far to the south of mainland Europe and just off the coast of Africa, should be considered as anything but a pure fascination. The resort Puerto de la Cruz has a stylish old centre (but black beaches). Quick escapes: Lava deserts, volcano craters, primaeval forests. Airport: Tenerife
Perched on the southern edge of Portugal, this year-round resort sees a huge flow of people through its international airport but is by no means an unattractive destination in itself, with a harbour, beaches and lots of late-night carousing. Quick escapes: the scenic mountain area, Serra de Monchique. Airport: Faro.
The following all offer cheap flights to the featured resorts:
l Flightseats: 0990 239904
l Icarus: 01476 514666
l Embassy: 01273 700737
l Jetline: 0171-360 1111
l Flightclub: 01903 231857