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Travellers can find some decent hotel deals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.Dmitry Chernomazov/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The perfect storm of deep Canadian winters and Christmas credit-card hangovers can make February an enticing yet financially worrisome time to vacation. But if you return all those bottles from your Yuletide carousing – and avoid Valentine's and Spring Break price hikes – you might have just enough for a sunny sojourn.

If you're flexible on dates, start by comparing late-breaking package deals on the WestJet, Air Transat and Air Canada Vacations websites. I found seven-night February specials in Jamaica, Cuba and Mexico from $1,200 a person (flights, resort and some meals included).

These inventory clearances can disappear faster than snowflakes in a hot tub, so you'll need to act fast. Alternatively, tell a travel agent your budget and let them do the legwork. I tried this last year and was offered inviting Nicaragua and Dominican Republic specials. Sign up for Flight Network's e-mailed deal alerts to see the kind of bargains available.

If you hate the last-minute approach, though, look south and plan ahead. The current U.S. exchange rate feels like a slap in the face with a wet wad of dollars. But not all south-of-the-border destinations have the eye-watering hotel rates of New York or San Francisco.

Better-value balmy cities include Austin, Tex., where February temperatures hover around 20 C. Lower your accommodation costs at the Austin Folk House B&B or snag a private room at the trendy Firehouse hostel. Then follow @AustinFreeEvent on Twitter for local no-cost happenings. It's also a good month to soak up some rays and mild temperatures in Phoenix, Savannah, Ga., and Nashville.

But if you're craving more heat, nose southward to Florida, where I found a $99 (U.S.) room rate at Fort Lauderdale's popular Premiere Hotel. Or head west to underrated San Diego. Less hip but warmer than San Francisco in February, the California oceanfront city has lots to do, including the annual Winter Brew Fest. Accommodation? The well-located Dolphin Motel is excellent value.

Don't dismiss Vegas. By signing up to hotel e-newsletters, you'll be sent late-breaking deals, such as the $20 Circus Circus room special I received recently. These older Sin City properties routinely offer enticing rates as well as cut-price dining – including the $9.49 Fremont Hotel lunch buffet that'll fill you up for the day.

Combining low-season airfares with destinations where on-the-ground costs are typically thrifty can also make spots beyond North America worthwhile. I found flights to Mexico City in February from Toronto or Vancouver for $600 (Canadian) return, and when you add lower dine-out costs and a small hotel or Airbnb sleepover, you can save a packet. It's similar in Europe's milder climes: Portugal and Greece flights are upward of $1,000, but your euros will stretch much further than in northern countries such as France and Britain.

But if you're really sold on combining higher airfares with cheap in situ costs, Asia is hard to beat. Long-haul flights to Southern Hemisphere hotspots such as Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia can set you back $1,500 but you'll spend comparative peanuts on hotels, activities and meals.

And with their summer peak seasons fading but temperatures still pleasant, it's also worth considering destinations where shoulder pricing is just starting to unfurl. I'd suggest Cape Town in South Africa (especially for its surrounding wine region) and New Zealand, where you can bypass hotels with a camper van rental – get an idea of prices at Tui Rentals.

But if these long-haul airfares make your credit cards sweat, add some layers and stay in Canada instead. Victoria is one of our warmest winter cities, with spring-like February temperatures and alluring low-season room rates. And while it's far from hot, I've also enjoyed Ottawa's sunny, blue-skied Winterlude festival – just be aware that its toque-demanding temperatures will make intravenous hot chocolate essential.


Maya Tulum [Mexico] is an amazing resort. Not overrun or touristy. A bit more quaint and with great energy. @an_eagerbeaver

Sayulita, Mexico, if resorts aren't your thing. Authentic with the right amount of hip factor. @ngottselig

South Africa. The currency tanked last week and it went from cheap as heck to cheap as HELL. @BySarahKhan

Weather-wise, Miami seems the place to be right now. @Kathy_Writer

Our women's retreat to Belize is a perfect winter escape. Peggy Coonley

Cuba Cruise circumnavigates the island in one week, stopping at a variety of ports and offering fun full-day excursions, such as one I took to the Castro family farm, and another to a national park, riding in the back of an open-air Russian truck! Their all-inclusive packages include unlimited bar and you can opt for an air and cruise package from major Canadian cities. Suzanne Morphet


"We'd love to plan a port-themed tour to Portugal. Where can we visit to learn more about our favourite drink?" Send your tips to

Follow me on Twitter: @johnleewriter

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