TRAVEL CLINIC

Your questions answered by our panel of travel experts
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I WANT TO BE A LEAF-PEEPER

We would like to visit New England for the "Faaahhll". Are there any organised tours, when should we go and how do we start?

Toby Dawes

Canterbury

Jill Crawshaw replies: The dates when the New England autumn foliage is at its very best vary, but you can usually expect to catch the Fall between mid-September and late October. The trees of Maine in the north are the first to turn, with the colour spreading south to New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, and finally to the wooded river valleys of Connecticut and tiny Rhode island.

The progression of the Fall foliage is well documented in New England - even on a daily basis - as local newspapers and radio stations give briefings on the best spot to head for, and some states have toll-free Fall Lines. Several firms offer organised tours. Tauck Tours, for instance, a quality US- based coach tour company, organise 16 Fall Foliage itineraries ranging from seven to 11 days, with prices starting from $1060 (about pounds 680) and it can add whale-watching, glacier trekking and other activities to "leaf-peeping tours". Telephone the firm on 001 203 221 6890.

Virgin Holidays (01293 617181), using its direct scheduled flights to Boston offer a variety of Fall packages from the UK, including fly-drives, which gives you the flexibility of being in the best area at the most spectacular time, and coach tours. A week's Autumn Wanders coach tour between September and October costs pounds 889, though these get heavily booked.

As an alternative, Virgin also offers a Washington Fly-Drive trip, which costs a low pounds 299 a week, with optional hotel vouchers for pounds 32 a night for a room sleeping four. I have not experienced this myself, but they claim that the leaves are just as colourful in Virginia and Maryland well into late November.

New England Country Homes (tel: 01798 869020) of Bignor, Pulborough, West Sussex, RH20 1QD, has some autumn availability on its unusual and imaginative packages, which combine the rent of a clapboard cottage on the coast, log cabins in the forest or artists' studios, with car hire, as well as flights, travel insurance and a night in Boston all included. Prices start at pounds 695 (for each of four travelling) for two weeks, and you can spend a week in each of two destinations. To make sure you see the Fall you could base yourself in New Hampshire's White Mountain for a week, followed by a week in the Berkshires or in the Connecticut River Valley.

The six states that make up New England are represented in this country by Discover New England, and it offers an information pack (including Fall Foliage details) for pounds 2.50 from: Discover New England information, Vestry Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TW14 5XA (tel: 01732 742777).

If you wish to contact the individual tourist offices in America independently, here are the numbers: Connecticut: 001 203 258 4355; Maine: 001 207 289 5711; Massachusetts: 001 617 727 3201; New Hampshire: 001 603 271 2666; Rhode Island: 001 401 277 2601; Vermont: 001 802 828 3236

Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster.

CAN I CHARGE FOR EXTRA COSTS ON A REBOOKED FLIGHT?

Several months ago I booked a flight for this autumn to fly to Harare with Balkan Airlines. Recently however, this airline decided not to fly that route on the relevant dates, and cancelled my booking.

They have refunded me my money, but now, when rebooking my flights with another airline, I find that prices are much higher than they were (even on the same airlines) a few months ago when I originally booked. I regard Balkan Airlines as responsible for these extra costs. Are they legally liable?

Mrs J Kerr

Northern Ireland

Ian Skuse replies: Unfortunately, claims against airlines are very different to other types of claims where different principles apply. Usually, if someone is in breach of contract then they should compensate you so that you are in the same position as if no breach had occurred, ie the cost to travel on the dates formally agreed, which might involve travelling with a more expensive airline.

Regrettably, carriage by air is different and is governed by international convention, which limits the airlines' liability. For example, compensation for flight delays is limited and you cannot claim that you missed an important meeting which resulted in your losing a contract for your business. Loss of cargo is determined by the weight of luggage rather than value.

Where a flight is cancelled, I think you are properly entitled to a full refund but I think you will have difficulty in pursuing the airline for the difference between the refund and the more expensive flights you might have to book, or the loss of your trip if you are unable to find another airline with empty seats.

Ian Skuse is the senior litigation partner with Piper Smith & Basham, advisors to the travel industry for over 20 years; tel: 0171 828 8685.

KEEPING ILLNESS AT BAY IN CHINA

I am travelling to central China and wonder what vaccinations I need. I was not brought up in Britain, and I have no vaccination record. I do not want to have everything all at once because it would be far too expensive. If I say I am willing to spend up to pounds 30, what vaccinations would you advise?

Xue Baochai

Brighton

Dr Larry Goodyer replies: For China the vaccination schedule is not too onerous and should not involve a great deal of expense. Your first port of call should be your own NHS GP, if you have one. Vaccines such as tetanus are free, while others may incur a charge. The price can vary, with some GPs charging more than others for administration. It is worth phoning round travel vaccination centres to get a better deal.

I would recommend you have vaccination against hepatitis A, which can be contracted by drinking contam- inated food and water. Most people have the more reliable but expensive hepatitis A vaccine, but if you are an infrequent traveller and will be away for less than three months then the older gammaglobulin injection could be considered. It would be wise to obtain vaccination against typhoid. Polio and diphtheria vaccinations are given to all children in the UK, but immunity tends to be reduced in adulthood. There is now a trend for giving boosters to adult travellers to many destinations, including China. You will have to consider if you might have received these during your childhood. Everyone is advised to be up-to-date with tetanus vaccination, whether they are travelling or not.

A further consideration is malaria, although the risks in many areas of China are not great. If you are visiting southern rural China, then you should take chloroquine weekly. The provinces of Hainan and Yunnan do carry a higher risk and mefloquine is required. But if, as in your case, you are visiting other regions, no prophylaxis is required.

Dr Larry Goodyer is superintendent of the Nomad Pharmacy (3-4 Turnpike Lane, London N8, Tel: 0181 889 7014), which specialises in travellers' medical needs.

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