The Travel Editor replies: The problem with the nearest option - the northern Mediterranean - is the unpredictability of the weather.
Some destinations are a much bigger risk than others, for example, Mallorca, a "winter" destination much pushed by tour operators, rarely reaches 70F, while the Costa Blanca enjoys higher temperatures, more sun and less rain.
Apart from the weather, established tourist destinations such as the Balearics, Sicily, Cyprus, Crete and Corfu offer plenty of scope for the independent traveller beyond the resorts. The island of Crete averages some of the best temperatures (but still more in the 60s than the 70s during the mid- winter months). Simply Crete (tel: 0181 995 9323) rents private villas around the island throughout the winter months at a cost of pounds 655 per person (one week during November) including hire car, return flights and accommodation with pool access.
Although the Canary Islands are synonymous with mass-market tourism, there is more to them than concrete resorts and this is one place where temperatures are guaranteed not to drop below a comfortable 70F. The sheltered south-coast location of Playa Blanca is one of the warmest, sunniest places in Lanzarote and prettier than the sprawling developments on the east coast. The northern resort of Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife has drawn wintering British tourists for the past 100 years with its whitewashed 19th-century buildings and cool courtyards.
Tenerife also enjoys slightly hotter temperatures (a winter average of around 75F) than Lanzarote. Both places have a profusion of self-catering accommodation, but for some authentic Spanish charm try Gomera, one of the smaller islands in the Canaries.
Traveller's Way (tel: 01527 836791) has rural properties for rent. One week in a house sleeping two just outside the town of Alajero in the south of the island costs pounds 230 (per property).
Private Villas Independent Holiday Magazine is a publication which lists private properties in all of the above destinations and some further afield. Price pounds 2.90, it is available from the larger high-street newsagents. Call for a copy of the magazine (tel: 0121 236 2111).
Are any vaccinations actually compulsory for travellers, or are they all merely advisable?
Dr Larry Goodyer replies: If travelling outside western Europe, the US and Australia, vaccinations will often be recommended. Yellow fever precaution is compulsory for parts of South America and Africa, but any one going where yellow fever is a risk should have it, even if no certificate is required for entry. Cholera vaccine is largely ineffective and no country officially requires an entry certificate.
Vaccinations most often advised, apart from up-to-date tetanus boosters, are hepatitis A and typhoid, both caused by contaminated food and water. Hepatitis B can be caught through sexual contact or hospital treatment, for example blood transfusion and injections. There is no vaccination against hepatitis C or AIDS, transmitted in similar ways.
For some places boosters of polio or diphtheria are recommended. Meningitis protection is advisory in several areas of Asia and Africa, and is a requirement for pilgrims to Mecca during Haj.
Rabies vaccination is worth considering, particularly if going off the beaten track. Nepal has a problem with rabies, vaccine being in short supply. Travellers to Asia may also consider protection against Japanese B encephalitis.
Tick Borne encephalitis is a possibility in forested areas of Scandinavia, but do seek the advice of the GP or vaccination centre to identify individual requirements.
Dr Larry Goodyer is the superintendent of the Nomad Pharmacy (3-4 Turnpike Lane, London N8; tel 0181-889 7014). Contact the travel medicine helpline on 0891 633414 (calls cost 50p per minute).
Simple ways to make a damp waterproof jacket dry up
Despite the fact that I wear a good-quality breathable waterproof jacket when trekking, I still get damp inside. Surely it can't be leaking?
Clive Tully replies: It is unlikely to be leaking. What is much more likely is that it is condensation. First and foremost, you have to be aware that even the best breathable waterproofs will still get damp on the inside in certain conditions, when they can't transport moisture vapour quickly enough. If the atmosphere is very damp, and you're working hard, yomping up the side of a hill, the chances are that you'll overload the fabric's capability of transporting the moisture vapour, so it ends up condensing on the inside of the jacket.
But it could also be the effect of wear and washing that is reducing the effectiveness of the water-repellent treatment on the facing fabric (the outside) of the garment. When new, any water landing on the facing fabric beads up and rolls off. After you've worn the jacket, and maybe washed it, this water-repellency is diminished. Any water hitting the jacket now will soak into the facing fabric as far as the waterproof coating or membrane. The jacket itself isn't leaking, but the fact that the facing fabric has become waterlogged will obviously influence the breathability of the garment.
The way round this is to wash the jacket in natural soap (definitely no biologicals or conditioners) and once dry, you can restore water-repellency to the facing fabric with a silicone spray obtainable from your local outdoors shop. In fact, with Gore-Tex, it is possible to restore water- repellency after the first couple of washes simply by running a cool iron over the outside of the jacket.
Last, but not least, don't wear a cotton garment next to your skin. Breathable waterproofs work best when the layers beneath are designed to cope with moisture transmission. Cotton simply soaks up sweat and feels horrible, so do yourself a favour and buy a decent- quality base layer made from Polartec 100, or some other synthetic knitted fabric designed to keep moisture away from the skin.
Clive Tully is one of Britain's leading commentators on clothing and equipment for walking, trekking and backpacking. He is editor of TrailWalk, an online magazine devoted to the subject. You can consult the TrailWalk website at http://www.trailwalk.com.Reuse content