Q: I know you are grumpy about being asked for itineraries. So let me refrain. We are a group of 7 guys aged 35-52 who are planning a trip to the border of Switzerland going to France and Italy. We will land in Geneva, plan to rent a car and drive to Chamonix and then visit Genoa, Cannes, Marseilles and Monaco. Our interests are nature, beaches and quaint towns. If possible, we would like to avoid cities. However, food and drinks should be available easily and till late. Having close access to public transport is an advantage if we give away our rental car after Chamonix. We are open to using public transport if the area is well-connected and are open to staying in hostels too. Would love your opinion on locations to stay and modes of transport.

Marco Says: It’s very considerate of you to refrain from requesting an itinerary for your travel. And just as well too! Because you bunch of pals need to put your heads together and thrash things out rather more. First, arm yourself with a good map of Southern Europe. Once you have that in hand, you will notice that Geneva to Chamonix is a pretty short distance (only about an hour and-a-half’s drive away). Now, get to making some decisions. You need to figure how you want to get from Chamonix to the South of France. Transport options are aplenty—you can fly, take a train or a bus, or drive down in a rented car. Bus or slow train (not the fast TGV) will always be cheapest. But if you’re all definitely not into cities and prefer a rural idyll, I’m puzzled by your list of destinations: Genoa, Cannes, Marseilles and Monaco are all urban centres, characterised either by the haunts of the super-rich (Monaco and Cannes) or by industrial grit and buzz (Marseilles). I’d suggest that you knock off a few of these places from your plan, choose one (or at most two) bases and then head inland for a quieter nature-led sojourn (Provence is an obvious choice). Depending on where you decide to finally head, search Airbnb for apartments or rooms; this can be an equally affordable alternative when hostels are not present. A final suggestion, kickstart your research by checking out a few blogs—nomadicmatt.com has good suggestions for budget travellers; oliverstravels.com is also useful.