Q. My husband and I are planning a two-week trip abroad during August/September this year, with a budget of ₹ 3-4 lakh. We are in our late 20s and will be celebrating our first anniversary in September. We would love to include Paris, Venice and Switzerland, but don’t want it to be just another sightseeing trip. We had been to Mauritius on our honeymoon, booked through a tour operator and those seven days were hectic. Not something you look forward to in a honeymoon. We would like to explore places through local tour operators and still have some quality time for ourselves. Is August-end/September a good time to visit Europe? Also what are the must-visit spots to enjoy the best of it?

Marco Says: It’s my belief that tour operators are to be used only if you are a) a risk-averse traveller, b) you don’t have the time or energy to plan a holiday, c) budget is an issue and you feel you’re getting a good deal, or d) you’re travelling to an obscure place with poor tourist infrastructure. If none of these is the case, go the independent route. When you plan your travel by researching, discussing pros and cons of the options available, there will be surprises in store and plenty of ‘together time’ gained—itself rather romantic!

Since you already have a list of destinations you’d like to visit in mind, you’re already on the road. Paris, Venice and Switzerland are visitor favourites, fully geared to make tourism easy and enjoyable. For all of these, a whole host of local guided tours—walking tours, excursions, city sightseeing by coach or private vehicle—are available online. Just ask Google. Your role is to shortlist what interests you particularly and organise your time to take in those activities. For instance, there’s no point dragging yourself to the Louvre if you’re deeply bored by art; equally, it would be tragic to not take a food tour of Paris if food is a special interest. Recommended walking tour agencies include paris-walks.com and walksinsidevenice.com.

Switzerland, that ultimate tourist haven, is usefully detailed at the official website, myswitzerland.com. You might also want to check out airbnb.com for options in these cities rather than hotels; staying in homes will give you a taste of local life—wander down to buy freshly baked breakfast goodies, check out neighbourhood pubs, discover quiet corners… Much more fun—and it won’t be “just another sightseeing trip”!

July, August and September are peak tourist months for much of Europe. If you must travel at this time, choose September, when, if you’re lucky, the crowds might begin to thin out.