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Camping Trips: The Planner vs. Mr Spontaneous

We all know both types of people, don’t we?

We have friends who plan everything down to the last detail, and we also have those free-wheeling friends who seem to be up for anything at the drop of a hat. Which is better? In this “Versus” article Clint, who loves researching his vacations, with Matt, who could care less which direction the car is headed, because he’s just looking for a good time.

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The Planner
The Planner

Clint – The Planner

 Advantages: I’m a planner when it comes to trips. I derive a lot of enjoyment from using online resources to plan a place that I’m actually going to visit. I’ll dig into Reddit, Tripadvisor, Yelp and Instagram to make sure I hit the hot spots.

The benefit, here, is that I’m guaranteed to hit the most well-known, scenic hot spots. It also allows me to make the best use of the 3-4 days I can string together at one stretch for vacation. I can check the weather and make sure I’m outdoors on gorgeous days and in a museum if it’s raining. It allows me to squeeze every ounce of experience from every step I take when I’m on vacation.

I’ll sleep when I’m dead!

Disadvantages: Planning is inevitably tied to expectation, especially if you’re planning a trip that is several months to a year away. The expectation grows, and can alter your experience of the trip when it actually happens.

We’ve all had a subpar experience at some point and realized it was mostly because we were expecting too much. The other thing that happens with planning is that your schedule is already filled up, and doesn’t leave time for things you might find out from locals. Sometimes the best experiences aren’t listed in Google Maps, and you’ll only find out about them from the bartender at the tavern down the street.

planning vacations
Mr. Spontaneous

Matt – Mr. Spontaneous

Advantages: When is the last time you did anything spontaneously? Honestly. Look at your calendar. Your entire life is a giant schedule. You wake up at a certain time. Go to work at a certain time. Eat dinner. Sleep. Repeat.

The last thing I want to do is plan my weekend fun to the point where it turns into work. I can’t tell you how many Friday afternoons I just decided to hop in the truck and head to a campsite I’ve never been to before.

You can do whatever you want, go wherever you want, and do it under the umbrella of pure exploration. Your trip stress level goes down dramatically if you “go with the flow” and allow the trip to happen rather than forcing it to happen. It’s not all about the destination, but the journey. Carpe Diem.

Disadvantages: My “willy-nilly” approach to camping has bitten me in the butt on several occasions. With spontaneous camping trips, you run the risk of forgetting gear. Essential gear. Not proud to admit this, but I’ve forgotten everything from lanterns to even my sleeping bag. Keep your camp box ready and complete, to avoid forgetting what you need.

Also, there is a “luck” component to finding killer campsites and campgrounds when you just pick a direction and hit the road. I’ve had several sub-par trips simply because there wasn’t a great location to camp. That being said, there is something special about discovering your new favorite campground or campsite by nothing more than a sense of direction, dumb luck, and an adventurous attitude.

A mix of the two…

In the end it’s probably best if you can take away a few things from each approach. Maybe reserve a campsite online, but then be completely open to anything else that arises. Don’t be hell bent on getting there by a certain time. If you see something peculiar on the ride there, check it out. It just may end up being the best part of your trip.

planning vacations
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