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What is Your Travel Planning Style?

January 16, 2012 by · 2 Comments 


Seward, Alaska, 2011

Do you have a method for planning your road trips or vacations? Do you dutifully sit down in January and target where and when you will go to specific destinations? Or, do you just “wing it” once the official camping season kicks off in the spring?

I have to admit that I have waffled between both methods over the years.  I am, in fact, still waffling! When we first started camping and our children were very young, I was pretty strict about planning in advance, pinpointing destinations, and then making reservations. I have vivid recollections of often doing this ten months in advance.

Back then, it was a system that I needed to have in place.  Packing food, kids, cars, and gear can be a monumental task. I knew I didn’t want to take the spontaneous route only to find out that the car was loaded and the campgrounds were too! Traveling and camping with young children can be challenging.  I needed the certainty of knowing that we had a good campsite waiting for us once we reached each location. 

As our children got a little older, I became more comfortable with “winging it.” Our first experience was when we drove the Alaska Highway from Anchorage back to Seattle. We didn’t have reservations at campsites en route because we didn’t know how far we would want to drive each day.  The trip was great and the lack of a strict itinerary gave us a little more freedom and flexibility each day.  We really took our time and visited many of the wonderful historic museums and towns en route.  We stopped and enjoyed the amazing scenery in Yukon Territory and marveled at the lovely town of  Whitehorse.  In Northern British Columbia, we talked at length to a German family who was driving a massive retrofitted map-decorated vehicle around the world…yes, around the world!  I think if we had strict reservations at that time, we wouldn’t have been as willing to take our time and enjoy the trip.  It certainly wouldn’t have been as memorable as it is now…my kids still talk about that family from Germany!

 Now that my children are older, it is admittedly even more difficult to book in advance because they often have activities and obligations themselves during the summer months. So, lately, we’ve been a little looser in our summer plans, waiting til closer to the start of the season to book.  Now that it is January, I am looking ahead. We haven’t planned any camping trips just yet, but I am starting to consider our options…Any thoughts on the various methods? Planned or spontaneous? What have some of your best trips been?

Photo by Melissa A. Trainer

–Melissa A. Trainer


2 Responses to “What is Your Travel Planning Style?”
  1. Annie says:


    We are definitely the camper who plans ahead. With small children, we research our locations, facilities and also check weather in advance. If the weather looks poor, we will not take a chance on being stuck in a tent with the children for the entire weekend!!

    Admittedly though, we don’t book our campgrounds in advance. Most places we travel do not have booking system eg. National Parks, so it really is first in, first served. But we do avoid peak times just to ensure that there is definitely a spot available.

    For others with children, I really do suggest forward planning as the best option. Being stuck in a car, only to get to your destination and find it far from suitable or roads washed away etc. etc. could turn a lovely unplanned camping adventure, into a mini-disaster.


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