If you like to plan your trip weeks or months in advance, you’ve probably marked up the map with all the stops you want to include. You’ve scheduled how long to stay at each, and booked campsites or Boondockers Welcome host locations for each night. Congratulations. You’ve created an itinerary. All the work is done; now you can relax and enjoy your trip.
Maybe you’re more like us; the “Blow With the Wind” type. We rarely plan more than a few days in advance. In fact, as I type this it’s early afternoon and we haven’t decided where we’ll be camping tonight.
There are pros and cons to each approach and times when it makes sense to mix and match a bit of both. Only twelve days into a two-month trip to Newfoundland, we discovered that there are times when neither approach works.
It’s important to note that I’m not talking about “destination camping” here. If you’re hoping to spend a week or longer in one spot, of course, it makes no sense to just hope you’ll find a place to camp when you get there – you need a reservation! Our option -- traveling without a plan makes sense only when the trip itself is the destination and the only plan is a change of scenery every few days. A road trip!
We prefer to blow with the wind once we start the trip, but it doesn’t mean we don’t do a ton of research in advance. We mark up a map; see our Newfoundland route map below. We just don’t have any idea when we’ll reach each location.
Pros of being a planner:
- Planning the trip is exciting. It lets the fun start early.
- There’s great comfort in knowing exactly where you’ll be camped each night.
- It’s the only way to assure you’ve got a site in a campground, especially if you’re traveling in peak season.
- If you prefer certain campsites or want RV hookups, a reservation may be the only way
- It allows you to create an accurate trip budget.
Cons of being a planner:
- Unforeseeable circumstances such as mechanical failure, bad weather, or a health issue can throw a wrench into a schedule that may be difficult to adapt or recover from without missing some of the key stops you want.
- You don’t know what you don’t know. Or who you’ll encounter that will tempt you to alter your schedule or even put you onto a whole new route.
- There’s almost always a non-refundable additional cost to make or change a campground reservation.
- Even if willing to pay the fee, you may not be able to change a reservation if the sites are all filled.
- Approximately 15% of Boondockers Welcome hosts don’t accept a request for more than a month in advance. And 3% prefer not to commit to your visit for more than two weeks in advance. This means you won’t be able to add these hosts to your agenda or count on using the BW platform as often as you might like.
- New BW hosts are joining weekly. You won’t know about them when you create your itinerary.
Pros of blowing with the wind:
- Flexibility. We don’t think twice about changing our route when we learn about something new we’d like to include or get an invitation from a new-found friend who wants to take us somewhere special. When staying with Boondockers Welcome hosts, such opportunities magically and frequently present themselves. When we request a single night, it often becomes two.
- There’s always more to see and do in an area than we think. Our best-laid plans almost always fall behind. Very rarely are we ever ahead of schedule.
- If we hit a run of bad weather or any other unplanned issue, we can simply wait it out, without all the work of canceling or rebooking reservations or, optionally, missing some of the stops we wanted to make.
The cons of blowing with the wind:
- You will end up boondocking. If that’s not your style, be prepared to adopt it.
- Anxiety. Certain anxiety can start to set in around 3:00 pm and gradually worsen as the day wears on if we’re not sure where we’ll be spending the night. We try to convince ourselves that we’ve never been without an option yet, so there’s no need to worry. There’s always a Walmart or other business that will allow us to park overnight or a side street where we can sneak a sleep. But, it has happened that we can’t find those either and we’ve driven on, much farther than intended, only finding suitable camping just before dark. By then, you can be sure it’s with somewhat frayed nerves. We always say we’ll opt for a motel room if we need to, but we’re RVers at heart; we don’t give up until we’ve exhausted every camping option.
- Poor use of time. We end up spending far more time, energy, and fuel, looking for a place to camp than planners do. We can’t drive nearly as far in a day either; if we find suitable camping any time after 3:00 pm, we’ll stop and take advantage of it.
- Meeting up with friends can be a challenge. We love getting connected on the road when possible but it’s harder to anticipate where our paths will cross. If even one party tends toward being a “planner” it can help a lot.
- Our travel style even limits our use of our own platform - Boondockers Welcome. Although more than half of our hosts welcome same-day requests and another 5% say one day’s notice is fine, we know that the shorter our request window, the more locations we won’t be able to request. It’s also more likely hosts will already be booked or have other plans and aren’t available.
Even with a schedule, a plan can fall off the rails. This week was a perfect example. We had set up a meeting with ultra hosts, GA Gypsies, at Cheeseman Newfoundland Provincial Park on Tuesday night. They’re crossing back on the ferry to Nova Scotia on Wednesday and we booked the Tuesday ferry to Newfoundland. A perfect plan - it would let us spend an evening together, possibly by a campfire, before, they continue south and we go farther north.
Who could have predicted that ferry service would be canceled on Tuesday due to high winds? On Wednesday, we were both on a ferry, but going in opposite directions. Look closely. See the white bump on the horizon? That's the ferry, and that’s GA Gypsies on the deck waving to us.
Boondockers Welcome was built with road trips in mind.
The whole intent of Boondockers Welcome is to promote safe enroute stops just long enough for RVers to rest or explore the area. No request can be sent more than two months in advance. Why is that? We know that the farther in advance it’s made, the greater the likelihood it will be canceled - often at the last minute, and, meanwhile, the location has been tied up preventing others from requesting it. We never want it to be just as difficult to get into a host location as it is to book a peak-season campsite.
In closing, whether you’re a planner or not, flexibility is the key. Some things must be booked in advance and others do not. Even if booked, things can go wrong, so even if you don’t blow with the wind, rolling with the punches is a good skill to possess.
What’s your preferred road trip travel style? Does it sometimes cause you grief? If you like to plan, how far in advance do you set things up? How does that affect your experience when using the Boondockers Welcome platform on your travels? We’re always curious to know.