At a recent workshop I was asked by one of the participants "how do you plan your trips". Most assuredly it's best to have some kind of plan. The time of year is a key consideration along with your photographic goals. Here in Northern California, many of the best landscape locations have their "best photographic time of the day". Burney Falls for example is best photographed around 11am during the summer on clear days. The beautiful blue waters are a result of the blue skies. Cloudy skies result in gray semi-depressing colors. Of course if you're a black and white photographer, clouds may be best.
Usually the best plan is to list the locations you want to visit then research and collect as much information as possible. These include sunrise and sunsets times, satellite views and topographic maps.
I then estimate the drive times between locations. When estimating drive times to a location for photographing sunsets an extra 20-30 minutes is suggested. For sure you can't afford to be late.
This all sounds very precise and calculated. In actuality you need to be extremely flexible and know when to change your plans. It makes no sense to abandon a wealth of photographic opportunities and beautiful light to merely stick to your travel agenda. The bottom line is you need to create a plan but be ready to make a change or be flexible when you recognize a good photographic opportunity.