Done it both ways. The endless driving around and finding either great subject matter and so so lighting, or great light striking absolutely nothing of photographic interest to myself. Last big trip was a bit of both. Not much in driving around for two or three days. Then an amazing afternoon in a spur of the moment trip to a city park. Then on to a self assigned location shoot doing the same subject for two days. That was a lot more successful.
I guess it goes back to what you want to do. If you want to make a photographic statement, you better plan on what you want to say and then make it happen. If the goal is just to go out and have a good time with some photo buddies, then no planning is necessary beyond finding a place to stay and keeping the beer cold.
Photography can be many things. We don't have to approach it the same (deadly serious) way every time.