I live in Tennessee and in May/June I'm taking a 3-week solo road trip to the destinations listed in the title.
Here's a link to the itinerary:
Since the pace will be fairly quick, and since I'll be spending a lot of time on the road getting TO and FROM these destinations, I obviously want a comfortable rental car.
I took a similar road trip (albeit shorter) last year, and I rented a "full size car," an Impala. It was very comfortable and I was satisfied. However, I need space on this roadtrip, specifically for a big cooler I'm taking. Last year I put it in the back seat and it sloshed around a lot and was harder to access. I was thinking of renting a mid-sized SUV so I can store stuff in the back a little better.
The alternative is to go with a "full size" again or a "premium" (which would be cheaper) for maximum comfort. Other solutions include getting another cooler that might fit better in the back seat or trunk, etc. I'll also be in bear country in most of those national parks, and I hear they attack SUVs and vans more than passenger cars. Not a huge concern, but also a factor. I guess I'm looking for some brainstorming from all of you road tripping professionals...or at least advanced amateurs, right? :)
General comments about the road trip itinerary are appreciated, as well as tips for any and all of those parks, lodging, eats, etc. Any "must see" or "must do" or "must eat" places. I realize it is a fast pace, and there are sets of long driving days and some night drives involved. I want to thoroughly enjoy this road trip, and though the pace is quick, I can maximize my time seeing the sights. Last year's trip was great, even with very long driving days and nights...part of the fun, strangely enough.
Couple more things: I'm going to get an "America the Beautiful" national park pass when I get to Grand Canyon NP. If I get a national park pass on May 1, 2010, let's say, is it good until May 31, 2011? I saw conflicting/incomplete information on different websites. My interpretation is it is good until the END of the month a year from when you buy it. The reason being, I might be able to use the SAME pass next year! Also, I know there is a national park "stamp book"...what's the best place to procure one of those?
Thanks so much for reading this...any and all help and comments are very appreciated.