Hello, this is my first post on the Roadtrip America site so I guess I should start by introducing myself. My name is Conor and I am a freshman in college in the northeast. This next summer will be my "last summer" (at my University we get Co-Op jobs after sophmore year which cuts normal summer vacation in half). So, with my last summer before having to adjust to the responsibilities of adulthood I convinced 5 of my friends to join me on a roadtrip across our great nation. We live in northern NJ and would like to travel to northern CA to southern CA and back. Our time frame is 3 weeks, 21 days. Our mode of transportation is an early 2000's Ford Explorer that is looking for one last moment of glory after many long years of reliable service.
This paragraph I'm going to give a little background on how the idea came to being in order to get the most useful advice as possible. For some time we have all wanted to have an adventure and go exploring. This past year I saw the film Point Break which rekindled my desire to learn to surf. So we all planned to learn to surf in NJ, travel to CA and surf, then travel back. Over time this has evolved into a full fledged road trip with the surfing possibly delayed until we return.
Okay, so what we have discussed so far: We plan on driving from NJ to Chicago and getting there in one shot with no stops. My friend has connections in Chicago so we can stay there and not worry about lodging. Next we plan to drive to Yellowstone with a stop at Mount Rushmore. I am wondering if that is possible from Chicago in one day? We would like to stay and camp in Yellowstone for 3 nights then head to the Redwoods. Is that possible in one shot or should we plan on finding lodging? We plan on camping in the Redwoods for two nights then heading south to Yosemite and camping for 3 nights. Then we plan to hit the coast and stay a night in LA where we would need to find a motel, and then San Diego for 2 nights where one of my friends has family so we will not need to pay for lodging. After that we would like to travel to Vegas through Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley. We would have to find lodging there. After that we are unsure if we should travel back home heading north with another stop in Chicago or head south and stop in Dallas, New Orleans, and St. Louis. We would like to maximize our time in CA and Yellowstone so heading right back home from Vegas is also an option.
I believe the brief write up I have given above puts us at around 15 or 16 days by the time we reach Vegas leaving 5 to 6 days to travel from Vegas to my friends shore house on Long Beach Island in NJ. I am willing to cut the Redwoods and Joshua Tree National Park to allow for more time in Yellowstone and Yosemite. I would like to know which park other people prefer so we could allot more time there. We would like to leave late May, around the 25th and be home by June 15th, mid June.
So aside from any advice and any above questions heres some final ones that I have: Is this possible in 3 weeks? Is this possible at around a budget of $500-$750 per person? We have triple A on the car we plan on using, is that enough? Is it possible to meet our driving goals: NJ to Chicago in one day; Chicago to Yellowstone in one day; Yellowstone to Redwood in one day; Redwood to Yosemite in one day etc. or will this drive us insane?
I went on a bit, but I am very excited for this and want to get as much of this together by Christmas. Sorry if I come off as naive or stupid, I am just looking for as much advice as possible to make this a very memorable and adventurous trip. Thanks for any replies!