I've been trying to plan a road trip for this coming July with 6 of my friends for after our graduation. I've read through pretty much all of the forum posts and articles on this wonderful site that I could find, and it's been a tremendous help. However, that only goes so far, and I need all of your expert advice on this trip, on the practicality of this, suggestions, past experiences, anything. Please, anything relevant in any way to any part of this trip is welcome: I just want to have as much advice and information together so that this trip is a success. With that little introduction out of the way, here's the concrete details we have so far, with some explanations of why we decided on some things.
We all expect to spend between $1000 and $1500 on this trip, and each of us will have that money by then (most of work part-time jobs). We expect to spend 3 weeks on this trip, essentially July 10 or so to the end of the month.
The first and biggest part of the trip is obviously the transportation. One of our friends owns a 1999 Ford Windstar that seats 7, and as his dad is a mechanic he will be able to have it in good order for us when we leave. Our trip, which as of now looks to be about 6,000 miles, would have to include at least one oil change to be safe, but that is to be expected. Anyway, we chose this first because it's cheaper than a rental car- a rental would be ideal if it was a newer car with better gas mileage, but with all the rental fees, taxes, mile charges, and the huge amount extra we would have to pay for being 18 year olds, the price was astronomical- comparative estimates were around $3000, which would blow our budget. We looked at renting an RV and towing one of our sedans behind it for shorter excursions (more practical to drive into a town to shop at a grocery store than the big RV), and the price was better (about $2000), but none of us has any experience driving an RV, and I doubt if any of us would be able to learn enough about driving one by that point to be safe. So we settled on the Windstar, and we would take turns driving 3 hour shifts.
Now, with 7 people in the van it would naturally get a little crowded, and with luggage that leaves little room to maneuver, so we settled on borrowing from a friend a rooftop luggage container where we would store our suitcases and larger bags. In the trunk we would each keep a smaller duffel bag with a pair of shoes, a change of clothes, bathing suit, toiletries, and anything else necessary for a day or night on the road, so that we would not have to pull over somewhere and go through the trouble of going through the container to find someone's suitcase. We would also have a cooler or two in the car with drinks and snacks for the road. This brings up the issue of food, and eating at restaurants every day would be both boring and costly, and another thread gave me this idea: bring a small portable grill and cook dinners with that. We would buy food from grocery stores, have cereal and power bars and such for breakfast, sandwiches with deli meat for lunch, and dinners would be steaks or burgers or hot dogs or something easy to grill. We would of course stop at some restaurants (maybe every other day or once every 3 days?) to liven things up a bit.
Next is the issue of lodging, which again could easily kill our budget. We decided we would, in essence, do a mixture of things: motels/hotels some nights, stopover at truck stops and stay in the cars other nights, maybe stay at youth hostels if we can find any, and, once we get to the National Parks, camp overnight. Would this be feasible? We could always store a folding tent in the container with sleeping bags, and use it when necessary. It'll be the summer, so extreme temperatures shouldn't be too much of an issue (except the southwestern portion of course).
I think that's mostly everything so far, so here is the rough map we settled on: all the spots up to Denver are places we all really want to see, and everything after that we just settled on as the best and most scenic, and financially practical, way home.
Again, that's everything I can think of so far. Is this doable? Am I missing any glaring mistakes or false assumptions? Is our budget a fair amount? Any advice, comments, or suggestions is greatly appreciated... thank you all so much :)