I'm trying to plan a last minute road trip out west with a friend - starts around Aug 11th! There are several complications that are just stumping me - and any advice would be appreciated.
First, I'm in Boston and my friend is in Albuquerque without a car and we both need to end up in Boston at the end of the trip (most likely by plane).
The destinations we are interested in are:
* Grand Canyon (hi priority)
* Yellow Stone
* Glaciar Nat Park
* San Francisco (hi priority)
* California coastal road trip (hi priority)
* Giant Redwoods
Activities we are interested in:
* Half to whole day hikes in parks (but we are not experienced hikers)
* Camping in one or more parks
* Swimming in a lake
* Seeing a waterfall
* Rafting or Kayaking (white water or lazy floating)
* S.F. Nightlife/Tourism
* Swimming in the Pacific
First Question: We understand we can't see and do everything we want, but what route can give us the most bang? It may seem we are gung ho on all the parks, but not necessarily. Our goal is to see and experience as much as possible and the parks just seemed like obvious choices when looking at a map.
Second Question: How to kick off the trip? I could fly to ABQ from Boston and we could rent a car or RV for the trip or we could both fly to a more central destination to start the trip. I know we're gonna get killed on the one way vehicle rental, but what other options are there? Is there any route that would result in finishing at the start point to return the rental?
Third Question: Would renting an SUV or MiniVan be a good trade off (greater gas consumption to allow sleeping in the vehicle versus a car and cheap hotels)? Camping in a tent would be ok as well, but would need advice on where to find campgrounds/showers - would that be a better way to go?
Fourth Question: Either way, we would probably need some comfy breaks so any suggestions for places to stop over? Interesting or cheap towns/hotels to spend the night in along the way?
Any ideas on total cost? We are 2 grad students looking to minimize expenses to any extent possible and can make sacrifices as needed.
BTW, when doing the California coast, is driving North or driving South the preferred way to travel?
Thanks for any help, advice, links, pointers, etc...