Firstly, many thanks to all who contribute to this great site and forum, it's been a very useful reference tool for all my initial planning so far. That said, I wondered if I could get a few opinions on our plans for a potential trip next summer (with apologies in advance for a long and boring post up ahead!).
Depending on who can get time off work, there will be between 4-6 of us, all British, male and aged early 30s (although we still like to think we're teenagers, so I don't foresee many intellectual trips to the Smithsonian along the way. We're more likely to be impressed by visiting the Fire Station used in Ghostbusters and other 80s movie locations!). Everyone bar myself has a driver's license so taking turns behind the wheel shouldn't be a problem.
We'll probably have three weeks to make the trip (we're currently thinking July 2010), so my first question is does the following itinerary look feasible without having to drive for 16+ hours a day thus missing out on seeing any of the sights?
Saturday, day 1: fly into New York, collect hire car, spend a couple of days looking around NYC
Tuesday: travel to Niagara Falls (Canadian side if it's not too much hassle crossing the border in a hire car)
Wednesday-Friday: make our way to Chicago (through Ontario if the aforementioned border-crossing is feasible; otherwise along I-90. Either way, I'd be hoping to stop off along the way to see any recommended sights in and around Lake Erie)
Saturday, day 8: couple of rest days in Chicago
Monday-Friday: follow the old Route 66 before turning off for Las Vegas. I realise this is quite an increase in mileage compared to week 1, but I still think it's a manageable amount in 5 days that should still give us the chance to stop for scenery along the way?
Saturday, day 15: three or four days in Las Vegas, with sidetrips to the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and anything else we might find
Tuesday: travel down to LA, spend the last half a week visiting San Francisco and various other California sights
Saturday, day 22: hand in the hire car at LAX and fly back to the UK
I appreciate the often-mentioned sentiment on here about not planning each day's journey too much in case it all goes wrong; but my theory was that if we advance-booked hotels in NYC, Chicago, Vegas and LA for the four weekends, then that gives us the weekdays to travel as much or as little as we like and just find a motel at the end of each day. I also thought that by planning to be in big cities in the second and third weekends, any of us who could only arrange two weeks' vacation could still fly in/out without too much of a problem.
My second big question, and bearing in mind nobody knows how much prices will fluctuate in the next 18 months, is would anyone care to place a very ballpark figure on estimated cost?
a) I've guesstimated a rental cost of around $3500 per car for a three-week one-way rental over approx 4000 miles (so $875 each if only 4 of us make the trip and we squeeze into one car, or $1166 if all 6 of us make it and we take two cars). Since I already mentioned that we're all overgrown teenagers, we'd be prepared to pay extra to rent something needlessly powerful and noisy, but the closest thing I can find on any rental website is a modern Dodge Charger sedan. I'm guessing the chances of finding a rental company that offer genuine old-fashioned muscle cars to go cross-country is pretty slim!
b) Add another guess of $600 in gas prices per car ($150 each if 4 of us in one car, $200 each if 6 in two cars) over the three weeks (using this site's handy fuel calculator for a 4000 mile trip at 20 mpg and a wild guess of $3 per gallon next summer).
c) Accommodation is another guess at around $90 per night (we're not fussy regarding motel quality as long as the cockroaches aren't *too* big!), so assuming two to a room, around $1000 per person across the three weeks.
d) Food, drink, laundry, souvenirs, tourist admission fees and miscellaneous other general supplies is another complete guess of $50 per day, so again around $1000 each for the three weeks.
So in a completely speculative total and rounding my sums up because somebody's bound to forget to bring a toothbrush or something, I'm suggesting a total bill of $3500 per person across the three weeks (excluding the flights). How foolishly optimistic does that sound to the wise folk on here?
Anyway, thanks again for reading all of my rambling nonsense and I look forward to any thoughts and opinions :)