Greetings, I've browsed through a few of the threads on this forum that deal with a similar route but figured I'd make my own thread as my trip has some specifics. As a preclaim, I already have a plane ticket back that I may or may not take.
The trip would be by van with 2 other people. We don't have snow tires but we'd have chains and the owner is making sure the radiator and other important components of the vehicle are prepared. We've considered a couple possible routes, initially the southern route due to concerns about safety, however after reading some of these reads I realize this is an outdated and incorrect notion and so are looking at northern routes instead. The Google maps default suggestion is to take 80 through Wyoming and while this is our fall-back plan, one of my friends who's made the trip from LA to St. Louis many times has suggested that we consider taking 70 through Denver. He thinks that 80 will most likely be closed (since it's closed once already this winter, though I read on here that it opened up pretty quickly). He also said that 70 is only a viable route if there hasn't been a huge storm in the last couple of days.
The issues concerned with our trip is that we have a limited time to make the trip. We're hoping to arrive by the 1st or 2nd of January (both are perfectly acceptable) but can only leave on the 29th at the earliest. As far as I can tell this is a good amount of time to include stops for sleeping. I've made a spring time roadtrip from St. Louis to LA and it was a bad idea and very dangerous. We had 3 drivers and the owner of the car didn't want to stop so we drove through day and night and tried to sleep in the car. I had a couple really bad experiences at the wheel that have dissuaded me from driving in that sort of condition.
We're also on a budget. We won't shirk on forking money out to provide safety for ourselves but we'd like to cut as much cost as we can. We've discovered that the gas usage for the trip will be far cheaper between the three of us than plane tickets but we're also hoping to either avoid motels/hotels and sleep in the car or find a place to sleep/stay that isn't terribly expensive. We're all campers and hikers so we can fall asleep anywhere provided we aren't in a moving object, so I'm not too worried about that aside from staying warm.
Which route would you guys suggest and how should we approach the matter of hotels/motels? Do you guys know of any good and cheap places to stay on the way that won't empty our wallets? Thanks in advance for your help.
Edit: Here's the proposed route
Route 1 if there is a lot of snow
And this route if the roads are clear to save time. Main difference is near Salt Lake City