A friend and myself (18 yrs and 17yrs) are going to go on a road trip leaving in about a week. We are starting from MN, and will first be heading towards LA. I have read all of the forums below, but was just looking for more specific advice. Mostly in regards to where to stay from night to night. The first night we will be staying with my family in KS. Beyond that I need advice. We are definately not going to be paying for a hotel room. If we want to drive about eight hours a day, that would mean about two more nights before we hit LA. WHERE SHOULD WE CAMP??? and should I plan ahead enough to reserve a camp site now? I'm thinking I will take advice I read below and wait till we get to the welcome centers, and just plan it out then, but will that be too late?? And I don't think we will have enough time to check out all the cool sites, so which are the musts? Once we get to LA we have a friend to stay with, but on our way to Seattle, trouble again. Where in Oregon is a good place to stay? Seattle again, we have a friend to stay with, but the same problem on the way back to MN from there. We want to see Yellowstone and the black hills on the way back, so where should we stay each night??
Food advice would be appreciated also, if needed, we could cook at a campsite, and we could eat dinners out of a cooler, but if we don't want to, is it worth it?
Plugging your basic route into MS Streets and trips, looks like you can make it to LA in two days from Kansas easy enough. You'd have to drive about an extra hour on one of the days. Your first night west from Kansas would fall somewhere around Grand Junction CO if you are on I-70, or along the eastern border of Utah or Arizona somewhere if you take another route -- Gallup, maybe.
You could stay in a developed campground ($), or find a free place to park where you are out of sight. You should be able to find a camp easily enough, but keep in mind that the earlier you stop for the night, the more likely you are to get a place somewhere. So start early in the day, quit after your 8 hours, and then explore the place you stopped in order to make fullest use of the time. Private camps are more expensive by far than forest service or other public lands. National Park campsites are in the middle cost-wise, but then you are also paying the entrance fees, so they are also in the high cost range, and they fill early in the day. You can get some ideas by calling the forest service or BLM office in the areas you need to camp -- they can tell you where to find a good spot if any are available. Sometimes, state parks can be a bargain and are worth taking a look at if there are any around. Also remember that weekends are the busiest times; it will be easier to find places on the weekdays.
Second day, you can start early, and make it all the way to LA. Your 8 hour point would fall somewhere around Barstow if you only drove 8 hours the first day (meaning from Kansas).
Leaving LA, your first overnight falls around San Francisco, the second around Portland. My suggestion is you pick up some good state road maps, and find camping sites in these areas using those. Or, you could do this ahead of time using the resources available online.
You'll want to spend a couple of nights in Wyoming, and one at least in the Black Hills on your way back. Then you've got a day's drive or a little more back to MN.
The only place where I've factored in any sightseeing is in Wyoming (2 nights) -- but you didn't mention how much time you have to work with. For a quick trip, I wouldn't do this route without including the southern Utah parks, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, the CA and OR coasts, Mt. St. Helens, the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Rainier. You already mention Yellowstone and the Black Hills -- these are also great places not to miss. This easily adds a week to the drive time, and only allows minimal time in each place.