My friend and I are planning a coast to coast roadtrip this summer. To celebrate our graduation, we have decided to drive from our homes in Charlotte, NC to the West Coast and back again. Our initial thought has been to go up through Chicago and Minneapolis, then cut straight across to Seattle. On the way we would like to visit National Parks such as Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, etc. Once we reach Seattle we would like to drive the length of the coast down through California to LA, and then head back by way of Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, and Houston.
Our financial situation is of course tight. With such a long roadtrip, our thought has been to stay with as many friends and connections as we can find. In areas where no such connections exist, we will stay in campgrounds, very cheap motels, or sleep in the minivan at truck stops.
So what advice can you give us? Where would you suggest we visit on our trip? What National Parks are a must-see? What would be a likely cost estimate?