I think everyone should do this at least once in their life. You really get to see the country, utterly unlike flying over it. One thing, though; try to get off the interstates as much as is practical. Interstateland
is pretty much all the same, same gas stations, same motels, same restaurants. Interstate travel will get you there quicker but at great cost if the trip is the purpose.
I just finished up a good drive. Philadelphia to the eastern tip of Maine, to the most distant point from there, in northern California - coast to coast the longest way. About 4500 miles as I drove it, in nine days. Can't really say that I enjoyed the Interstate portions, but I've now driven I-80 from New York to San Francisco and I-95 from Bangor to Miami and I-5 from Mexico to Canada.
Sleeping in the car: Haven't done that for a very long time. Don't expect to as I am driving a mid-engine two seater now. Once slept in the back of my Buick in (ironically) Goodnight Texas. I don't recommend it. On the drive last month I had my car broken into in Pennsylvania. They didn't get anything but it cost me $260 for a new window and half a day's driving time. I think I'd scrimp on food and feed that money into the hotel cost. There is no substitute for a good shower and stretching out fully horizontal at the end of a long day in a car.
I've gotten into the habit of stopping early in the day. I'll get off the road by five now. Much later than that and the availability of hotel rooms takes a dive. You could wind up paying $200 a night for a suite because it is the last room for three hundred miles. Stay at the places that have a free continental breakfast and you can save yourself one big meal each day. Visit grocery stores and carry an ice chest and you can eliminate the other one.
To sum that up, I think that if you slept in the car and ate three hots in a restaurant each day, you'd spend as much $$ as if you had a decent hotel room with free continental breakfast and ate the rest of your meals on storebought groceries. Use the extra hour or two at the hotel to make up sandwiches etc. for the next day.
If you do sleep in the car, some truckstops along the interstate will have showers.
Another thing I've done (when I was poor) was carry a puptent and a couple of sleeping bags. Campsites were cheaper than hotels and had showers etc. I once saw two women on TV
who'd walked across the country. In fair weather they slept out to save money. Where did two women feel safe sleeping? In cemetaries! They said they were never bothered once.
I'd suggest you see the sights that are representative
of the various parts of this country. In the west you are going to see desert, but the Grand Canyon is absolutely incredible! You could go in from Williams AZ
and then exit to the east toward Page AZ
or up toward Kanab UT so as not to have to backtrack so far. I'd recommend seeing a good redwood grove while in California. I-5 sort of bypasses the Rockies, so I'd recommend one of the other roads across that area. Even I-70 is more scenic there.
I'll leave the eastern time zones to those more familiar than I am. I have done some wonderful sightseeing in Kentucky and North Carolina and New England though - there is just so much to see.
Good luck. Enjoy the drive. Tell us how it was.
Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.