Americans used to be laughed at for the bus trips through Europe with a country a day, sleeping mostly after the first few days. As you mentioned this will be a road trip, so just don't fall asleep while driving. Or drive off the road as you watch things flash by - ooo, there's a sand dune! Neat! Next! There are big distances between your sites and roads could be slow.
Guessing you will be going in March? Realize it is still very winter in CO during March, their snowiest month. And you will be traveling through a number of mt passes. Be careful. Be prepared with warm clothes, food, water and good tires.
Your sites - Mesa Verde - Haven't been there but Lyn and our son went while I was on a bike ride. Says it's got beautiful vistas, well worth a good visit. As a side note, a friend I worked with built a house directly across the highway from the access road when he retired.
Capital Reef - awesome. There is an impressive drive leaving there heading east. Drops down a long series of switchbacks to the valley below. Not for those afraid of heights.
Canyonland/Arches/Moab - rent mtbs and ride some, unless the trails have been closed. Not as open since I was there. All worth a day or more each to visit.
Vail - Where are you staying? We spend our time at Lions Head, not the Village. Lot of good places to eat throughout depending on desired budget. High end with great sea food would be Montauk. A good pub overlooking the ski slopes is Garfinkels. Good pub food. The nachos are a meal of their own. We shared a serving among 4 and was enough. If you go say Hi to Dave, the Aussie at the door. Ask after Lucy and Big Red and say hello. If you like bbq, try Moes just around the corner. Make reservations for the first. Garfs will be busy from 4-6 for apres ski and then thins out and noise level drops. Moes will be busy and loud but we have always done it with take out.
Ski traffic to Denver will be very, very busy Sunday afternoon. And you have two passes to go over. Watch the CDOT web site for road conditions throughout the trip. What else?
Another neat place is Escalante and the slot canyons. We did a hike through Little Death Canyon to get a feel for them. Rather benign in good weather but go with rain around.
Awesome, thanks George! We're actually heading south from Denver first, and won't be doing a weekend Denver drive, so that's good. We're just driving back through Vail on a Thursday evening, not staying, but it's probably a good spot to break the journey.
Do you know if it's required to carry chains for the passes?
Weather across the whole trip may go from snow to very pleasant early summer - I don't think we'll be packing too lightly :)
Chains or good winter tires. I've usually gone just with the rental tires and managed, but not hit bad weather either. Lucy has studded snows because of her commute.
For my suggestions in Vail, park in the Lions Head parking structure. Free after 3:00, I think, and go out the SW exit. You will be in the main area.
If you want the Village, use the other structure.
On Thursday night after 7, if you see a big guy with red beard and hair working in either structure, that would be Jeremy. Say Hi.