Regarding hotels, Mac, I think I'd spend a few days in Boston to begin with, presuming that's where you are flying into. This will let you get over your jet lag and also give you a chance to see the state of the colors and plot out where you want to go.
I would NOT go without having at least a night's reservation booked ahead because you'll waste too much time looking for a place to stay and will end up paying rack rate. Things will be busy and pretty filled up in the small towns of New England. But I don't think you need to plan it all out now and book your rooms UNLESS you do so and still cancel without fees if things are not as planned. Worst case scenario is you end up staying in a city and doing day trips to see the colors. Not the end of the world.
Regarding Boston, a museum I really enjoyed there was the Museum of Fine Arts. It likely has the best collection of early American art anywhere, and some interesting exhibits, like a display of Paul Revere's silverware (crafted in his shop). They also have a great Egyptology display, among other things. Will take at least a half day and you could easily spend a full day here.