By now, you’ve probably heard about the solar eclipse on Aug. 21. Millions of travelers are expected to descend upon U.S. cities and towns where the moon will completely block the sun for two to three epic minutes, all of them angling for a view of the first total eclipse to hit the U.S. since 1776. But getting there won’t be easy: Lower-end motel rooms in cities like Hopkinsville, Kentucky, went for upwards of $400 per night before filling up long ago. In Oregon, campsites whose reservations opened this spring sold out almost immediately.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s getting a piece of the action on eclipse day: You’ll see a partial eclipse no matter where you are in the U.S. (more on that later). However, serious or just super-excited eclipse-chasers aim to be somewhere in the path of totality, where the moon will completely block the sun. It’s in this zone that travel is pricey and dicey at this point ― but if you want to make a go of it, it’s possible.
Book a stay in the East, but prepare to pay big
Many towns in the West, especially mountain towns like Casper, Wyoming, are popular eclipse-viewing spots because of their high altitudes, high chances of good weather and slates of fun eclipse-themed events. Consequently, most lodgings in these areas are booked by now: Rooms at the Holiday Inn in Torrington, Wyoming, have been booked for months, an agent told HuffPost on the phone. Surrounding hotels were selling rooms for upwards of $1,000 per night when they still had them, she added.
For a better shot at scoring a room, follow the path of totality east. Here, bigger cities seem to have more eclipse-week availability than smaller ones, based on HuffPost’s research. For example, the DoubleTree in Jefferson City, Missouri, is fully booked, but the Marriott in nearby Kansas City has open rooms at regular prices.
CNN recommends cities in South Carolina. Avocet Properties, based near Charleston, still has condos available for rent during the eclipse, though other Charleston eclipse deals that HuffPost inquired about were booked. Ocean Lakes Campground, located just outside the path of totality, had availability, though the others HuffPost called did not.
Even if you do find a place to stay, flights are likely going to cost you big-time. Flights to Kansas City from LA start at $608 round-trip if you travel the days before and after the eclipse, while the same itinerary runs about $200 if you travel the following week. Going from LA to Charleston means flight prices over $1,400 round-trip during eclipse time, and just $450 the following week.
Check Airbnb or Craigslist (but again, prepare to pay)
High demand means locals who live in the path of totality have gotten creative with their accommodations offerings: Eastern Oregon University is asking $500 per night for its dorm rooms (they’re currently waitlist-only), and a search for Airbnbs in Torrington turned up a grassy, fenced-in field for $250 per night. Local Colorado writer Jacy Marmaduke recommends also browsing Craigslist for creative options like these, though they clearly don’t come cheap.
The path of totality crosses federally managed public land in Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming, according to the Bureau of Land Management. Almost all reservable campsites are full, and first-come, first-serve campsites are expected to fill quickly for the eclipse. However, you can forgo a traditional site and legally set up camp anywhere on public land, provided you follow state-specific guidelines. Hooray!
Witnessing an eclipse from the air is an exciting experience. Both Alaska Airlines and Airbnb ran contests for special flights along the path of totality, but the deadlines to enter both have passed. If you’re set on seeing the eclipse from the air, a commercial flight whose route follows the path of totality could be your best bet: Southwest was kind enough to highlight which of its Aug. 21 flights may have eclipse views, and all of them still have seats available at prices from $304 to $449 one-way. Delta flight 2466, meanwhile, follows the path of totality almost exactly and still has seats available for around $400. However, due to the high angle of the sun above the plane and the need for precise timing, you’ve got a better shot at witnessing totality if you visit a spot in its path on the ground, Glenn Schneider, an astronomer with the University of Arizona, told HuffPost.
To find other flights that may offer a partial view of the eclipse, search for flights that depart or arrive near the West Coast end of the path of totality at a time when there will be either a partial or total eclipse, using NASA’s map. Granted, you’ll need to be on the correct side of the plane in a window seat if you want a prime view, and the sun’s angle may make it tough to see any of the eclipse at all. Being airborne could give you a better look at the moon’s shadow, Schneider said, but again, he recommends staying on the ground for the best view.
Everywhere in the U.S. will experience at least a partial eclipse on Aug. 21, meaning the moon will block part of the sun for about two and a half to three hours, depending on where you live. As such, cities from San Francisco to New York are hosting special eclipse-themed events and viewing parties. If you’d rather not join the Great American Eclipse Migration, then research the events in your area and make it a low-key staycation.