It’s not too late: Last-minute tips for experiencing the eclipse – The Points Guy

If you want to participate in a pretty epic event, know that it’s not too late to make a plan to see the rare, total solar eclipse that will cut a path across a good chunk of the U.S. on Monday.

The moon will pass directly in front of the sun, creating darkness in the afternoon sky for more than four minutes in many places. This one will be even more dramatic than the eclipse in 2017.

Adding to the allure, it will be the last full solar eclipse in the U.S. for two decades, according to NASA.

While some folks have been planning for the eclipse for a year or more, it’s not too late to see this incredible event along what scientists call “the path of totality.”

Here’s everything you need to know.

Best places to see the total solar eclipse

The sun is hidden by the moon as seen on a mobile phone connected to a telescope during a solar eclipse Oct. 14, 2023, in El Salvador. APHOTOGRAFIA/GETTY IMAGES

It will turn fully dark along a band running from Mexico through Texas. The band will extend over Dallas-Fort Worth, in addition to parts of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

It’ll hit New Brunswick, Canada, before exiting North America. There are scheduled to be portions of 15 U.S. states in the path of totality. As you can see in the map below, Cleveland and Indianapolis are among the best spots to view the totality (depending on the weather).

On Monday, the moon’s shadow will be over Dayton, Ohio, at 3:10 p.m. EDT, but by 3:20 p.m., it will have moved to Buffalo, New York. NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER

NASA set up group viewing centers in three prime locations: Indianapolis, Cleveland and Kerrville, Texas. There are likely viewing parties near you if you are anywhere near the path of totality, so use Google to find locations or events.

Check the weather forecast

LEOPATRIZI/GETTY IMAGES

You’ll want to keep a close eye on the weather wherever you plan to observe the eclipse, as it can affect your experience.

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Obviously, the clearer the skies, the better the viewing will be.

The New York Times has a great feature where you can check historic cloud cover for various spots along the eclipse path. For example, upstate New York has a more than 60% chance of cloud cover based on historical models.

Soon, the usefulness of historical models will give way to actual forecasts, so watch those carefully and consider adjusting your plans as needed.

For example, here is the long-range weather forecast for Indianapolis. It’s not the best eclipse-viewing forecast right now, but it could be much worse.

The weather forecast for Indianapolis. THE WEATHER CHANNEL

Thunderstorms are now expected for parts of Texas where many people have already made reservations. You might want to have a plan B in case Mother Nature isn’t cooperating next week where you are. Sometimes, a long drive will be enough to get you out of the way of heavy cloud cover.

The forecast for Dallas. THE WEATHER CHANNEL

Of course, that won’t help if a long chain of storms is marching across Texas, but your mileage may vary.

Hotel award availability and pricing for the eclipse

While many hotels in prime viewing areas have been sold out since inventory opened last year, a few rooms are still available. Unfortunately, you’ll pay through the nose at many properties that still have availability. For example, the Sheraton Niagara Falls is going for $504 a night, and the Courtyard by Marriott Niagara Falls is $799 per night.

Believe it or not, hotels with points bookings are still available, including in Niagara Falls, Ontario, where you can book the Sheraton Fallsview Hotel for 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

There are still many hotels with points availability in Indianapolis, including the Hilton Garden Inn and the Home2 Suites in downtown Indianapolis for 50,000 Hilton Honors points per night and the Conrad Indianapolis for 70,000 points.

TPG’s Summer Hull found availability for 20,000 World of Hyatt points for the Thompson San Antonio – Riverwalk for a two-night stay during the eclipse. Just watch the forecast for Texas, as it’s looking like thunderstorms could ruin the party.

TPG also recommends trying to search for hotels in secondary cities. For example, try Rochester, New York, instead of Niagara Falls or Buffalo.

Another example is outside major cities in Canada, where you can still book the Four Points by Sheraton Hamilton — Stoney Creek for $220 or 25,500 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

Some hotels are offering eclipse packages, like the Woodcliff Hotel & Spa in Rochester, which has packages that come with viewing glasses and a commemorative blanket.

The eclipse package at the Woodcliff Hotel & Spa. WOODCLIFF HOTEL & SPA

One other tip on hotel bookings: More hotels could become available on points as rooms go unsold as we get closer to the actual day of the eclipse. Hotels are asking for high cash rates, so rooms may go unsold and be released for awards as the day approaches.

Are there still flights available for prime eclipse viewing?

An annular solar eclipse with the “ring of fire.” PHILLIP JONES/GETTY IMAGES/STOCKTREK IMAGES

Several airlines have added special eclipse flights, or at least let flyers know the best flights to see the path of totality. United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines are all pointing travelers to eclipse flights that are still bookable.

Related: Grab a seat on these eclipse flights

United has the following flights still for sale:

  • UA5693: O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport (LIT) — departs at 12:45 p.m. CDT
  • UA0490: ORD to George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) — departs at 12:47 p.m. CDT
  • UA0455: ORD to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) — departs at 12:49 p.m. CDT
  • UA0247: ORD to LaGuardia Airport (LGA) — departs at 1 p.m. CDT
  • UA2187: ORD to Dulles International Airport (IAD) — departs at 1:20 p.m. CDT
  • UA1438: IAH to Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) — departs at 11:55 a.m. CDT
  • UA6128: IAH to John Glenn International Airport (CMH) — departs at noon CDT

Those flights range in price from $97 to as much as $527 one-way, but mileage awards are still available starting at 10,000 United MileagePlus miles.

Several Southwest flights for eclipse viewing are sold out in the cheapest fare classes, but we did find these still had some availability:

  • SW1252: Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL) to Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) — departs at 12:40 p.m. CDT
  • SW1721: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) to Indianapolis International Airport (IND) — departs at 12:50 p.m. CDT
  • SW1910: St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) to William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) — departs at 1:20 p.m. CDT

Those flights aren’t sold out, but they are pricey. You’ll pay between $291 and $660 one-way for those flights, but they are all also bookable via Southwest points.

Delta also still has several eclipse flights available:

  • DL5699: Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) to Westchester County Airport (HPN) — departs at 2:59 p.m. EDT
  • DL924: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to DFW — departs at 8:40 a.m. PDT
  • DL1683: Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) to AUS — departs at 9:55 a.m. PDT

There are several more Delta flights too, which you can find on its site at a special eclipse page. Prices for Delta eclipse flights range from $249 to $417 or beginning at 22,500 Delta SkyMiles.

Tips for viewing a solar eclipse

CAVAN IMAGES/GETTY

Regardless of where you view this phenomenon, don’t forget that you should not look directly at an eclipse in its partial phases before and after totality, as it could severely damage your vision. “Viewers must use specialized eye protection or use alternative viewing methods, such as a pinhole projector, the entire time,” NASA warns for most eclipses.

You can purchase special eclipse-viewing glasses for the event. For example, Amazon sells them for as little as $9.99. This 10-pack of ISO-certified solar eclipse observation glasses comes with enough pairs for any friends and family who want to watch the eclipse with you.

Just make sure your glasses are NASA-approved and have “ISO 12312-2” (sometimes written as “ISO 12312-2:2015”) printed on them somewhere.

Be careful. You don’t want to mess with your eyesight. NASA has a good article with safety tips.

Go to a clear area for the best viewing of the eclipse. As this is likely to be a very popular eclipse enjoyed by millions, you want to plan to get to your viewing spot early in the day with snacks, drinks, shade and other provisions.

If you want to enjoy the event with like-minded stargazers, some cities along the path of totality have formal viewing areas arranged — some available for free and some with a small fee.

Examples of events include one scheduled at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas, which costs $20 per standard adult ticket and includes those aforementioned ISO-certified glasses. At the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, there will be a tailgating party set to music like Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” and Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” as you enjoy a little under four minutes of totality.

Beat the eclipse traffic

Post-eclipse traffic near Redmond, Oregon. BUDDY MAYS/GETTY IMAGES

If you don’t want to shell out for a hotel or an Airbnb, consider driving if you are close enough. Just remember there will be traffic jams in the most popular areas. In 2017, there were some horrendous traffic jams in popular viewing spots.

The Transportation Research Board released a report after the August 2017 eclipse that found congestion lasted as long as 13 hours after the event. “For example, travel from Casper, Wyoming, to Denver—normally a 4-hour trip—took 10 hours or more.” Ouch.

That report reiterated the importance of the “arrive early, stay late” mantra officials are echoing all along the path of totality. Most people will leave their eclipse viewing spots right after it’s over. Don’t be one of those people if you want to avoid the worst of the traffic.

Indiana expects to get half a million visitors for the eclipse and has a plan to try to avoid the worst post-eclipse. Officials are warning residents to avoid driving if at all possible.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol is also out with a warning that while the borders with Canada and Mexico will remain open during the eclipse, traffic will be heavy, and travelers should be prepared for longer-than-normal waits at peak times (between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.).

Bottom line

CHAYANAN/GETTY IMAGES

It’s not too late to plan your 2024 eclipse trip.

Hotels are already sold out in some of the best spots, but there is still occasional availability in some areas, even with points. Try secondary cities or areas with a number of cities lined up in a row with more hotel rooms for the best availability (and pricing).

Don’t forget to have a backup plan and be prepared for safety and traffic.

Remember, as long as you have transportation and are willing to wake up early to beat any potential traffic, you can stay outside the perfect spots and drive to see the path of totality.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

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