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The path of totality. You'll want be there on April 8th, 2024 to enjoy the last total solar eclipse in the United States for many decades.
The path will cover 13 US states, eastern Canada, and northern Mexico. It will be approximately 115 miles wide. This celestial event will inspire a surge of tourists to the areas that fall within this zone.
The next total solar eclipse, which will take place just under seven years from the American eclipse of August 2017, will be the last opportunity for US residents to see such an event until August 23, 2044.
It's time to get planning, even though it's 10 months off.
The path of totality: a study
The weather in April will not be as pleasant as it was for most US viewers during the 2017 eclipse, which took place in August. Climate-wise, the best place to be is not in the United States.
According to Jay Anderson a retired Canadian weather service meteorologist and amateur astronomer, who created the Eclipsophile.com website, Mexico is the place where you'll have the best chance of seeing the eclipse. The track will land near Mazatlan, on the Pacific Coast.
Some parts of Texas are also quite good, but not as good as Mexico. For more information, see Eclipsophile or this Space.com analysis.
The route enters the US from Texas, travels through that state, and then continues on to Oklahoma, Arkansas. Missouri, Illinois. Kentucky. Indiana. Ohio. Pennsylvania. New York. Vermont. New Hampshire. Anderson noted that cloudiness is more likely to occur further north, near the Canadian border.
Anderson said that the city he identified as having the best chance of clear skies in the United States is Junction, Texas. This is located a bit towards the edge of eclipse track, in the Texas Hill Country. They are statistically in a place that is most likely to see clear skies. However, even though they are located in a region that has fewer chances of seeing clear skies than other areas, they still have 5% of a chance. It's not a guarantee.
Anderson stated that some parts of Mexico along the path have historically seen an average cloud coverage of 30%, while Junction has a cloud cover in the range between 40% and 60%, and San Antonio is around 60%.
Anderson stated that 'climate is an average of all things, but the actual events on eclipse day are going to be different.
Decide if you want to watch the eclipse.
Will you drive for eight hours, and then take a few days off from work? Traffic could be heavy late in the afternoon, even though it is a Monday. Will you be willing to alter your plans if the forecast looks better somewhere else?
Some eclipse watchers will go to extreme lengths.
Anderson stated that most people in Europe who are part of an eclipse message group to which he belongs will be heading to Texas for the 2024 event.
He knows of several travelers who booked motels in different places along the route so they could choose the best weather and cancel their extra rooms just before the eclipse.
Anderson stated that if you book three or more motels to be able to travel to different locations, you are dealing with someone who is a serious eclipse chaser.
Visibility problems can be caused by the hazy April weather.
Anderson stated that a person who was really determined to witness the eclipse would need to be flexible and prepared to move.
Now is the time to book your accommodation
Dave Clark, the owner of the website NationalEclipse.com, advises that now is the best time to book rooms.
There are still rooms available on the totality path, but they are selling fast. Accommodations inside the path of totality will become harder to find the longer people wait. Clark, CNN Travel reported that the hotel and property owners will raise their rates as they become aware of the eclipse.
Hotels are filling up fast in some areas along the route, and prices for any remaining rooms are very high.
Take Russellville in Arkansas. A search on Booking.com this week showed that 87% of the places to stay in the city, which has a population of around 30,000, were not available on April 7-9 2024. Motel 6 had a room available for $500 per night and American Inn & Suites had a room at $699.
Another option is vacation rentals. Airbnb prices in different locations along the path of the eclipse show that some owners have increased their rates to reflect the importance of April 8, 2024. Others, however, did not. Not yet, at least.
Waco, Texas is hosting a ticketed eclipse festival. Astronomers will be on hand. Tourism officials in Waco, Texas say that they have sold over 1,500 tickets for the event which will take place at McLane stadium's Touchdown Alley. The stadium has a capacity of 20,000. The event will be organized by Baylor University in partnership with Lowell Observatory, in Arizona, and Discovery (CNN parent company).
Carla Pendergraft of the Waco Convention Center & Visitors Bureau said that there are very few hotels showing availability at this time. Some hotels have not yet opened their reservation systems, and so more rooms could be available.
You can buy airline tickets later
Scott Keyes of the airfare tracking website Going.com says that while you may want to book your hotel sooner than later, this is not true for airline tickets.
We're still within the window for buying airline tickets. He said, 'The early birds get the worm, but not the very first ones'.
There are many places to fly in, as the totality path stretches over 13 states and parts of Mexico and Canada.
Keyes stated that 'because it's spread out so much, I think it will limit the amount airfare inflation you would otherwise see' if only a small region was involved.
The 'Goldilocks Window', or the just-right timing for domestic flights is usually one to three months ahead of time at a time when demand is low. For example, April.
This would be a booking between January and march. If there is a lot media attention, you might be able to start looking for good deals earlier in December.
The good news is that the majority of US airlines have adopted permanent penalty-free fare changes for all classes.
If the weather is bad and you want to fly somewhere else, you can cancel the flight and use the credit to book another flight. You will only have to pay for the difference in price.
Keyes says that you could buy several airline tickets but that the credit must be used in a year. If you have frequent-flyer miles, it is easy to cancel trips and your miles will be returned into your account.
Driving offers flexibility
You can be more flexible if you are within driving distance. This is especially true if you prefer a remote area to a group watch event.
Pendergraft advises that travelers decide on the kind of experience they are looking for: do they want a festival as big as the one Waco puts on, or would they prefer to rough it out in an RV in the middle of a field?
NationalEclipse.com has links to events, such as eclipse festivals and campouts in other states along the path.
Pendergraft warned that there will be congestion. The eclipse tourist should choose a city that has adequate traffic and services, as there will be private planes and cars chasing the eclipse along its entire path.
Clark stated that traffic was a major issue for the total solar eclipse of 2017, and 'the same problem will occur in 2024. To avoid traffic, it is best to find a place within the eclipse path and stay for at least one extra day.
Anderson said that travelers will ultimately have to decide how far they are willing to travel and how flexible they can be to see the celestial wonder.
He said, "They are worth seeing." As they say in the travel business, 'Worth a trip.'