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How to prepare for the 2024 total solar eclipse

If you missed this year's total solar eclipse, don't worry. You'll get another chance in 2024. But you better start planning now.

If you missed yesterday's total solar eclipse, fear not. While it was touted as a once in a lifetime event, it doesn't have to be. You just have to be willing to plan and travel to one a little further from you.

On April 8, 2024, another total solar eclipse will travel from Mexico to Texas, through Ohio, New York, Vermont, Maine and parts of Canada. (And nine others will happen in the next 14 years.) Once again, people will lose their minds, price gouge solar eclipse glasses and crowd the highways.

That's why, if you want to experience the next total solar eclipse, you need to start planning now.

Pick the best spot

Google Eclipse Party NYC

Sarah Tew/CNET

You can already find maps showing the path the 2024 total solar eclipse will take. There's also information about the contact times, the maximum duration of totality and everything else you need to help your plan your future trip.

The time for the total solar eclipses maxes out at the center of its path. The August 21 solar eclipse totality lasted for two minutes and 40 seconds just outside of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. For comparison, the 2024 eclipse will have a maximum totality duration of four minutes and 28 seconds in Nazas, Durango, Mexico.

The closer you are to the center of the path of totality and the middle of the total path, the longer totality will last. For this particular eclipse, these are some places that will maximize the duration of totality:

  • Waco, Texas
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Poplar Bluff, Missouri
  • Mount Vernon, Illinois
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Bloomington, Indiana
  • Kenton, Ohio
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Erie, Pennsylvania
  • Buffalo, New York
  • Rochester, New York

Also, keep in mind what your surroundings will be like. Wildlife gets a little wacky during an eclipse. At elevation, you can see a bizarre 360-degree sunset. Trees cast really beautiful crescent shadows. So if you're driving hours and planning a large trip around the eclipse, make it worth the trip. Pick some beautiful scenery where you can experience all the bizarre things that happen.

Consider picking one of these destinations based on what's nearby and plan an entire trip around what else you can do before or after the eclipse. For outdoor activities, such as camping, hiking, backpacking, kayaking, fishing and more, The Outbound is a great source to get you started. There's a website with a map view that you can drag to just about any location and find outdoor activities in that area and filter by what you like to do. There is also a free iOS app.

Whever you decide to venture to, you're going to want to get there a few days ahead of the event and leave after, if possible, which brings me to my next point.  

Beat the traffic

eclipse-traffic

Traffic for the 2017 eclipse was horrible in parts of the country along the path of totality.

Google My Maps

Yesterday's solar eclipse jammed up highways across the country. Everyone hoping to view the total eclipse from surrounding areas was converging on the coveted path of totality, and few areas could handle the sudden influx of traffic.

So if you plan to enjoy the next solar eclipse and don't want to spend hours sitting in traffic, get to your destination early and take your time leaving. Make a trip of it. Take a detour and visit some attractions nearby that will help you avoid the main roads and bumper to bumper traffic. 

Book your hotel well in advance

Hotel occupancy was also an issue this week for many who wanted to travel to the path of totality. Hotels that fall within this path tend to fill up quickly, months or even a year in advance.

Most hotels won't let you book seven years in advance, but if you want to beat the crowds (and surge pricing), set a reminder or add an event to your calendar to remind yourself to book a hotel as far in advance as you possibly can. All hotels are different, but some will let you book up to two years in advance.

Hotels.com will let you search for bookings up to nearly 500 days out, while Trivago will only search one year in advance. So a great plan would be to set a calendar event in your calendar for 500 days priors to April 8, 2024 (November 25, 2022) to start looking for hotel rooms.

If you do happen to forget this part, you can also scour the path of totality for Airbnb listings (much closer to the eclipse, of course), or look for places to go camping for the event. I'm strongly considering the latter for the next eclipse.

For finding a great place to camp, recreation.gov has one of the most complete and easiest to use campground search engines around. Enter a location and search the area for campgrounds. You can even book campsites in advance, though you can only book up to a year in advance.

Hipcamp is a great alternative to overcrowded campgrounds. It's like Airbnb, but for camping. People with land can rent it out, by the night, to campers who want a more scenic view, more privacy or fewer restrictions (such as strict alcohol bans or pets required to be leashed at all times). Hipcamp threw together a collection of campsites along the path of totality for this eclipse, and it's likely they'll want to capitalize on the one in 2024, as well. However, your check-in date is still restricted to one year ahead of schedule.

A riskier (and sometimes more rewarding) solution is to find a free campsite. You can camp almost anywhere in US Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management property, including national forests. A great source for finding these hidden gem campsites is freecampsites.net. Just beware, as much of the information is crowdsourced and not always complete. And they're usually first come, first served, so it's wise to have a handful of prospects saved before you head out into the wilderness.

Track the weather

taniaeclipse

Tania González/CNET

Weather is the tricky part of planning a solar eclipse viewing far in advance. Cloud cover or rain are two things you do not want to happen during the eclipse.

There isn't much you can do to about planning for weather this far in advance. But what you can do is watch and track the weather and come up with a Plan B, such as a second viewing location, just in case things go sideways on the day of.

For tracking weather, one of the most accurate and user-friendly platforms I've come across is Dark Sky. It produces hyperlocal weather down to a specific address, though it only forecasts the next seven days. Wunderground is a close second, giving more in-depth weather information and up to nine days into the future. You can also set smart forecasts, which will tell you at a glance if the weather is ideal for your favorite activities (based on your own criteria, such as acceptable and ideal temperature, chance of precipitation percentages, humidity and much more).

Buy your equipment before the hype train

eclipsegazer

A young eclipse viewer in Weiser, Idaho. 

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Prices for solar viewing equipment skyrocketed leading up to the actual eclipse. ISO-approved glasses were sold out in stores everywhere. I personally witnessed people on Facebook Marketplace attempting to sell flimsy, paper solar eclipse glasses for $25 and $30 a pair. And online, it proved difficult to find anything but bulk packages or overpriced five- or 10-packs. 

A five-pack of solar eclipse glasses on Amazon is still selling for just under $60 (about £45 or AU$75), nearly $12.00 (about £10 or AU$15) a pair. Back in June, the exact same five-pack on Amazon sold for just $6.50 (about £5 or AU$10), or $1.30 (about £1 or AU$2) each.

Set a price drop alert on Amazon, wait for the price of solar viewing glasses to come back down, buy a few pairs for the family and store them in a safe place. On the other hand, seven years is quite a ways off. Maybe you're better off setting a reminder and buying them at a much later date. Just remember to buy them before prices start skyrocketing a month or two before the 2024 eclipse.