In August 2017, I took in some incredible views while undertaking a road trip to see the eclipse. Image Credit: Elizabeth Pearson
On 8 April 2024, a total eclipse of the Sun will sweep across Mexico, the US and Canada, and people are already wondering how to make a trip to see the spectacle.
When the Great American Eclipse passed coast to coast over the US on 21 August 2017, I had to be there!
The best way of making the trip, I thought, was a road trip across the nation to take in the sights and sounds as the excitement mounted and totality approached.
In this guide, I’ll tell you everything I learned while traversing the US to chase down the Moon’s shadow, so that come the 2024 eclipse, you’ll be ready for your own road trip.
The eclipse will be the main event, of course, so the first thing is to plan where you are going to see it.
The shadow will start in the Pacific before hitting Mexico, then moving through Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont and Maine, before crossing into Canada and then out across the Atlantic.
Though covering a smaller land area than the 2017 eclipse, the 2024 path passes over more populated land, including several major cities and tourist spots.
However, when it comes to eclipse chasing there should be more to your selection than which are the best tourist hot spots.
The skies of the eastern US have a high chance of cloudiness in April, and you don’t want to travel all that way only to be clouded out.
There are many websites that allow you to examine the weather patterns over the last few years to see what the chances of cloud in a certain location is.
You will also want to have access to a good road network in case there is cloud cover where you are.
In 2017, I ended up driving 240 km to ensure clear skies.
While a remote field directly in the centre line might be the best place for observing the eclipse, if the clouds roll in you could end up stuck and unable to reach a highway.
Where should I view the 2024 eclipse from?
There are several destinations that might attract your attention.
Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, many of the city’s buildings were built in the Spanish colonial era.
Meanwhile the surrounding landscape is filled with ravines and canyons, great for a scenic drive.
The summer sun sets on Austin, TX on a humid August evening.
The eclipse passes over two of Texas’s largest cities – Dallas and Austin. Meanwhile, the home of NASA’s mission control centre, Houston, is only a few hours’ drive away.
This small city marks the crossover point between the 2017 and 2024 eclipses.
No doubt several will return in 2024 to complete the duet.
New England, US
The picturesque states of New York, Vermont and Maine are renowned for their beautiful scenery and will be stunning places to watch the eclipse from.
There is also an excellent road network.
Niagara Falls, Canada
Watching one of nature’s greatest spectacles occur over one of nature’s greatest landmarks will no doubt be an event to remember.
Quebec City, Canada
Stay in the city to admire the art, museums and architecture or head out into the surrounding countryside to harvest your own maple syrup.
Once you’ve picked your location, it’s never too early to start sussing out accommodation.
Most hotels only let you book a few months to a year in advance. Make sure to find out when you can book, as the best locations will sell out in minutes.
With the day of the eclipse sorted, start looking for places of interest around your base location.
Work out which attractions you most want to see.
Plot out this journey and see what other interesting areas are along the way that could be worth a stop; whether that’s cities, museums, parks, or dark spots that might give you the opportunity for some astrophotography.
If you can arrange your journey to be a loop you can save yourself some money, as most car rental companies charge extra for returning a car to a different city.
When working out how long it will take to drive from A to B I suggest factoring in an extra 25-50 per cent.
During my trip, I kept getting distracted by interesting roadside attractions, or found myself stopping at the side of the road just to gawk at the scenery.
I would also advise against trying to be in a new city every day.
Driving is tiring, and you want to make sure you have time to really explore all the places you are visiting.
You don’t want to miss out on something because you need to be in the next city by 5pm.
With a plan in hand, it’s then just a question of getting everything booked in time to be ready for your road trip.
Good luck! And I hope to see you under the Moon’s shadow come 2024.
Elizabeth Pearson travelled to the 2017 eclipse with Hertz Roadtrip Planner. You can read about her exploits in the October 2017 issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine, and follow her route here on Hertz’s Roadtrip Planner.