Last-minute travel options to see the solar eclipse

Brittany Jones-Cooper
Most cities in the U.S. will see at least a partial solar eclipse.

Most of the United States will experience a solar eclipse on Aug. 21, a jaw-dropping celestial event that hasn’t been visible from the U.S. since 1979.

While at least a partial eclipse will be visible from most cities, a total eclipse will occur in 14 states: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and North and South Carolina.

Within this zone of totality there are a handful of specific cities poised to offer the best show, and flights to those destinations are quickly selling out.

In fact, Yahoo Finance mentioned several accommodations last week, and since then The Hotel Phillips in Kansas City,  the Hub Motel in Madras, Ore., and this Airbnb in Columbia, S.C. have all sold out.

High demand for small cities

According to Cheapflights.com, flight searches to Casper, Wyo. have increased 1,064% over the last couple of weeks. The city, which sits at an altitude of 5,000 feet, is expected to experience a total solar eclipse and is holding an outdoor festival to celebrate the event.

“The small towns and cities that top our list are seeing big percentage spikes for the solar show in part because they’re not the biggest of destinations,” said Amanda Festa, editor at Cheapflights.com.

After doing a quick search on Kayak, we found that most flights to Casper had just one or two seats left. The airfare was also exorbitantly high. From New York City to Casper, the cheapest round-trip ticket was $1,409. Searches from Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas returned zero results.

Finding a hotel in Casper is even more frustrating. The only options available are low-budget motels with nightly rates comparable to five-star accommodations. For instance, this 1st Interstate Motel is asking $1,795 a night. Options aren’t much better over in Cheyenne, Wyo., where flight searches have increased 183%.

A total solar eclipse

Destinations with availability

Finding an affordable deal is going to be difficult at this point in the game, but if your main focus is seeing the total solar eclipse, there are still some options available. Flight searches to Boise, Idaho only increased 153% in the last couple of weeks, meaning it’s the least popular city on the list of top destinations. If you plan to fly to Boise the evening before the eclipse, round-trip tickets from Dallas are available for $340. Round-trip tickets from Chicago start at $974 and we found direct flights from Los Angeles for $475.

When it comes to lodging in Boise, options are available but limited. Hotels.com says that the city is currently 98% sold out, with just two hotels showing vacancies. The Super 8 in Nampa, Idaho (about 18 miles from the Boise Airport) has rooms available for $499 a night, and the Candlewood Suites has availability for $863 a night.

Lincoln, Neb. is used to large crowds attending Husker football games at Memorial Stadium, but they are also expecting extra traffic for the eclipse. There are no hotel vacancies in the city for the days surrounding the eclipse, but there are some Airbnb options. If you don’t mind glamping, this Airstream trailer is available for $325 a night. It comes equipped with a private shower, pillow-top mattress and air conditioning. If you prefer the great indoors, this entire home near downtown is available for $383 a night.

Catching a flight into Lincoln is still possible, but it will cost you. To arrive on Aug. 20, a round-trip ticket will cost you $1,107 from Chicago and $1,064 from Albuquerque, N.M.  To save a few bucks, consider flying into Omaha, which is about a 45-minute drive from Lincoln. Make this small switch, and that round-trip flight from Albuquerque drops down to $689.

How to watch for free

Most Americans will get to see a partial solar eclipse from their hometowns, but if you’re dying to see the full shebang, watch this live video stream. You may miss the excitement of seeing it in person, but this is no doubt the cheapest and most comfortable way to experience the rare event.

Brittany is a reporter at Yahoo Finance.

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