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How to Prepare for a Last-Minute Road Trip to See the Eclipse

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Solar Eclipse

Photo: Pixabay

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard that Monday, August 21, there will be a total solar eclipse for the first time since 1918.

The United States is home to several incredible places to view the solar eclipse, so you may be planning to take a last-minute road trip for the full experience. Here are a few things to consider before you hit the road.

Know Where You’re Going

Don’t just hit the road hoping to find a great viewing spot along the way. Do your research and find a place with optimum viewing of the eclipse in the path of totality. Places like Nashville, Tennessee; Columbia, South Carolina; Snake River Valley, Idaho; and Madras, Oregon will have nearly two minutes or more of complete and total darkness.

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What You’ll Need

There are two parts to pack for on this road trip: things you’ll need for the road and things you’ll need for the eclipse itself.

For the road, make sure you bring plenty of snacks, especially if you’re driving a good distance. You’ll be able to make the trip much faster without constantly stopping at restaurants for your food. Bring along cash for any toll roads you might come across along the way and make sure you’ve stocked up your car with an emergency kit, including a flashlight; if you get stuck during the night, or even during the eclipse, you’ll want a way to light up your path.

For the eclipse, you’re going to want to come up with a method to view the eclipse. Do not, under any circumstances, look directly at the eclipse. This will cause extreme damage to your vision that can be irreparable. You can use your cell phone and take a video of it over your shoulder, watching it on the screen. There are also eclipse-viewing glasses you can purchase, although the safety of those is unclear.

Before You Leave

Before you even get in the car, call ahead about hotels. The last thing you want to do is pull into the city at 3 o’clock in the morning and be unable to find a vacant hotel room.

Set a budget for your trip. While your trip may be last minute, you don’t want to get home and realize you’ve spent more than you should have. Jot down a quick list of your expenses and what you’re willing to spend while you’re gone.

Decide when you’re going to leave based on what time you’ll arrive. Plan for traffic, too, especially if you’ve entering a big city like Nashville. You do not want to be driving during the eclipse; the roads will be very dangerous when the light suddenly disappears.

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Give Your Car a Once-Over

As you should before any road trip, check out your car and make sure everything is in working order. Specifically, take a look at your fluid levels, brake pads, and the battery. If you need an oil change, get it done before you leave; it’ll take 20 minutes and you’ll be on your way with peace of mind.

When everything goes dark, you do not want to be driving. With more than 263.6 million registered vehicles on the road, the complete darkness will be more dangerous than ever. But just in case, make sure your headlights are in working order before you leave. Without them, you could find yourself in a very dangerous situation.

Oh, and just a reminder: fill up with gas or charge your car before you leave. Don’t wait until you’re an hour into the trip and running on fumes. It’ll save you driving time.

Seeing the eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so make sure you don’t miss it! But be safe and take extra precautions before hitting the road. And don’t forget – never look directly at the sun or eclipse.

For more information about the eclipse, check out this video from National Geographic:

Sources: ThrillistHowStuffWorks, The Verge