How to book travel for the 2024 solar eclipse
April 12, 2021 11:38 AM   Subscribe

Hi! My girlfriend and I are trying to get a head start on planning for the total solar eclipse that will pass over a good swath of North America on April 8, 2024. How can we book travel plans as early as possible?

Our first choice right now is the city of Mazatlan on Mexico's Pacific coast, which lies right near the center-line of the path of totality (and just looks like a very cool city to visit regardless). Generally speaking, though, my understanding is that one can only book flights and hotel rooms a year in advance. I'm concerned that if we wait this long, availability will be hard to come by. Is there any way to make bookings earlier—ideally now, three years out?

Any other tips you might have would be most welcome! We are U.S. citizens and would be flying out of New York City.
posted by DavidNYC to Travel & Transportation around Mazatlán, Mexico (20 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
You'll almost certainly be fine booking well within a year of the event. I wouldn't even consider purchasing the flight and hotel until fall 2023. Far too many variables until then.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 11:55 AM on April 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

I don't think you can book anything that far out with a real guarantee - a hotel that you book today may very well not be in business (or even standing!) three years from now, and airlines simply do not schedule their flights that far in advance.

I mean, gosh, how can you even be sure you'll be flying out of NYC three years from now!

If you really want to book now I think your best bet is booking a package tour through a longstanding, well-regarded tour company (I don't have any recs, though). They won't book the hotels now, either, but they'll have the connections to ensure that they're able to make the bookings closer to the date.
posted by mskyle at 12:14 PM on April 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'd agree that you're overplanning this a little. In 2018 I was lucky to be within a couple of hours' drive of the path of totality and on the day I just got up early and drove in that direction until I found a good place to watch it. It's different of course if you intend to travel further, but the year-in-advance thing applies to almost everybody else. Set a reminder for 2023.
posted by holgate at 12:18 PM on April 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I agree that you definitely don't need to book more than a year in advance. But if you wanted to guarantee it, I guess you could plan to take a couple of weeks off work, buy a camper van, and take a road trip (about the same amount of time as driving from NYC-LA, which is a lot).
posted by pinochiette at 12:25 PM on April 12, 2021

If you want to be assured of a safe back up plan, Guadalajara is a big enough city and airport that it's very unlikely to notice eclipse traffic. (It's not obvious to me that Mazatlán will either, but it could be.) It's a very long round-trip by bus in one day, or an easy over-night from there to Mazatlán or nearby towns. There's also a ferry from La Paz that takes longer than you'd expect but is quite fun if you like boats. Sadly, it looks like the boat doesn't cross the eclipse path.

(If you happen to have time to travel a bit on the coast and haven't spent a lot of time in Mexico, I recommend considering passing through San Blas. It's also kind of touristy, but very different from Mazatlán.)
posted by eotvos at 12:27 PM on April 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: From the last time there was a total solar eclipse in North America in 2017: "Rare solar eclipse coming to Oregon in 2017, hotels already booked"
Court Priday, manager of the hotel, said there isn't a single room available for Aug. 21, 2017, and there hasn't been for a while.

"We've been getting phone calls like crazy," he said. "We've been sold out for about three years."
That article was published more than a year before the eclipse.
posted by DavidNYC at 12:33 PM on April 12, 2021 [9 favorites]

Are you choosing Mexico because it's photogenic, less people, or some other specific reason? The 2024 totality will be passing right over a good chunk of the eastern USA including New York state, you could probably find a nice open area or state park and save a lot of effort.

These maps could help if you haven't seen them already.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:37 PM on April 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

You can contact a hotel to book directly now, in advance. You cannot book flights this far out.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:46 PM on April 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Are you choosing Mexico because it's photogenic, less people, or some other specific reason?

Because we enjoy traveling to Mexico and because there's a much greater chance of clear skies there than in upstate New York at that time of year.
posted by DavidNYC at 12:48 PM on April 12, 2021

We're in Buffalo, right smack under totality, and agree that you would have to be pretty silly to plan to travel here for the eclipse. By far the most likely scenario is that the bright spot in the solid overcast sky goes away for a minute.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 12:53 PM on April 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

Cruise perhaps? Advantage is the ship could possibly relocate to avoid clouds. Disadvantage is photography is harder.
posted by cosmac at 1:06 PM on April 12, 2021

You can contact a hotel to book directly now, in advance. You cannot book flights this far out.

Even a hotel you might have issues with - every online booking engine and hotel website I've ever used limits you to 1 year out. If you want to go this route, you would likely have to contact the hotels directly and see if they are willing to arrange something.

Added twist on flying, flight schedules (particularly international) are very unpredictable right now thanks to COVID - I would be very hesitant to book any flights more than a month or so out right now tbh.

FWIW I traveled for the 2017 eclipse (no issues booking travel then) and plan to do the same in 2024. I set a reminder on my calendar for Spring 2023 to book flights/hotels, I would recommend doing the same.
posted by photo guy at 1:06 PM on April 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think you'll have much better luck with Mazatlán than you would have with Madras, Oregon, in 2017 - at a guess there are at least 100 times as many hotel rooms in Mazatlán as there are in Madras.

But you can absolutely start calling hotels now if you're worried!
posted by mskyle at 1:18 PM on April 12, 2021 [5 favorites]

People were saying that in 2017, but I had no problem getting a hotel in Nashville two months in advance. If you do have trouble a year in advance, you'll have plenty of time to consider alternatives.
posted by metasarah at 2:05 PM on April 12, 2021

I think you'll have much better luck with Mazatlán than you would have with Madras, Oregon, in 2017 - at a guess there are at least 100 times as many hotel rooms in Mazatlán as there are in Madras.

Mazaztlan not only has more than 125 times as many hotel rooms as Madras, OR, it also doesn't have two 12+ million person megaregions (Cascadia and Bay Area) within a day's drive.

If you're super into booking this far ahead, I'd book with a specific eclipse-based tour operator, who are the ones who actually book this far out for the best possible locations; particularly since they're likely to do the most in-depth research and have bonus astronomical activities.
posted by Superilla at 2:20 PM on April 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

I’d make a recurring reminder to check a few places every month. Only a few primo spots are going to sell out the week they become available.
posted by michaelh at 2:56 PM on April 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

This question got me interested in this topic. I was lucky enough to score camping with a group of friends in Oregon near Madras and it was epic.
A quick search of eclipse Mexico came up with a tour company already taking bookings
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:41 PM on April 12, 2021

In this post on Flyertalk's Travel Buzz forum, people report being able to make reservations for both cruises and hotels earlier than a year in advance (18 months to two years) by directly contacting the property (and sometimes making a deposit). I am sure that some independent hotels will be happy to take your money. Give a few you might like to stay at a call and see what they say.
posted by mdonley at 4:46 PM on April 12, 2021

I may have been really really lucky, but here's some anecdata:

For the August 2017 eclipse, I decided only a week beforehand that I was going to go see it. While many hotels in the area were indeed booked, only 7 days out I was able to find at least a couple rooms with availability that weren't outrageously priced, most likely because they weren't exactly close by the eclipse path. (Specifically, I found some nice looking viewing spots just outside of Ravenna, NE and booked a hotel on the west side of Omaha, about a 2.5 hour drive. I love road trips, YMMV.)

I woke up early, packed a cooler with some lunch and beverages, and was the third person to pull into a small wayside pull-off I had pinned in google maps that was literally across the highway from a field over which the center line of totality passed. The hotel location also allowed me some flexibility to adjust my plans depending on the weather; if NE was a washout I could have gone SE into MO and maybe found some clear skies or something.

I had the luxury of flexibility and just drove myself the whole way from Minnesota, so I didn't have to plan a flight, but if you're willing to drive a little you can really open yourself up to some options in sunnier climes of the US. If you're willing to consider doing something domestically, there are plenty of larger cities within a couple hours' drive of the path in the Mid / Southern US that you could likely find some space in much closer to the date. Think Shreveport, Memphis, Tulsa, St. Louis.

For your specific desires of going to Mexico however: You are talking about Mexico in what will be not only Eclipse viewing day but also on the Spring Break high season. You might very well find it difficult to find accommodation, and I probably wouldn't recommend just 'winging' it in Mexico the way I did in Nebraska. But nothing is stopping you from calling hotels now to see if they will take your reservation that far in advance. But as others stated, a lot can happen between now and then. I would wait until April 2023 and re-evaluate at that time.
posted by SquidLips at 5:17 PM on April 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

Thanks JoeZydeco, I didn't know about this eclipse, so I looked on the map. It runs right through my sisters backyard! I hope the weather's good.
posted by Marky at 8:06 PM on April 12, 2021

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