Does this question leave you feeling worried that you are too late to make plans? It shouldn’t!

Totaility seen from an aircraft in 2016
This view from an airplane underscores the immersive experience of watching a total solar eclipse.
Dan McGlaun /

We are only weeks away from what will likely be the most memorable and life-affirming collective experiences of 2024. While the whole North American continent will experience a solar eclipse, the 43 million people living within the narrow path of totality sweeping across Mexico, the U.S., and Canada will enjoy what many consider the most immersive nature event of a celestial nature. The total solar eclipse. Totality.

What Makes This Day So Important?

Total Solar Eclipse Madras, Oregon
The total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, as seen from Madras, Oregon, captured via a composite of short, medium, and long exposures.
Photo by Rick Fienberg, processing by Sean Walker; courtesy TravelQuest International and Sky & Telescope

Totality is unlike any other astronomical event. You may intellectually understand what is happening — yet nothing can prepare you for the dramatic emotionality of the temporary absence of our life force, the Sun. Changes in light, temperature, wind, and sounds of nature create this fully immersive event that peaks with the incredible beauty of the Sun’s corona. We stand in awe, with goosebumps and mouths agog, and feel a great connection with everything and everyone all at once.

If you are not in the path, you are denying yourself this opportunity to experience something so wonderous and awe-inspiring that has the potential to change the way you think about life, the universe, and everything within.  

Eclipse chasers travel every 18 months or so wherever the path of totality takes us. Sometimes our choices seem irrational to others, who may feel life circumstances restrict pursuing their goals. Chasers are also bound by daily practicalities, it’s just that we prioritize totality above all else, making sacrifices in other areas of life to keep chasing. What many of us experience during totality is profound and challenging to describe. When we are not chasing eclipses, we spend our time trying to convey and share why you should get into the path of totality at least once in your life.

Trust Us: Get into the Path!

In 2017, the “Great American Eclipse” enabled a new generation of Americans to experience totality on their home soil. Those who experienced totality vowed to chase it again in 2024. Those who missed it promised to get into the path in 2024.  Thirty-two million Americans right now are thanking their lucky stars that they are living in the right place and time.

The path of totality in 2024 is some 115 miles wide and within reasonable driving distance for more than half the North American population, giving unprecedented access to a sight usually reserved for the most passionate eclipse chasers. 

Eclipse map
The total solar eclipse path travels through Mexico, across the U.S. (Texas to Maine), and past the Canadian Maritimes on April 8, 2024.
Michael Zeiler /

Daily, media reports inform us of the “best” places to go — whether for cities, parks, events, festivals, or to “get away from it all.” These articles are great for learning about the variety of options available but can leave readers feeling overwhelmed with options.

Online eclipse forums and Facebook groups can be great opportunities to learn from others. There is a wealth of experience, and many are willing to share. However, when these forums aren’t effectively moderated, broad statements are repeated and accepted as fact, creating false narratives and fear-mongering. Don’t be discouraged when you hear sweeping statements like “Texas is fully booked” or “If you haven’t booked by now, it’s too late.” Do your due diligence, and seek the specific information you need directly from the source. 

There’s No “Right Way” to Experience Totality

With all this information and choice, it’s easy to feel “decision paralysis” on where to go within the path. To choose one location is to let go of many other options. And letting go is hard.

Even eclipse chasers disagree on the “best” places for viewing. Some like to set up for photography the day before in complete isolation; others book years in advance to ensure their place at the point where totality lasts the longest. Some insist on full mobility until totality to actively dodge weather, whereas others decide on their location and do not move. Some wish to maximize their time in the shadow by going to the centerline, while others prefer nature settings that may be closer to the edge. Many chasers live within the path of totality for this eclipse, so they’re not chasing at all! 

A group stands wearing eclipse glasses
Immediately after totality in Mongolia in 2008, a family appeared out of nowhere to celebrate what we had just experienced.
Kate Russo

I have experienced totality in isolation, large crowds, small groups, hard-to-reach locations, built-up environments, and even on the side of the road. Every one of these experiences was incredible. Crowds enhance the feeling of collective effervescence and connection, whereas remote isolation enhances the feelings of timelessness and insignificance. Small groups bond and you are likely to meet friends for life.

Woman holding eclipse viewer watching solar eclipse
The author views the total solar eclipse with a small group of friends near the Argentinian-Chilean border.
Kate Russo

I have also interviewed hundreds of people about their totality experience, and every person seems to suggest that their way of experiencing totality was perfect. There is no “right way” to experience totality — it will be wonderful no matter what you do.

A Four-step Process

Once you decide to travel into the path of totality, the first step is to clarify your own goals for the eclipse.

For example, my ultimate goal is always to immerse myself in the experience and minimize as many unknowns as possible. To do that, I prefer to be on-site the night before and the night of the eclipse, and I position somewhere along the path that gives me the best chance of having the clearest skies at the time of the eclipse.

Sometimes, my goal is also to support a community or to lead a tour group; this will influence where I plan to be. In 2012, my goal was to experience totality for the first time with my family, leading to very different choices about where I viewed it. I wouldn’t change that experience for the world. Regardless of my immediate goal, nothing will get in the way of my ultimate goal: to fully immerse myself in the moment of totality. 

Secondly, consider your limitations, including time availability, other commitments, budget, and practical needs of those traveling. Knowing your limitations is important and will help narrow your focus down.

Thirdly, consider some of your preferences. Factors such as the appeal of the location, comfort level, environment and surroundings, weather, elevation, crowds, proximity, mobility, local attractions, and events — all of these may influence how you wish things to be.

And finally, consider familiarity — you will have a less anxious time if you view from a region you already know. Effective eclipse planning is about preparing for the knowns and reducing and managing the unknowns. A total solar eclipse happens every 18 months worldwide, but seeing it from your unique location is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (unless you live in the coincidental eclipse crossroads in Illinois and Missouri, of course!).

If you still need help with planning your trip into the path, reach out for a one-off clinical session. (Note that I'm offering this service as an independent, paid professional; S&T isn't involved or endorsing the service.)

April 8, 2024, may become the most significant concentrated mass-movement travel day in U.S. history, outside of Thanksgiving. Millions will mobilize to get into the narrow band that separates those who will experience totality from those who will not. Don’t let that day be your biggest regret — do what you can to join us in the path. 

Kate Russo, founder of Being in the Shadow, is an Australian-based leading authority on community eclipse planning and the experience of totality. Her third book Being in the Shadow: Stories of the First-Time Total Eclipse Experience was written to help people know what to expect for their first eclipse, and can be downloaded from her website. Bulk order queries welcome.  

Find more eclipse resources on Sky & Telescope's Eclipse Portal!


Image of AB


February 29, 2024 at 1:35 am

"Where will you be... if you are not in the path you are denying yourself the opportunity..."
Something should be written about the shameless greed of accommodation owners in the path who are denying _others_ the opportunity. Rooms booked last summer being cancelled by hotels "due to a booking error" and customers invited to re-book at 3x the price. Accommodations jacking their rates through the stratosphere. The worst I have seen yet is a yurt installation in Texas, typically $250-350 $CAD a night (too much for a yurt anyway, what the heck!) ... on April 8 their rate is OVER $4000. For one night.
While this is a wonderful, moving, profound, etc. etc. event... it's also just one more opportunity for some humans to show how much they suck. 🙁

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