'It is a life-changing event': From $1,000 one-way flights to surging Airbnb rentals, travelers are gearing up for the solar eclipse

Cities in Ohio, Texas and Vermont are among the destinations people are trekking to for the celestial event.

Photo illustration of airplane wearing eclipse glasses.
People are traveling to U.S. cities in the path of totality to witness the total solar eclipse. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images)

On April 8, when the moon completely blocks the face of the sun for a total solar eclipse, it won’t just be the sky putting on a show.

Here on the ground, everyone from eclipse chasers to casual observers are helping to create a surge in demand for flights and accommodations to see the celestial event, giving a boost to the local economies of cities near the path of totality.

Drew Koning and Erica Weinberg, from San Diego, have airfare, hotels and rental cars lined up in both Austin, Texas, and St. Louis for themselves and their three kids — ages 12, 14 and 16 — to see the eclipse. They’re deciding on which reservation they’ll keep depending on which city has better weather.

“It's a chance for us to bond over something truly extraordinary and to instill in our children a sense of wonder and appreciation for the mysteries of space,” Koning tells Yahoo Entertainment. “Taking my family to see the solar eclipse is fostering a love for science and discovery that will inspire them going forward.”

Koning was in France during the 1999 eclipse and in Wyoming for the 2017 eclipse. He learned then that hotels book up quickly, so he booked the family’s travel a year in advance this time around.

“It is a life-changing event,” Weinberg tells Yahoo. “It’s a wonderful experience for us as a family, and a great excuse to travel with them and do something completely outside the norm.”

What makes this different from 2017’s eclipse?

According to Joe Westlake, director of NASA’s heliophysics division, more Americans will be able to see this eclipse than in 2017. During the previous event, most cities that experienced 100% totality were in “fairly uninhabited” areas at the time.

“This one, however, hits large cities like San Antonio, Dallas, and through Arkansas, Cleveland, Indianapolis and all the way into Vermont,” Westlake tells Yahoo Entertainment. The path of totality will be nearly 60% wider this time, and the eclipse itself will last much longer, with nearly four minutes of 100% totality in Dallas and Cleveland.

“There's over 30 million Americans within the path of the eclipse’s totality,” Westlake says of this weekend’s event. “There's another 150-plus million within a 200-mile drive of getting there. I think a lot of people across the U.S. are going to do that, which should have a big impact [on cities].”

Airbnb sees a boost

Cities including Dallas, Cleveland, Burlington, Vt., and Indianapolis saw a significant surge in searches for the weekend of April 8 compared with this time last year, according to a February Airbnb report.

As of April 1, Texas was the most-booked state on the platform, while Indianapolis was the most-booked city, an Airbnb representative tells Yahoo Entertainment.

Roughly 10% of confirmed guests are first-time bookers who’ve never stayed in an Airbnb before. Hosts are seizing the opportunity to host eclipse viewers.

Isida Malko, an Airbnb host with five properties in the Indianapolis area, posted her listings on the platform six months in advance and was fully booked in less than 24 hours. The demand was so high, she tells Yahoo Entertainment, that she received requests from people willing to pay more than the asking price in an effort to outbid the initial booker.

Anastasia Gamino, an Airbnb host for two booked properties in Indianapolis, made gift bags for her guests with a total eclipse survival kit, she tells Yahoo. “They’re equipped with solar eclipse glasses, Sunkist, Starbursts, Milky Ways, Moon Pies and Sun Chips with a handwritten welcome card.”

According to Airbnb, there were still listings available in cities with 100% totality as of April 2. They include accommodations in Richardson and Pflugerville, Texas; Syracuse and Rochester, N.Y.; Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio; Bloomington, Ind. and Hot Springs, Ariz.

How are hotels shaping up?

Research from Amadeus Hospitality shows that hotels in cities in the path of totality were mostly booked as of late February. That includes Erie, Pa., which was 89% booked, Burlington, Vt. (88%) and Buffalo, N.Y. (78%). Those numbers have likely gone up slightly since.

Brandon Schultz, a travel writer from New York City, is flying to Indianapolis with his partner Jeff to witness an eclipse in the path of totality for the first time. Rates were high when they reserved their hotel in January and booked their flights in February.

“We decided to do it while we had the chance,” he tells Yahoo Entertainment. “We’ll be in our 60s when the next one comes. I hope we’re still traveling then, but we wanted to see this one while we were still considerably younger and able to appreciate it as much as possible.”

LOS ANGELES , CA - JULY 12: Solar eclipse fans watch the moon partially obscure the sun Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. (Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News)
Fans gather at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles to watch the solar eclipse in 2017. (David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News)

In Cleveland, where 74% of area hotels are booked, a city spokesperson tells Yahoo Entertainment they’re expecting around 200,000 visitors during the weekend of April 7, which is more than the attendance of a Browns game, Guardians game, Cavaliers game and the St. Patrick's Day parade combined.

Cleveland and surrounding Cuyahoga County have been collaborating for more than two years to make the eclipse a memorable experience.

“We anticipate that all of our hotels will sell out and we hope to see our businesses and restaurants full of people hoping to experience this incredibly unique opportunity,” the city spokesperson says.

Meanwhile, 90% of the 35,000 hotel rooms in Dallas are booked, Jennifer Walker of Visit Dallas told NBC Dallas, and city leaders are preparing for 400,000 out-of-town visitors for the event.

Hotels, including Virgin Hotels Dallas, are throwing eclipse viewing parties. A Virgin Hotels rep tells Yahoo Entertainment that the hotel is preparing for hundreds of attendees, and that a “limited number of tickets and hotel rooms are still available” but going quickly.

In Burlington, Kim Donahue, president of Vermont Lodging Association, tells Yahoo properties are experiencing an 80% increase in occupancy for this weekend.

What’s happening in the air?

There will be 25 flights in the air during the eclipse, with tickets costing over $1,000 each for a one-way journey.

Delta Airlines has two special flights in the eclipse’s direct path. Flight 1218, leaving April 8 from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport at 12:15 p.m. and landing at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport at 4:20 p.m., sold out in 24 hours. Flight 1010, leaving from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport at 12:30 p.m. and landing at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport at 4:20 p.m., still has seats available as of April 2, according to a Delta spokesperson.

In addition, five regularly scheduled Delta flights are expected to have partial views of the eclipse.

Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, United and Southwest are also offering flights with either full or partial views of the eclipse.

United has 11 flights in the solar eclipse path. Bookings with Cleveland, Little Rock and San Antonio as final destinations for April 8 are up double and triple digits compared with the same time last year, an airline rep tells Yahoo Entertainment.

A small plane is silhouetted by a total eclipse.
A small plane is silhouetted by 2017's total eclipse as it flies through the path of totality in Saluda, S.C. (Lou Brutus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Alaska Airlines has two flights for eclipse viewing: flight 390, from San Diego International Airport to Boston’s Logan International Airport, and flight 322, from San Diego International Airport to Dulles International Airport.

Alaska Airlines Captain Brian Holm, who piloted a flight during 2017’s eclipse, says it has been a collaborative effort across the company to make these flights special.

“Observing a solar eclipse from the air is a truly remarkable experience,” he tells Yahoo Entertainment. “While the eclipse itself is an incredible event to witness, what I found most amazing is watching the shadow below racing across the earth and clouds at over 1,500 mph along the path of totality. The combined experience is truly unique.”

According to NASA, the next total solar eclipse that can be seen from the contiguous U.S. will be on August 23, 2044, with parts of Montana and North Dakota experiencing totality.

The next total solar eclipse to span coast to coast won’t be until 2045, reports ABC News.