Despite the impression you might have gotten from the rest of 2017, when the skies go dark on August 21, it's not because the apocalypse is here. No, it's just a solar eclipse - the first total eclipse the continental U.S. is getting in almost four decades. No matter where you are in the United States, you'll be able to see some of the eclipse. It'll be a great experience, but, if you're not careful, it won't be so great for your health or your wallet.
No one wants to miss out on the eclipse, so follow these four tips to make sure you enjoy it safely.
Be wary of those eclipse glasses you bought on Amazon
Pro tip: Don't stare directly into the sun. Even when it's covered by the moon. You're welcome.
"Then how am I supposed to look at the eclipse?" you ask.
With special eclipse-viewing sunglasses. But, y'know, maybe not those cheap ones you ordered from Amazon.
Says who? Amazon, that's who.
Amazon hasn't been able to verify the sellers of some of the glasses being sold on the site, and, understandably, doesn't want to be blamed for selling unsafe items to people. So, in addition to an email to people who bought glasses from questionable sources, Amazon is also issuing refunds.
If you want to be sure you have safe eclipse glasses, choose a brand approved by NASA and the American Astronomical Society. Or, if you want to save money, make a pinhole projector like you used to do in elementary school.
Make sure you actually have a rental car
Not everywhere in the U.S. will get a total eclipse. It's running more or less diagonally across the country from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina (check out a map here). That makes it a great road trip event. Small towns in the eclipse path are making preparations for an influx of visitors.
Those visitors are also preparing - for example, renting cars. A lot of cars. So many cars that Hertz decided it was actually too many cars and started canceling reservations.
The company is trying to bring in extra cars to help fill the void, but double check your rental to make sure you still have it. If you don't and can't make other arrangements this late in the game (or don't want to play inflated prices - some Hertz rentals are going for 10x the normal cost), consider public transportation or a rideshare option, depending on where you are.
Take care of lodging, too
If you're traveling, be sure you have somewhere to stay in whichever city you end up in. Hotels are an obvious choice, but Airbnb might be a more economical option. As Bloomberg points out, the average cost of an Airbnb in Rigby, Idaho is double what is was last year, but still half of the current Motel 6 price. You can find similar deals in other cities near the eclipse path.
Of course, that's if you can still get a place. Airbnb has 50,000 rentals booked for this weekend, compared to 11,000 last weekend. You might be able to pay $100 for an Airbnb, but it could be for a literal patch of grass (not bad if you want to sleep outside, kinda bad if you want a toilet). Pickings may be slim, but don't settle for a hotel until you check out other options.
Make sure your insurance is up to date
And no, it's not health insurance for when you forget to put on your eclipse glasses and look up at the sun.
A few weeks ago, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) "joined the National Park Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other federal agencies to emphasize the importance of viewing the eclipse safely." The FHWA in particular "urge[d] drivers to not pull over at unsafe locations, such as stopping on an interstate at the last minute from which to view the eclipse" and "encourage[d] drivers to be mindful of pedestrians and cyclists, who may also be looking skyward." Traffic is expected to be highly congested, and the FHWA also notes that August is peak highway construction time, so you have that to deal with, too.
That's why you should have the right car insurance. If you find the highway jam-packed, with people leaving their cars and staring at the sky like they're in an Independence Day movie, and you end up in a fender bender - whether it's your fault or not - car insurance can save your bank account from the costs involved in car repair or medical bills.
A total eclipse isn't an everyday occurrence, but you should use some everyday common sense no matter what you're doing to view it. It's possible to celebrate without blowing through your savings so you'll start August 22 with a nice memory instead of a big bill.