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Traveling for the Eclipse? Our Tips & How Travel Stops Are Preparing

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For the first time since 1979, Americans are gearing up for a total solar eclipse with some driving hundreds of miles to take in the scene. While travelers are busy packing up to hit the road, gas stations are gearing up to make sure their pumps and stores shine brightly for motorists that need a break.

RURAL VIEWING LOCATIONS
The excitement has translated into millions of Americans hitting the road to cluster in or near the direct path of totality for the solar eclipse, which starts near Portland, Oregon and moves southeast across the country before exiting near Charleston, South Carolina. Many will be driving hundreds of miles to rural areas of the country where hotels are completely sold out and where there aren’t many gas stations.

MAJOR DRIVING EVENT
The eclipse is a major driving event and we expect to see some challenges. We asked a few industry leaders how their companies were planning to tackle them.

Mark Romano, Senior VP of Operations at Pilot Flying J told us, “At Pilot & Flying J Travel Centers we are approaching the Solar Eclipse the same as we would one of our busiest holidays – similar to a Fourth of July or even a Memorial Day weekend.”

Kealey Dorian, Supervisor of Media with Love’s said in an e-mailed statement, “The eclipse means traffic will remain busy for another week or two, which means we will continue to work with our vendors to make sure we’re stocked on popular items travelers purchase, like bottled waters, energy drinks, chips, snacks, roller grill items, food items for the restaurants and more.”

When asked about how many locations could the eclipse impact, Romano told us “as the viewing path extends from Portland, OR at a 30-degree angle down to Charleston, SC, we see this potentially impacting more than 100 Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers across the U.S.”

DOES THE ECLIPSE IMPACT GAS PRICES?
The good news about the eclipse is that gasoline demand, although it may be high, will not be for a sustained period of time. We’re talking intense demand for a period of a few days, so there won’t be any long term impact on gas prices. Short term events generally are irrelevant to gas prices, unless it’s a catastrophic event such as a hurricane. For pricing, areas where there’s only one gas station and no nearby competition, you may find gas prices are not priced as aggressively.

Currently, the “eclipse states” with the cheapest gas prices are generally closer to the last part of the eclipse path: South Carolina (average $2.07/gal), Tennessee ($2.14), while states more west Oregon ($2.71) and Idaho ($2.65) are the priciest.

YOU COULD PAY MORE AT THE NEXT EXIT
Stations generally make just a few cents per gallon so don’t be surprised if prices vary considerably from exit-to-exit or town-to-town. Your GasBuddy app will help you find the local spread and where you can find the lowest price. (Don’t forget to REPORT prices too and help others eclipse gazers on the road!)

NEED VIEWING GLASSES?
If you’re looking for eclipse merchandise, both Love’s and Pilot Flying J said they have some selection, but it may be limited- especially when it comes to dark glasses to watch. In fact, some stores have already sold out of some of the merchandise, so don’t be too surprised if you find an empty bin.

TIPS FOR YOUR ECLIPSE ROAD TRIP
If you’re one of the lucky ones that got a hotel room or are hitting the road, here’s are some tips so your trip is a successful one.

  • Don’t Run Out of Gas (Yeah, Seriously)
    The entire state of Wyoming, which is a prime viewing spot, has just 494 gas stations. Make sure you don’t run low on fuel without knowing where the next station is.

  • Save Dimes at State Lines
    Gas prices can change in an instant just by crossing a state line. Shop for gas before crossing a state border. You never know which side is cheaper.

  • Hungry, Thirsty and You NEED a Bathroom Break
    Check the GasBuddy app to make sure the sun hasn’t set on the bathroom you’re about to walk into or if that station has warnings to steer clear of that scene. Our list of brands with the best restroom ratings will help narrow down your options.

  • Shop Around
    A little pre-planning can save you money. Don’t pay more if the station down the street sells gas for less. You can put those saving towards that awesome “Totality Is Coming” t-shirt or a coffee so you don’t sleep through the big event.

  • Update Your GPS
    Make sure to update your GPS if you have one. There is nothing worse than being stuck in the backcountry without any idea of where you are. Also, keep in mind that cell phone coverage is not guaranteed, especially in areas of Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and into Nebraska.

  • Travel Light
    Empty out all that extra weight! Every 100lbs could rob you of 1-2 MPG, which adds up, especially if you’re driving hundreds of miles.

  • Got Tunes?
    Make a road trip playlist to keep you entertained while you’re driving and waiting for totality. Our Songs for the Road board on Pinterest has some great list and inspiration.

    Are you planning to view the eclipse? Let us know where you’ll be viewing this spectacular sight!

Senior Petroleum Analyst, National (USA) / Midwest

Patrick has developed into the leading source for reliable and accurate information on gas price hikes. Patrick has been interviewed as a gasoline price expert hundreds of times since 2004. Based in Chicago, Patrick brings to GasBuddy all his assets to help consumers by giving reliable and accurate price forecasts, including the San Jose Mercury News dubbing Patrick "one of the nation's most accurate forecasters" in 2012.