Memories to last a lifetime.

The last total solar eclipse was in August of 2017. I remember it vividly, so does one of my children. The other was too young to be able to remember it but I have photos to help jog their memory. My children were three and six at the time and we set off on a cross country, month long, adventure to live out of our minivan camper. It was a wild idea that my husband supported and even built out the minivan camper for us. The end goal? To camp on the center line of totality in Casper, Wyoming. Keep reading to hear our story and learn how you can have your BEST total solar eclipse with kids experience!

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The journey to Wyoming.

We planned, we packed, and we took off. Our route took us out west on Interstate 40. We stopped at every roadside attraction, off the beaten path oddity, and national park we could find along the way. The blue hole in Santa Rosa, NM will always be a favorite of ours. I’ll never forget waiting in the frigid water to catch my then three year old daughter, who was brave enough to jump in! It’s a great place to stop and revive yourself on the long haul across I-40.

Why Casper for the total solar eclipse?

I searched the internet trying to find where to watch the last total eclipse. We happened to have a friend that was getting married in Wyoming close to the eclipse time. Because of the timing, we were able to tack on multiple national parks and the eclipse, before the wedding. Casper came up first every time and it seemed to be the place to be. I reserved a slot of land on a ranch where we would camp out and experience over two minutes of totality! The town itself was very busy before the total eclipse, during, and after. It was so that we got stuck on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere Wyoming for hours. It was so long that we ended up just pulling over into a field and going to sleep. I’ll never forget the couple who raised their beer and welcomed us to the roadside “campground” for the evening.

What was the total solar eclipse like?

In all honesty: the two minutes of totality were unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. We arrived in Casper one day early and I had all sorts of activities ready for us to stay busy and to learn. The morning of the eclipse I made pancakes topped with Nutella and called them “eclipse cakes” and my children loved them. The total solar eclipse began with first contact occurred about two hours before totality. The light slowly dimmed and we noticed that animals became quiet and the wind stilled. The moment of totality, when the moon came directly in front of the sun, lasted for two minutes. The rows and rows of telephoto lenses lining the field snapped away. When the moon moved away, we saw the flash of the “diamond ring” or Baily’s Bead. It was incredible!

Why should you see an eclipse with your kids?

I guarantee you’ll make memories that will last a lifetime, especially if you travel to experience the total eclipse on the center line of totality. It’s a great opportunity to learn and to learn through experiences. Roadtrips are fun, but they’re even better when you know that there’s something extra unique at the end of it. You’ll join a special club of “eclipse chasers” who travel to see the total eclipses around the world. It’s worth taking the vacation time. It’s worth taking the roadtrip and if you’re not homeschoolers, I promise is worth missing some school so you can experience this as a family.

Where to go for the total eclipse?

When you start planning, the first thing you should do is look at the maps to see where the line of totality falls. Totality is where you will experience the longest period of darkness. The 2024 eclipse will move across the United States, from Texas to Maine in a northeastern moving line. Most of Arkansas is within the path of totality. There is an extra special event happening in a unique city named Texarkana. The city splits the state line and its the ONLY place where you an experience totality in two states at the same time. Check out their website and follow the Facebook page for more information about the Texarkana Solarbration.

How to prepare for the eclipse: books and learning.

Books are our favorite way to learn and it’s a great way to enjoy the total solar eclipse with kids. You can read these books leading up to the eclipse and enjoy them the day before and day of. Here are some picture books that will prepare your children and excite them for the adventure. For a big list of everything we used for a previous space study in our homeschool, check HERE.

Some books for big kids and grown ups.

Here are some books for older kids and grown ups, including some of my favorite space themed fiction books. These will get you in the mood for a space themed adventure!

Where to go for the eclipse.

The short answer? Any place that will be experiencing “totality.” This means any place where you will experience the longest period of darkness. The path runs from south central Texas in a northeastern moving line towards Maine. You can see the path HERE. Most of my wonderful home state of Arkansas is the path of totality and there are big things planned in multiple cities. If you’re thinking that Hot Springs is where you’d like to head, I can help with that. Here is my FREE GUIDE to Hot Springs with kids, and HERE is where I’d recommend to stay. However, I’d like to invite you to experience totality in TWO states at once at the Solarbration TXK party happening on the state line and across the dual state city of Texarkana, Texas and Texarkana, Arkansas. If you don’t have to travel, lucky you! If you are traveling, make your plans as early as possible. Now is a good time to start. Things will book up quickly.

Preparing for the eclipse.

Whether you’re traveling for the eclipse or not, there are some things you can do prepare. By doing these things ahead of time and having them ready, you’ll have an even better experience with your family. One thing you should do now is order your eclipse glasses. They will sell out the closer it gets to the eclipse and I would recommend ordering them now so you can have them for the annular eclipse in October 2023 as well. We’ve already ordered ours from HERE. They are made in the USA and up to all standards for safety.

Here are some things you can also start doing now to prepare:

  • If you will be traveling, make your hotel, home rental, and/or camping reservations. Both for where you’ll be for the eclipse and for traveling to and from. Plan to stay an extra day or two at your destination to avoid the crowds on the road after the eclipse.
  • Plan your route, with alternate routes if needed due to heavy traffic.
  • Put in for your vacation time.
  • As soon as school starts, make teachers aware that you will be taking a family vacation and let them know the dates your child will be absent, and don’t forget to include what an AMAZING experience based learning opportunity you’re giving them.
  • Make arrangements for any pets if you will not be traveling with them and book boarding kennels or other care for them while you are away.

What to do: one week before.

This timeline for this list will change a bit based on whether or not you are traveling. However, I would recommend doing these things if you’re traveling or staying home. If you’re traveling, plan to arrive a day or two ahead of the eclipse and do these things once you arrive.

  • Get your groceries at least two days ahead of the eclipse, perhaps earlier if you’re in the path of totality.
  • Have enough groceries to last you a week.
  • Have extra water and essentials on hand.
  • Fill all of your vehicles with gasoline. Trust me, we were traveling for the last one and every gas station between Casper, Wyoming and where we were headed in Western Wyoming were sold out, even in the small towns.
  • Check the weather and adjust plans and prepare accordingly.
  • Check the timing for when the eclipse begins and ends.
  • Have your viewing spot selected and a plan for when and how to get there. Remember, you want a clear, unobstructed view of the sky, with no overhead trees. Ideally, an open space where you can also see the horizon.

Just before before the eclipse.

If you’re lucky enough to be already in the path of totality or partial totality, sit back and enjoy! I would recommend already having your viewing spot selected, and have a plan for how early you’re going to get there. Then, relax! You can play games as a family or with the crew you’re hanging out with, enjoy space documentaries and movies, read books, and just enjoy the event! If you’re in a city that has an eclipse party, go enjoy the festivities. There will be live music, crafts, exhibits and more at the Texarkana Solarbration. For the last total solar eclipse, I had a basket of space related activities and games. I’ve put together a list of some of the items we used plus some more. You can find that list HERE. If your’e traveling, I would recommend bringing along som activities and crafts just for the eclipse. A zippered pencil pouch works great to store some crayons and bits of paper, plus some glue and scissors. One more note, many cities have events going on leading up to the eclipse. On April 6th, Texarkana, Texas has an incredible symphony performance lined up: Dark Side of the Moon: A Pink Floyd Tribute.

The day of the eclipse.

Your morning will be a little different based on where you are viewing the eclipse from. For the last total eclipse, even while we camped in a field in Wyoming, I made my children “eclipse pancakes” for breakfast. They were just Kodiak pancakes covered with Nutella. It wasn’t fancy but they absolutely loved it! If you do have to travel the day of the eclipse, plan to arrive VERY early, and by very I mean hours early. Earlier than you would expect. If you’re not at home or where your’e staying for the eclipse, bring along chairs, water, extra water, snacks, a packed lunch, entertainment for the kids, and maybe a deck of cards. Don’t forget your sunscreen and your eclipse glasses! It’s essential that you have something to shield your eyes from the sun and never look directly at it, even during the eclipse. One more piece of advice, put your phone away when it’s time for totality. Cell phone photos will never do the eclipse justice and you won’t want to miss being fully present for the experience. Go make some (low tech) memories with your family and friends.

After the main event.

Once the eclipse is over, I would recommend staying around for a day or two. Most cities along the path of totality will have events going on and plenty of fun things to do so you can stick around for a bit. In Texarkana, Arkansas the Four States Fair takes place on April 5th to the 14th. There will also be a related art exhibit at the Regional Arts Center in Texarkana, Texas. In Hot Springs, Arkansas it’s quartz capital of the United States and it’s the perfect time of year to go crystal digging. Springtime in Arkansas is beautiful across the entire state. The same is true in East Texas. Check out the state parks in the area and continue your quality family time as you explore the outdoors or check out the local attractions wherever you’re at.

An eclipse warm up.

If you’d like to do a trial run of your eclipse plans, there will be an annular eclipse on October 14th. That eclipse runs a different path across the United States but it bisects the path of totality for the April eclipse in San Antonio and some places across southwest Texas. Other states in the path for the October eclipse include: Oregon, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico. Ps – matching moon shirts not required but absolutely recommended. I sewed these myself with some custom moon fabric I found on ETSY. Have fun with it.

The memory of a lifetime.

I promise this event will be an experience you and your friends and family will remember for a lifetime. The next total solar eclipse will not happen over the United States until 2044! Remember, a failure to plan is a plan to fail, especially when it comes to an event of this magnitude. Make your plans early and make them detailed. You will not regret it. One more final tip, I know if a great little hidden gem that will be the perfect place to watch the eclipse. It’s called Ouachita Wilde Luxury Glamping and it’s located near the little mountain town of Mena, Arkansas. Tell them Nichole (coleyraeh) sent you. You’re welcome. Happy planning my friend, I am so excited for you to have an eclipse adventure! Tag me in your eclipse planning and adventure posts on Instagram @coleyraeh. I’d love to see what you’re up to. Wishing you all the best. Let’s chase an eclipse or two this year and next.

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Thank you.

coleyraeh bio photo

Nichole is a family travel and adventure content creator living in southwest Arkansas. Her and her family enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, and paddle sports. She has homeschooled her two children from the beginning of their education and they enjoy hands on learning experiences she calls “adventure schooling.” If you can’t find her at home, she’s probably off on a lake with the kids, hiking a trail, up a creek, or standing in a waterfall somewhere. You can follow along with their shenanigans on Instagram @coleyraeh. Nichole is also on the Executive Team for Run Wild My Child, and enjoys any travel, adventure, or homeschool writing opportunity that comes up.