Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.
A couple years ago I started to hear about some happenings on August 21, 2017. By now you have probably heard of that date yourself as it is the date of the “Great American Eclipse” where many cities along a path across the country will get to experience 2+ minutes of a total solar eclipse. A couple years ago some friends of mine in the travel world were already starting to try and secure hotels on points in obscure sounding small towns across the country in states like Oregon and Wyoming.
I didn’t jump on the bandwagon at the time, but now that the date is almost here my folks, in particular my mom, decided they really want to get a good view of the eclipse. Since a total solar eclipse is a pretty rare event, they also decided they really wanted to take my older daughter.
Since I am one who generally believes that when you get ‘the itch’ you should just take the trip, I was happy to help see what we could put together on relatively short notice. Even though school starts here the week before, I was also happy to have my older daughter tag along with them for this event as long as we minimized her missed school time.
To make the trip as short and economical as possible, while still getting in the line where (weather permitting) you will be able to view the total eclipse, we zeroed in on Kansas and Missouri. Not only is it one of the cheapest and closest total eclipse destinations for us here in Houston, but C’s other grandparents live in Kansas, so they might also be able to join in the fun. As you can see via the graphic below from the really good Great American Eclipse website, Northeast Kansas is a good spot to head to see the total eclipse on August 21st, and that is a very reasonable distance from Kansas City, which became our travel target.
This relatively last minute trip was clearly not already in our summer travel budget, so it needed to be a miles and points funded adventure. Driving all the way from Houston to Northeast Kansas was out of the question for a number of reasons, one of which was this is already happening on a Monday, and we really only wanted C to miss that one day of school if possible. A short flight to and from Kansas City was determined to be the best course of action, so here is how we got it all booked in the last few days for the three of them to see the total solar eclipse for just $100 in cash + some miles and points.
Nonstop United Flights:
Houston – Kansas City: 10,000 United miles + $5.60 each for saver awards
Kansas City – Houston: 10,000 Ultimate Reward points each for “purchased” flights via Chase Travel. This was done since saver awards were not available anyway, prices were pretty reasonable, and these will be mileage earning flights.
Total for Flights: $16.80, 30,000 United miles, and 30,000 Ultimate Reward points
For hotels, we used a total of 8,000 SPG points + $75 in cash for two hotel nights. Thanks to having the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card, they will even have Club access the night they stay at a Sheraton, which will help keep the convenience factor up and food costs down. Some hotels in the area were already sold out, but there were still some solid options on points to choose from, especially if you were willing to drive 30 – 40 miles to where the total eclipse will be visible on the day of.
This is not yet fully booked, but two rental car days looks to be about $90 all-in for an intermediate car out of the Kansas City Airport. Alternatively, we could use about 6,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points for the car rental via the Sapphire Reserve, which I suspect is likely the route my dad will go to keep cash costs as low as possible. As an added bonus, he can even book with Hertz for that price and avoid the fun “Payless, Wait More” scenario that seems to be all too common.
Not to Late to Plan a Total Eclipse Trip:
If you have been considering a trip to see the total eclipse, it isn’t too late to plan one. If you have trouble elsewhere, I can personally vouch for Kansas and Missouri still being very easy targets. This would be in line with the estimates that Kansas will benefit from the fewest number of visitors among the states where the total eclipse should be visible. As an added perk, that area has one of the longest views of totality, and since it isn’t estimated to be super crowded there, you should be able to easily drive to where weather is better for viewing in the event of projected clouds or weather issues.
Of course if you don’t want to mess with all of that booking and planning, you can just cross fingers you win a seat on an Alaska Airlines chartered flight out of Portland, Oregon, that will provide a very unique opportunity to see the eclipse from 36,000 feet without the risk of weather mucking up the view.
I’d love to hear if you and your family plan to travel to see the Great American Eclipse and if miles and points played a role in getting you there!
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.