Charleston has 122 hotels according to Trivago, and only two are available on Aug. 20, the night before August’s transcontinental eclipse.
Somewhere between 500,000 and 2 million people are expected to visit the Palmetto State for the Aug. 21 eclipse, according to estimates by the state’s Emergency Management Division. They’ll be clogging hotels and roadways in equal measure. If you are looking to find a room anywhere along the path of totality, where the moon will completely block the sun, your options are quickly dwindling.
Columbia has availability at four hotels according to Trivago, while Orangeburg and Sumter each have two. Clemson has one.
Towns in more rural areas are finding themselves completely sapped of lodging as the eclipse closes in. Holly Hill, St. George, Edgewood and Newberry are all booked solid.
There are still some options, however. At the opposite corner of the state, as of Wednesday afternoon, Greenville has eight hotels with availability the night before the eclipse, and Greer has 11. That is nearly double the availability in all the previously mentioned cities combined.
Hotel alternative Airbnb has rooms available throughout the state, including 18 in Charleston, 21 in Columbia and 52 in Clemson. They range in price from $35 to more than $1,000, and they are booking fast. Airbnb notes that the 52 rooms in Clemson represent only 4 percent of availability.
Plan ahead for a day trip
Fortunately, the Lowcountry is near enough to the path of totality for a day trip, but even that could prove to be more difficult than expected, according the the South Carolina Department of Transportation.
In response to heavy congestion expected on South Carolina roadways the day before and day of the eclipse, SCDOT is looking to potentially suspend lane closures. They are also working in concert with the state’s Emergency Management Division and Highway Patrol to manage the increased traffic burden. Rob Perry, state traffic management engineer for SCDOT, said that the state has never seen anything like this.
“The tough thing about this is that it isn’t just one place where everyone is going,” said Perry. “It is kind of hard for the state to predict what the traffic flow is going to be because you don’t know who is going to what. There’s just so many places to watch this.”
If you are planning on being on the road the day of the eclipse, Perry recommends that you give yourself plenty of time to get where you are going.
“People need to expect it to be just as bad as driving on the July 4th weekend, or worse,” said Perry. “Folks need to understand that it might take a little bit longer to get from Point A to Point B, but just be safe and smart.”
Part of being smart involves not stopping your car in the middle of the road to look at the eclipse as it happens, Perry warned. This especially makes sense in light of how heavy traffic will be.
The state’s Emergency Management Division is even involved in keeping things under control.
“We’re preparing for a lot of people to come to town,” said Derrec Becker, public information officer with SCEMD. “This is a very unique event, one of those things that happens once in a lifetime, so we want people to come to South Carolina. Enjoy it, but keep safety in mind as well.”
Even if you are not planning to partake in eclipse festivities, expect to be affected.
“Be prepared for a lot of people,” said Becker. “Go ahead and make sure your car is filled up with gas. Go ahead and buy groceries. Give yourself extra time to get where you need to go, and prepare for long lines.”
SCEMD has a web page at scemd.org/totaleclipse with eclipse information and advice.