Total solar eclipse 2017: How to save money on travel and avoid scams

(ABC)– Monday is predicted to be one of the busiest travel days of 2017 as millions of people flock to the 14 states across the United States in the path of the total solar eclipse.

In South Carolina, the last state on the eclipse’s path, hotel occupancy along the path could be doubled compared to what South Carolina normally sees in the third week in August, according to the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

The University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina, pushed its student “move-in day” back one day from Aug. 21 due to traffic and lodging concerns associated with the eclipse.

The Hilton and Marriott hotels along the eclipse’s prime viewing area, known as the path of totality, are nearly full, the companies told ABC News.

Related: Best places to view the solar eclipse

The total eclipse, the brief phase of the celestial event when the moon completely blocks out the sun, will be best seen in certain cities, including Salem, Oregon, Jackson, Wyoming, and Charleston, South Carolina.

Hotel rooms still available in the prime viewing areas may be pricey but there are still opportunities to save money, experts say.

“There are still deals to be found, even in the path of totality,” Mark Ellwood, contributing editor for Conde Nast Traveler, told ABC News. “You just have to be a little clever how you look for them.”

Hipcamp, an online travel service for camping experiences, lists more than 1,000 eclipse-friendly campsites.

Bivouac Campground in Oregon’s Smith Rock State Park still has room for eclipse viewers to pitch a tent for as little as $5 per person.

Airbnb, the online lodging marketplace, reports it has more than 29,000 rentals available across the eclipse’s path.

“It’s Airbnb’s magic moment,” Conde Nast’s Ellwood said. “There are plenty of families who live within the path of totality who have realized that the spare room can make them a little bit of money, so check Airbnb’s site and look for the key word eclipse.”

He added, “You’ll be surprised what you might find.”

For flights, Ellwood suggests flying into Denver, a major transportation hub that may be cheaper than flying into cities like Casper, Wyoming, that are directly on the eclipse’s path.

“It’s not in the path of totality but its close enough you can drive from there,” Ellwood said of Denver International Airport, which plans to hand out moon pies and eclipse glasses Monday.

As with any major commercial event, experts also say, watch out for scams.

“Perhaps some unscrupulous hotels will cancel early reservations and turn around and charge more for those rooms,” said Emma Fletcher, director of scam and fraud initiatives for the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust. “And, of course, there are risks no matter what but you want to minimize those risks.”

The trade group that represents hotel owners, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, encourages consumers to book directly with hotels to get the best deal.

“We encourage guests to book directly with the hotel to help ensure they get what they want and need from their reservation while often offering the better value,” the association said in a statement.

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