A lot of people talk to me about seeing the Northern Lights and many of them want to fly off to Alaska or somewhere at a cost of £££££. My girlfriend also gets visitors to her cottage who want to see them, and we did well this year with everyone who wanted a look getting some sort of display.
However, the best place to see them is from your own back garden! People get mad at me for saying this but it is true for the simple reason that the aurora is completely unpredictable and as you have access to your back garden almost 365 days per year so you are likely to be there when the big hit happens. The number one key to seeing aurora is to be looking at the sky when the aurora is happening.
Even in your local area there are things you can do to increase your chances, getting as far from light pollution so you have dark skies is probably the number one thing you can do to help yourself. Also letting your eyes become adapted to the dark is another. It is also worth considering that big hits are often short lived, so looking around for 15 seconds and deciding nothing is happening will almost certainly mean you miss the big event of the night.
Last night there was a modest display and, basically, to prove my point I shot the following timelapse from a flat rooftop in urban Belfast. As well as the light pollution, and even a Christmas tree in the house next door, there was also a very bright moon and the aurora is generally a subtle effect and so cannot compete with a bright moon so observing conditions were almost as bad as it gets.
Try and watch this full screen and in HD quality if you can: