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I’m not going anywhere near the politics behind it, but there is no question that the government shutdown impacts some travelers immediately. Here are a few ways that the shutdown impacts traveling families immediately, as well as how it may impact travelers if it hangs around for very long.
National Museums, Parks, and Zoos Closed:
All national parks, museums, etc. such as the Smithsonian Museums, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Independence Hall, Statue of Liberty, and many, many more will be closed during the government shutdown. This is impacting my parents own trip through Utah as much of their trip is centered around visiting national parks in and around Utah like Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Arches National Park, Grand Canyon, and more.
Luckily, they knew this shutdown was possible and have been rearranging the order of things on their trip on the fly to hit as many things as they could before today. That meant they missed some smaller sites they wanted to see along the way in an effort to get to the National Parks in time. However, many other travelers may have much of their trip destroyed if the shutdown goes on for very long at all. My folks have encountered many today (especially foreign visitors) who had no clue about the shutdown and are scrambling to adjust accordingly. I feel for those who have had hard-to-get reservations for the Grand Canyon for a year only to have them canned.
Trips to Washington DC, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and more are popular trips that many families work toward and enjoy, and while many popular sites are now closed, . When this happened in 1995 the South Rim of the Grand Canyon actually stayed open because the state of Arizona agreed to pay the bills, though I have read that will not be the case this time.
Passports, Visas, Consulates, and Embassies:
There are not any immediate plans for passports or visas to cease being processed, but if the processing center is located in a government building that is shutdown, then it would make it virtually impossible for those applications to be processed. Additionally, it is reasonable to assume that delays for visa and passport applications will creep up if the shutdown goes on for very long. If you need a passport related item in the near future, I would act sooner rather than later. I’ve read that over 200,000 applications were not processed during the 1995-1996 shutdown.
FAA and Transportation:
While departments like the FAA are impacted by the government shutdown, air traffic control operators are “essential” and will continue to work. The same is true of TSA officers who conduct the security screenings at the airports. Amtrak has said that they will remain operational even though they do receive some government funding. There will also still be border patrol agents for crossings back to the United States from Mexico or Canada, but it would not be surprising if the lines were longer than normal.
Even those essential employees who are working are not getting paid during the shutdown, so who knows how productive they will be during this time. I’m sure it can’t be good morale to be working without knowing when a paycheck will be arriving! I know most families can’t operate successfully for very long without getting paid. If it goes on very long I’m sure virtually every faction of the government will be impacted even if the employees are “essential”.
In addition, I’m sure it can’t be easy for a government employee and their family to head off on vacation where they are likely spending money without knowing when the paychecks will start rolling in again. If you are currently on vacation at an area surrounded by our National Parks (as my parents are), I encourage you to look to surrounding state and local features that may be very close to the National Parks. There are often some very interesting smaller attractions to visit, though of course nothing can replace something like the Grand Canyon. In that case, you could also consider aerial views of the parks (such as the helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon).
If you are in Washington DC, you can still visit the Newseum, Spy Museum, Arlington National Cemetery, Mount Vernon, Ford’s Theater (for performances, not NPS tours), etc. Of course, most of those attractions are ones that come with a fee (but I can certainly vouch for how great the Newseum was!).
Is the shutdown impacting your travel plans?