Government Shutdown Impacts Some Travelers Immediately

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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.


My sister enjoying the National Parks in Utah last week

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.

Other issues:

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?

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  1. Even if it doesn’t affect someone’s travel plans, everyone should be worried about tea party terrorists shutting down the government because they don’t get their way after losing an election.

  2. If you are visiting Washington you should also attempt to visit you Congressman’s and Senators’ offices and let them know what you think of the shutdown.

  3. @Haldami Blaming only one side or another seems childish. There are two parties responsible here for the shutdown. Its just another way to divide the population instead of bring us together.

  4. Not to downplay the importance of the politics behind this shutdown, but there are ample places on the internet to discuss that side of the equation. This site isn’t going to be one of them as it has about a 0% chance of leading to a positive discussion.

    Let’s keep discussions here related to how this impacts travelers and traveling families. Thanks!

  5. Even though the TSA airport screeners are not supposed to be furloughed, I’d be interested to hear from anyone who is traveling today to see if anything is, in practice, different at the airport.

  6. I am flying PEK-ORD-DFW-LAX-ORD-MCI tomorrow (Wednesday), so it’ll be interesting to see what lines for CBP and TSA are like.. Global Entry likely won’t be any different, and I’ve got PreCheck, though maybe the clerks will act different than they usually do.

  7. As a fed who is furloughed today, sure, my travel plans will be impacted. I am clipping coupons and trying to figure out how to not spend money until this absurd stand-off is resolved. We are scheduled to go on vacation in two weeks and the tickets are already paid for–so whether I receive paid leave or not, we will go, but I can say for sure that we will not be spending any discretionary money unless absolutely necessary. Multiply my situation by some 800,000 other feds and it’s not hard to see the economic impact on travel.

  8. @DWT- My parents flew out of AUS this morning. I was a little concerned that there would be longer security lines that would impact them. However, there was no wait at security at 8am this morning.

  9. Thanks for everyone for sharing their stories. Kestie, I hope this is short lived for your family.

    My folks are at a hotel in Utah that is very close to the National Parks and while things are still quite busy there, they have had a few cancellations due to the shutdown. They have also posted alternative activity sheets for tourists who had originally planned to hit up the National Parks. I’ll get a photo of it up soon. Hopefully it will help some of the smaller local/state parks and activity operators in the short run, but I’m sure it would hurt them as well if it drug on too long.

  10. No Ford’s Theater for visits. You can still see a play there, but all the historic site museums, exhibits, tours, etc. are closed because they are run by the NPS and those are the main reasons to visit.

    • Evan, true I should have been more clear. Performances will still go on, but the Ranger tours and such will not. Again, paid stuff = yes. Free stuff (well, in this case very inexpensive stuff) = no.
      Jamie, that is not a comfortable feeling at all. Hope things clear up soon!

  11. my husband is a pseudo-government employee, and they have been told that they are fine for a month, but the management were very quiet about what would happen after that. I’m not sure if that means we would get paid at the end of this month, and then they would have problems next month. Or if they mean everything is fine, because payroll doesn’t happen until the end of the month. I’m going to be VERY uncomfortable if we get close to the end of the month and find out there might not be a paycheck at the end of it.
    It’s not affecting existing travel, but I’m certainly not going to be booking anything new until there is a federal budget in place. We are not one of the 800,000 feds Kestie is referring to, so add quite a few other people to that tally who are not technically government employees, but who work at facilities who get their funding from the government, and are pretty uncertain about things at the moment.

  12. We are in Hawaii for the first time ever. Today was suppose to be visiting the Pearl Harbor area to see the Arizona memorial. We will begin visiting other islands beginning tomorrow and had hoped to go to Volcanoes National Park as well. Sad for us 🙁

  13. I just flew den-iah and both airports are fine. And the KLM lounge in terminal D is much nicer than the united lounge 10 minutes away! Good French wine and real food.

  14. The Newseum is my favorite museum in DC, although it’s probably not great for young children since it requires a lot of reading. In the past they gave four free tickets to those who worked for news organizations. I’m not sure if that is still the case though.

    Also, if anyone’s traveling to DC, do some googling to find some furlough offers. There are a couple museums open for free today or offering discounts. Most require a government ID, but some discounts are for all visitors.

  15. Cruising for the first time ever this Saturday — selfishly, really hoping nothing impacts our family cruise. I am sorry for those who this shut down IS impacting. 🙁

  16. Jane S, there has been a gigantic green sea turtle hanging out in the Ulua lagoon at Ko Olina–bigger than the ones at Hanauma Bay recently. It’s in the left channel opening to the sea, not the rip tide one. It was there yesterday afternoon–don’t think the tea party has shut it down yet.

  17. Just to follow-up.

    No issues with CBP at ORD. GE was quick, as always. Lines for non citizens and US citizens weren’t too bad.

    The Thousands Standing Around were their usual selves.. Lines weren’t too bad, and I was through PreCheck fairly quickly.

  18. Your parents don’t need the government to approve their site seeing plans in Utah. They will see plenty with no interference. Getting back to the city is another story altogether.

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