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How Would A Government Shutdown Affect Travel?

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With the government heading perilously close to a budget impasse, and whispers of a government shutdown growing louder, travelers may be wondering what, impact if any, such a shutdown would have on travel. With a little more than a week to go before a potential shutdown on March 5, it’s worth taking a look at the ways in which travel could be affected.

  • Airport Security: It’s hard to imagine the TSA simply ceasing its activities. Regardless of your opinion of the TSA itself, airport security is one of those vital federal programs that will continue operating in the event of a shutdown. The only question is whether it will run at 100 percent, or scale back somewhat due to the budgetary situation. The TSA declined to comment on specifics for this story. My sense is that things will be more or less normal. In short, don’t think this will get you out of a patdown.
  • National Parks and other Federal Sites: During the 1995-96 shutdown, many national parks, monuments, and other federally managed sites closed their doors to visitors. So if you’re planning a visit to the Grand Canyon or Washington Monument early next month, be prepared to find it closed if the government does indeed shutdown for any length of time.
  • Passports: Passport services ceased during the last shutdown, and since passport processing doesn’t fall into the “essential government function” category, the same would likely be true in the event of another shutdown. Travelers who will need a passport soon may want to apply for an expedited passport in the coming days. Otherwise, the backlog following a shutdown could create long wait times for new applications. The State Department, like the TSA, declined to comment on specifics.

I happen to be traveling in the near future, so you can bet I’ll be keeping an eye on developments surrounding the potential shutdown, and even more so on the possible consequences relating to travel.

Readers, were you on the road during the 1995-96 shutdown? Any tips based on your own experiences?

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