What does a US government shutdown mean for your travel?

With no deal struck last night the US government is currently operating in a “shutdown” state. The good(ish) news is that it isn’t really shut down. There are still a massive number of people working to keep critical systems operating.

For most travelers the impact will be minimal. Air traffic control is operating. So are border services and the TSA. They’re not currently being paid for that work; eventually they (almost certainly) will, but it still sucks.

The NTSB’s critical operations are running but the group cannot tell anyone about its efforts because the communications team is considered non-essential.

The State Department appears to still be providing passport and visa services, though exactly to what level remains unclear.

At this time, scheduled passport and visa services in the United States and at our posts overseas will continue during the lapse in appropriations as the situation permits.

This is better news than expected, especially if a traveler requires an emergency passport replacement overseas. At the same time, State is not accepting new passport applications at the DC Travel Show this weekend as previously planned so who knows what the pace of that processing really is. And once things start up again assume a backlog will need to be cleared.

Other consular services will be extremely limited or non-existent. For US citizens overseas this is a particularly bad time to find yourself in trouble.

National Parks might be open but without any staff on hand. For some locations that’s not a huge deal. For others it is a far more risky proposition. Now is probably not a great time to head off-trail into the back country for exploration.

And, at least for this weekend, the Smithsonian and National Zoo in Washington, DC are supposed to be open. They’ll close on Monday, assuming Congress hasn’t bothered to fix its mess by then.

Seeing longer lines? Did the shutdown affect your travels? Let me know!

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


    1. Last one was 2013. But each agency is responsible for managing the process. This time around it seems most didn’t bother with such preparations.

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