Traveling families hoping to visit a national park, tour a Smithsonian museum, or ogle the new panda cub at the National Zoo are out of luck until Congress finds a way to fully fund the federal government.
Those federal sites are just a few of the places that are closed beginning today in the wake of the Republicans and Democrats fighting over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act—known more widely as ObamaCare—that was passed three years ago. The online marketplaces where individuals can buy insurance under the new health care law opened on Oct. 1, the same day all of those other federal sites closed for lack of funding.
Passport Processing Continues
Luckily for me and my 17-year-old daughter, it appears that workers who process passport requests are not affected by the federal government shutdown. We’re planning to join a Royal Caribbean cruise in November, but her passport is expired. We have applied for a new one and I am biting my nails hoping it arrives in time.
According to a report from NBC.com, when the federal government was last shutdown in a political feud 17 years ago, some 200,000 U.S. passport applications went unprocessed. But, the Bureau of Consular Affairs is now funded by fees rather than appropriated funds, so it will continue to operate, NBC Washington reports.
So my daughter’s passport application should be in process and, because the Post Office is still operating, should arrive in time for us to sail away. However, if you are about to apply for a passport, check the office before you head over. Some State Department passport offices are located in federal buildings that may be closed because of the federal government shutdown
Other Travel Impacts of Federal Government Shutdown
The skies will stay safe since air traffic controllers and most TSA airline security agents are not a part of the furlough.
If you’re headed to Washington D.C., you can still ride the very efficient Metrorail and Metrobus public transit systems. You just won’t be able to get into any of the museums, the Capitol or federal government attractions once you get off the train or bus.
If you’re headed to a hurricane zone, you’ll also get fair warning of nasty weather since all National Weather Service offices will continue operating.
What Travelers Cannot Do During a Federal Government Shutdown
According to NBC, travelers will not be able to:
- Camp in a national park: All national parks — from Yosemite to Shenandoah National Park — will close, and day visitors will have to leave immediately. (But longer-term campers already in parks will have two days to leave.)
- Visit a Civil War Battlefield: Like national parks, historic battlefields will be closed.
- Watch the Zoo’s Panda Cam: The National Zoo’s first panda cub in years was a cause for celebration around the region, and huge numbers of fans have flocked to the Panda Cam since the cub’s birth in August.
- Visit the monuments: D.C.’s monuments are under control of the National Park Service, which means tourists wouldn’t get to visit sites such as the Lincoln, World War II or Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorials. The NPS will begin turning off fountains and blocking entrances early Tuesday in the event of a shutdown.