In the midst of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, travelers are being affected big time. We tapped into our network of experts to get the low-down on everything you need to know before you head off, and what you can do to make the journey as stress-free as possible.
1. You may experience longer airport wait times
While airlines themselves are privately owned (and thus can continue to operate), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) isn’t. In fact, TSA agents represent around 51,000 of the 800,000 total government workers who aren’t currently receiving a paycheck. As a result, many have been calling in sick—with the TSA confirming that they’re experiencing a national rate of 6.8% unscheduled absences (compared to 2.5% at this time last year).
Understaffed TSA checkpoints mean longer lines for passengers, with some airports (like Houston and Miami) going so far as to completely shut down certain checkpoints and terminals. Depending on the airport, TSA pre-check may be suspended as well.
What you can do:
Play it safe by getting to the airport earlier than usual (at least two hours before a domestic flight and three for international). And to expedite the security process, make sure you don’t have liquids over 3.4 ounces in your carry-on.
2. Some national parks may be affected
Here’s where it gets tricky. According to the National Parks Service website, 387 of its 737 parks, historic sites and national monuments are closed. However, the site also states that, for the duration of the shutdown, it will not be updated to reflect current conditions.
What we do know is that the big ones (think Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Acadia, Rocky Mountain, Death Valley) are, in fact, open. However, the chances of the campgrounds and visitor centers at these sites being closed is high. And because federally-employed park workers are on leave, many of the parks have succumbed to overflowing trash bins and neglected bathrooms.
And when it comes to museums, very few are funded by the federal government, so it’s safe to assume that they’ll be open during the shutdown—with a few notable exceptions. All of the Smithsonian museums and galleries (including the National Zoo) are closed.
What you can do:
To find out if a specific national park is open, search in Google for its individual page on the broader National Parks Service website. Usually, there will be a phone number listed.
Jetsetting with Journy? In that case, you can expect us to do all the heavy lifting for you, so there's no need to worry.
And if you do make it to a national park, be extra diligent about the “leave no trace” policy to keep things as clean as possible.
3. Global Entry applications are not being processed
If you’re hoping to apply for Global Entry—which allows for expedited clearance through customs after traveling abroad—you may not hear back for a while. Run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Global Entry program is not accepting applications or conducting interviews during the shutdown.
What you can do:
If you do have an interview scheduled, keep an eye out for a cancellation email. Didn’t get one? It’s best to reach out to your interview location to check the status before heading to the airport.
What hasn’t changed during the shutdown?
Passports can still be renewed in person or by mail at the usual places (post offices, passport agencies, libraries) with the same processing times (4-6 weeks for standard service and 2-3 for expedited).
And most importantly, you can still count on the fact that the safety of flying will not be compromised. Just take Michael Bilello’s word for it. Bilello, who works in an advisory role for TSA’s senior leadership, tweeted on January 11...
"Security standards have NOT and will NOT be compromised. TSA has and will continue to maintain security standards at our nation’s airports. #NotOnOurWatch"