Will the Government Shut Down Your Upcoming Trip?

Jan 16, 2019

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During the winter months, many travelers book travel to take advantage of “low season” discounts. But the government shutdown has prevented some of those plans from happening.

Travelers who bought airfare or planned a trip to a national park could now be out of time and money, left only with questions about their next steps.

Can the government shutdown affect your upcoming trip? In many situations, you already have safeguards in place.

Will I miss my flight because of the government shutdown?

The effects of the shutdown are taking a toll on airports and airlines. From Jan. 11 - 14, 2019, Miami International Airport closed one concourse due to a lack of security personnel. Meanwhile, American Airlines is waiting to add two brand-new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft to their fleet because the FAA can’t grant clearance for commercial operation.

Although nearly every part of America’s aviation infrastructure is affected by the government shutdown, the flying public isn’t necessarily seeing them. Airports remain open, while Transportation Security Administration agents and air traffic controllers remain on the job because they are considered “essential personnel.”

If you are planning to fly in the coming weeks, be sure to arrive at the airport early to make it through the security line. Downloading the MyTSA app can help you estimate how long lines are, allowing you to plan for when to arrive at the airport.

What happens if I miss my flight because of long TSA lines?

Because the airlines’ operations are overall unaffected by the government shutdown, they are not offering any waivers or complimentary flight changes due to long lines or terminal closures. If you do miss your flight because of a long line, however, you may still be able to get to your final destination.

Many airlines have an unpublished policy informally called the “two-hour rule,” or the “flat tire rule.” Under this policy, travelers who miss their flight but arrive at the airport within two hours of the departure time can be booked on the next available flight, unless it is the last flight of the night.

If you are concerned you may miss your flight due to excruciatingly long lines, talk to your airline for guidance on when to arrive at the airport. And if your flight takes off while you are still waiting at the security checkpoint, talk to any gate agent or call your airline for assistance. You may be able to rebook your flight for free, with very little difficulty.

What is closed during a government shutdown?

As long as the government shutdown continues, you may be forced to reconsider your plans. Many tourist attractions are closed because of a lack of funding, meaning your vacation could be derailed before it even begins.

Many national parks are closed during the government shutdown, including some museums, battle monuments and federal government buildings. Those that remain open are running with limited services, meaning campgrounds, restrooms and trash services may not be open/functional. In addition, the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are closed to the public during this government shutdown because of a lack of funding.

Before you leave home, you can check if your national park is open at the National Park Service website. If it is closed, it could be time to consider alternative options.

What stays open during a government shutdown?

Despite the event name, not all government functions are closed during a government shutdown. State, county, local and privately-operated campgrounds, libraries, monuments, museums and parks remain open during the federal government shutdown.

The downside is because of the government shutdown, you may not be the only one seeking these attractions. As a result, events and accommodations could be sold out while attractions could be overcrowded. Before you make alternative plans, be sure to call ahead to ensure you can get in. Otherwise, a trip in disappointment could get even worse.

Does travel insurance cover canceled plans because of a government shutdown?

When travel is canceled or interrupted, many travelers start asking if travel insurance covers their situation. Instead of an afterthought, travelers should find out if their concerns are covered to begin with.

In the event of a government shutdown, travelers may not have trip cancellation or trip delay benefits. For example: the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers coverage for many unforeseen situations, including “severe weather, which prevents a reasonable and prudent person from beginning or continuing on a covered trip; change in military orders for you, your spouse, or your domestic partner; [or] a terrorist action of hijacking.” A government shutdown isn’t listed as being covered.

Before purchasing or continuing on any trip, be sure to read your travel insurance benefit guide. Certain situations may qualify for coverage – including a government shutdown.

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