Lonely Planet Writer

Will the US government shutdown affect your travel plans?

Unless you’re marooned on a blissfully wifi-free island, you won’t have failed to notice the headlines about the US government shutdown over the past few days. But what does it mean for travellers in the States, and should you change your plans?

Arches National Park is just one of the popular travel destinations affected by the shutdown. Image by Mike Nielsen. CC BY-SA 2.0.

What’s going on?

This week, the US government began a partial shutdown after failing to agree a budget. Hundreds of thousands of government staff have been told to stay at home, meaning that federal buildings and services, museums and National Parks have shut their doors.

Which tourist sites are affected?

Tourist sites from war memorials to National Parks are closed for business until further notice. A few of the most popular US attractions reported to be shut include:

  • Yellowstone National Park - and all other US National Parks.
  • The Statue of Liberty.
  • Smithsonian museums.
  • Lincoln Memorial.
  • Alcatraz.

Make sure you check the official website of your chosen destination before you travel there.

Travellers hoping to visit American military cemetery sites outside the US may also find their plans disrupted. Twenty-four military cemeteries overseas, including the Normandy American Cemetery, are currently closed.

What about transport?

Border control, immigration, air traffic control and airport security staff are considered essential, so these services are still operating. Travellers should have no trouble completing their flight itineraries into and around the USA. Likewise, rail networks aren’t experiencing disruption so travellers can still embark on train trips.

Should I change my travel plans?

Travellers with their hearts set on hiking through Arches National Park or finally visiting the Statue of Liberty may be disappointed if their time in the USA is short - there’s no sign yet how long the shutdown will continue. Travellers with flexible itineraries might want to consider staying a little longer in the States to be in with a chance of seeing their dream sights.

But don’t assume your chosen site will be shut. For example, monuments and parks owned by individual states (such as in California) are open for business – so take a look at their website to find out if you can visit. And states are rushing to persuade travellers that there’s still plenty to see outside the federally run sites (check out these great recommendations from the states of Utah and Arizona).

If you find yourself wandering aimlessly between chained gates and ‘museum closed’ signs, check out our USA page for some inspiration. And check in with how other travellers are handling the shutdown on our Thorn Tree forum.

Free downloads for travellers

To help those whose travel plans may be affected, we've made our National Parks, Washington DC and USA planning chapters available as free PDF downloads. Our National Parks and Washington DC guides contain helpful information on what to do in the area, making it a great resource for those who planned a trip to those National Parks or Washington DC but can't access the areas or sights they planned to visit. The USA planning chapter will also come in handy in giving alternative ideas of what else to do in the USA.

Snap up your free PDF downloads any time from now until Sunday October 6 at 23:59PST.