How Might A Government Shutdown Affect Travel?

Flickr user Nick Papakyriazis

With the House Republicans and virtually everyone else in government refusing to play nice, it appears the U.S. might be headed toward another costly shutdown. How might this affect the travel industry?

First, if you’re planning to visit Yosemite or any other national park, start making other vacation plans. A government shutdown means all national parks, government-owned museums like the Smithsonian and other attractions will be closed. All employees considered non-essential –- which, if you’ve ever spent any time with a Park Ranger, you know that’s a complete lie -– will be furloughed and not paid during any shutdown.

This is a massive blow to not only travelers, but the folks whose livelihoods depend on those travelers, like the diner waitresses near the National Zoo or the hotel owners throughout Acadia National Park. According to the Christian Science Monitor, during the 26-day government shutdown in 1995 and 1996, the closure of those sites meant a net loss of 9 million visitors and untold millions in lost revenue to the surrounding communities.

While passport workers will likely remain on duty, expect rampant delays. During the last shutdown, more than 200,000 passport applications went unprocessed. Tens of thousands of entry visas for foreign travel also went unprocessed each day.

Air-traffic controllers and Homeland Security personnel should remain on the job, but it’s not known if a potential shutdown will affect their jobs in other ways.

The Ultimate Breaking Bad Road Trip

Benjamin Goddard Photography

This post references events from the series finale of Breaking Bad. If you haven’t yet seen the episode, don’t read any further.*****

During last night’s Breaking Bad series finale, Walter White drives a stolen Volvo nearly 3,000 miles from New Hampshire to New Mexico.

Although he’s estranged from nearly everyone in his life at this point, under different circumstances the cross-country trek would have made for an excellent family road trip, filled with fun for the whole extended White/Schrader clan. So gas up the RV and hit the road with this Breaking Bad-inspired road trip, bitch.

First up is a stop at the Herkimer Diamond Mine in Herkimer, New York, where Hank could search for rocks — ahem, I mean minerals — to his heart’s content. Alas, the mine’s name is a bit of a misnomer, you’re actually much more apt to find cheap quartz crystals than actual diamonds. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for children.

Marie would love a visit to the Lambert Castle Museum in Paterson, New Jersey, where she can take in the world’s largest collection of antique and souvenir spoons. The 5,400 spoons come from as far away as Egypt and Holland and are extremely rare, so please refrain from slipping one discreetly in your purse.

No Breaking Bad-inspired cross-country trek would be complete without a visit to the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Walter White could spend hours visiting the various exhibits, including the aptly titled Sensing Change and Making Modernity. Asking how to properly cook blue sky is frowned upon though. Admission is free.

Before entering the museum, be sure to swing by Hats in the Belfry on South Street to pick up your own black porkpie hat and shades.

By this time, Walt, Jr. would have probably worked himself up quite an appetite. Flynn, a true breakfast aficionado, would appreciate Papa’s Pancake House in Indianapolis. Order the eggs, hashbrowns and bacon, and if it’s your birthday, don’t forget to spell out your age with the fried pig meat.

(Papa’s fried chicken is pretty good as well, but perhaps not as tasty as Twisters in Alburqurque, which served as Los Pollos Hermanos’ stand-in.)

There can be such a thing as too much family time, so Skyler might want to get in some more pool time. The Joule Hotel in Dallas, Texas, features an incredible rooftop infinity pool that sticks out eight feet from the building’s exterior.

What would you add? Where do you think would Jesse go? Where would Saul want to visit? After the road trip, who would head straight to Belize?

The End Of 'Breaking Bad'

Man Steals Bus, Drives Around Airport Tarmac

Flickr user caribb

Perhaps wanting to relive one of the most climatic moments from the movie “Speed,” a Texas man allegedly stole an airport bus and drove it around the tarmac this weekend.

Police say David Cooper Thurmond snuck onto the Easterwood Airport runway early Saturday morning, stole the 22-person passenger transport and drove it around for an undisclosed amount of time before he was confronted by airport staff. Homeland Security probably won’t be relieved to know Thurmond was apparently able to enter the airport through an unlocked pedestrian gate on the south side of the general aviation terminal.
Thurmond may have been attempting another sort of joyride; after police arrived, it was determined the seal on an American Eagle passenger plane had been broken, causing a three-hour delay later that day.

After his arrest, Thurmond was charged with assault, criminal trespassing and theft greater than $20,000 but less than $100,000.

News reports have yet to disclose if the 54-year-old Texan was intoxicated or otherwise under the influence at the time. Anyone willing to place a wager on this?

Homeless Man Turns in Bag of $40,000+, Prevents Massive TripFail

Flickr user Phossil

Talk about a Good Samaritan.

Although reportedly homeless and needing money, an unidentified Boston man turned over a backpack filled with more than $40,000 in cash and travelers checks this weekend. After finding the bag near the South Bay Mall, the man flagged down a passing police officer to give him the backpack.

A Chinese national had reported the bag, which also contained his passport and other identifying papers, missing earlier in the day at a Best Buy store and later claimed it from police. There’s no word yet if the unnamed do-gooder was offered a reward.

It’s a safe bet the man’s trip was saved by this act of honesty and kindness. Has your vacation to a foreign country ever been saved with the help of a total stranger?

Rampant Airport Delays Lead to Violence in China

Flickr user gomattolson

Although the number of airline passengers has skyrocketed over the past decade, China’s infrastructure has been unable to keep the pace. And as the number of delayed flights have risen, so too have the accounts of passenger brawls and acts of civil disobedience.

The problem has gotten so bad, the employees of at least one Hong Kong airline are learning kung fu as self defense.

Beijing Capital International is the worst airport for on-time departures, with an average delay of nearly 90 minutes. Another Chinese airport, Shanghai Pudong International, ranks fourth on that same list. Fewer than 30 percent of flights leaving Beijing airport are on time.

China plans to invest $230 billion to build 55 new airports in the coming decades, including a second in Beijing that will become the world’s largest when completed. But that’s little solace to the passengers who are constantly bumped from their flights now.For more than a year, passengers — mostly Chinese, but some American and other nationalities — have routinely acted out against airline staff. A three-day and multiple cancellation delay for a 2012 United flight from Shanghai to Newark led to frazzled nerves and fisticuffs. After baggage personnel were caught manhandling travelers’ luggage, they were attacked and beaten by passengers. After the passengers were finally able to make it to their destination, they received $1,000 vouchers for a future United flight, although no one seemed to be in a hurry to use it.

Also in 2012, 20 or so angry passengers angered by a 16-hour flight delay, stormed the Shanghai runway, narrowly missing an oncoming plane. In July of this year, 30 other irate passengers stormed a runway in Nanchang after a seven-hour delay. The Shanghai passengers would later receive about $160 in compensation from the offending airline.

With no end in sight to delays, the problems seem to be worsening — more than 26 fights were broken up at Chinese airports between May and August of this year. Some of these brawls have sent airport employees to the hospital with severe injuries.

Luckily there have been peaceful protests as well. Last year a group of stranded passengers took over the public announcement system to sing songs after airline staff deserted the terminal.