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posted: 10/4/2013 6:00 AM

Oh, the places you can't go during federal shutdown

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  • A tourist reads a sign explaining the closing of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C., as a result of the partial shutdown of federal government.

      A tourist reads a sign explaining the closing of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C., as a result of the partial shutdown of federal government.


"We're supposed to be camping in Yosemite this weekend," complained my daughter, who has been laying out sleeping bags and cooking gear for the past two weeks. "Now it looks like we'll be camping in the backyard."

Apparently, her trip was canceled. Not because of bad weather, sick kids or flight problems. It's because of a canceled government. When the two houses played the proverbial game of chicken they both lost. And so did we.

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In the past, the airlines or the weather usually caused the problems. Back in the 1960s, when I was a flight attendant, several airlines went on strike and passengers were stranded all over the world. Two of my flying partners got stuck in Bermuda and decided to live there and commute after the strike ended.

Two passengers returning to New York after the strike had spent three weeks in Rome on the airline's nickel. They actually meant to fly to Puerto Rico but boarded the wrong flight. By the time they got to Rome, planes were grounded and so were they. They said it was the best vacation they ever had.

But this is different. The government assures us security at airports will stay at high alert and air traffic controllers will not be laid off. But it will still cause disruption.

Eighteen years ago when the government closed its doors during Bill Clinton's term, it lasted 21 days and cost the airlines and the travel industry millions of dollars.

Vacationers and the travel industry seem to be the most expendable in this year's crisis.

National parks, museums and monuments won't be open. So people planning trips to Washington, D.C., to visit the Smithsonian museums or the National Zoo might as well stay home. And say goodbye to that trip out to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island. Unless you want to swim with the fishes, don't even think about visiting Alcatraz.

Faced with such limitations, many travelers will cancel their vacation plans. The travel industry is bound to take a huge loss -- something travelers will pay for in the end.

If you happened to already be camping in Glacier National Park when the government shut down, you no doubt were given 48 hours to vacate the place. Of course if you were deep in the park, you probably don't even know the government shut the doors until you surface and find no rangers in sight.

Don't panic. Just head for the nearest airport, where it will be business as usual. So they say.

Gail Todd, a freelance writer, worked as a flight attendant for more than 30 years. She can be reached via email at

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