All anyone can talk about right now, quite rightly, is the government shutdown. It’s all over the news, it’s all over social media, and it’s the topic of many a break room conversation. In the travel world, the reactions have seemed to swing back and forth between panic (National Parks shut down! Major attractions in D.C. shut down! Vacations ruined!) and indifference (The TSA’s still screening, flights are still happening, yawn). The heart of the matter, as is usually the case, lies somewhere in the middle.
We’ve received a number of calls from people who are concerned about potential disruptions or delays related to their travel documents. With some government buildings — and therefore, passport offices — closed indefinitely, there is a chance that filing an application for a new passport, or renewing your old one, could get stuck in red tape. However, for the majority of travelers, this shouldn’t be a significant issue. The State Department website contains current information on the status of passport and visa applications, which we encourage every concerned traveler to check regularly. At this writing, the site reflects no delays of any kind related to the processing of travel documents, which is good news for travelers.
However, it’s qualified good news at best, given all the potential frustrations the shutdown could cause. Yes, people can still travel, but it’s awfully annoying to spend time and money on a trip if pretty much everything you’d anticipated seeing is closed. And yes, flights are still taking off and landing with few disruptions, but some analysts are warning that if this goes on for much longer, things will begin to unravel for air travelers. And at the moment, there appears to be little cause for concern if you need to make arrangements for new or updated travel documents, but if your situation for some reason requires you to visit in person an office that simply isn’t open right now because of the shutdown, that could change things quite a bit. In other words, as seems to be the general status of all things at the moment: You Never Know. Things are changing all the time — workers being called back from furlough in some areas, while others who have been unaffected are now being sent home; funding streams for some programs and services reaching the end of their reserves; parks that are closed at the moment possibly poised to re-open if a private source of revenue can be approved to operate them.
There’s not much any of us can do, other than wait it out and stay informed. However, if you’ve newly planned a trip and have any concerns about the potentially changing landscape for travel in the coming weeks if the shutdown continues, you may want to look into getting a Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) policy to cover your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses. While a traditional travel insurance policy without CFAR coverage can’t offer much in the way of protection against shutdown-related disruptions to your trip, a CFAR policy could allow you to cancel your plans and recoup much of your investment if the airlines began to show strain, your preferred attractions and sites remained closed, or your documentation didn’t come through in time.
CFAR is only available from selected travel insurance providers, and it comes with a set of requirements — chiefly, you have to purchase your policy within 10-30 days of making your first payment on your trip, so at this point in time, it’s only an option for those who have recently booked their travel plans. In order to file a claim invoking your CFAR benefits, you also have to cancel your trip and notify all your travel suppliers at least 48 hours before you’re supposed to depart. However, if you meet these criteria, then CFAR is a viable solution for you in the event that the shutdown does take a turn towards ruining your trip.
Need more information about CFAR, or any other travel insurance product, for an upcoming trip? We recommend calling our licensed Customer Care Representatives to discuss the best options for you.