Thursday, February 24, 2011

The "Big Picture" and How It Will Affect Travel

Yesterday, I blogged about the price of gas and how it would impact travel costs in the coming months. Today, the New York Times chimed in on the topic, noting that we've already seen four airfare hikes since the beginning of the year. That compares poorly with last year's record: only three over the course of the entire year. Many airlines are adding peak season surcharges and fuel surcharges.

And just like I did, the Times is predicting the fares will only go higher. They really have no choice: the cost of gas now accounts for 40% of the airlines' expenses. Last year, it was just 30%.

 Yosemite viewing areas could close in March (photo by D.K)
The Upcoming US Government Shutdown

Travelers heading to or staying within the United States may be in for a rude shock if congress is unable to pass the requisite funding measures necessary to keep the government operational after March 4 (the date the current measures expire. The last time the government had to shut down, in 2005 and 2006, National Park employees got a defacto furlough and 386 NPS sites shuttered. According to a report by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, some 7 million vacationers had to be turned away.

The New York Times quotes a Park Ranger who was forced to clear out visitors from the campgrounds at the Great Smokey Mountains National Parks, ruining their vacations. ""I was cursed and verbally abused more on that one day then in the rest of my 32-year career," he said. "No one told the public not to come to the most-visited National Park Service area during the fall color season. What they found were no campsites, no visitor centers, no park ranger programs, and most importantly, no restrooms."

And remember: the NPS isn't just in charge of the big parks, like Yellowstone and Yosemite. When the government closes, many very important urban attractions will also have to lock their entrance gates, like the Statue of Liberty, the visitor centers at the memorials on National Mall in Washington, DC and Alcatraz in San Francisco (to name just a few).

Sorry to be the bearer of such bad tidings. But forewarned in this case is forearmed. If you're planning a National Parks vacation for early March, please be sure to also concoct a back-up plan should the park be forced to close down.

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