Jun 212016

You should be prepared for much heavier traffic at most border crossings between June 28th and July 8th.  During this 10 day stretch Canadians celebrate Canada Day and the War of 1812, while Americans get days off work for the 4th of July.   This is also the unofficial start of the summer vacation season when traffic volumes rise significantly.

Holiday Dates

  • Canada Day – Monday July 1st is a national day off.  Much like America’s Independence Day, Canada Day is celebrated across the country with fireworks, picnics and travel. Government offices and most businesses are closed for the day.
  • Fourth of July – Wednesday, July 4th with most people having a 4 day weekend.
  • War of 1812 Celebrations – Spread out over the entire weekend

Peak Wait Times

In general, the larger border crossings can see huge delays during this holiday period.  Border crossing in Washington such as Peace Arch and Pacific Highway frequently see backups of up to 2 hours.   New York ports such as the Lewiston Bridge and Peace Bridge have had delays of up to 3.5 hours in some years.

The Canadian Border Services Agency publishes estimated wait times for some of the major ports which will give you an idea of what you will encounter when entering Canada.

The Washington State Department of Transportation has some great charts showing traffic volume for Highway 5 during the Fourth of July period.   In addition, British Columbia has a tool which you can use to estimate traffic backups entering either the Washington State or British Columbia over these holidays.

Your Traffic Avoidance Game Plan

Make sure you are prepared for your border crossing by reviewing pages on the border crossing experienceprohibited items, and required documentation. You should always check our page for the specific port you are going to use to see if there are any traffic alerts or updates on wait times.

One other tip – before you hit a 2 hour line at the border make sure you have a reasonably full tank of gas and have used the restroom recently.

  • Your best chance to avoid traffic is to arrive at the border before 7 am or after 8 pm.  Simply put, leave early or late.   As a general rule, traffic is lighter in the mornings and tends to build throughout the day.
  • If possible, use a smaller alternative border crossing rather than the major ports.  Of course, smaller ports may have fewer lanes and officers so you will have to weigh your choices.
  • Be aware that traffic is especially heavy when it mixes with normal commuter traffic.
  • Some ports will open extra lanes at earlier times than usual. You should be prepared to move into lanes that might not normally be open.
  • Think about making an overnight stay to avoid fighting peak periods.
  • Use NEXUS if everybody in the vehicle is a cardholder
  • You will want to keep an eye on our road conditions page as you near trip time to make sure you know what you will face on the roads.
  • Work at most construction sites will stop for the holiday but drivers should watch for shifted lanes, detours, and reduced-speed zones.

Increased Canada Day / 4th of July Police Enforcement

You should also be aware that there will be heightened police activity in both Canada and the U.S. with special focus around the international border.   One initiative, called “Safety Without Borders,” will target traffic violations such as speeding, failure to wear seat belts, impaired driving and use of hand-held electronic devices on roads around border crossings in Ontario, Quebec, New York and Vermont.

Across both countries, you should expect to see an increased police presence including many more unmarked patrol cars and random roadside drunk driving stops.  The bottom line: drive safely, don’t drink and drive, no texting while driving, and make sure you know if you are travelling in a province or state that requires hands-free cellphone use.

Bringing Fireworks Across the U.S. Canadian Border

Simply put – you can’t bring fireworks across the border into either the U.S. or Canada unless you have an import permit.   Border inspection officers are always on the lookout for fireworks hidden in sleeping bags, trunks, and other places in the vehicle.

Ferry Service During the Holiday Period

Ferries will sell out their spaces on many routes during any holiday period.  If you don’t have a reservation you should get to the terminals good and early and expect to wait.