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Aug 272017
 

Labor Day is celebrated in both the U.S. and Canada and it creates a 3 day weekend for most people.  As a result, this is the first or second busiest border crossing period for the entire year at many ports.  Major ports can see wait times of 3 hours or more at various points in the long weekend.  Smaller ports could see 30 minute delays.  No matter when you leave, an accident or other road condition could have you sitting at a border crossing for quite some time.

Your Game Plan to Avoid the Heaviest Labor Day Traffic

  • Time your travel so you are outside the daily peak hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Simply put, leave early or late.
  • 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.
  • If you can hit the road on Thursday you will avoid the first part of the weekend traffic.
  • If you can return on Tuesday rather than Monday you will miss the worst of the traffic so long as you also avoid normal rush-hour commuters.
  • If possible, use a smaller alternative port rather than the major ports.
  • Be aware that traffic is especially heavy when it mixes with normal commuter traffic on Friday.
  • Some ports will open additional lanes at earlier times than usual. You should be prepared to move into lanes that might not normally be open.
  • Use NEXUS if everybody in the vehicle is a cardholder
  • Work at most construction sites will stop for the holiday but drivers should watch for shifted lanes, detours, and reduced-speed zones.

Prepare for your Border Crossing

One big tip – before you hit a long line at the border make sure you have a reasonably full tank of gas and that everyone in the car has used a restroom recently.

To reduce delays when you reach the border, make sure you are prepared by reviewing ezbordercrossing.com pages on the border crossing experienceprohibited items, and required documentation.  Have your crossing documents available for presentation and be prepared to declare all relevant items.

If there can be any silver lining to being stuck in line for hours at the border it might be that Canadian officers are frequently told to waive through travelers who owe duties on goods purchased in the U.S.  This is done to keep the line moving.  Obviously there is no guarantee this will happen and you are still required to declare all of your purchases.

Projected Peak Wait Times for the Labor Day Holiday

Every port will have it’s own traffic patterns and weather and road conditions also affect peak periods.  Here are some general rules:

  • About half of all drivers will be leaving on Friday and returning on Monday.
  • Friday vacationers will be competing for road space with commuters so make sure you avoid peak commute periods.
  • The Canadian Border Services Agency takes a stab at projecting the peak traffic periods entering Canada for a about a quarter of the border crossings. We have a link to those projections on our page titled Forecasted Canadian Border Wait Times.  You will need to select a port and then look through the list of holidays to find the Labour Day projections.

Increased Labor Day Police Activity

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.   Commercial vehicles will be subject to more stops than usual and there will be many more unmarked patrol cars and random roadside drunk driving stops.   Officers will be focusing on safety issues such as speeding, impaired driving,  texting while driving and seat-belt use.  Make sure you know if you are travelling in a province or state that requires hands-free cellphone use.

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.

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Dec 072015
 

The Christmas to New Years holiday period does not create the massive border backups that you see with other holidays.  However, that does not mean you will never get caught in a 2 hour queue.

Perhaps because holiday events spread out across a longer period, it is tougher to predict exactly when the longest delays will occur.  Instead, you will need to pay more attention to winter road conditions and current traffic to try to avoid the biggest backups.  You should also review our page with Projected Canadian Wait Times which shows the Canadian Border Service Administration’s estimates of the busiest times at some of the bigger ports.

As a general rule, the winter months of December, January and February are the lowest volume travel times of the year.   During the Christmas / New Years holidays, lots of people are on vacation so commute traffic is much lighter than normal.

On the other hand, travel to visit family will be significant.  As a general rule, you should expect that traffic could be heaviest just before Christmas and on the weekend following it.

Your Traffic Avoidance Game Plan

  •  As a general rule, traffic is lighter in the mornings and tends to build throughout the day.  As always, your best chance to avoid long border wait times is to arrive at the border before 7 am or after 8 pm.
  • If possible, use a smaller alternative border crossing rather than the major ports.
  • Use NEXUS if everybody in the vehicle is a cardholder
  • Always check out the current border wait times for the port you plan to use before hitting the road.
  • Winter driving conditions can change rapidly so you will want to keep an eye on our road conditions page as you near trip time.

Special Customs Inspection Tips

Being prepared can make a big difference in how quickly you get through the border inspection.

  • Be prepared to detail any gifts you are bringing with you and, on your return, those you have have received.  You may have to pay duty on gifts if they exceed your personal exemption. Bring gift receipts with you.  Read through our pages on “Clearing Customs” and “How Much You Will Owe.”  We  also have a Duty Calculator for Canadian residents.
  • Do not wrap your gifts!  The border inspection officer can make you unwrap them for inspection.  One thing you can try is to leave one end open for inspection, but it is better to wrap gifts when you arrive at your destination.
  • Prohibited Items – make sure you read through our material on  prohibited items.  During the holiday season border inspectors seizes higher quantities of foreign fruits, vegetables, meats and animal/plant products.  Fresh fruits and vegetables grown outside of the U.S. or Canada are typically prohibited.  However, even some Canadian and U.S. grown fruits and vegetables may not be allowed.  For example, Mandarin or “Christmas” oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit and pomelo cannot be brought into the U.S.  Failure to declare prohibited agriculture products or food items can result in fines up to $1,000 so be careful.
  • As you approach the border, make sure you have a reasonably full tank of gas and that everybody has used a restroom recently in case you get stuck in a long backup.
  • Prepare for your border crossing by reviewing ezbordercrossing.com pages on the border crossing experience, and required documentation.
  • Christmas trees – any tree you bring across the border will be closely inspected by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists at U.S. ports of entry.  You will be required to return the tree to Canada if they find harmful insects or pests.  You may also be required to get a certification from the grower that their trees conform with various rules before it is allowed across the border.  Your best bet is to call a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialist at the port you are planning to use before you head into Canada to make your purchase.  We have the telephone number for each U.S. port on the dedicated page for the border crossing.

Increased Police Arrests During the Christmas / New Years Holiday Season

It should come as no surprise that police activity is very heavy during the holiday season with special emphasis on drunk drivers.  This is true in both the U.S. and Canada – and at the border itself.  Do not arrive at the border intoxicated.  You may end up spending your holidays in jail.

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Oct 292015
 

The November 11th celebration of  Remembrance Day in Canada, and Veterans Day in the U.S.,  combine to create  longer delays at United States and Canadian border crossings. When the holidays fall on a Monday or Friday they create a three day weekend which increases traffic even more significantly.  If the 11th falls on the weekend, U.S. and Canada schedule an additional day off on either the Friday before the weekend or the Monday following it.

Remembrance Day is a statutory holiday in Alberta, British Columbia, and Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick, but not in Ontario or Quebec.   Traffic will therefore be heaviest in the U.S. states of Washington, Idaho, Montana, North DakotaMinnesota and Maine.

Veterans Day is not a national American holiday but all U.S. government offices are closed.  Because the  government is the largest U.S. employer, this frees up a lot of travel time.   Most U.S. employers do not provide a day off on Veterans Day  so commute traffic will be lighter than usual but still significant.

Projected Peak Wait Times for the Veterans and Remembrance Day Holiday

Because the holiday falls on different days of the week every year it is more difficult to predict traffic patterns.  When it creates a 3 or 4 day weekend you will generally find that traffic builds the afternoon before the holiday starts as commuters mix with those taking a long weekend vacation.  Similarly, traffic is heavy at the end of the weekend as everybody returns home.   Rain or snow will likely slow things down even more so keep your eye on the weather.

In some years, travelers at the Washington State ports of Peace ArchBlaine / Surrey Pacific HighwayLynden / Aldergrove, and Sumas / Huntingdon, reported delays of up to 3 1/2 hours for the holiday period.   The long holiday weekend may also create backups at ferry ports.

The Canadian Border Services Agency takes a stab at projecting the peak traffic periods entering Canada for a about a quarter of the border crossings. We have a link to those projections on our page titled Forecasted Canadian Border Wait Times.  You will need to select a port and then look through the list of holidays to find the Thanksgiving Day projections.

Remember that before heading out you should check current traffic conditions and border wait times for the port you are planning to use.

Your Game Plan to Avoid the Heaviest Remembrance and Veterans Day Traffic

  • Time your travel so you are outside the daily peak hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Simply put, leave early or late.
  • 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.
  • If you can leave the day before rest of the crowd, or return a day later, you will avoid the worst of the holiday traffic.
  • 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 additional lanes at earlier times than usual. You should be prepared to move into lanes that might not normally be open.
  • Use NEXUS if everybody in the vehicle is a cardholder
  • Work at most construction sites will stop for the holiday but drivers should watch for shifted lanes, detours, and reduced-speed zones.

Prepare for your Border Crossing

One big tip – before you hit a long line at the border make sure you have a reasonably full tank of gas and that everyone in the car has used a restroom recently.

To reduce delays when you reach the border, make sure you are prepared by reviewing ezbordercrossing.com pages on the border crossing experienceprohibited items, and required documentation.  Have your crossing documents available for presentation and be prepared to declare all relevant items.

If there can be any silver lining to being stuck in line for hours at the border it might be that Canadian officers are sometimes told to waive through travelers who owe duties on goods purchased in the U.S.  This is done to keep the line moving when it gets long.  Obviously there is no guarantee this will happen and you are still required to declare all of your purchases.

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Oct 072015
 

Traffic will be much heavier at the U.S. / Canadian border during Canada’s Thanksgiving holiday long weekend which occurs every year on  the second Monday in October.  This is earlier than the American Thanksgiving, but that Monday is also the American Columbus Day holiday.  Government workers are the main beneficiaries of Columbus Day but there are a lot of those so you will have heavier than usual traffic in both directions.

Because Canadian Thanksgiving is always on a Monday,  this 3 day weekend is a  favorite time for large numbers of  Canadians to come to the U.S. to visit friends or shop.   At some ports, this is the 3rd highest traffic weekend behind the 4th of July and Labor Day.  In general, traffic will be around 30% higher than normal.  You should expect delays as long as 2 hours at major border crossings.

Projected Peak Wait Times for the Canadian Thanksgiving Holiday

Every port will have it’s own traffic patterns, and weather and road conditions also affect peak periods.  Here are some general rules:

  • A large percentage of all drivers will be leaving on Friday and returning on Monday.
  •  The longest delays entering Canada will be towards the end of the holiday weekend when Canadians return home.  Both Sunday and Monday will be heavier than usual.
  • The Canadian Border Services Agency takes a stab at projecting the peak traffic periods entering Canada for a about a quarter of the border crossings. We have a link to those projections on our page titled Forecasted Canadian Border Wait Times.  You will need to select a port and then look through the list of holidays to find the Thanksgiving Day projections.
  • In Washington State, border traffic typically doubles on this weekend.  The Peace Arch and Pacific Highway crossings are always the busiest, while Lynden / Aldergrove and Sumas / Abbotsford tend to be less congested.

Your Game Plan to Avoid the Heaviest Canadian Thanksgiving Traffic

  • Time your travel so you are outside the daily peak hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Simply put, leave early or late.
  • 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.
  • If you can hit the road on Thursday you will avoid the first part of the weekend traffic.
  • If you can return on Tuesday rather than Monday you will miss the worst of the traffic so long as you also avoid normal rush-hour commuters.
  • If possible, use a smaller alternative port rather than the major ports.  For example, more than 3,200 travelers returned to Canada through the border crossing at Coutts on the Monday holiday, while just 1,600 travelers came back through at Carway, Alberta.  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 on Friday evening and morning and evening on Monday.
  • Some ports will open additional lanes at earlier times than usual. You should be prepared to move into lanes that might not normally be open.
  • Use NEXUS if everybody in the vehicle is a cardholder

Prepare for your Border Crossing

One big tip – before you hit a long line at the border make sure you have a reasonably full tank of gas and that everyone in the car has used a restroom recently.

To reduce delays when you reach the border, make sure you are prepared by reviewing ezbordercrossing.com pages on the border crossing experienceprohibited items, and required documentation.  Have your crossing documents available for presentation and be prepared to declare all relevant items.

If there can be any silver lining to being stuck in line for hours at the border it might be that Canadian officers are sometimes told to waive through travelers who owe duties on goods purchased in the U.S.  This is done to keep the line moving when it gets long.  Obviously there is no guarantee this will happen and you are still required to declare all of your purchases.

Increased Police Arrests During the Canadian Thanksgiving

You should also be aware that there will be heightened police activity throughout Canada during the entire holiday weekend.  “Operation Impact” is a coordinated effort between police agencies across Canada which targets the following offenses:

  • Drinking and Driving
  • Failure to wear seat belts – adults and children.
  • Aggressive Driving
  • Failure to use hands-free cellphones and texting while driving

Commercial vehicles will be subject to more stops than usual and there will be many more unmarked patrol cars and random roadside drunk driving stops.

Oct 022013
 

UPDATE ON THE U.S. SEQUESTRATION AND GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN:

Due to the enactment of a continuing resolution, U.S. federal government operations are re-opening after a 16 day shutdown. Employees are expected to return for work on their next regularly scheduled work day (Thursday, October 17th for most employees), absent other instructions from their employing agencies.

National parks are preparing to reopen but the process may not be complete on Thursday.   Although most should be operational to some extent, you may want to check before heading out to any U.S. national park or agency that they are ready for business.

Unfortunately, this may not be the last time a shutdown occurs.  The continuing resolution only extends the issue into next year and there is a chance this whole scenario could play out again if the U.S. Congress cannot begin to function like a governing body.  If you are making plans to travel to the U.S. in January, you should keep an eye on talk of repeating this debacle.  Potential for a new government shutdown comes around January 15th 2014.

 

ORIGINAL POST BELOW

What effect will the U.S. government shutdown have on border crossing operations between the U.S. and Canada?  For many people the impact will be minimal.  Travel into Canada shouldn’t be impacted.   Travel into the U.S. will be impacted in various aspects and the impact will grow the longer the shutdown goes.

U.S. government workers have been divided into 2 classifications – essential and non-essential.  Non-essential workers are being told to stay home and the operations they perform are being suspended.  The U.S. military and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol are considered essential services so border officers are still on the job.  In general, border crossing delays should be normal.

However, the shutdown will impact some travelers substantially.  In addition, the longer the shutdown lasts the greater the impact – including effects on essential services.    The last U.S. government shutdown lasted 27 days.  We will update this post with any new developments so check back if you are crossing the border or need to deal with customs or border crossing officials.

Travel Services Impacted the U.S. Government Shutdown

Parks and Attractions – All 368 of the U.S. national parks were initially closed during the shutdown. So will all some attractions that receive some federal funding.  Some parks have reopened with state funding but make sure you confirm yours is one of them before heading into the attraction.  The National Park Service has threatened anyone entering any of the national parks or national wildlife refuges with a $5,000 fine and jail time of up to six months.  As of Oct. 7, it is reported that 21 people have been issued citations for entering Grand Canyon National Park.

Tourist areas in the U.S. that are closed include:

  • The Statue of Liberty
  • Yosemite National Park and all other national parks
  • World War II and other memorials, along with about 45 fountains maintained by the National Park Service
  • Alcatraz
  • Smithsonian Institution National Zoo
  • The U.S. Capitol
  • Government-run museums on the National Mall
  • Even some sites overseas are affected – 24 military cemeteries overseas, including the Normandy American Cemetery, are currently closed.

Hunters and Fishermen – Many hunting and fishing locations are on federal lands and will be closed.

U.S. Passports & Entry Visas –  Applications by foreigners for entry visas may go unprocessed.  It appears that U.S. passports and work visas or green card applications will continue to be processed but support staff will be strained by related service shutdowns.  For example, services housed in a building that has been shut down may have difficulty operating.

Websites and Other U.S. Government Information Sources – Many U.S. government websites will go dark or no longer be updated with current information.  For example, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol website is not being maintained with any current information.  Tweets, Facebook pages, and other information sources are also likely to become out of date during the shutdown.

Guns –  Applications to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives will be delayed including gun permits.

Weather Reporting – Some non-essential NOAA and National Weather Service reporting channels will be shutdown or updated in a limited fashion.

By the way, trip cancellation insurance will not cover any losses caused by a government shutdown.

 

 

 

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