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 experience, prohibited 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.