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 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.