May 192016

Victoria Day in Canada, and Memorial Day in the United States, are on two adjacent weekends and they bring much heavier traffic to the border crossings between the two countries for pretty much the entire period between the start and end of the May holidays.   Many resort destinations promote the Victoria Day Weekend as their official re-opening for the summer vacation season and develop special packages to entice travelers.  For many Canadian ports, Victoria Day is the heaviest traffic day of the year.

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 Traffic Avoidance Game Plan

  • 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
  • Always check out the current border wait times on before hitting the road.  You should also review our page with Projected Canadian Wait Times.
  • 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.

Heaviest Traffic Periods

In general, traffic entering the U.S. on the Victoria Day holiday is expected to peak on Saturday morning, while traffic heading back to Canada is expected to peak on Monday night.  The Blue Water bridge has seen traffic spikes of 80% during Canada’s Victoria Day.

Traffic for the U.S.  Memorial Day holiday will begin to build early Friday.  The heaviest traffic entering Canada should be on Friday and Saturday.  The biggest backups into the U.S. will likely appear on Monday.

Traffic Delays Entering the U.S. on Memorial Day

Peace Arch – Just because your GPS say to go straight up or down the I-5 Corridor you should give some thought to using the Pacific Highway Truck Crossing which is only a mile away and always has less wait time.

Peace Bridge and Queenston-Lewiston Bridge traffic typically backs up by more than an hour late on Monday afternoon.  The wait time for trucks entering the U.S. from Canada via the Peace Bridge typically reaches around 1½ hours.

The Rainbow Bridge delay tends to be shorter with 20 to 30 minute delays reported.

Delays are usually minimal at the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge.

Traffic Delays Entering Canada on Victoria Day

Below are past years advisories for Victoria Day issued by the Canadian Border Services Agency.  We cannot say if past trends will hold up, but these serve as a useful guide.  All of these peak periods are for traffic entering Canada.

For Frances – Peak traffic – between 2 p.m. and 6p.m. on Thursday and Friday when border wait times may exceed 30 minutes; and between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Monday, when border wait times may exceed 45 minutes.

Pigeon River – Victoria Day weekend marks the start of the fishing season in Northwestern Ontario, which means there are likely many people from the United States who will be headed to Canada.  Peak traffic –  Friday evening, and on Saturday morning.  Also between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday,  and between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Monday , when border wait times may exceed 30 minutes.

Baudette / Rainy River – Peak traffic  – Thursday and Friday between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Sault Ste. Marie – Victoria Day peak traffic volumes are anticipated to be between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday, May 17, between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, and between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Monday, May 20, when border wait times may exceed 45 minutes.

Thousand Islands Bridge – This port typically has the heaviest traffic of all border crossings in this area.  Peak traffic is anticipated between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, when border wait times could exceed 30 minutes. On Victoria Day Monday between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m., border wait times could exceed 60 minutes.

Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge –  This has been a decent alternative to the Thousand Islands Bridge.  Delays are  expected between noon and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Seaway Bridge – Victoria Day weekend peak traffic volumes are anticipated between 3 and 7 p.m. on Sunday and 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Monday.

North Portal – Peak traffic volumes are generally between 2pm and 6pm over these 2 holidays with Monday being the heaviest day over the Victoria Day weekend.

Increased Holiday Police Enforcement

Police across Canada and the U.S. will be out in force to target unsafe driving this entire 2 week period.  Canada kicks off “Road Safety Week” and many American jurisdictions match this with  “Operation C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) and the nation-wide two-week “Click It or Ticket” safety mobilization.  You should expect to see an increase police presence including many more unmarked patrol cars and random roadside drunk driving stops.   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.

Ferry Service

Ferry services will experience heavier use during these holiday weekends.   You should consider making advance reservations, or plan to show up about an hour before departure time. Foot passengers should be at the terminal about 40 minutes ahead of departure.