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Mar 212017
 

The long Easter weekend is celebrated in both the United States and Canada, producing much higher travel volumes at most border crossings between the countries.  Generally speaking, the delays entering the U.S. are longer than the delays entering Canada.

Make sure you are prepared for your border crossing by reviewing ezbordercrossing.com 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.

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.  Do not try to bring any Kinder Surprise eggs into the United States.   U.S. Customs considers these chocolate treats a dangerous choking threat because of the small plastic toy inside.  U.S. Customs will typically confiscate more than 60,000 Kinder Eggs every Easter.

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.
  • Some ports will open additional lanes at earlier times than usual.  For example, the U.S. CBP has typically opened up all lanes at Peace arch starting at 6:oo am on Good Friday.
  • 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.
  • Think about making an overnight stay on Thursday or returning mid-day Monday to avoid fighting peak periods.
  • Use NEXUS if everybody in the vehicle is a cardholder
  • Always check out the current border wait times on ezbordercrossing.com 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.
  • Work at most construction sites will stop for the holiday but drivers should watch for shifted lanes, detours, and reduced-speed zones.
  • Customs typically opens all available lanes and adds staff to handle the heavy traffic over the weekend.  You should be prepared to move into lanes that might not normally be open.

Peak Easter Weekend Traffic Periods

Many Canadians have either 3 or 4 day holidays depending on which province they reside in.   Many businesses are closed on Good Friday that is the start of the heavy traffic.   Noon on Friday is the peak for many ports but traffic will be much heavier than usual throughout the entire weekend and on Monday.

Thousand Islands Bridge in New York has seen vehicles backed up to Highway 401.  Travelers entering the U.S.  have had to wait up to two hours Friday and Saturday because of heavy southbound traffic from Canada.

Lewiston-Queenston bridge – at times on Friday mornings and afternoons wait times into the U.S. have been up to 2 1/2 hours.

The Peace Bridge and Rainbow Bridge have seen wait times of up to 1 1/2 hours on Good Friday.   There are fewer delay heading into Canada than into the U.S.

In the New York Niagara Area your best bet is generally to use the Whirlpool Bridge if all passengers have a NEXUS card. Second choice is usually the Rainbow bridge.

Major ports such as Peace Arch in Washington State have traditionally experienced peak wait times longer than 3 hours.  The Peace Arch and the Blaine Pacific Truck Crossing are typically the busiest border crossings in Washington State. Consider using the Lynden / Aldergrove or Sumas / Abbotsford-Huntingdon ports.   In past years, travelers waited more than three hours and 20 minutes at noon on Good Friday at Peace Arch.   However, as wait times at the Peace Arch and Pacific crossings decreased during the day, they got longer at Lynden and Sumas.  These smaller ports have fewer lanes.

Special Law Enforcement

Many border states step up law enforcement over long weekends such as these.  Police  in New York, Ontario, and Quebec will coordinate an extensive traffic enforcement initiative called “Safety Without Borders” all around the U.S. / Canada border.  They will be focusing on violations such as speeding, cell phone use, texting, impaired driving, and  failure to wear safety restraints.  In prior years, this enforcement program has issued more than 1,100 tickets in a single day.  There will be special attention around the New York ports in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Thousand Islands, and Blackpool / Champlain.  Commercial vehicles will also be subject to heightened inspection activity to ensure they are in proper working order.

Ferry Service

Ferry services also experience heavier traffic during the Easter holidays.  Washington BC Ferries have traditionally been busy on Good Friday, with delays reported throughout the day.  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.

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