Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Crossing the Canadian Border with Kids

Getting there and...Waiting
If your planning a trip North to visit our good neighbors, the Canadians, be sure you're ready to cross the border.  If your crossing to Canada via I-5 in Western Washington you have two options for crossing - the Peace Arch or the Pacific Highway crossing also know as the "Truck Crossing", but don't let the name fool you, cars and other vehicles are welcome to use this crossing as well.  You will come up to an electronic display sign as you near your options.  Hopefully it will give you an accurate reading of the wait times at each crossing for you to choose which one to use.  When we arrived it stated 45min Peace Arch and 20min Pacific Highway crossing time.  We chose Pacific Hwy and it was probably more like a 30 minute wait, but still not too bad for a Saturday afternoon.  Many people have complained that the accuracy of the sign is off and a 90min wait can realistically lead to a 3hr wait, so just be prepared.

A typical border crossing can take an hour up to several hours depending on traffic and if you have any delays in having the pleasant opportunity of a random search.

Crossing with Kids
If your traveling with children, use this time for maybe a fun lesson on borders and the differences of Canada and the U.S.A and why we must stop to provide identification.  After stopping for the border my daughter quickly set up a lesson of her own asking many questions about Canada and why we had to go through security, etc.  So you may want to brush up on your Canadian/U.S. knowledge before taking the trip, your kids may put you on the spot as a History teacher!

Also take this time to explain that crossing is a serious time and once you get to the booth (or "policeman" as we described to our 6yr old) that being loud or saying anything without being asked is not appropriate.  I once crossed the border into Mexico with a group of teens and after one "jokingly" said he was from Mexico as we were entering back into the U.S, it quickly prompted a couple hour delay in our crossing.

Items you will need to Cross:
  • First and most importantly: Everyone's PASSPORT!  This is a new requirement within the last couple of years that you must have a Passport to cross to Canada, no matter how you get there.
  • If your a single parent, divorced or just crossing solo with the kids, get written permission from the other parent of your child to make crossing easier.
  • If your taking children that are not your own, you will definitely need written permission from the child's parents to cross. 
  • If your bringing your "other child" the family pet you will need signed and dated certificates from a veterinarian verifying that they have been vaccinated against rabies within the last three years
  • Knowledge of where your headed, why your headed there and how long you will be staying.  As the travel planner of the family I have to remind my husband before we pull up to the line what hotel we are staying at and how long.
Packing some Extra
Whether your expecting a long border crossing wait or not, consider your travel time and whether you could be held up during lunch or dinner time.  If lines are hours long you will be asked to turn off your vehicle while you wait, so pack some games or a lunch/dinner and get out of the car if it's nice.  Stay near by so once the line moves you can move along with it.  There is plenty of grassy area and bathrooms for your use while you wait. 

For more technical crossing information you can visit ShareThis


Traci said...

I can vouch for getting written permission if you're crossing without your spouse. I took the kids to Montreal last month to meet up with my husband, who was already there on business. Luckily, we had goten a notarized letter signed ahead of time. The border agent wanted to see it.

Amy @ The Q Family said...

Great info! Do they stamp your passport? I really want my passport stamp whenever I cross the border. :)

Travelers Barista said...

Good Question Amy! No, they did not stamp our passports and I'm not even sure if they keep stamps there for driving through, but it's definitely worth asking if you like to have them in your book. As much as I've traveled, I've actually never gotten a passport stamp. I think mostly because when going over seas to new countries I've gone mostly via cruise, which doesn't get you any passport stamps.

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