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Everything Metro Vancouverites need to know about travelling over spring break

Find out what to know before you head to the airport, ferry terminal, or across the border.
Travellers should plan before taking flights from Vancouver, crossing the Canada-U.S. border, or using BC Ferries over spring break.

Metro Vancouverites planning to travel over spring break should brace for longer waits. 

Vancouver students will attend their last day in class on March 15 and return on April 2; the official break is from March 18 to March 28, according to the Vancouver School Board. The break is the same for students elsewhere in Metro Vancouver, such as Surrey, Langley, Burnaby and Delta.

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) expects 1.1 million passengers to visit the airport over the holiday break. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) advises travellers to expect longer-than-normal wait times. 

Find out everything you need to know about travelling over the busy holiday period, including taking flights or ferries or crossing the border.

What to do if you have a flight booked at the Vancouver airport 

Travellers should check weather conditions several days before their flight in their departure city and destination. If your flight is in North America, monitor major storms across the continent. 

If possible, booking a backup flight provides an option during peak travel times when cancellations are likely. Depending on the fare class you book, you can cancel the backup flight and use the credit for future travel. 

Always book travel insurance with trip interruption, trip cancellation, medical for over $5 million, and comprehensive baggage loss and delay. Read the fine print closely. 

Save time with Advance Declaration

The CBSA advises travellers to save time passing through customs by making an advance declaration in the ArriveCan app. The advance declaration is admissible at the following airports: Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Winnipeg, Halifax, Quebec City, Ottawa, Billy Bishop, Calgary and Edmonton.

Using the ArriveCan app cuts a traveller's time at a kiosk or eGate by up to 50 per cent, according to CBSA data.

The pandemic-introduced app is also useful for travellers who need to make a tight connection in another Canadian city on the way to Vancouver. For example, if your first stop is at Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYZ), you must go through customs in Toronto before flying to YVR. Filling out your information in the app in advance will allow you to move through a priority lane.

Travellers should also check in with their airline before heading to the airport. This will speed up the process of checking in once they arrive. 

YVR also offers several tips to help travellers save time at the airport.

Book your spot for security screening in advance

Consider using YVR EXPRESS to reserve your spot in security screening. The tool is available for those flying within Canada or to the U.S. and allows you to pre-book your spot up to 72 hours before your flight, even during peak holiday hours. 

Pack smart

Follow the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) baggage requirements. Remember: liquids, gels and aerosols still need to be in containers that are less than 100 millilitres, and be packaged into one transparent, closed, and resealable plastic bag under one litre. Avoid wrapping holiday gifts since contents may need to be inspected during the screening process for carry-on and checked baggage.

Use YVR's 'Journeys' tool 

YVR offers a tool that allows passengers to view a step-by-step guide through the airport based on their specific flight information. 

Parking at YVR or using other forms of transportation

There are a few different options available for air passengers looking to take advantage of long-term parking at YVR. All of them are priced based on convenience, meaning the faster you can get to the terminal from your car, the higher the cost of keeping your vehicle at the airport. Have a look at the pros and cons of these options.

Use your smartphone to speed up your time in line

Locals who plan to fly to the U.S. from Canada can submit their passport and customs declaration information through a free, secure app on their smartphone before they leave for a trip. It's called the U.S. Customer Customs Mobile Passport Control (MPC) app.

What to do if you plan to drive across the Canada-U.S. border

The CBSA recommends that travellers cross the border at non-peak hours, such as the early morning.

Travellers should expect delays throughout spring break but there will be times when wait times are higher, such as on the weekend. 

Check the border wait times web page before you leave

Travellers should check the U.S. border wait times well before they leave to see current conditions. Also, best to check the official CBSA Directory of Offices and Services for a port of entry’s hours of operation.

Have your travel documents handy

Whether travelling by land, air or water, you can help speed things up by coming prepared with your travel documents.

Recommendations for travelling with children

When travelling with children, it is recommended that the accompanying adult have a consent letter authorizing them to travel with the child. Border services officers are always watching for missing children. In the absence of the letter, officers may ask additional questions, to help them identify the relationship between the child and the accompanying adult. 

Know your exemption limits 

Canadian residents who purchase items outside the country should know their personal exemption limits. Use the CBSA duty and taxes estimator to help calculate your monies owed.

Leave the cannabis at home

Bringing cannabis across the border is a criminal offence.

The CBSA adds that "a medical prescription from a doctor does not count as Health Canada authorization."

Special forms for Fido (and other animal pals)

Anyone planning to bring a pet on holiday or import one back into the country must complete the requisite forms.  

What to do if you plan to sail with BC Ferries

BC Ferries says travellers should check the current conditions and all routes at a glance for the status of their sailing on the day of travel before they head out. 

The company also advises customers to book tickets early if they plan to travel during peak times, such as weekends and holidays. If they are flexible, travellers should sail on days with less traffic or at off-peak times.

Arrive early for your trip

BC Ferries recommends arriving at the terminal approximately 45-60 minutes before their scheduled departure. Walk-on passengers should arrive 45 minutes before their anticipated sailing. 

Ride-share, if possible

Customers are encouraged to carpool or travel as a foot passenger. Vehicle deck space fills up quickly.

Travel the coast car-free

Take public transit to and from major terminals. For schedule information, visit TransLink online.

Consider parking options

Parking lots at the major terminals fill up quickly during peak periods. If possible, choose public transit or arrange to be dropped off at the terminal to avoid traffic congestion.