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Everything Metro Vancouverites need to know about spring break travel

Here's what you need to know if you plan on flying or driving anywhere over the popular travel time.
What you need to know about travelling across the Canada-U.S. border, at the YVR airport, and sailing with BC Ferries over spring break 2023.

Metro Vancouverites who plan to travel over March break will want to keep several things in mind. 

Travellers face longer waits in airports, at the border, at ferry terminals, and on major highways across the province from roughly March 18 to March 29.

The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) has released a list of tips for people who plan to cross the Canada-U.S. border over the popular travel time, advising them to plan their trip in advance of travel.

Tips for smoother spring break 2023 travel

Check border wait times and other ports of entry.

  • Border wait times are updated hourly, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Find out the most recent wait time information online
  • The CBSA encourages travellers to travel during non-peak times, such as early in the morning, to avoid long waits. Additionally, Mondays during holiday long weekends tend to be the busiest. 

Have your travel documents ready. 

  • Whether you travel by air, land, or water, having your travel documents ready to show a border services officer will expedite this process. It may help to have them together in a small bag or travel envelope that you can easily access at security checkpoints.

Use ArriveCAN to fill out your CBSA declaration in advance. 

  • Travellers who arrive at YVR or Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYZ), Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL), Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport (YWG), Halifax Stanfield International Airport (YHZ), Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB), Ottawa International Airport (YOW), Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ), or Calgary International Airport (YYC) can make their customs and immigration declaration to the CBSA before they arrive via the ArriveCAN app.
  • Travellers who do this can use the express lanes to get to an airport kiosk or eGate faster.
  • Find out more information about how to use the feature with our guide.

Considerations for travelling with children. 

  • An accompanying adult should have a consent letter that authorizes them to travel with the child if they share custody or are not the parent or legal guardian.
  • Border services officers watch for missing children. In the absence of the letter, they may ask additional questions.

"Cannabis: Don't bring it in. Don't take it out."

  • While it is legal in Canada, bringing any form across the border is illegal. This includes oils containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD), without a permit or exemption authorized by Health Canada.
  • People who are caught with cannabis crossing the border are subject to arrest and prosecution. The CBSA notes that "a medical prescription from a doctor does not count as Health Canada authorization."

Know your exemption limits.

Be prepared to declare. 

  • All travellers must declare their goods upon entry into Canada. You should have your receipts on hand for goods purchased or received while outside of the country.
  • If you travel with firearms, consult the CBSA's website for the rules on firearms and other restricted and prohibited goods.

Avoid importing raw poultry products or by-products. 

  • There are currently restrictions on imports of live birds, bird products and by-products from U.S. states affected by Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.
  • Canadians should avoid bringing poultry products into the country. It is not recommended to bring poultry products into Canada. Otherwise, be prepared to prove the origin of your poultry product at the border.

Travelling with pets or importing them into Canada

  • Whether you plan on travelling with your furry or scaly best pal or importing one into Canada, you need to fill out the right paperwork at the border to meet Canada's import requirements.
  • The CBSA says the best way to save time is "to be open and honest with the CBSA officer  If you are not sure about what to declare, don't hesitate to ask."

Tips for taking Vancouver flights at YVR

Air passengers can do several things in advance of travel to save time at the airport.

  • Travellers are encouraged to check flight details with YVR online or with their airline before arriving. By checking in before you arrive, you can avoid lining up to get your boarding pass and it will appear on your smart device. You may also print off a copy.
  • Travellers to the United States can also "skip the line" by reserving a time slot via the new YVR Express program. You may reserve a spot up to 72 hours in advance. 
  • YVR advises travellers to arrive at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before U.S. and international ones. However, you should give yourself more time — and more time on your commute to the airport — during inclement weather.
  • If you are driving, be sure to pre-book your parking. To avoid the roads, consider taking the convenient Canada Line, which will take you directly to the airport from downtown Vancouver in 30 minutes. 

If you haven't booked your March break vacation yet, consider that flights are unlikely to decrease at this time. There are only a couple of weeks to go, so if you see a lower price, book it now. If you don't have to travel during spring break, it will likely be worth waiting until afterwards when ticket prices fall back down. 

Tips for sailing with BC Ferries 

On the day of your sailing with BC Ferries, check Current Conditions and All Routes at a Glance for the status of your sailing. You can also monitor @BCFerries on Twitter for regular updates.

  • Book your travel in advance to avoid the possibility of sailing waits during peak travel times
  • Consider public transport if road conditions are poor
  • Give yourself extra time to get to the terminal and check in for your sailing, traffic and transit may be busier
  • Dress for cold and wet weather, and travel with extra layers

For more information, visit the CBSA Web site or call them at 1-800-461-9999.