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Northern Border Crossings

As Published In WBCCI Blue Beret Magazine
Northern Border Crossings

Ever since 9/11, the crossing of any international border has become more challenging and time consuming — but the tightening of regulations at the Canadian/U.S. border has taken a lot of RVers by surprise.

It Pays To Plan Ahead

On my last trip up the east coast, I met one couple in northern Maine who had been turned back because they didn’t have their pass-ports. They complained that they used to be able to go into Canada with just a driver’s license — no more! Fortunately, I am painfully, painfully organized. I researched the “border-crossing-in-an-RV” issue extensively before heading out to visit our neighbors in the north. I talked with officers at each country’s border stations, double checking my list of dos and don’ts to make sure I hadn’t left anything out — and I’m happy to share that list with you:

Do Have Your Passport Ready

And I’m talking a current passport in your hand as you pull up to the border guard station — not tucked away in your glove box or a file in your RV. If you cross the border regularly, you can also see about getting a Nexus card that clears you for the “fast lane.” (Just remember that everyone in the car must have a Nexus card for it to do you any good.)

Don’t Bring Alcohol/Tobacco Across The Border

Except, of course, for items you’ve bought in the other country and are declaring at customs. I was allowed to import six bottles of wine back with me after going tasting in the Niagara-On-The-Lake region — the Canadian government loves when you buy load up on THEIR booze, they’re just not so fond of you bringing American liquor with you on the way in.

Do Hunt Up Your Auto Purchase Paperwork

Border officials are on the lookout for all sorts of criminals (including auto thieves) — so have your car/ truck and RV registration papers ready to present, to prove you actually own the vehicle. If you buy an RV across the border, be prepared to show your bill of sale to the customs officers.

Don’t Buy Groceries Before Crossing Over

You can’t carry in fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs or other unprocessed foods that might bear a contagion which could spread to local crops. So it’s best if you eat up all your refrigerator stuff before traveling. But you can buy items abroad and tote them home, as long as they’re either processed and pre-packaged or you process them yourself for storage in your fridge or freezer. (Wash and chop any veggies or freeze fresh berries you’ve bought, and they won’t be an issue for the guards.)

Do Roll Down Your Windows

That goes double if you have tinting on your glass. Remove your sunglasses and turn off the radio — make it as easy as possible for the border guards to see that you aren’t hiding anything. Acting suspicious or nervous (as though you’re concealing a secret) is a sure-fire way to guarantee a lengthy interrogation and possible detainment during your crossing.

Don’t Pack When You Pack

Canada has incredibly strict handgun and weapons laws, so don’t even think about trying to bring a firearm into the country — even if you have a permit, are exercising your God-given right to protect your family, and can recite the second amendment backward. Best to leave all “potential” weapons (hunting knives, tasers, and pepper spray included) behind. Besides, there’s no crime in Canada, so there’s nothing to protect yourself against!

Do Let Them Inside

Be prepared to open cabinets and containers and storage areas. You may or may not be asked to allow the border officials into your rig (at one stop the officers came in and poked around in my fridge and closet and pantry, at another the guy simply stuck his head in the door and glanced around and at a third they just waved me through without even asking to see inside). But the more willingly you offer to make any of your storage spaces available for inspection, the less likely they are to really probe.

Don’t Make Jokes, Play Games, Or Freak Out

The general rule of thumb is the less suspicious you look and act, the easier your time at the border crossing station will be. (When talking with an official on the phone, I remarked, “So I shouldn’t act shifty, right?” — and she replied, “That’s exactly it.”) Answer questions openly and completely. They usually want to know where you’re going, where you’ve been, for how long, the purpose of your travel, what you do for a living, etc. — be patient and pleasant and accommodating, and you’ll be fine

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and RamonaCreel.com.

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