Planning on driving across the border this March break?
Visiting family? Attending a special event? Chasing some warmer weather? Whatever the reason, if you’re planning on driving your own car to the United States over March Break, it’s important to be prepared.
Follow this pre-departure checklist to ensure your border experience is a smooth one, so you and your loved ones can spend more time enjoying your well-deserved break:
- Have proper documentation organized and readily accessible.
To cross the United States/Canadian border, all drivers and passengers must have a valid passport. Additionally, all drivers must be ready to present:
- A valid driver’s license
- Vehicle registration
- Proof of auto insurance (recommended)
- Be aware of what items you can and cannot bring across the border.
Certain items – such as illegal substances (including cannabis, which is illegal to bring across Canada’s national borders) – are listed as prohibited items, meaning the item is forbidden by law to enter the United States. Other items – such as firearms, certain fruits and vegetables, animals, and animal products – are restricted items, meaning special licenses or permits are required from a federal agency before the item is allowed to enter the United States. Check the U.S. Customs and Broder Protection government website for an updated and complete list.
If you are planning on travelling with pets, be sure to visit the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s website for a full list of what pets you are allowed to bring over the border with you, and what kinds of health certificates and permits you may need.
- Clean your car.
It’s a good idea to give your car a thorough cleaning and empty your trunk of anything you do not need for the trip. Not only does having a clean vehicle make it easier (and faster) for a border official to inspect, but it will also avoid the risk of raising suspicion.
- Know your itinerary Common questions you will be asked by a border official are related to citizenship, destination, intended activity, and length of stay. Having an exact address of your accommodations, along with itinerary printouts and receipts will make this process more efficient.
Children who are old enough to speak for themselves may also be asked questions by the border official. Let any young passengers know that this is a possibility, and help to prepare them for how to respond to questions when asked.
- Get ready to approach the booth.
For a quick and smooth border crossing, you’ll want to ensure that you and your passengers are prepared for your meeting with the border official before driving up to the booth. Once you have chosen a lane, here are a few steps you should take to prepare:
- Remove sunglasses
- Ensure driver and passenger seatbelts remain securely buckled
- Turn off the radio
- Put all cellphones on silent
- Roll down front and back windows
- Hand all passenger passports and IDs to the driver so they can immediately be presented to the border official
- Know what to do if something happens to your vehicle while out of the country
Before heading on your road trip to the United States, you should check with your insurance broker to ensure that you have the coverage you need. What if your tire blows out after crossing the border and you have to be towed to a U.S. mechanic? What if you and your passengers are injured in a collision, and the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance?
A Family Protection Endorsement is a car insurance add-on designed to protect you and your loved ones in the case of a collision where the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, or doesn’t have enough insurance. Since mandatory liability limits are significantly lower in the U.S. than they are in Canada, the Family Protection Endorsement is an important add-on to consider (if not already included in your policy).
You might also want to consider increasing your liability limit, as the rewards in U.S. lawsuits are often much higher than they would be in Canada. If you’re responsible for injuries or damage to someone else’s vehicle while in the U.S., you’ll want to be sure that you have enough liability coverage to cover the cost of a lawsuit.
Reviewing your insurance policy ahead of time lets you know exactly what you’re covered for, so you can enjoy your out-of-country vacation with the peace of mind that you and your passengers are protected.
If you have any questions about your existing auto policy coverage, or want to know more about recommended coverage for out-of-country driving, contact your OTIP insurance broker at 1-888-892-4935