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June 29, 2009 8:54 AM   Subscribe

Driving from Toronto to Buffalo (and back) over Independence Day weekend: asking for grief?

My friends and I want to do a mini-road/day trip to Buffalo from Toronto to shop and enjoy the weather this coming Sunday. Given that it's Canada Day/Independence Day weekend, is this an absolutely horrible idea? Will the lines at the border (and everywhere else) be unbearable (ie half an hour or longer)? Will I want to shoot myself?
posted by anekona to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
Possibly. We've done it (as part of a longer trip) and it was slightly unpleasant. QEW will be a mess. There's an alternative route that avoids the highway. Once you get close to Buffalo, a quick check of wap.gc.ca on the passenger's phone will tell you what the best crossing for shortest wait times will be.
posted by scruss at 9:21 AM on June 29, 2009

i'm not sure how busy the borders are on Independence Day, but the QEW will be busy because a lot of people will be going to the Falls on the weekend.

for what it's worth, i would cross at the Peace Bridge. i cross the border at least once a month, and find that the Lewiston crossing is always more busy/moving more slowly than the Peace Bridge. the PB might have a lot of traffic, but they have more lanes and it seems to move better there.

good luck!
posted by gursky at 9:21 AM on June 29, 2009

If 30 minutes is "unbearable", never consider visiting the U.S. again. Even when there are no significant queues, you can expect to be waiting for about 30 minutes.

Make sure that everyone has a passport, because you now need one for land entry.

As I write this, the wait times appear to be minimal, but traffic tends to be heavier on the weekends.

Good luck!
posted by lowlife at 9:23 AM on June 29, 2009

Once you get close to Buffalo, a quick check of wap.gc.ca on the passenger's phone

Or 1-800-715-6722 for voice; updates on the hour. Call around St. Catharine's.

Even when there are no significant queues, you can expect to be waiting for about 30 minutes.

This isn't true at all. We commonly pull up behind one or two other cars for total wait of <5>
...but a big holiday-on-both-sides weekend, I would expect traffic and delays at all three bridges. I would especially expect delays getting back into Canada that evening.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:02 AM on June 29, 2009

Fuck html.

We commonly pull up behind or or two other cars for a total wait of less than 5 minutes.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:03 AM on June 29, 2009

Border wait times for U.S.-bound traffic.

Half an hour isn't unreasonable.
posted by oaf at 10:23 AM on June 29, 2009

I’ve lived on both sides of this border and have crossed more times than I can calculate. Really, my best advice is just to avoid long weekends if you can. I once crossed on 4th of July weekend and spent 4.5 hours crossing the border – but that year, July 1st fell on Friday and July 4th on Monday. That’s an extreme example and this particular weekend won’t be as bad because it’s only a long weekend for the US travellers -- but it’s still not ideal. On a regular weekend in summer, you can get across within 15-35 minutes using the right bridge (see below). This coming weekend, I would expect about 45 minutes to an hour. If you absolutely MUST go this weekend, then:

1 - Avoid the Queenston bridge like the plague. My favourite bridge in the summer is the Rainbow bridge. It gets a lot of traffic, but they keep many more lanes open and push people through quicker.
2 - Cross at night if possible.
3 - Have all your documents and receipts ready so you don’t get slowed down and/or sent inside unnecessarily.

And yes, definitely check the updated border wait times as you get close. Keep distances in mind, however: the Peace bridge may be running quicker than the Rainbow bridge, but depending on where you’re planning to shop, it may not save you time or gas. It’ll add about 35-40 minutes extra drive time if you’re going to the Fashion Outlet mall – but it won’t hurt you if you’re going to the Galleria.

Memail me if you have more questions.
posted by yawper at 10:50 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Marked a few as best answers but they were all helpful. Great advice, thanks!
posted by anekona at 11:13 AM on June 29, 2009

I live about 10min from the peace bridge and while it is the fastest crossing, you can expect waits in the HOURS range during the summer holidays. That's the week of the friendship festival so you do see a lot of cross border traffic the whole time. Normal border crossing rules go out the window from Canada Day to July 4. I'd honestly sooner slam my hand in a car door repeatedly than deal with the borders then.

But then, on the plus side, it's SO backed up and SO busy you don't get as much of the overzealous random searches border guards seem to impose out of boredom.
posted by Kellydamnit at 2:00 PM on June 29, 2009

Just found out you can follow the bridges on Twitter. The updates appear to occur quite frequently.
NiagaraBridges on Twitter
posted by LightMayo at 4:22 PM on June 29, 2009

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