This week the U.S. opened up to international tourism along with the Canadian and Mexico land borders after 19 months, leading to thousands of Canadians heading south. While some crossings were smooth sailing, other crossings reported wait times of up to 4 hours.
U.S. Canada Border Reopens After 19 Months
While Canada opened up its land border with the U.S. this summer, the U.S. has kept its side shut. But as of this week, fully vaccinated travelers were permitted to travel for the first time in 19 months.
Thousands of Canadians Are Traveling To The U.S. As Border Reopens
The news of the border’s reopening unleashed “tremendous pent-up demand,” said Marty Firestone, whose travel insurance agency saw business up 25% last month compared to October 2019.
“When the announcement came out (that the U.S. border was opening) they were like, ‘I’m out of here.’”
According to Statistics Canada, three-quarters of Canadian trips to the United States in 2019 were by car.
For some, it was the first time they could be reunited with loved ones since the pandemic began.
“This whole half of my life has been missing for almost two years,” said Janet Simoni, who lives in London, Ontario and whose husband lives on the other side of the U.S.-Canada border near Detroit, Michigan.
Travelers Are Mostly Snowbirds
Many of the Canadian travelers heading to the U.S. are snowbirds, typically retirees, who flock to the United States each year for the winter, often staying in RV resorts and mobile-home parks with amenities.
There are roughly one million Canadian snowbirds—retired or semiretired—who travel to the U.S. for 31 or more consecutive nights a year, mostly in the winter to warm destinations.
The Canadian Snowbirds Association estimates that 60% of U.S.-bound snowbirds gravitate to Florida, with many also heading to Arizona and Texas
They said over two-thirds of members prefer to drive to the U.S. South, which is why many chose to stay in Canada last year and are now excited to return south.
“For the Canadians coming across the border now, they are so excited, they have called ahead to let us know,” said Pat Tuckwell, president of the board of Country Roads RV Village, an upscale park in Yuma.
Short Term Travelers Still Deterred By Expensive PCR Test
Since Canada still requires a PCR test to return and some states require a test to enter, this is deterring travelers from taking short journeys such as those that would come for Black Friday deals.
The Canadian government is facing pressure to get rid of the PCR test, which can add a significant cost to travel.
“In many cases, the cost of PCR testing can be higher than the cost of the travel itself,” said Jana Ray, chief operating officer of CanAge, a seniors’ advocacy group.
On Friday, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said the testing requirement was “actively being looked at.”
Long Wait Times At Border
With so many Canadians traveling south, this has led to long wait times at the border.
That line for the Thousand Islands crossing stretched for kilometers at points on Monday morning.
According to data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, some crossings at the Canadian border reported longer than usual wait times on Monday morning.
At the crossing between Sweet Grass, Mont., and Coutts, Alberta, the wait times reached four hours late Monday morning. However, traffic appeared to be flowing smoothly at many other locations.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com