Tag Archives: Canada

On My Itinerary: Oh, CANADA!

Jon has never been to Canada, other than the time he rowed over the border in a canoe during summer camp (I guess the borders of Wisconsin aren’t well-protected). So to mark off another country on his list, we’re driving up from Maryland through Amish country (PA) and the heart of New York towards Niagara Falls, then onto Toronto for a quick three-day roadtrip.

photo by Saffron Blaze

Jon has never been to Niagara Falls either, whereas I apparently visit it at least once a decade. This will mark my third time to the falls, and each time the area becomes more and more middle-America (or, middle-Canada). Today it is a destination spot for roadtrippers, luring businesses to its convention center and with the addition of many Falls-front hotel chains, like Marriott, Hilton, Embassy Suites, etc. etc. Many of these have hotel rooms with full views of the falls, which is kind of cool, so we booked one. There’s even a casino scene,  and you know you’ve reached the ultimate roadtrip destination when there’s a Great Wolf Lodge (an indoor waterpark hotel resort, yes). And all your favorite destination eateries: Rainforest Cafe, Hard Rock Cafe, Tony Romas, Outback Steakhouse, etc.

From there we will drive through the Niagara-on-the-Lake region, known for its wine and then into Toronto, which will be my second time there, which is actually a really cool city if it wasn’t in the middle of Canada. Jon is excited for the Hockey Hall of Fame and I for the walking tours where I can put my new camera to work.

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Now Boarding: stricter border-crossing laws

Several years ago, a group of us bridesmaids went up to Montreal for a bachelorette weekend. Three were flying from Chicago, one from New York. I was driving from Boston. Now, the New York bridesmaid had always entered Canadia by car and flashed her license to cross the border. Of course, she didn’t realize that when flying, you had to show a passport.

This was 2002 – post 9/11, but this was our young, blond-haired, blue-eyed anxious friend who always gets herself in and out of situations like this (like the time she convinced the St. Louis police not to give her a speeding ticket, and even got them to escort her to the mall with sirens blaring so she could get the giant plastic security tags off her brand-new suit 25 minutes before a job interview). Back at the airport, she pulled out all the contents of her wallet short of bribing the border patrolmen, throwing her drivers’ license, her old college ID, her work ID, her business cards, her credit cards, anything bearing her name and picture and proof that all she wanted to do was go to her friend’s bachelorette party. Somehow, she managed to talk her way into Canada, and once in Canada, talk her way to the hotel, where she promptly phoned her dad and had him Fed-ex her passport.

Today, I highly doubt she could be so convincing, particularly now that citizens require a passport or a federally-issued ID (not a state-issued license) to cross in and out of Canada and Mexico. This also extends to those traveling to and from the Caribbean and Bermuda by sea.

coutesy of US Dept of State

courtesy US Dept of State

If you’re not a big worldwide traveler and don’t want to get a passport, although I think a passport is one of the most excellent things to have on hand, you can 0pt for the U.S. Passport Card. Note that this card is only valid if you’re traveling by land or sea, but if you’re flying you will still need a regular passport.  You can register for either a passport or passport card here. A passport card costs $45 for adults and $35 for children; passports cost $100 for adults and $85 for children. You’ll need proof of American citizenship, such as original birth or naturalization certificate, two 2×2 passport photos, and application.

The advantage to the passport card is that it fits nicely into your wallet and stays there for as long as you have your wallet, unlike the bulky passport which can be easily forgotten in some desk drawer. However, if for some reason you need to fly back rather than take the transport you came in, you’ll still need a passport. Plus you get to collect lots of fun stamps in your passport.

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