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Tips to plan a trip to US

I just came back from United States about one hour ago, so my information is still fresh. Let me share it! In today’s post, I want to talk about a few things to plan for a trip to US and I will continue my tips on savings money in my future posts. Please notice as I am living in Surrey BC (great Vancouver area), my information is more relevant for all of you living in the region. For those of you living close to other US borders, please check your local resources for more accurate information.

  1. Check the traffic at the border. No kidding, sometimes border lineup can be very frustrating especially during the holiday long weeks. My record waiting time in Sep 2010 is 4 hours (coming back from US to Canada and waiting in line till 1:00am in the early morning). After I learned that lesson, I found this website, to check the latest waiting time at US border. Even though the information is not instant and there is about approximately one hour delay, it gave a rough idea if the trip will worth your time. For example, in a sunny morning, I decide to go to US for a little bit groceries shopping and quickly fill up my gas tank, my expectation is around 2-3 hours for a round trip, but if the waiting time is longer than 40 minutes, that to me does not worth my time and money.
  2. Bring a map or GPS with you. For those of you who do not travel to US very often, getting lost in US is not funny. I got lost a few times in US in early years, it’s really time consuming to figure out your way back especially when you are not in a city and there is nobody around to ask.
  3. Bring some US cash. Yes, I know you have Canadian ATM card and credit card and yes they are working perfectly for most of the time, but do you know there is a surcharge banks and credit card companies often charge you on top of the posted exchange rate and these surcharge can sometimes be as high as 3%!!! Do not waste your hardly saved money on this little thing.
  4. Go to washroom before waiting in line. This is very important and only applicable if you are travelling alone. There is no way you can get off your car and run into a washroom when you are waiting in line, if I really want to come up a backup plan for this…boys, prepare an empty bottle with good size and girls, get somebody to travel with you. Don’t laugh, this is series.
  5. Answer border services officer’s questions. Number one rule here is, DON’T LIE. Lots of travellers thought they are smart and there is no hurt to lie because very often, they will not be checked anyways. My suggestion is, DON’T DO THAT! Maybe you do not believe there is such a thing called black list, however if you are caught lying, in the future the chance that you will be picked and checked is way higher than a regular traveller.  First of all, it will result too much trouble in the future and waste lots of your time and secondly, you’d better not travel with anybody else anymore, otherwise your family or friends will not be impressed if they got checked because of you. However I am not telling you that you will have to tell them everything you know. Remember the officers’ job to find hint from the conversation with you and dig more information from your answers, so keep your answers nice and simple and don’t chat with them and provide too much information not related to the conversation, otherwise you will just put yourself into unexpected troubles.
  6. Drive Safe. You are right. I do encourage that whenever you are driving, especially when you travel to US. Most of the travellers do not buy travel insurance and I do not want to comment too much on that. To deal with speeding tickets and accidents in US is more complicate when you are out of country and your auto insurance company might not provide certain insurance coverage unless you ask for that.
  7. Keep your receipt for your shipping. If not for your own record, this is very good evidence you can show to border services officers that you are not lying.

P.S. I travel to US with average rate once every other week and these are what I learned from my personal experience.


US saving money trip No.1

These days gas price are skyrocketing and I often heard friends talking about the affordability of driving. I personally go to U.S. quite frequently, so I want to share a little bit of my experience to save money by travelling to U.S.

My saving tip #1 is about gas:

Let’s look at some numbers I was running today for my today’s trip to U.S. (Information is based on Aug 21, 2012)

Amount of Gas (L)


Price in Canada (/L)


Price in US. (/GAL)


Trip (KM)


1 USD = ? CAD



So here comes my calculations:

Cost in Canada



Cost in US



Trip Cost



Total Savings





As you can see, not big savings, however let’s run some “big” numbers for some SUVs and trucks (I don’t know for some reason, my SUV only has a 45L tank)

Amount of Gas (L)

Total Savings (CAD)








The savings is getting more significant when you have a bigger gas tank. Not too many people will travel to US only because of gas and this is a good portion of your whole savings plan.

There is one more things I want to add here:

– Please be aware:

DON’T go to the gas station that is the closest to the custom building and this is why (These are pictures I took during my trip today to Blaine WA)

The closest gas station to the custom building

The other one down the road

I am pretty sure you see the difference, so watch out!

This particular post will benefit those of you who are living close to the border of U.S. and Canada, however the purpose of this post is to open your mind and help you think out of the box…