Saturday, February 22, 2014

Planning for a Canadian Border Crossing in the Little RV

The other day I made a comment on another blog I follow about going to Alaska.  I was surprised to have other readers comment on my comment.  

We were discussing pets, how we spoil them and what we feed them.  I mentioned Grant's many food allergies.
His most recent diet consists of bison, fresh green beans and quinoa.  

I am happy to say he is doing very well on this food combination but it is really expensive. Bison runs about $7 a pound (at Costco) and quinoa is available for about $5 a pound.  We're spending roughly $20 every three days to feed our dog.  How's that for insanity?  I have to say, we adopted him for life and we want him healthy so it is a small price to pay.  

None of this is meant to be a complaint. These are simply my thoughts on the health, legal, and cost considerations of crossing the border.  

The comments I received were centered around what you can and can't take across the US/Canadian border.  I had hoped to purchase and take as much bison as we could carry in order to assure we don't run out.  In some remote places I imagine bison is not easy to come by. Perhaps quinoa is hard to get too.  

After reading those comments, I began researching the finer points of crossing the boarder into Canada from the US.  Let me just say, I had no idea how restrictive the rules are.  Not only is there a limit on the types of food items you can bring over the border but there are quantity limits on the amount.

The first thing I had to do is figure out how much 20 kilograms equals in pounds and ounces.  People, I'm 51 and it's been a long time since I was in school. Don't judge.  20 kilograms is roughly 44 lbs. That made me feel a bit better.  Most of the limits are per person.  

I found this information on Canada's official border enforcement official site. This is not a complete.  I removed things that didn't apply to us like animal fat, suet, coniferous wreaths and Christmas trees, conifers and garden plants, cut flowers, infant formula, leather goods and skins, sea shells and sand. 

Baked goods, candies, etc.
  • no goods containing meat 
  • up to 20 kilograms per person
Dairy products (e.g.: cheese, milk, yogurt, butter)
$20 limit per person on dairy products?  Guess we can plan on one brick of cheese. There is a pretty big disparity between 44 lbs and a $20 value limit. 
  • up to 20 kilograms per person with a value of $20 or less
Fish and seafood
  • up to 20 kilograms per person
  • all species except
    • pufferfish - How could you eat that?  Look at that face!

    • Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis)  He really does have mittens!  
Fruits and vegetables, including herbs: dried
  • up to 15 packages per person - How many fruits fit in a packet?  
  • but not more than 250 kilograms
Fruits and vegetables, including herbs: frozen or canned
  • fruits
    • up to 15 frozen packages or 15 cans per person 
    • but not more than 250 kilograms = 250 kg is roughly 550 lbs  
  • vegetables - How many cans of veggies can we bring?
    • up to 20 kilograms of frozen or chilled vegetables per person
Fruits and vegetables: fresh
  • one bag up to 4 kilograms of US number 1 potatoes per person and the bag must be commercially packaged -  one potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four....
  • 15 packages or less up to 250 kilograms of fresh fruits and vegetables per person (excluding potatoes) - 
  • must be free from soil, pests, leaves, branches and/or plant debris
  • some restrictions on some fresh fruit and vegetables from California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington
  • in British Columbia (BC): restrictions on fresh apples, stone fruit and potatoes
Game animal carcasses -  Doggone it!  I was saving a game carcass specifically for this trip.
  • with a hunter's permit and/or licence
Spices, tea, coffee, condiments  -  JACKPOT! - I do love my coffee and clearly they understand that in Canada.
  • entry permitted
Meat and poultry products (for example, jerky, sausages, deli meats and patties, fois gras)  - 20 kg equals roughly 44 lbs!.  I'm going right out and buying 88 lbs of fois gras
  • up to 20 kilograms per person
  • packages must have identifying marks, indicating what the product is
  • proof of country of origin may be required
Meat and poultry: fresh, frozen and chilled 
  • up to 20 kilograms per person
  • one turkey per person  
  • packages must have identifying marks, indicating what the product is
  • proof of country of origin may be required
Perhaps I'm over-thinking the whole thing. I tend to do that but the last thing we need is to have a bad border crossing and the loss of expensive items because we just didn't understand the rules. 

One of the commentors suggested we take the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry from Bellingham, WA to Alaska and avoid Canada altogether.  We did consider the ferry but the cost is outrageous and we wouldn't have access to our RV.  We'd have to book a cabin on the ferry.   Rob can't eat food with salt in it so eating anything other than home cooked food is not an option.  Additionally, pets aren't allowed allowed in the cabins and must be left in in a vehicle on the vehicle deck.  Our RV, when the slides are in, is completely inaccessible other than a 3' by 5' space where the entry door is located. I also read you cannot use the propane while on board and there is no electric hook-up so we would have to empty our refrigerator and freezer.

It's a bit disappointing to learn all of this about the ferry because it would be a beautiful way to see the inside passage. Instead we'll enjoy the beauty of Canada and the Yukon Territory 


  1. I was surprised to hear you could take a pet into Canada. I suppose you had show proof that the pet had all its vaccinations.

    1. Dizzy,
      Taking a dog is a simple as getting a health certificate from the vet and showing proof of a current rabies vaccination. Much easier than bringing in dinner!