How to Safely and Quickly Get Through the Border

Traveling from one country to another can be a lot of fun, however, everyone needs to worry about clearing customs at the borders.  This can be a time-consuming process for many, but if a person is prepared they will find themselves walking through in no time at all.

Recently I flew and drove across with no issues at all. I was prepared and had the necessary documents I knew they would require. Much of what you are hearing and seeing on the news is not the case. There are always those who have reasons to be questioned or may need a little bit more investigation. This is to be expected but should not discourage you from traveling.

How to Safely and Quickly Get Through the Border

Here are 5 tips that will ensure a person can get through the border quickly and safely:

  1. NEXUS

People who travel frequently between the United States and Canada may want to consider applying for the NEXUS program.  This program allows its pre-screened members to use dedicated processing lanes as they are entering each country. Security is always faster when you go this route.


SENTRI is similar to NEXUS, but it works between the Mexican and United States border.  Everyone who applies for this program will be subject to an extensive background check as well as an in-person interview before they can become approved.  However, once they are approved, they will be able to use dedicated lanes as they are reentering the United States.

  1. Global Entry

People who travel abroad quite often will want to look into the Global Entry program.  Anyone who is approved can use automatic kiosks to scan their passport and fingerprints plus fill out their customs form.  This program does speed up the process, but anyone can be stopped at any time for additional screening.

  1. Carry all travel documents

Travel documents should never be packed in a suitcase, because they can be needed at any time during a trip.  In order to re-enter Canada and the United States, everyone will need a valid passport.  The only exception is Canada and Mexico when people are re-entering by land or sea.  In these cases, a passport card or Trusted Travelers card may be used.  Children under the age of 16 may present a birth certificate if they are entering from Mexico or Canada, but only if by land or sea.

If you are traveling with children and not their parents, or even one, make sure to have a letter of permission. I always have a contact number for my husband as well in case they want to check in with him. Be prepared to have your children answer some basic security questions as well. They are just wanting to confirm you are allowed to be traveling outside the country etc.

You should also know where you are going. An address of a hotel, area you are shopping in etc. The more info you have when requested, the better.

  1. Print out a custom declaration form before the trip

Customs declaration forms are available at the airport; however, families can save time when they print it out ahead of time and have it filled out and ready when they land.  They will be able to advance directly to customs instead of spending time filling out the form with everyone else. Often you will be given these on the plane as well.

If driving, keep receipts and be prepared to hand them over. I like to keep all of my receipts in a separate pocket for easy access when needed. Any purchases you make while traveling should be declared. Make sure you know limits before shopping to avoid fees and possible confiscation of your items (alcohol, medication etc)

Headaches at the border can be alleviated when families are aware of what is needed and have everything filled out and ready to give to the agents.  By knowing what it expected, families will find that they can answer the questions quickly and efficiently, essentially saving themselves time. If you are unsure of what you can bring across the border, check online. Certain foods are not allowed and any animals traveling with you, must have documentation. When flying there are restrictions on items you can bring on your carry -on such as liquids. Be sure to check on this as well ahead of time.

Did we miss anything? Did you have something hold you up longer than you had hoped.




  1. Florence Cochrane says

    Thanks for the tip on printing custom declaration form before the trip. Now all I have to do is try to remember to do that.

  2. I love everything that you mentioned here. It’s a very good idea to do everything you can to make it easy to get through the border.

  3. Robin Rue says

    I rarely leave the US, but the last time I did was a trip to Canada where i only needed my drivers license to get back into the the US.

  4. I’ve never flown internationally, but I lived in Canada for a year and crossed the border a LOT. This is a GREAT list and you seriously covered everything!

  5. I plan to start traveling outside of the country more so this is helpful. My traveling routine will be so different!

  6. These are great tips. I travel quite often, and it can be a total pain if you get stuck at the border. It can eat up SO much time.

  7. I’m about 4 hours from Canada, and these tips would come in handy should I ever plan to go. Thank you for posting how to Safely and Quickly Get Through the Border!

  8. Do you believe I have never crossed a border before? In fact I have only traveled in a place on 2 occasions my whole life. I am a travel newbie.

  9. My boyfriend is in the process of applying for the NEXUS Program. It’s something his work has requested he get, so hopefully this means will be traveling somewhere fun in the near future, haha.

  10. Yup, carrying all travel documents is a total must and having everything handy so that you’re not fumbling through your bag is important as well. This is a great list of tips – seeing this makes me miss traveling. I haven’t gotten to do much lately!

  11. I am always nervous when I have to go through the border. Thanks for the great tips. I will try a few next time I travel.

  12. These tips are great. Thank you for sharing.

  13. This is some very helpful information. I have only been to Canada once, and that was with a school group. I would like to go back, but I needed to know how to get across the border easily.

  14. Thanks for all these useful travel details. Back in the day, it used to be so easy and simple to legally cross between the US & Canada, but things are so much more complicated nowadaysl.

  15. This is so helpful! I have a friend who constantly travels from US to Canada. Will share these info to her.

  16. We are planning a trip across the border after years of not having left the USA! Thank you so much for this checklist- it will definitely come in handy!

  17. We travel international all the time, so this post is very helpful. I will definitely look into those sites you suggested here.

  18. These are great tips! We travel a ton and will definitely be using this advice!

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