May long weekend marks busiest travel weekend in years for British Columbians

It’s expected to be the busiest travel weekend in nearly two years, as British Columbians mark the May long weekend without strict pandemic measures.

BC Ferries, Vancouver International Airport and the border crossings are expected to see a surge in traffic over the next several days.

BC FERRIES

The majority of reservations during peak hours on the major routes were sold out days in advance.

BC Ferries says, historically, the most popular travel times are Thursday and Friday afternoon, as well as Saturday morning heading to Vancouver Island.

Victoria Day Monday and the following Tuesday morning are typically the most popular times for people to return to Metro Vancouver.

More than 100 additional sailings were added over the May long weekend to deal with the surge in demand.

BC Ferries has been hampered by staff shortages in recent months, leading to cancelled sailings.

Fortunately, it recently hired approximately 500 employees in time for the start of the busy summer travel season.

“B.C. residents and visitors have places to go and people to see over the May long weekend, and BC Ferries wants the journey to be as enjoyable as possible,” said BC Ferries in a news release.

Over 300,000 passengers and 100,000 vehicles are expected to be transported from Thursday through Monday.

“Over the course of this weekend, BC Ferries will operate approximately 2,400 sailings to get travellers to their destination; that’s approximately 19,200 nautical miles, the driving distance from Vancouver to Halifax and back twice,” wrote BC Ferries.

Travellers are urged to travel at off-peak times to avoid the rush.

“Customers with advance bookings should plan to arrive at the terminal 45 to 60 minutes before their scheduled departure. Walk-on passengers should arrive 45 minutes early for their anticipated sailing,” wrote BC Ferries.

Walking on as a foot passenger can often lessen wait times, but BC Ferries is warning that parking at major terminals fill up quickly on long weekends.

It’s encouraging travellers to use transit or ride sharing services.

Updates about full parking lots will be posted to its website.

BORDER CROSSINGS

Surrey RCMP are urging travellers to plan ahead, monitor border line ups and be prepared for lengthy wait times at border crossings over the next several days.

It says police received more than 100 calls over the Easter long weekend, including people calling 911 to complain about border wait times and traffic congestion near the Pacific Highway Border Crossing.

“These calls significantly tied up police resources, and is not an appropriate use of 911,” wrote RCMP in a release.

It’s encouraging travellers to plan their travel for off peak days and times and be prepared to wait for long periods of time.

Drivers taking the Pacific Highway Border Crossing are being reminded to stay on main roads and highways, specifically 176 Street and 8 Avenue to access the crossing.

“Be courteous and do not attempt to take short cuts through residential neighborhoods or block access to side streets while waiting in line,” said RCMP in a release.

Surrey RCMP says it’s working with the City of Surrey and Surrey bylaw officers and has recommended increased signage and traffic flaggers in the area to help mitigate the traffic congestion.

“We recognize the frustrations of community members who reside near the border crossing who had access to their own homes or businesses limited by border traffic over the last long weekend,” said Cpl. Vanessa Munn in a release.

The Canada Border Services Agency says it’s working to mitigate long border wait times, but says there are also things that travellers can do to make the process easier for themselves and others.

“This summer, travellers are returning to a border that is managed differently, with evolving COVID-19 requirements, which can mean delays during peak periods,” wrote the CBSA in a release.

It’s urging travellers to arrive prepared by completing their mandatory ArriveCAN submission within 72 hours before arriving at the border.

“The CBSA invests significant effort annually to plan and prepare for peak periods, such as the summer months.

The agency says it’s working with bridge and tunnel operators, airport authorities and travel industry groups to anticipate surges in traffic.

It’s reminding all travellers to ensure they have the proper documents for entry, understand rules around COVID-19, declare all goods and know exemption limits.

CBSA also urges drivers to know the contents of their vehicles.

VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

YVR is anticipating one of its busiest travel weekends in years with upwards of 50,000 passengers from Friday to the holiday Monday.

“This marks our busiest travel weekend since the pandemic with the highest volume of passengers expected on Friday,” said YVR in a news release.

It’s urging passengers to arrive early for their flights.

“YVR strongly encourages all travellers flying from YVR to arrive at the airport early—at least two hours ahead of domestic flights and at least three hours for U.S. and international,” it wrote.

Drivers are urged to have a parking plan as many of the main lots are expected to fill up quickly.

Travellers must have their travel documents ready before their check in for their flight.

U.S. and international travellers should pre-book any required testing for entry ahead of time.

Masks continue to be required in the terminal and onboard flights.

Travellers across Canada have had to wait in massive lines in recent weeks because of a staffing shortage of security screeners.

“Please be patient as (Canadian Air Transport Security Authority) staff are doing their best under very busy and challenging circumstances and be prepared to help agents move you through screening as efficiently as possible,” wrote YVR.