Authorities are warning British Columbians still hoping to head out of the province for the long weekend to prepare for long delays, after many travellers waited for hours at the province's land, sea and air terminals on Friday.
It was a frustrating day for many drivers trying to cross into the U.S. as people tried to take advantage of one of the first holidays with eased travel restrictions.
At several U.S.-Canada border crossings, motorists told CBC News they waited for more than 2.5 hours to move less than a block; others said they planned to turn back and try leaving another time.
"This is my first time driving across in ages," Jake Hanevelt told CBC News while waiting in his car Friday, where he had moved less than one block in an hour on his way to Seattle. "I don't know if I'm encouraged to drive any time soon."
But although he would reconsider taking a land route in future after his long wait this weekend, he said the easing of travel restrictions is a sign of hope.
"It feels like we're getting back to normal," he said. "I'm excited for it."
Surrey RCMP warned the public of "much longer than usual waits" to enter the United States at both the Peace Arch and Pacific Highway border crossings.
The force asked motorists not to block streets, driveways and intersections as they wait to reach the border, because residents "need to access their homes," staff sergeant Andrea McKinney said in a statement Friday.
The long line-ups were expected on the first long weekend since Canada eased its pandemic re-entry restrictions; as of April 1, travellers who are fully vaccinated no longer need to get a negative PCR test for COVID-19 before entering the country by land, air or sea.
"This is unusual, usually it's so fast to get across the border during COVID," motorist Nancy Livingston told CBC News, after waiting for 2.5 hours in line at the border only halfway to the crossing on her way to visit U.S. family members. "This is the worst I've ever seen it, even pre-COVID."
The rush to take advantage of a weekend away also hit the skies, with the Vancouver International Airport reporting its most travellers in two years.
"We are going to be averaging about 46,000 passengers a day through the airport, which is a very encouraging sign of recovery," said YVR spokesperson Mike McNaney in an interview.
The airport authority also advised travellers in a tweet to "arrive at the airport extra early."
The Canadian Border Services Agency acknowledged that COVID-19 protocols could lead to longer waits, but said in a statement it won't compromise the health and safety of Canadians just to avoid backups.
B.C. Ferries also warned travelers to prepare for delays in coming days, saying on Twitter it was "expecting a busy weekend of travel on the coast," particularly on Friday and Monday.
It recommended travellers get to terminals early, and to make reservations or they may experience sailing waits, or if "plans are flexible ... travel at less busy times."