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Vacation in Dearborn, but Stay in Windsor?

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Dayton, Ohio
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Vacation in Dearborn, but Stay in Windsor?

In late July I'll be at the Maker Faire at The Henry Ford. I attended last year, staying at a hotel in Dearborn. For this year I'm thinking about lodging across the river in Windsor, commuting daily on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday either via the tunnel or the bridge. That way I can take in the sights of Windsor in the evenings (and make my first international trip!).

I already have a passport, and a cursory reading of Canada's immigration website suggests that I would have no barriers to entry.

Any comments as to the potential problems, or benefits, of this idea?

Thanks!

new jersey
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1. Re: Vacation in Dearborn, but Stay in Windsor?

In a word, TRAFFIC! Sometimes the border crossings can be backed up for long periods of time, especially on Friday morning during rush hour. Also the drive along I-94 can be the same. Remember that the Detroit area has limited mass transit so highways can be quite congested. The border crossings and traffic are very unpredictable to that would be my biggest concern. Moms

Dearborn, Michigan
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2. Re: Vacation in Dearborn, but Stay in Windsor?

Momstravel nailed it. Commuting time to Dearborn from Windsor will be unpredictable. Tunnel and bridge back ups are caused by traffic and slow processing of visitors and returning US residents by US Customs and Border Protection. I live in Dearborn and go to Windsor frequently (several times a month), usually on Saturday evenings for dinner. Only rarely do I experience much delay on the Canadian side. Only rarely do I NOT experience delays re-entering the U.S.

I would not want to discourage your plan and apparently it is only for a week-end, so just presume that you will encounter delays. Alternatively, if all you really want to do is experience downtown Windsor, you could stay in Dearborn and drive to Windsor for dinner. Normally, it takes me 15 minutes or less to get to the tunnel. Figure 5 to 15 minutes from that point to drive through the tunnel and clear Canadian customs/immigration. The tunnel exit is right in downtown Windsor. Returning to the U.S. after your evening of fun likely will take longer (sometimes, the tunnel is backed up 30 minutes or longer), but you also won't be on a work schedule that requires you to be in Dearborn at a certain time.

St. Clair Shores, MI
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3. Re: Vacation in Dearborn, but Stay in Windsor?

Go for it, TravelJay.

My take is. it will definately enhance your weekend.

Yes, Border Crossings can be tedious, but they won't evolve into exasperation for you.

Try to schedule a tour of the Hiram Walker Distillery in Windsor, while you're in the area. And 'Que at Tunnel Bar-B-Que would make a great dinner.

Dearborn, Michigan
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4. Re: Vacation in Dearborn, but Stay in Windsor?

If you want to splurge a little, there is a nice, new and upscale restaurant called City Grill on Oulette and Park. Outlette is the main north south street in Windsor and Park is the street you exit onto right after coming out of the tunnel and going through Canadian customs.

Dayton, Ohio
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5. Re: Vacation in Dearborn, but Stay in Windsor?

First off, a big THANK YOU to momstravel, tylerarb and jimmyk64 for answering my plea. This is just the sort of feedback I was looking for.

From what little research I've done, it appears that most folks get hassled coming back in to the U.S. from Canada, rather than travelling from the U.S. to Canada. Your observations confirm that. Any suggestions as to how I can reduce the odds that I'll draw a full tear-down of my automobile by the U.S. Customs Service?

I expect that we'll make the Canada -> U.S. transits in the early morning, before 8:00 am. We'll probably return to Canada in the late evenings, between 7 and 9:00 pm, depending on where we decide to have dinner. I say "we" because I'm trying to get my brother to join me on this trip. He's a mechanical engineer for a world-famous mega beer brewery and, like me, he likes museums (too bad for him his wife and three kids don't). If work committments keep him from joining me then I'll be "flying solo."

Half the reason for my return this year is because I greatly underestimated the vast holdings of The Henry Ford. Last year I only got to see about half of the museum over two days, and did not make it to Greeefield Village at all. This year I'll get to spend all day Friday taking in the village, and I figure I can cover the museum over Saturday and Sunday.

Jimmyk64, I take your suggestion for a tour of the Hiram Walker distillery at heart! Many moons ago, as a college student, I co-op'd for Hiram Walker at their cordial plant in Fort Smith, Arkansas. I will definitely fit in a visit.

Otherwise, the only MUST DOs I have so far on my list are:

1) Take pictures of the Detroit skyline from the Windsor side;

2) Get a burger at Miller's Bar in Dearborn; and

3) See Maker Faire, the Henry Ford & Greenfield Village.

If my bother comes along, then I'm sure we'll have to take in some of that fine "Windsor Ballet" (thanks for the term-of-art, tylerarb). That'll be my night to the the designated driver (and bodyguard, and moral police, and if necessary getaway driver).

So keep the ideas and suggestions coming.

Again, I thank you for your help! <TravelJayOH>

Dearborn, Michigan
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6. Re: Vacation in Dearborn, but Stay in Windsor?

"Any suggestions as to how I can reduce the odds that I'll draw a full tear-down of my automobile by the U.S. Customs Service?"

You aren't likely to be subjected to a full tear-down of your car. That happens,. but is not common. Anything that seems "suspicious" (meaning beyond the experience of the officer at the booth) will prompt additional questions and delay. They also will look for inconsistencies in answers, nervous behavior, etc. I understand that.

Unfortunately, their screening practices also tend to encourage innocent people to lie and, to avoid more questions, just say they are going to the casino. THAT, the officers understand. Going to dinner with a friend? Not so much. They want to know where you ate, what you ordered, the name of the friend or friends, how you know them, what your relationship is, why you can't eat in MI, etc.

I do not recommend telling lies, so be prepared for grilling about why you are staying in Windsor and not in MI. THAT will be a red flag because it will appear to be unusual. Make sure that your car does not attract attention and that it is as empty as possible. Be respectful of the officers and don't volunteer excessive information (that can be a red flag as well). Make sure that you have vehicle registration and insurance information handy.

All of that aside, the border delay coming into the US results far more from a combination of traffic and longer processing time for each vehicle than undue hassle or vehicle tear downs. Mostly, the per vehicle processing on the US side takes 1 to 4 minutes. The extra delays will be just wait times sitting in line. Good luck with your trip. Don't worry unduly about the border, just be prepared for it and for the possibility of some delay.

Edited: 01 June 2011, 11:29
new jersey
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7. Re: Vacation in Dearborn, but Stay in Windsor?

Funny story about border crossings...several years ago, before we needed a passport to cross into Canada and return to the US, we were crossing into the US at Niagara Falls. We brought passports as our youngest daughter is adopted from Guatemala and we always get questions about her. Well, we pulled up to the guard, my husband presented the passports of all three children and the guard looked at our youngest daughter's passport. He looked at my husband and said "Adopted?" My husband responded with "yes" to this obvious question. The guard then said "may I see her?" Surprised, my husband opened the back door of our van where our daughter was sitting. The guard then said to her "are you adopted?" Our daughter said "yes" then launched into the very long but interesting to us story of her adoption at 4 1/2 years old (the story she ALWAYS tells when someone asks if she is adopted) including details of her home in Guatemala, her birth mother, the food served in homes, the lack of running water in her Guatemalan home. The guard was surprised by the length and depth of the story and probably wishes he hadn't asked. My husband looked at the guard and said "Well, you asked?" At about the 3 minute point in the story, the guard cleared us and wished us a speedy journey. We listened to our daughter's story for another 15 minutes as we crossed into New York state.

My point is, the guard's can be random in their questioning and always seem to take their sweet time. It is as if they are saying that it is a privilege to enter the US (even though you are a citizen) and we are going to make you realize this.

Again, your biggest travel hassles will be Friday morning into Detroit and perhaps Friday night out of Detroit because many folks from the Detroit area spend weekends in Ontario on Lake Huron or some of the inland lakes. If you have the time and patience, Windsor sounds like a great choice! Moms

Detroit, MI
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8. Re: Vacation in Dearborn, but Stay in Windsor?

I thought I replied to this yesterday, but must have forgot to hit submit.

Personally I think you are making a mistake by commuting from Windsor to Dearborn every day. You can easily spend an hour and a half each way stuck at the border. You WILL raise red flags to immigration on both sides. I would expect a secondary at least once each direction since this is not a "normal" commute. Secondary means you will have to get out of your car to go inside for an interview while they search (probably with dogs) your car.

I got that treatment going into Canada a couple years ago. Apparently answering questions that I was unemployed and going to the casino made them think I was trying to move to Canada. Getting hassled to go spend my money there, plus getting treated as a suspected criminal/terrorist by my own country has turned me off going to Canada for routine trips.

Also be aware that Windsor will be overrun with 19 and 20 year old Americans on Friday/Saturday night because of the lower drinking age. Any major events will also increase border traffic.

Windsor is fine to visit, or even spend one night, but I don't really see the point if you are not going to get back there until 9PM. You are losing at least an hour a day, probably several, just to sleep in Canada.

Ann Arbor, Michigan
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9. Re: Vacation in Dearborn, but Stay in Windsor?

I completely agree with tev9999. Please read that post and take it to heart. I fully expect the border crossing guards to take your car apart by the third trip across the border because since you don't live in either location and have a job in the other location, your daily commute will raise suspicision of illegal activities. This will ruin your vacation.

It would be much better for you to simply spend one night at a hotel in Windsor, and the other two nights in Dearborn. In addition to avoiding Customs nighmares, you will spend less time in traffic and more time enjoying yourself.

Warren, MI
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10. Re: Vacation in Dearborn, but Stay in Windsor?

I'd take Amethyst Travel's suggestion a step further and suggest that you spend only one night in Windsor and plan your time so you could get there early one day and leave later the next day to allow you ample time to explore Windsor.

While I don't think your car would necessarily be torn apart, multiple crossing couls engender additional inspection taking time from your vacation. I hope the trip goes well.