Travel Reminders: What you need to know before leaving home

What to check, if you’re driving: If you’re taking your own car across the border, be sure you have enough insurance. AMA recommends a minimum of $2 million in third-party liability for travelling in the U.S. If you plan to rent a car, look into SEF 27, an auto policy add-on that extends coverage to non-owned vehicles and replaces the insurance policy that car-rental companies sell at the counter. If you’re planning to rely on a credit card for your rental-car insurance, call the credit company in advance and be certain you know exactly what’s covered. Limits and exclusions vary widely among credit cards, and policies change often.

What to carry on, if you’re flying: Canada’s major airlines have started cracking down on the size of carry-on bags. Both Air Canada and WestJet allow one carry-on bag of 10 kg and one personal article of 10 kg (dimensions vary). If your carry-on doesn’t fit in the sizer, you’ll now pay between $25 and $29 for your first checked bag on a domestic or U.S. economy flight – and some flights to Mexico and the Caribbean. Check airlines’ websites for baggage rules and fees well before you fly.

What not to pack, either way: We hope nobody needs a reminder to leave firearms and blades at home, whether flying or driving across a border. But keep in mind fresh fruit and vegetables, and some meat products, are usually prohibited at border crossings (to prevent the spread of plant and animal diseases), and there are strict limits on the amount of cash, alcohol and tobacco you may bring into the United States and Mexico – and back to Canada.

What to remember, at all costs: If you’re crossing the border, you’ll need a valid Canadian passport. If you’re flying domestically, you’ll need either a passport or another form of government photo I.D. Check the expiry dates of your identification before you go – there’s nothing worse than finding out they’ve expired when you arrive at the customs desk. Before you leave home, check and double-check all your government documents.

Don’t forget to pack your AMA card! Your membership covers you in any vehicle across North America.

Published in Westworld Alberta, Spring 2015

Westworld is the award-winning magazine of the Alberta Motor Association. It offers a mix of travel features, auto trends and special member savings.