RV Travel Outside the U.S.: Visit Canada & Mexico - Part 2
In our blog last week, we spent some time talking about RVing in Mexico and Canada, about the importance of getting passports, travel visas, vehicle insurance and registrations in order before you go, for stress-free travel. We also gave you intrepid travelers some links to make sure you don’t try to travel with prohibited items, either leaving the U.S. or coming back. This week we’re going to spend a little time on the extra diligence you’ll need to do in order to travel with children or pets, what to do if your RV breaks down, and some specifics about RV travel in Canada and Mexico.
If you are traveling with children, you must carry a passport or passport card for each of them. If the children are traveling with only one parent, with grandparents, or other adults who are not their parents or guardians, there are additional rules when travelling outside of the U.S. You should plan to provide legal custody documents when applicable, and notarized written permission from any parent or guardian who isn’t traveling with the child. If both parents are living, you will need notarized written consent from both, giving you permission to supervise their child(ren) and to obtain medical care if necessary. You will also need an original document (no photocopies) that provides proof of the relationship between the minor child and the absent parent(s), like a birth certificate or a custody decree. A passport doesn’t include the parents’ names, so can’t be used as proof of their relationship to the children.
You can travel to both Canada and Mexico with your dog or cat, but there are requirements that you should know ahead of time. PetTravel.com is a great resource for knowing what will be expected of you in order to bring your pets in your RV into Canada or Mexico. At the bare minimum, you will be required to provide a document from your veterinarian that certifies your pet is currently vaccinated against rabies, etc., but each country has different guidelines. Also check back on our blog RVing with Pets: Ways to Make Sure Everyone's a Happy Camper to remind yourself of best practices when it comes to RVing long distances with your favorite four legged family members.
You will have no problem getting RV service on the road in Canada. Canadians love RVing as much as we do, so no worries! Treat RV repairs the same way you do in the U.S., and you’ll be good to go.
RV repairs in Mexico, depending on where you are, can be a little trickier. There are excellent mechanics all over Mexico, but access to the right parts can require shipping them down from the U.S. and finding someone who knows how to fix your particular RV might feel daunting. If you know where you’re travelling, do some online research ahead of time and explore what other RVers have to say so you have options if your RV breaks down. Also, Mexico’s Department of Tourism funds a fleet of tourist assistance units called the Ángeles Verdes (Green Angels) with a bilingual crew who are trained in vehicle repairs and first aid. They patrol federal and toll highways (but not the “free roads”) from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, and offer free assistance in case you break down or have an accident or a medical emergency. You can call them (the operators are bilingual) at their 078 phone hotline 24-hours a day.
Canada is an RVing paradise, particularly in the spring through fall. Talking to other RVers who have made the border crossing and enjoyed the sights in the friendly nation to the north can give you a lot of ideas about best places to travel and also some of the things to watch for. We really like this First RV Crossing Into Canada blog at Gone With the Wynns to give you an idea about how to prepare for the border crossing. Among other things, they suggest making copies of:
- List of camera and computer equipment with serial numbers and values
- Veterinarian papers for all pets, including rabies vaccinations and up-to-date shot records
- Evidence that you have auto insurance that will be applicable in Canada
- Schedule of travel plans, including RV parks and approximate dates of travel
One of the BIG RVing attractions in Canada is to drive the Trans-Canada Highway! This is the longest national highway in the world (4,860 miles), and connects all ten provinces from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. If you want to take in all of what Canada is about, this is the way to do it from the comfort of your RV! Trip Advisor has excellent advice for how you can prep in order to make the journey the best ever. Along with planning your itinerary in advance…
- Make sure you are very familiar with your RV—this adventure should not be your first trip in your new motorhome
- Make sure you know the RV passenger regulations for the different provinces
- Brush up on some basic French phrases for when you’re in Quebec
- Similarly, read a little about Canadian history and geography so you can have context for what you’re seeing
- If you’re considering a Trans-Canada Highway adventure, be sure to read the entirety of the Trip Advisor article!
British Columbia has a thousand miles of gorgeous coastline and by using the BC ferry system, you can bring your RV places you might never have thought you could travel. BC Ferries welcomes RVs and offers a summertime promotion called Size Up the Savings in which RVers can save 50% per additional foot on extra length vehicles. You can travel throughout the summer, from June into September, on two different routes, with up to 80 ferry sailings per week.
We’ve all heard frightening stories about travelling in Mexico these days, but many seasoned RVers will tell you that, so long as you are sensible and stay out of areas that the U.S Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs warns against, you’ll find that Mexico is an amazing place to RV. Look at guides like RVWest’s blog on 10 Popular Mexican Destinations for RVers. Also check out this Lonely Planet guide on The Top 8 Places to (Safely) Visit in Mexico Now. For gorgeous beaches, remarkable architecture and history, wonderful locals and a rich culture, our neighbor to the south can’t be beat!
RV parks vary greatly throughout Mexico. In an area that draws a lot of tourist, like Mazatlan for example, you may find an RV park with amenities comparable to any you would find in the U.S.. But many RV parks outside of those areas are small ,with limited amenities and few electrical hookups. And if you do find electricity, it may not have capacity to run your RV air conditioner. In other words, you should be prepared to boondock. You will find propane, sewer hookups and dump station throughout the country.
You will also find some of the best food in the world at your fingertips, and often at an excellent price. Also purified water for safe consumption is now readily available. Still, it’s not a bad idea to bring extra drinking water with you.
A slightly dated, but still useful resource to check out when you’re setting expectations for RVing in Mexico is this book, Traveler's Guide to Mexican Camping, by longtime Mexico RVers Mike and Terri Church. Also check out other online resources like this RVers Online list: RVing Mexico: A Must-Read Series for RVers Traveling to Mexico. The key to enjoying RVing in Mexico is to be informed and flexible.
Safety in Mexico is mostly about knowing ahead of time where you can go and where you can’t, and practicing common sense. Remember, Mexico continues to be one of the top winter vacation destinations worldwide, which attests to the fact that much of the country is safe and the people are kind and helpful. Of course there are some basic “don’t’s”, and many of them are the same safety measures that we regularly practice in the U.S.:
- Don’t travel at night
- Don’t hang out in border towns or too far off the beaten path in questionable areas
- Don’t travel in areas where the the U.S. Department of State has issued a warning
- Don’t show off wads of money or jewelry
- Don’t choose a route that involves rough or narrow roads that may be hard to maneuver in an RV
- Don’t leave your RV or tow vehicle unlocked or unattended for long periods of time
- Don’t assume the Mexican people are bad—the vast majority are good folks who will be glad to help, give directions or answer questions
A great way to travel in Mexico for the first time is to join a group of other RVers, and best yet, to join a caravan tour. These are escorted RV tours that avoid dangerous places, travel during daylight hours, and encourage RVers to travel in groups. How fun is that?! Imagine 20 RVs all rolling down the Mexican highway, led by a knowledgeable guide in his own RV who will give you all the historical and cultural details to make the trip even better. Many companies offer these tours to some of the best destinations. Look for one that also includes an experienced RV mechanic, and you’re set to roll! Rolling Homes Press has some suggestions about the best caravan tours. If you’re taking a big RVing adventure outside the U.S. this year, we hope you’ll stop in at Guaranty and tell us about it. If you have any questions or if we can be of assistance as you prepare for your trip, be sure to contact us.
Photo credit Andrew E. Larsen