Americans who complain about hassles that might occur while crossing into Canada to fish (the photo above is from the Canadian side of Lake of the Woods) or vacation should know that Canadians face challenges of their own when coming to the U.S.

That said, the subject here is crossing into Canada.

Here are a few ways to make the experience pass as smoothly as possible.

• Be prepared. Have your passport (or NEXUS card) ready, and those of any passengers you have in your vehicle.

• Roll the vehicle windows down in advance of pulling up to the Customs booth. Remove your sunglasses. Put your vehicle in "Park'' when you stop.

• Know what you can bring into Canada. Specifically, you likely will be asked about tobacco or alcohol and firearms. Ammunition is likely to come up as well, particularly if you are going to Canada to hunt.

• Fundamental is telling the truth. If you have more alcohol than you're allowed to bring into Canada duty-free, say so. The duty isn't that much. And lying — if you get caught — can cost you a lot of precious travel time, and perhaps more.

• If you're bringing children with you who aren't yours, it's important to have letters from their parents (both should sign, or send separate letters) stating it's OK for the kids to travel.

• Similarly, if you're traveling  with your kids, but without their other parent, you'll likely need a note from the missing parent stating  it's OK for the kids to travel with you.

• Forget about live bait.

• If you're accompanied by a dog, make sure you've got documentation of vaccination against rabies and a valid health certificate from your veterinarian.

• If you've got a DWI on your record you might be allowed entry at least once, dependent on the specific circumstances of the offense and the discretion of the agent. Other methods of ensuring passage require advance paperwork to be filed.

• Key questions an agent might ask (in some cases already knowing the answer) at the border include, "Have you ever been denied entry to Canada?'' Or, "Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense?'' Rolling the dice — lying — might possibly get you into the country. More likely is more trouble than you want.

• Upshot: Smile, be polite, don't offer anything that isn't a direct response to a question. The agent might appear to be cold, even rude. But he/she doesn't have an easy job. Like his American counterparts, he's looking for bad guys. And bad guys generally don't raise their hands to identify themselves.


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