Used: 1993, 1995
Side story time! It’s hilarious where I have been and where I haven’t. I have pretty much live in Los Angeles my entire life (my parents are still in the same house I grew up in and I never bothered to change my address on most things) and I have technically never been to Mexico. Apparently we drove to Tijuana when we were in San Diego one time, when I was like 6 (I still have this cool wax cat candle that I got there! I never lit it and it never melted!) but other then that, never been to Mexico. I have been to Italy twice before I graduated high school and even Canada 3 times before I turned 20. And the Canada thing is the funniest, because I have only ever driven there, even though I am from Southern California.
The first time I went to Canada, in 1993, was on a family vacation when we were to Seattle. My parents thought it would be fun to drive to Vancouver for the day! I have no idea what they were thinking. It took us nearly 4 hours to get into Canada. This was before you needed passports if you were driving over and only admitted to staying a short time, or something like that. My sister and I never had passports before and my parents last ones had expired years ago and we were only going for the day. I have no idea why it took so long. It’s normally about a 2, 2.5 hour drive. The backup at the border was horrible and the whole thing just took forever. And the worst part was, the way back was just the same! I remember we picked a line that didn’t split. So what took the line next to us half the time, it took us about 4 hours, AGAIN. When I asked various people years later if “going to Vancouver for the day” from Seattle was common, I got a lot of yes’s, apparently it was and we just got unlucky with the super long waits on both sides that day.
A few years later, my family and I drove across the country. We hired a car for the trip, in California, so it had California tags on it. We ended up in Detroit to see some of my dad’s family and went into Canada from Detroit into Windsor. I’ll admit we did look kind of shady. A family of 4 with no passports (still didn’t need them in 1995), with two teenage girls under 16 (apparently there had been a lot of child kidnappings that summer) trying to enter another country through a common route, but not with a California tagged car. Besides the fact that my sister and I both look like our parents, I love telling that story, because it does sound shady! How many California tagged cars must they get via that border crossing a day? Maybe one? Peace Arch via Seattle/Vancouver is way more common for California cars. Oddly, I have nothing to say or anything to remember when we came back into the country in like Vermont or New Hampshire or something. I don’t think there was any issue.
Moral: I have since driven into Canada two more times (via Buffelo/Toronto in my friends New Jersey tagged car and last summer) but I had passports both times and never had another issue again. Passports (and travel cards) are a pain in the butt to get, but if these expirences tell you anything, it’s that it has sped up the system quiet a bit which I think is a good thing.