I’m about to move from Chicago, IL to Vancouver, BC for a new job (US citizen, I have work permit approval). I’ve arranged movers already for my stuff (coming Monday); the issue is to bring myself, my cat, and of course some clothes/laptop/etc for until I can get the things from the movers out of storage. I pretty much need to enter Canada before the end of December, for a variety of reasons. I did have a plan for doing this, but it seems I screwed up and it’s not actually an option; discussed below.
There are two obvious options to do the move.
Fly. (I’m not thrilled about going through two airports plus a flight near Christmas with the current state of the pandemic, but I’d do it, I guess.)
My cat is too big to go in the cabin.
Baggage hold options: AA/Delta/United have suspended pets-in-the-hold programs during COVID; Air Canada is suspended from Dec 15 - Jan 12. The only one running seems to be Westjet, which does run (with limits) until Dec 22, but looking at their (extremely limited) flight plan literally the only option at this point seems to be driving 26 hours from Chicago to Phoenix on Monday to take a flight to Calgary (and then getting from Calgary to Vancouver). I don’t know of any other programs running.
Air cargo options: seem to only accept household pets when the outdoor temperature is at least 45F, which is not likely in a Chicago winter, and even if I went to Memphis or something, iffy in a Vancouver winter on the other end anyway. (Next week’s forecast is at most 44F.)
Use a pet ground transport company and fly myself: the first one I happened to look up is roughly $3,000, and I can’t find any that confirm online they’re actually doing cross-border moves currently anyway. Also maybe not super fun for my cat given the distance; he’d be much happier hanging out in the car with me than being in a crate for a long period of time.
I could drop my cat off with family (in New York, renting a car to get there – $700ish for the rental, plus gas and a night of a hotel partway) to watch him for several months, then fly myself (<$200). This mostly works, but might require some slight skirting of NY quarantine rules, some risk to my older parents who I really don’t want to give COVID for Christmas, and also means I don’t get to have my cat for at least several months, quite possibly longer.
Drive. (I don’t own a car.)
Rent a car. This was my plan, based on checking several months ago that one-way cross-border rentals seemed to be available on rental company websites. When I went to book it tonight (after long delays getting the movers’ dates sorted out), though, this seemed to no longer be an option. I’ll call some tomorrow to confirm, but even if so, returning the car during the quarantine period is also potentially difficult; I might have to rent the car for an extra two weeks where it’ll sit parked.
Buy a car in the next few days; I might be getting one in Vancouver eventually anyway. But importing cars from the US to Canada is a complicated and expensive process, which among other things involves paying sales tax on the car in both countries. (Chicago, incidentally, has the highest sales tax rate in the US at 10.25%; compared to just buying one in Vancouver, the net extra cost is likely to be on the order of $2-3k.) I also don’t know whether I’d be able to get Illinois registration and title quickly enough to begin the export process, especially with Christmas and also most of the DMV-equivalent offices closed due to the current increase in the pandemic.
Rent a car to Seattle/Bellingham and find another way to cross the border:
- None of the usual buses, train, ferry seem to be running. (Maybe I missed one?)
- I could perhaps take a cab to the border, walk across, then take a cab on the other side. I don’t know whether this is practical? It seems it’s possible but inconvenient in normal times to cross on foot here; I don’t know whether I can reasonably get a cab/Uber/etc at the border on the other side. The cat carrier is quite large and difficult to handle with a suitcase, and I also don’t know if the pet inspection stuff “works” when walking through.
- I could send the cat with a presumably-cheaper ground pet transport option from Seattle/Bellingham, then fly myself. This seems ridiculous, but is likely cheaper (at the cost of a lot of driving) than ground transport straight from Chicago. I didn’t immediately find a pet transport company I could confirm is actually doing cross-border moves right now, though.
(Amtrak, unfortunately, only allows pets if they’re in carriers, for a max of 7 hours, which makes it not really an option; it also doesn’t help with crossing the border right now.)
I guess the current frontrunner is driving my cat to New York then flying. But I don’t like it as an option, for a bunch of reasons. Is the walk-across-the-border plan feasible? Am I missing something else that would be better?