The Best Bets for Cross-Border Shopping: West

By Kait Kucy,

The thrill of the hunt is what cross-border shopping is all about. There’s nothing better than coming home duty-free with some serious goods that you either can’t track down in Canada or are available at a better price in the U.S. I love crossing the Canadian border to hit the shops for both well-known American brands as well as those hidden gems that you can only find in small towns. I remember the first time I drove down to Kalispell, Montana to check out their Target store and was blown away by how much we were missing out product-wise in Canada.

How much can you bring back Duty-Free into Canada?

Every shopper is personally exempted from paying duty and taxes on CAD $200 of goods after spending 24 hours or more outside of Canada. That exemption then goes up to CAD $800 after 48 hours and includes an exemption for alcohol and tobacco.

Washington State and Idaho are other great destinations for Western Canadians looking to get their cross-border shopping experience in without going too far from home. Taking this a step further, check out these shopaholic-friendly hotel picks that make the mandatory overnight stay a real treat (rather than well… a duty).


Shopping in Bellingham-Seattle, WA

Conveniently close to Vancouver, the Bellingham-Seattle border crossing is probably the most popular point of entry thanks to the amazing shopping available in these two cities. Seattle alone is home to places like Pike Place Market and the Nordstrom Flagship that bring Canadians (and their money) on the regular. Meanwhile, the city of Bellingham will entice you with American brands such as Macy’s, Target, and Saks. Depending on what you are after, you can have quite a different shopping experience in both Seattle and Bellingham.

Duty Free Canada Shopping seattle space needle

Stay conveniently close to all of the action at the W Seattle, a beautiful modern hotel with all of the luxuries that you’d want from your metropolitan stay. You truly get what you pay for at this four-star hotel which will be your home-away-from-home while you shop your way through Seattle. Their exclusive mattresses and pillow menu are enough to make you reconsider going home. The Seattle Art Museum is only a 6-minute walk from the hotel, while the breathtaking waterfront (and Pike Place Market!) is about a 10-minute walk. All other downtown shopping is only a short distance away meaning you can cover a lot of ground on a last-minute trip down to Seattle for the weekend.

See Rooms from $217 »

Duty Free Canada Shopping Seattle Nordstrom flagship store

If you’re heading into Bellingham for the weekend to do some shopping at Bellis Fair Mall and other smaller shopping districts, you’ll want to perch your things at the Four Points Sheraton Bellingham during your stay. This notable chain hotel has all of the amenities you could want for a weekend away of deal hunting and bargain shopping, including a hotel shuttle to bring you back to the hotel’s indoor hot tub. Coming under the $200 mark for this three-star hotel, your stay in Bellingham will be comfortable and cozy as you seek out deals at the mall.

See Rooms from $146 »

How else to spend 48 hours in the Emerald City?


Shopping in Kalispell and Whitefish, MT

Heading into Montana, you’ll experience a smaller town vibe in both Kalispell and Whitefish but don’t let that deter you from finding some seriously great deals as you shop your way through the state. The beautiful Montana landscapes clearly inspire entrepreneurialism as there is a great mix of big box shops like Target and eclectic, locally-owned boutiques — both of which make cross-border shopping so much fun.

The Springhill Suites Kalispell by Marriott is an excellent place to rest your head as you explore the town of Kalispell. This modern hotel has a slick boutique vibe, not exactly the country stereotype that Montana can sometimes bring to mind. Target is a 12-minute walk or three-minute drive from the hotel if you’re hoping to stock up on all of the American goodies you’ll want to bring home. It’s only a nine-minute drive into the city centre where you can check out locally-born shops like The Toggery and Flair Boutique. The Springhill’s suites, with room for up to five, are a super affordable option for Albertan families coming down for a weekend.

See Rooms from $146 »

Duty Free Canada Shopping Whitefish The Lodge at Whitefish Lake view

Scenic Whitefish is a memorable weekend destination even if you aren’t planning on doing any shopping.  Located on the shores of Whitefish Lake, this quaint small town has a lovely rustic vibe to it mixed with ski and snowboard culture. They value their mom-and-pop shops, however, and you can find some one-of-a-kind finds at places, like Harlow and Stumptown Marketplace. You can’t find a better place to stay than The Lodge on Whitefish Lake. The views of the Lake alone are incredible but the outdoor pool, lake access, and beautiful lodge interiors will truly make your cross-border shopping getaway relaxing and serene.

See Rooms from $140 »


Shopping in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

For shopaholics who live in British Columbia or Alberta, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho is a close weekend destination to do some fantastic cross-border shopping. The area is one to behold with plenty of lakes, mountain ranges and country lodges. You’ll wonder why you don’t come down more often. As you explore the downtown shopping area, you’ll be amazed to find locally-owned boutiques, tasty eateries, and art galleries.

Duty Free Canada Shopping Montana field sunset

Photo by Ron Kroetz CC-BY

If you’re looking for a great spot for the family to camp out for a weekend of cross-border shopping, the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Coeur d’Alene will definitely do the trick. Reasonably-priced rooms allow you to save a little extra cash for all of the outlet shopping you’ll be doing. Downtown Coeur d’Alene is only a seven-minute drive from the hotel, meaning you’ll be able to zip back and forth with your goods for a break at the hotel or bite to eat in town. Silver Lake Mall is a big destination in Coeur d’Alene with anchors Macy’s, Sears and JCPenney, and it’s only minutes away from the hotel.

See Rooms from $123 »


Duty Free Canada Shopping Idaho Coeur D'Alene The Roosevelt Inn Bed and Breakfast exterior

If quaint and cozy is more your style for your cross-border shopping vacation, The Roosevelt Inn Bed & Breakfast is a quaint and cheerful little spot that will take good care of you for your entire stay. This heritage building features historic touches throughout the entire B&B. Located just moments from Harrison Slough, you’ll get the best of Coeur d’Alene; waterside views, close access to the downtown shopping area, and a 10-minute drive to Silver Lake Mall.

See Rooms from $143 »


Cross-border shopping can be a really fun and rewarding getaway especially if you live only hours away from one of these fantastic destinations. With so many accommodation options to help make your stay more comfortable, you’ll be sure to return time and time again. Lastly, make sure to always keep your receipts organized and detailed for when you cross the border back into Canada again as you will have to declare your purchases. Happy shopping!