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International travel may be on pause for the time being, which has led Canadians to consider alternative ways to enjoy their free time this summer. Despite the desire to travel, many provinces still have restrictions in place on visitors, Canadian or not.
With cases of the novel coronavirus slowing though, many are wondering if now is the time to pack their bags and hit the open road. According to a recent Ipsos poll, only a quarter of Canadians are willing to travel by air within the country, but 40 per cent of respondents agreed that they are planning to take a road trip this summer.
To get the scoop on the do’s and don'ts of summer road trip etiquette in the midst of a pandemic, we reached out to travel expert Barry Choi for his top recommendations of the season.
When it comes to road trips, are they safe within Canada right now?
“Definitely, but you'll want to follow any local health guidelines that are in place for any areas that you're visiting,” Choi told Yahoo Canada.
For example, some cities like Toronto are requiring people to wear masks whenever they’re inside public places, which is important to know ahead of any quick day trips as well as for longer stays. Practicing good hand hygiene by washing frequently and avoiding touching your face are also still of the utmost importance to protect yourself from COVID-19 while on the road.
As for longer vacations, Choi shared that most hotels have done an excellent job of addressing travellers concerns when it comes to cleanliness.
“For example, InterContinental Hotels Group has a Clean Promise policy where new practices have been implemented such as reduced contact at check-in, regular deep cleanings of public spaces, partnering with industry experts and more,” he noted.
What you should know ahead of time
As with any outing these days, there’s a certain degree of risk involved in planning any sort of getaway. Choi recommends carefully assessing your own health situation and degree of risk tolerance before making any definite plans, while also keeping in mind that things can quickly change.
“Since there's currently no vaccine available for COVID-19, it's possible that another wave could affect any city, region or province, which means there could be a lockdown or mandatory quarantine at any time,” he added.
You’ll also want to research accommodations and exact quarantine procedures for visitors, particularly if you’re planning a cross-provincial trip.
“Currently, the Atlantic provinces and some territories still have a 14-day quarantine in place for visitors, so you need to double check the rules and regulations before you depart,” Choi explained. “It's also worth noting that not every hotel has reopened, so don't wait until you're on the road to book your accommodations.”
Pack the essentials
Being prepared is one of the best ways to make the most of any road trip, while also cutting down on the amount of time spent stopping for supplies at grocery stores or pharmacies. Choi recommends keeping a few essentials with you while you’re on the road, including everything from food to first aid.
“Some items that you need to pack include a GPS (or your phone), portable battery charges, first aid kit, emergency car kit, hand sanitizer, umbrella, reusable water bottle and snacks,” he suggested. “If you're travelling a long distance, you might want to even pack a cooler so you can store food.”
Explore what’s in your own backyard
If you’re willing to pack your bags and are in need of a little inspiration on where to go, Choi suggests sticking to smaller cities that have managed to avoid major outbreaks of COVID-19.
“In Ontario, St. Jacobs and Niagara-on-the-Lake are great spots to visit. Over in British Columbia, Kelowna and Whistler are local favourites but if you're looking to stay close, they're both great destinations,” Choi recommends.
“One city that I think Canadians should really consider is Winnipeg. The Canadian Museum of Human Rights, The Forks, and the Winnipeg Art Gallery are great attractions that all have a Canadian connection.”