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Staycation ideas and tips to try during COVID

We know that travel is especially difficult right now. But alongside the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates, we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content so that when the world opens its doors again, you'll be ready.

With COVID-19 still impacting travel worldwide, many Canadians will be looking to staycations this winter. It can be a little overwhelming trying to plan a domestic vacation with information constantly changing, so we’ve compiled everything you need to know to plan a successful and safe Canada staycation.

What you need to know before booking a staycation

Check what’s open

The number of COVID-19 infections in each region will help to determine what’s open and closed. Essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies will be available everywhere. Restaurants can offer takeout and delivery, and depending on the province may be open for indoor or outdoor dining. For other businesses, each province and territory have their own guidelines and rules about which can stay open, making it essential to check with local governments. Where’s the best place to check? This article is a great start.

Know the different stages of reopening

Not only does each province and territory have its own alert level system that determines what is open and closed, but the limits within each ‘level’ or ‘stage’ will also vary according to the specific province or territory. These stage numbers vary significantly across the country as they are dependent on the level of infections. For example, Newfoundland and Labrador has a very low number of cases and is currently in Level 2, which means most businesses and community activities have been reopened with physical distancing in place.

As another example, Quebec City and Montreal have been hit hard by the second wave and were put under new lockdowns in late September that forbids dine-in restaurant service and private homes from having guests. The province of Quebec has been divided into red zones, orange zones, and yellow zones, and the rules and restrictions now vary according to the level of alert in each zone.

Planning a safe staycation in Canada

hotel room with mountain view. booking clean and flexible hotels is essential for safe travel during covid
Staycation ideas and tips for the times of COVID

Are hotels open in Canada during COVID?

Many hotels across the country are still operating. When booking a hotel for your next Canada staycation, search for properties that have adopted enhanced cleaning procedures and leaves time between guests for a comfortable and safe stay.

We’ve added new features to our hotel search that can help you book your perfect hotel stay during COVID. Look for the ‘Book with peace of mind’ filters on the top left hand side of the page after you’ve typed in your desired dates and destination. You can filter through hotels that offer free cancellation and have cleanliness ratings of 4.5/5 and above.

Hotels may look a bit different than before, but you can still have an amazing stay. It’s also a good idea to make sure the hotel has a flexible booking policy in place in case your travel plans change.

screenshot of skyscanner hotel booking page. Book hotels with free cancellation for a successful staycation this year.
Staycation ideas and tips for the times of COVID: Book hotels that offer free cancellation

Tips for renting a car during COVID

Road trips are one of the safest types of staycations to go on, as it makes it very easy to stay in your bubble and not have to worry about public transportation. Although the Canada/US land border is still closed, Canada is a big country with plenty of amazing winter destinations. Now’s the time to discover those hidden winter gems in your local region!

Highways, rest stops, and other goods and services are operating from coast to coast for Canadians, and as long as you are following all health and safety guidance, a safe road trip during COVID-19 is possible. To ensure a safe road trip, follow these tips.

If you’re thinking about renting a car during COVID-19, there’s no need to worry as most car rental companies have adapted their procedures for a safer experience. All touchpoints in the rental car will be disinfected, and you can now rent a car without having to go into the office.

Stay flexible: If you’re renting a car, be sure to get one with a flexible cancellation policy if you need to cancel your travel plans. Our car rental deals booking site offers a flexible booking feature, which calls out car rental deals that offer free cancellation up to 48 hours before the pick-up date.

screenshot of Skyscanner booking page for car rental deals with free cancellation
Staycation ideas and tips for the times of COVID: Free cancellation on car rentals

Tips for booking and cancelling flights

If you want to fly to your destination, you can still feel safe as airlines have implemented new cleanliness practices and safety measures. For example, travellers will be subject to temperature checks before boarding, and face masks are required while onboard. Here is a step-by-step guide on flying in 2020.

Worried about the air flow on board a plane? Flying is actually safer than you think. Most modern commercial flights use efficient air circulation systems and HEPA filters, which remove any impurities in the air, no matter how small, including the tiny COVID-19 microns. In fact, in NASA research, HEPA filters remove impurities of that size with a 99.97% efficiency.

Always book a flight with a flexible cancellation policy in case your travel plans change. Both Air Canada and WestJet have adopted flexible booking policies where you can change your flight one-time with no fee. The Skyscanner app and website also has a feature that calls out airlines with free cancellation, so this is a great thing to check when booking your flight.

If you’ve booked a flight that doesn’t have a cancellation policy and want to cancel voluntarily, rather than paying to move them, it could be worth waiting to see if the flights are cancelled closer to your scheduled departure day. This way, the change to your booking or refund doesn’t come at a cost.

Ideas and rules for staycations

girl on roadtrip on a canada staycation
Staycation ideas and tips for the times of COVID

Respect local regulations

Know the phases of reopening, and what they entail: It’s important to remember that each province and territory across Canada has its own unique measurement of levels of reopening. This means that ‘Level 3’ in one province may not have the same restrictions as in another, which is why it’s so important to check local government guidelines for the most relevant framework. The province of Ontario has recently reviewed its COVID response framework, and different regions throughout the province have been colour-coded by levels of reopening.

It’s important to respect all public health and safety guidelines and set your expectation to what will be open there, as guidance can greatly vary between provinces. This is probably the most important thing when it comes to travel planning nowadays: research and read all local guidelines before booking anything!

Protect yourself with additional insurance

If you plan to go on a domestic vacation, it’s important to protect yourself with travel insurance that protects you, including coverage for COVID-19. Many Canadian insurers are now providing coverage, and some airlines have even partnered with insurance companies to offer complimentary health insurance if you book a round-trip flight. Air Canada has partnered with Manulife, and Westjet has partnered with Tugo.

Travel slower, stay longer

Another way to help keep safe on a domestic vacation is to embrace slow travel. By limiting your movement between places, you’re reducing your risk of contracting and spreading Coronavirus. Plus, slow travel has all kinds of other benefits: it allows your travel budget to go further (as you won’t be spending lots of time and money hopping between destinations), and leaves room for connecting on a deeper level with your destination.

Stay close to home

Provinces may ease — or tighten — their travel rules throughout the winter, so it’s important to stay up-to-date on your desired destination. Your safest bet is to stay close to home, so you aren’t impacted by new restrictions between provinces.

Booking ahead vs. last-minute travel during COVID

Since rules and travel plans can change quickly, if you are flexible, wait to book last-minute to ensure you can go. You may even get a great last-minute flight deal doing this!

If you need to book ahead, ensure all parts of your travel plans have flexible cancellation, whether that’s the car rental, flight, or hotel. It’s important to realize that things change quickly, and your travel plans may not go ahead if they are booked well in advance.

With winter just around the corner, we hope this post could help inspire you to plan an amazing Canada staycation. Remember to always check local government guidelines before booking any travel.

Frequently asked questions

cabin in the woods in Canada. Staycations have proven to be popular in 2020 and into 2021.
Staycation ideas and tips for the times of COVID

What are the travel restrictions in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic?

As we mentioned earlier in this article, when it comes to travel restrictions throughout Canada, the regulations and rules currently vary from province to province. For example, the Atlantic Provinces have adapted a travel bubble and are only open to travel for residents of those provinces. Nova Scotia has recently started allowing visitors, but there is still a 14-day quarantine required if you enter the province. Similarly, Manitoba has adopted a 14-day quarantine for most provinces, and the Northwest Territories have their borders closed to non-essential travel. For the latest guidance on travel between provinces, please check here.

This is another reminder that international travel into Canada continue to be restricted to Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and certain exemptions like extended family members. For more information on Canada’s travel restrictions, see the government page here.

Is it safe to travel within Canada right now?

You may be wondering if it’s even safe to travel right now? The simple answer is it is generally safer to stay sheltering in place at home than to travel to limit the spread of COVID-19. However, some travel restrictions have been lifted, and most airlines, hotels, and car rental agencies have adopted enhanced safety measures. With all of these new measures in place, it is possible to have a safe staycation in Canada.

What are the restrictions on social distancing in Canada during the coronavirus pandemic?

All provinces have now made masks mandatory in indoor public spaces, and it is recommended to wear them in crowded outdoor public spaces where physical distancing is not possible. Public health officials across Canada advise maintaining a distance of 2 metres from other people and staying home when you do not feel well.

Transport Canada has made masks mandatory in airplanes and trains across the country. Although buses aren’t covered by the same Transport Canada rules, many companies have enforced mask-wearing policies as well.

Can you travel outside of Canada?

Some countries have started to open their borders, but you will have to quarantine for two weeks when coming back to Canada if you travel outside of the country.

While many Canadian snowbirds flock to the south during the winter months, many snowbirds are looking for alternatives this year. For a pleasant staycation this winter, consider travelling to some of Canada’s more mild destinations, like Osoyoos in southern British Columbia.

Discover where you can go

Get the latest information on which countries are open and closed for Canadians here at our interactive global map. You can even sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.

Want to read more?

This article was updated on November 13, 2020. To our knowledge, the information on this page was correct at the time of publication. Please check the World Health Organization (WHO) and Canada Public Health for the latest COVID-19 rules, restrictions, and updates for Canadians.