Thinking about planning road trips during the Covid-19 pandemic? Exploring our backyard is the new reality for 2020 and luckily, we have the perfect country to do so. Some of the best road trips happen here in Canada whether you want to leave for a few days, weeks, or months. Before choosing your destination and taking the road, we recommend following these 10 tips for safe road trips during the pandemic and give you the latest information on where you can go in Canada.
Please note: Before making plans for your adventure this year, please be sure to check all local government guidelines for any health, safety, and travel alerts.
Are road trips safe during COVID?
It’s been months since international travel came to a complete halt and as borders start to slowly reopen, we all wonder, where can we go for a safe road trip? As you may already know, the U.S. borders are closed to non-commercial vehicles until at least September 21, 2020. Our first tip for you is that your road trip during these times should take place here in Canada. Don’t worry, you won’t be short on options as we are lucky to have a big country with tons of amazing places to visit this summer and beyond. Highways, numerous 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 is possible.
Always practice road trip safety during coronavirus
When entering a closed public space anytime during your road trip, you should always wear your face mask. This avoids spreading any air droplets and possible germs to this new place you will be visiting and transmitting anything to the people around you. Even if wearing a face mask is not mandatory (see list below), wearing it is a great sign of respect for the community you are in.
Also, frequently washing your hands is one of the most important things you can do during a pandemic. Since soap and water aren’t always easy to find while on the road, always have your personal hand sanitizer with you to disinfect your hands. Make sure it’s an alcohol-based sanitizer (60% or more) and use it after you’ve touched anything in a public space, say the entrance door of a rest stop along the 401. You can also use a small amount of the gel to disinfect your car keys, your phone, and any other object you touch frequently during the day.
Find out about local sanitary measures for your road trip
While planning your road trip, you need to know that each province has its own set of rules and guidelines above what the Canadian government recommends in terms of sanitary measures. We have highlighted below some of the local sanitary measures taken in major road trip destinations across Canada but you should be aware of how the cities and towns that you will be passing along your trip reinforce these locally.
Make sure to plan ahead
This is not the year to be too spontaneous with your travel style as hotels, campgrounds and restaurants have reduced available units and seating to favour social distancing. Make sure to reserve online or by phone…everywhere! Most attractions have made it easy to use their online reservation system guarantying your spot and helping you avoid line ups. Also, find out if the regular schedule or opening hours are in effect. Many places have closed or reduced their hours of operations during the pandemic.
Staying in hotels during a pandemic
Note that numerous hotels, hostels, and campgrounds are open during this time. However, check-in policies, the minimum length of stay, cancellation policies, and available rooms or spots might make it harder for you to find lodging during your road trip. Again, more than ever during this pandemic, make sure you reserve ahead of time and are aware of the establishment’s sanitary measures.
And remember to always keep a safe physical distance while travelling. This might feel unnatural at first, as travelling is all about meeting new people, chatting with them, and having fun. However, keeping your distance of two metres or more helps keep others safe from catching the virus.
Road trip bathroom breaks during COVID
Please note that some rest stops throughout Canada areas have closed down their sanitary blocks because they couldn’t keep up with the constant cleaning. Make sure that whenever you stop to eat somewhere, you use their restroom, which will be cleaned frequently. And try to avoid touching the door handle as you walk out or use your hand sanitizer before touching anything else. Go whenever a clean bathroom presents itself!
Renting a car during a pandemic
Thinking of renting a car for your road trip? Do not worry. All car rental companies have adapted their cleaning procedures to the pandemic and offer curbside rentals, so you don’t have to get near that interior rental desk if you don’t want to. There are about 20 main high-touch points in a vehicle and all of those are cleaned with the proper disinfectant above the regular cleaning rental companies usually do. Most have also extended their cancellation policy to offer your more latitude when it comes to changing your travel plans.
Pack snacks during your road trip
Snacks are the fun part of a road trip! Make sure this year you add a few extras to your regular candy bars and chips as many restaurants have changed their opening hours or closed. You might not find one at the time you’re hungry or might need to eat in your car since some offer only take-out options. Have a sandwich or two with you so you never go hangry!
Road trips are all about being spontaneous and having fun! Although it might feel a bit different this year with all that is going on, you can still have a safe road trip and enjoy all the beautiful views.
Best road trips during COVID-19
The Maritimes provinces, including New Brunswick, PEI, and Newfoundland and Labrador, are still closed to non-residents at the time of writing. Nova Scotia is open to all but requires a 14-day quarantine as the other Maritime provinces do if you do decide to go to visit family. If you live in these provinces, you are allowed to travel within what they call the “Maritime bubble”. There are quite a few road trips ideas you can do in the Maritimes starting with the Cabot Trail or the southern New Brunswick route from St-Andrews to Hopewell Rocks.
Québec and Ontario are pretty much open to travellers from anywhere in Canada as long as you respect local guidelines. In Québec, you have to wear a face mask in every closed public space, and while using public transit. You will be required to wash/sanitize your hands before entering a store and follow the arrows on the floor to keep foot traffic one-way. That being said, Québec has so many beautiful places to explore on a road trip. Gaspésie is one of the province’s gems, Côte-Nord is famous for its rugged coastline and scenery and the Magdalen Islands is a must if you like kite surfing and beaches.
In Ontario, the province has not officially passed a law to make the face mask mandatory but numerous local municipalities are imposing it in public places and the rule seems to be followed across the province. Know that some restaurants or bars might also ask for your contact details in order to track you down should there be a case following your visit. For some of the best road trip experiences in Ontario, a drive around Lake Erie is pretty spectacular and numerous road trips can be done from Toronto.
The Prairies and Western Canada
Western Canada is the perfect playground for road trips at any time of year! Banff is a popular destination, and you should also explore the various hiking trails in the Rockies. The Okanagan Valley is a must if you love wine and warmer temperatures and of course, Vancouver is a gorgeous place to take the road towards some of the best national parks in the country.
Road trips during a pandemic are probably the best way to explore your own backyard this year, and taking a road trip during COVID requires you to be a responsible traveller more than ever. Make sure you follow these simple tips when travelling within your province or elsewhere in the country to stay safe and keep others safe.
Discover where you can go
Wondering where you can travel to now? Find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.
Want to read more?
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This information was accurate as of August 20, 2020. Always check local government guidelines before booking travel.