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How Canadian Families Can Travel More Safely During a Pandemic

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The federal government advises that Canadians avoid all non‑essential travel, both at home and abroad. Stay informed on the latest travel rules and restrictions by visiting the Government of Canada’s site on travel health notices.

If your reason for travel is considered essential by a province or territory under the Quarantine Act’s emergency orders (and you are given an exemption by the government of Canada) here are some helpful resources to help you plan your trip.

Should you need to travel, Air Canada is flying to destinations across Canada, the U.S., Europe and Asia.

As we pull up to our carriage house at The Lodge on Harrison Lake, I receive a welcoming text message from our host with a door code for entry upon arrival. When we open the door, fresh air breezes through open windows and the faint scent of cleaning products lingers in the air. The contactless entry and the cleanliness of our cabin immediately ease my concerns about venturing away from Vancouver, and I affirm that this waterfront oasis perched in the trees will provide the perfect backdrop for our first family travel since the Covid‑19 pandemic started.

When our province relaxed travel restrictions, we opted for a much‑needed escape closer to home, and this was the ideal spot to get back into holiday mode. Now that we’ve dipped our toes in, we’re eager to plunge back into family vacations once more – but we know that careful planning and prudent precautions are essential to doing so safely.

November 25, 2020
Exterior view of The Lodge on Harrison Lake on a summer day
   Photo: The Lodge on Harrison Lake

Is it safe to travel during Covid‑19?

Beyond ensuring that your family is healthy, and that no one in your group is at a higher risk of illness, there are a few factors to consider before booking a trip, including where you are coming from, where you are going and why you are travelling.

For travel within Canada, be sure to review the restrictions put in place for each province before packing your bags. This can be done through the Government of Canada Covid‑19 and travel page.

It is not advised to travel for pleasure to an international destination at this time. If you are planning to visit family or must travel abroad for work, you can review the list of countries that are currently welcoming Canadian visitors on Skyscanner. It is important to note that a mandatory 14‑day quarantine will be required upon arrival in many countries, and another 14‑day quarantine will be required when you return home to Canada.

With all of these factors in mind, this year is the perfect time to explore your own country, or to pre‑plan an adventure abroad for when travel restrictions relax.

Read: Where Can Canadians Travel Right Now in 2020?

A mother holding her baby while facing a Canadian mountain range during autumn
   Photo: Nathan Dumlao

How can I prepare for Canadian travel during Covid‑19?

“Preparing for a flight is not as simple as it was before the pandemic,” says Claire Newell, CEO of travel agency Travel Best Bets, based in Burnaby, B.C. She suggests doing your research first. This includes making sure you’re permitted to travel to your destination of choice, ensuring that the airline and accommodation you choose follow the proper health protocols and understanding safety rules and restrictions once you land, as well as when you return home. “A great resource is the IATA Travel Centre,” Newell says, with its updates on all you need to know before you go.

Gloria Loree of Destination Canada also has some tips for travellers, which include visiting CanadaNice.ca for resources including a user‑friendly interactive map that shows current travel restrictions by province and territory for leisure travel. The site also includes links to other need‑to‑know government and health resources. “For Canadians who are looking for more hands‑on assistance, seeking the guidance of a certified agent can also help,” says Loree.

How can families stay safer at a hotel during Covid‑19?

Start by reviewing the hotel’s health and safety procedures, often noted on their website. Opt for hotels that offer a variety of accommodation types, such as stand‑alone units or ground‑level suites, to ensure fewer interactions with guests, like those that may occur in elevators or shared common spaces. Consider room service instead of dining in at a restaurant and be sure to wear face masks when leaving your room and roaming around the indoor areas of the property.

A young boy looking out the window of a plane
   Photo: Hanson Lu

Is it safe to fly with kids during Covid‑19?

According to a recent report by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “Transmission on an aircraft is reduced to very low levels through the combination of layered infection control measures.” These measures include proper ventilation, required mask wearing and frequent hand washing. This means that the risk of transmission could be less than shopping in a grocery store or eating at a restaurant – as long as the passengers and airlines comply with the safety measures in place.

Packing the right necessities will also ensure a safer flight for kids. Newell suggests bringing multiple masks with storage bags for storing clean and dirty masks separately, and a bounty of sanitizing wipes for wiping down the handles and zippers on your bags after clearing the airport screening area, as well as cleaning your seat handles and tray tables before settling in on your flight. She also suggests picking up a few extra bottles of water before you board to stay hydrated.

Does my family need to self‑isolate after returning to Canada during COVID 19?

Canadians are required to quarantine for 14 days upon arriving home from a destination outside of Canada, and depending on provincial restrictions, domestic travellers may also be required to isolate upon returning home. In order to ensure compliance, the Government of Canada now requires travellers to utilize the new ArriveCAN app – which collects travel and contact information, a quarantine plan (unless exempt), and a Covid‑19 symptom self‑assessment. Travellers will need to show their ArriveCan receipt when seeking entry into Canada, and border service officers will verify that travellers have submitted their information digitally before allowing them to leave the airport.

5 Canadian vacations for the whole family

These family‑friendly destinations in Canada are sure to satisfy your wanderlust:

A sunny view of a Vancouver Island beach between the branches of a tree cluster
The colourful exterior of Hotel Zed is surrounded by flowers
   Photo: Jan Kronies
    Photo: Hotel Zed
  1. Vancouver Island, B.C. —

    Visit B.C.’s capital city and enjoy the lush landscapes and historical landmarks found in Victoria. Enjoy a retro weekend at the colourful Hotel Zed – a ‘70s throwback motel featuring unusual amenities such as rotary phones, classic comic books and an old school ping pong lounge. Or head further up the coast of Vancouver Island to Tofino, where you can enjoy year‑round surfing or world‑renowned storm watching at Chesterman Beach throughout the fall and winter months.
     
    The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has granted Destination Greater Victoria and Tourism Vancouver Island its “Safe Travels” label, recognizing the areas for adopting globally standardized health and hygiene protocols.

A tree swing hanging in front of Folk Tree Lodge in Alberta
A snow covered Bragg Creek set against the mountain views of Alberta
   Photo: Folk Tree Lodge
    Photo: Abben S.
  1. Bragg Creek, Alberta —

    For a farm‑like stay, consider heading to Bragg Creek, only 30 minutes by car from downtown Calgary, and stay in a unique artisan‑crafted log cabin at Folk Tree Lodge. Located on 30‑plus acres of beautiful property, with a pond, walking trails and outdoor play areas for children, you can spend your whole day enjoying the farm life or make this your country‑style home base after a day of exploring the city of Calgary.

Boats stationed along the dock of the Rideau Canal in Ottawa
   Photo: Tyler Farmer
  1. Rideau Canal, Ottawa, Ontario —

    For fun on the water, escape the crowds and cruise the Rideau Canal – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and beautiful boating waterway that takes you through some of the province’s best sites. Returning in March 2021 (just in time for Spring Break), you can take in the surrounding views from the comfort of a LeBoat houseboat vacation – a great option for a family getaway. These boats offer multiple cabins and bathrooms, and are self‑driving, so you can cruise on your own down the Rideau Canal from Smiths Falls to Ottawa (no boating license required!). Guided by an interactive map and suggested boating itineraries, navigating your way through the Rideau Canal will be easy, effortless and unforgettable.

Skiing between the snow covered trails of Camp Mercier in Quebec
   Photo: Simon Berger
  1. Camp Mercier, Quebec —

    Located in the Réserve faunique des Laurentides wildlife reserve (less than an hour by car from Quebec City), Camp Mercier is famous for its cross‑country skiing and snowshoeing, offering over 70 km of flat trails to explore. Cozy up in a slopeside chalet, hostel or rustic camp, and enjoy the benefits of visiting one of the Sépaq‑network cross‑country skiing centres. Bonus: overnight visitors will have access to the cross‑country ski trails for free during their stay.

The picturesque exterior of the Train Station Inn in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia
A decadent stack of pancakes served at the Sugar Moon Farm
   Photo: Train Station Inn
    Photo: Sugar Moon Farm
  1. Tatamagouche, NS —

    Just over an hour‑and‑a‑half drive from Halifax, the village of Tatamagouche is an idyllic spot for a small‑town vacation with kids. Located in Colchester County, this seaside village features beautiful beaches, hiking and biking along the Trans Canada Trail and a variety of quaint museums and markets to browse during your visit.
     
    Consider a stay at Train Station Inn, where rail lovers can sleep in The Cabooses – a series of restored railway cars, some dating back as far as 1911. Take a ride on the Tatamagouche Road Train, which gives visitors a sightseeing tour around the village and along the Trans Canada Trail. Then head to Sugar Moon Farm where you can dine on maple‑inspired comfort food and hike over 30 km of wilderness trails that can be found on the property.