This summer is shaping up as the perfect time for a made-in-Canada holiday. “Our country is really one of the most incredible destinations on the planet,” says Alex Ross, CEO of Fresh Adventures (Photograph courtesy of Fresh Adventures)
Just before the Victoria Day weekend in May, it was looking as if summer 2020 might end up being the most maligned seasonal break ever. Industry watchers were calling it everything from “the blighted summer” to “the summer that fun forgot.”
Even now, as the economy sputters to life again, people are still likely to remain cautious. While some countries in Europe and the Caribbean are opening their borders, and some airlines are posting lower-than-expected flight prices, the official federal advisory to avoid non-essential international travel is likely to continue to have a dampening effect. In fact, a recent TravelWeek survey found that an overwhelming 42.7 per cent of respondents would travel within Canada first if global travel resumed tomorrow.
But what kind of vacation are people seeking? According to Frederic Dimanche, director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ryerson University, trust will be the operative word this year. “Vacationers will want to travel with people they know well,” he says. “They are likely to stick to small groups—their own bubble.” He adds that with flying on the back burner, many people will be taking to the road, returning to family camping trips or drives to the lake. “We’ll go to something out of the past,” he said.
Here are eight ways to turn a maligned summer into one that’s memorable—in a good way.
1) HEAD TO COTTAGE COUNTRY
Long a staple for vacationers in Canada, cottages could well become even more sought-after this summer. Software consultant and cottage owner Michael Cosgrove says most of his friends without a rural retreat are looking to rent—or visit other people at their cottages.
“My wife Jen and I currently have two cottages—both at Long Point on Lake Erie—but we are planning to sell one in July. We have had lots of people offer to rent our old place even for the entire summer. It seems to be the only option with the borders closed.”
Delphine Coppé-de Lajartre agrees. Although the Montrealer and her family usually travel out-of-province (last year, they went to B.C. on a home exchange), they’re returning to a place in Quebec’s Charlevoix region where they stayed years ago. “When I contacted the owner, she remembered us. And she trusts us,” she says. “We trust her too. We know she will deep clean and disinfect the cottage before we arrive.”
2) HIT THE OPEN ROAD
For anyone who wants to stay inside their own bubbles while experiencing the thrill of the open road, this could be the perfect year for a car or RV trip. For example, Cosgrove’s sister Leah is planning to drive with her husband and daughter to Quebec City and Montreal in August, and Coppé-de Lajartre and family will also spend a week driving around Gaspésie.
Meanwhile, veteran RVer Chad Davis, CPA, co-founder of LiveCA, is back on the road again. Davis took a months-long trip across North America last year with his wife and two kids, but came back to their home in Halifax, N.S., in March. After savouring the joys of the stationary life—i.e., running water, unlimited laundry and lots of electricity—for three months, they saw their wanderlust return with a vengeance.
“Cleaning this house was just too much. We miss being in the small space,” he says. This time they found a beachfront campground in Nova Scotia where they’ll spend the summer until it’s safe to head west again—they have booked Vancouver Island for September through December.
3) FIND ADVENTURE ON YOUR DOORSTEP
The adventure-minded sometimes think they need to look offshore for excitement: how can you possibly test your mettle so close to the comfort of home? But if Alex Ross, CEO of Fresh Adventures, has his way, this will be the year more domestic travellers step up to the plate. “Many Canadians don’t know what experiences are available to them,” says Ross, whose company offers everything from backpacking tours in the Coast Mountains to snowboarding around the Powder Highway. “The best part about selling Canada is that it is really one of the most incredible destinations on the planet.”
This year, the company is focusing especially on making its private/custom trips to the Rockies more accessible to Canadians. The retail rate for these tours, which include van travel and a local guide, is $1,200 per day for one to 14 passengers. On top of the base fare is the cost of the hotel rooms or camping, plus included food. “Typically, these packages become very economical around four people, with all the perks of a private tour and the pricing of a public tour,” says Ross.
4) COMMUNE WITH THE OUTDOORS
If being cooped up at home for months has you longing for a true slice of nature, you might want to try your hand at camping. Many provincial campgrounds are open, and Parks Canada is taking some reservations.
Among other advice, it says people should “be prepared to be self-sufficient, pack extra hygiene supplies such as hand sanitizer, wipes and a tablecloth, and bring water and food.”
Experts also caution against camping with too large of a group from many households. As Jay Kaufman, an epidemiologist at McGill University, points out, campgrounds that are lower in density are ideal.
“I consider campgrounds and parks to be among the most practical places to reopen safely, with all cautions and protections firmly in place.”
5) GO “WWOOFING”
COVID-19 may have thrown a spanner into some types of travel, but why not transform your time into a learning experience by volunteering? For example, Graciella Parks (not her real last name) and Xenobia Na are both working with WWOOF (world wide opportunities on organic farms), an ecotourism organization that lets people learn about organic food and agriculture while working for room and board.
Currently, Parks and Na are both at a farm in Lucan, Ontario. “This was a great chance to get my hands dirty—literally,” says Parks, who holds a degree in agricultural economics from the Philippines.
As expected, the wwoofers have been delighted with their experience. Na, a pastry chef who is originally from South Korea, especially enjoyed sitting around the bonfire they made one night (“I saw fireflies dancing around us for the first time,” she says). And Parks likes watching the crops she has planted grow and being able to harvest and taste them. “I’ve learned that all the plants need much more water than I thought.”
Meanwhile, hosts Carin and George Marr are learning too. “I love to share the scenery around our home with people from other countries and places in Canada,” says Carin. “It’s like seeing everything for the first time, through their eyes.”
6) HOP ON YOUR BIKE AND GO
Of all the pastimes that have emerged triumphant from the pandemic, biking has got to be No. 1. Unlike many other sports, it has the advantage of combining a way to stay fit with a way to get around—all while letting you enjoy the sights along the way. That makes it a good vacation choice for many.
One cyclist who is enjoying the (free) wheeling lifestyle is Brampton resident Anthony Wren, who works as a supervisor for Toromont. For the past few months, Wren has been using cycling as a way to commute. “It’s a 10-minute ride and I enjoy being outside,” he says. Lately, he and his girlfriend have also been taking rides along Toronto’s waterfront, including Woodbine Beach and Cherry Beach.
“On one trip, the Cherry Street Bar-B-Que house was slinging tacos outdoors, so we stopped for a snack,” says Wren. “Even though everyone was socially distancing, it felt good to see them all out enjoying the company of their loved ones.”
Although Wren is not a fan of group tours, he and his girlfriend plan to venture beyond the city this summer. “We’ll probably go to Ontario’s Prince Edward County so we can enjoy all the sights and sounds up close,” he says. “I have a Jeep, so transporting our two-wheelers will be a breeze.”
[For info on various trails, see Canada is a large country. Here are 9 ways to see it inexpensively.]
7) GET FIT WHILE HAVING FUN
Beyond cycling, there are any number of activities you can take on the road—or engage in right at home.
For example, Coppé-de Lajartre and family each made a top five list of activities they’d like to do when they’re not at their rented cottage this summer. Choices include fishing, pétanque and camping in the backyard.
In terms of physical distancing, golf and tennis are both good choices for the sports-minded. But if wielding a racket or angling a wedge is not your thing, you might prefer roller blading or rock climbing. (Make sure to check COVID-19 guidelines.)
Then again, you can always create your own vintage sports bubble by setting up a croquet court or indoor/outdoor ping pong table. (Options range from simple to luxurious.)
And if you enjoy the heart-thumping excitement of leaping into the wild blue yonder, bungee jumping might be just the ticket. Great Canadian Bungee at Morrison’s Quarry in Wakefield, Que., is now open for business, with precautions in place.
8) STAY ENTERTAINED WHILE STAYCATIONING
Beyond sports, there are countless other family bonding experiences that can take place right at home. For example, you can gather details on your family tree and start to write your family history (your kids will thank you both now and later).
If your family is eager to mix up some tantalizing aromas, you can choose from a number of online cooking classes—including Airbnb’s cookie-baking hour. (Airbnb also offers other experiences—from learning about olive oil to propagating plants.)
You can also help your kids develop their creative side—and learn how art helps with mental health—with a video showing how to make art with ingredients from the kitchen such as turmeric and cinnamon or dried foods such as spiral pasta.
What if you really like to sink your teeth into a project? Then join the legions of other do-it-yourselfers building decks or restoring old furniture. (Sure, that’s not exactly a vacation, but as they say, a change … Besides, renovators have been helping building centres escape the worst of the downturn.)
Want to create your own outdoor oasis? Then build a pond with a kit or freestyle. (Make sure to find ways to dissuade raccoons.)
Would you rather kick up a storm in your own pool? Then why not install an above-ground swimming pool? Options range from small kid-sized dippers to adult-sized versions.
Whatever kind of vacation you choose, there’s a good chance you might pocket some savings this summer. Just remember to have backup options in place, to respect the communities you are visiting—and above all, to actually take some time off.
“Canadians are notorious for not taking all their days, or waiting too long to take them,” says Eileen Chadnick, principal of Big Cheese Coaching. “But everyone needs to give their brains, soul and spirit a chance to refresh and recharge. You owe it to yourself, your colleagues and your loved ones.”
VACATION ON YOUR MIND?
Learn more about how to plan an RV vacation, choose the right vehicle, and see Canada inexpensively. And find out more about budgeting—for vacation and otherwise—by checking out CPA Canada’s financial literacy resources.