Travel-hungry Canadians swap international flights for local day trips

Toronto couple Michael Nguyen and Agatha Garces are frequent travelers.

ANGELA JACOBS-BLUM / THE GLOBE AND THE MAIL

Michael Nguyen and Agatha Garces are frequent travelers. The Toronto-based couple visited Alaska together in December 2019 and in February 2020 Mr. Nguyen visited Colombia on a week-long trip with friends. The couple were eagerly awaiting a two-week vacation in Italy in August 2020. Then COVID-19 struck.

Mr. Nguyen and Ms. Garces remained safe and inside from March to April. But in May 2020, they felt locked in and wanted to get out and explore. They embarked on a two hour day trip southeast to the Niagara region to see the falls and visit the vineyards of Niagara-on-the-Lake. “I felt happy and excited to go out,” recalls Mr. Nguyen. “We had been stuck inside our homes for so long.

From there, Ms. Garces and Mr. Nguyen ventured out on day and weekend trips almost every weekend they could. They visited the Eramosa karst caves near Hamilton, rested on the beaches of Sandbanks Provincial Park in Prince Edward County, and hiked the trees in Brampton. Ms Garces, an avid TikTok user, would send Mr Nguyen links and videos to nearby destinations she spotted in her social media feed. This is how they discovered a glamping dome near King City on Airbnb, which they visited in April 2021.

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For Mr. Nguyen and Ms. Garces, day trips to Ontario satisfied their urge to travel and explore without leaving the country. At the time, international travel would have involved COVID testing and quarantine periods. “The day trips were something we could do with no rules or restrictions,” says Nguyen. “We like to see new things and have experiences outside. It was the balance we found that met public health guidelines and also met our needs. “

Recently, regional travel has increased across the country, including the province of Quebec where Marie-Hélène Hudon works as Director of International Business Development, Trade and Public Relations for the Alliance de l’Industrie Touristique du Quebec. “Some people are still afraid to fly, or they want to stay nearby because of all the uncertainty,” says Ms. Hudon. “They say, ‘Well, we still want to see our province.’ They still want to travel.

According to an annual survey conducted by CAA-Quebec, more vacationers intend to stay in Quebec for their vacations – 83% in 2021, compared to 77% in 2020.

Garces and Nguyen ventured out on day and weekend trips almost every weekend they could.

ANGELA JACOBS-BLUM / THE GLOBE AND THE MAIL

International and out-of-province visitors have declined dramatically, so provincial and regional tourism boards are now shifting their focus to attracting local travelers instead. Incentive programs, offering discounts or rebates for local travel, are a popular way to do this. Last summer, Quebec launched the Attraction Passport program offering a 20 to 40% discount on activities such as river cruises, whale watching and golf. Sépaq, the government agency for parks and wildlife in Quebec, has offered a 50% discount on its annual Quebec national parks card to obtain unlimited access to the province’s national parks for the summer of 2020 and 2021.

Both years, the promotion sold out within 24 hours.

Regional tourism board websites are a great place to plan and research for aspiring day trippers, says Hudon. “We just launched a new website, BonjourQuébec.com, which has an activity planner where you can create routes,” she explains. “It’s really handy for day trips. Ms. Hudon recommends keeping the driving distance under two and a half hours. Otherwise, turn it into a weekend and book yourself a hotel or Airbnb.

Social media can also be a good research tool, as Mr. Nguyen and Ms. Garces discovered. “We all get our [travel] ideas from TikTok, ”Mr. Nguyen said. “My girlfriend follows the accounts of [certain] people or his friends.

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Day trips don’t always have to be about getting into nature. Think about outdoor entertainment or outdoor art installations. In Toronto, visitors can rent a canoe or kayak and paddle in an outdoor comedy show on the Humber River. In British Columbia, Fresh Air Cinema is touring its open-air cinema throughout the province.

For families, Ms. Hudon says farm and zoo tours are popular. She also recommends going to a national park. “You can cycle, you can kayak, you can paddle,” she explains. “It’s very safe, even for children. “

For couples, she recommends wine tours. “A lot of Quebecers don’t know that we have vineyards with very, very good wine just an hour from Montreal,” she explains.

As local areas open up, it’s always a good idea to check the status of public health restrictions before embarking on a road trip. Earlier in the pandemic, Mr Nguyen and Ms Garces used to pack a picnic blanket and bring a cooler with food and snacks when the availability of meals and restaurants was less certain.

Mr. Nguyen also recommends bringing a bathing suit, pair of hiking shoes, and a change of clothes, even if you don’t plan on hiking. “You never know when you might want to swim,” he says. “The lakes are very pleasant when you are far from the city. The same goes for bringing hiking boots – just in case you stumble upon a great trail or path worth exploring.

Nguyen and Garces have found that social media can also be a good tool for finding trips.

ANGELA JACOBS-BLUM / THE GLOBE AND THE MAIL

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