Destination Next: Zoomer Survey Reveals We’re Still Raring to Travel
A comprehensive survey of Zoomer Nation has revealed that, despite the pandemic, wanderlust has not lost its lustre. Photo: Britt Erlanson/Getty Images
You love to travel. And not just the act of get-up-and-go and soak-up-the-experiences of it. You also love to dream about it, read about it, map your way and plan it, too. You don’t necessarily go it alone, either. You’ll check out sources like the travel pages of Zoomer and everythingzoomer.com, read reviews, compare prices, talk to a travel agent – even (and perhaps, especially!) during a pandemic. This is what we, your fellow globetrotting friends at Zoomer, call the Savvy Traveller. This autumn, we reached out and asked you to inform us of how your attitudes toward travel may be changing, what with COVID-19. More than 2,700 of you responded and we highlight our key finding here. The clearest message was this: although you may be grounded now, many of you are already slaking that wanderlust with thoughts of where you might go next. And this was even before we got the good news on the vaccines.
But our attitudes have changed. We are realizing the privilege that travel is and that our ability to do it should not be taken for granted. Visiting family and friends right here at home in Canada is top of mind now, even though Europe and the United Kingdom still beckon. Multi-gen and multi-family travel is no longer a “trend.” It’s a travel habit that’s here to stay and a good one at that. Take it from two European journeys, one taken by a Canadian expat living in Berlin with teenagers and the other, a grandmother embarking on a cycling tour around Denmark with the kids and grandkids. Go to everythingzoomer.com/travelclub to read about their experiences.
Human connection is, after all, one of the most beautiful things about travel – and one of the keys to our overall wellness. “I live alone,” wrote one of our survey respondents. “I plan on visiting both my boys in Canada and expect to stay with each at least three weeks. Family is so important during times like these. I believe those who live alone and don’t have family nearby feel the loneliness more.” Whether it be reuniting with family and friends, discovering a hidden gem, rediscovering a local hideout or revelling in a never-be- fore-experienced culture or cuisine, travel brings us closer.
Small world it may be, but when we’re given the green light to go again, we will go big – at home and afar.
The COVID Effect
Forty-three per cent of you had booked a vacation trip outside Canada and had to cancel.
As one respondent wrote: “I cancelled trips to Iceland and Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. Not sure which one will clear first for travel again.”
And 32 per cent were planning a trip outside Canada and had started to research places and prices but stopped this activity when COVID-19 hit, forcing many travellers to pivot. Thirty-one per cent said: “My next vacation trip will be within Canada because I am eager to travel, and it will be easier and less restrictive than a trip to the U.S.A. or overseas.” The words “visiting family” or “relatives” came up in respondents’ comments more than 100 times – obviously, a major priority.
And where do you want to go when it’s safe to do so?
Victoria and Vancouver Island were winners for snowbirds who are not keen on heading south of the border. The Maritimes along with Newfoundland and Labrador also scored high.
Seventy-four per cent of you expect their vacation outside Canada to be more than one week, with many of you listing one month to three months as optional. It’s no wonder then, after Europe, far-flung international destinations such as New Zealand and Australia came up quite often. Ireland, the U.K. and Mexico were also popular for respondents.
There’s just no keeping some of you down. Here’s one intrepid traveller’s experience: “It is the European trip that we were scheduled to take last May, then in September and now rescheduled to May 2021. When we postponed, we scheduled a road trip to P.E.I. and Nova Scotia, hoping the borders would reopen by mid-September. But they did not, so we travelled by car within our home province of Ontario.”
And then there are those of you who choose to practise patience – 29 per cent said they do not expect to be able to travel until spring or summer. As one of you explained, “If it becomes possible to travel safely (vaccine, etc.), I would like to again visit family in Europe and resume being a snowbird. Until that time, I shall stay within my travel bubble to keep myself and others as safe as possible.”
And for some of you, travel is an absolute no-go: “I will only think about travel when COVID-19 is under some control.” Follow our daily COVID-19 updates at everythingzoomer. com/pandemic.
1. The Romance of the Open Road
Each province and territory has its epic drive, and most of us have heard of the Sea- to-Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler, the Icefields Parkway in Alberta and the Cabot Trail around Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. But according to Destination Canada, the not-so-travelled but equally beautiful routes include the Dempster Highway in the Yukon (A), the Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan (B) and the Interlake Region in Manitoba (C).
Clearly, COVID-19 is retooling how we travel as RV vacations are becoming more popular as a way to explore the country and avoid crowds. According to the RV Business Association, North American wholesale orders for new RVs in 2021 is up approximately 20 per cent, or just over 500,000 vehicles, from 2020’s approximately 425,000.
Like a cruise but in your own bubble on land, a mobile home allows you to visit many destinations and only unpack once. Roughing it takes a luxe turn, points out Klaus Gretzmacher, VP of tourism at CanaDream RV. “You can still sleep under the stars – simply pop open the skylights – but without pitching a tent.”
Considering an RV vacation? Destination Canada advises to make sure you’re aware of your destination’s pandemic protocols and, most importantly, be patient. Many places, including restaurants and attractions, have limited hours, revised entrance rules and practices. And while the risk of disease tranmission is low in the open air, maintain physical distancing whether you’re hiking or shopping. Last but certainly not least, don’t rush. Because it’s all about how you want to spend your time.
Here are a few more tips from Gretzmacher.
Don’t stress Never driven an RV before? Companies such as CanaDream will set you up with the right vehicle for your party size and driving ability and walk you through every detail before you go. (cana dream.com)
Research campsites along your route using trip planners Go RVing Canada (gorving.ca), the Canadian Camping and RV Council (ccrvc.ca) and the CanaDream Club app all cover the country extensively with vetted suggestions and itineraries, as does the Canadian Automobile Association.
Click here for more tips on RV travel in Canada. And if you’re looking for armchair travel inspiration, go to everthingzoomer.com/roadtrips for our collection of stories.
Blame it on Schitt’s Creek, but the roadside motel is on the rise. This throwback has a lot going for it – nostalgia for the good old days when the family piled into the station wagon, mid-century modern appeal and parking lots that are big enough to accommodate cars and RVs. And in almost all cases, there’s little need to be in indoor public spaces, meaning minimal contact, as motel rooms typically open directly outdoors.
In Ontario’s Prince Edward County, the women-owned The June Motel, and Drake Motor Inn (an outpost of The Drake Hotel, above), have been booked solid, prompting The June to open a second location in the province’s cottage country’s Sauble Beach. Juniper Hotel in Banff and Hotel Zed in Kelowna both feature that vintage vibe and play up some of the most gorgeous views in the province.
2. The Richness of Our Indigenous Culture
Satisfy your passion for supporting local by trying an Indigenous brew or bottle, like one from the brand-new Red Tape Brewery. A family-run Indigenous-owned brewery and tap room created by Sarabeth and Sean Holden in Toronto’s east end, Red Tape features small-batch brews – That Was Easy Pale Ale launched the shop – and a “brew for you” ethos that creates bespoke custom brews to celebrate the milestones in life. When the couple’s son was born, for example, the Holdens whipped up a Celebration Saison bottled Champagne-style. That’s a cork worth popping.
In the West, Nk’Mip Cellars is North America’s first Indigenous owned and operated winery. The grapes are nurtured into award-winning wines at vineyards on the Osoyoos Indian Band reserve lands – 32,000 acres in B.C.’s south Okanagan (registered under the Indian Act as a reserve in 1877). The band’s guiding principles of innovation while maintaining the connection to and respect for nature produces VQA wines, from Winemaker’s Series to the premium Qwan Qwmt reserve. Order online or do yourself one better and, when you can, visit the home of Nk’Mip and experience the heritage while taking in the Osoyoos semi-desert landscape, surrounded by lakes and mountains.
For a deeper experience, immerse yourself in the hospitality of the First Nations from South Indian Lake (O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation) at Big Sand Lake Lodge, the only lodge located on an ancient glacier esker, deep within the subarctic wilderness of Manitoba, more than 500 miles north of Winnipeg. Here, fishing enthusiasts can cast a line in some of Canada’s most prized fishing waters. Take the Canadian Trophy Grand Slam challenge and try to land all four sport fish in a single visit: northern pike, lake trout, walleye and Arctic grayling, all in potential trophy sizes. All fishing packages (starting at US$3,995 for five days, inclusive of meals) include round-trip flights on a twin- engine turbo-prop from Winnipeg direct to the lodge’s private landing strip (there’s no vehicle access), cosy five-star cabins with wood-burning stoves and jaw-dropping panoramic views of the lake and forest.
For more Indigenous travel ideas, go to destinationindigenous.ca
3. A Taste of the Culinary Caribbean
Crystal waters, blue skies, sandy beaches – yes, those are the things that come to mind when we think of the Caribbean. But there’s also the food. While many of us are familiar with beef patties and jerk chicken from Jamaica, other gems include Creole cuisine on islands like St. Lucia, also known for its chocolate; and international chef offerings like on Anguilla, where the world’s only CuisinArt Golf Resort and Spa can be found. And for coffee lovers, Puerto Rico is opening its coffee plantations to see and stay.
Here are two other of the island chain’s destinations on our radar.
Tucked beneath Cuba with Central. America to the west, the Cayman Islands (a group of three) is home to the Caribbean’s only AAA Five Diamond restaurant Blue, by Eric Ripert.
The Ritz-Carlton on Grand Cayman is the only place you can try the celeb chef’s fare outside of his NYC restaurant, le Bernardin. Bonus: some of the best in the world flock annually to Ripert’s Cayman Cookout, including Emeril Lagasse and Normand Laprise of Montreal’s Toqué. Lynn Crawford, another Canadian all-star chef, lists Agua for the fresh catch and Heritage Kitchen for local, rustic fare, among her favourites. Also try The Brasserie, the place where farm- and sea-to-table took hold in Cayman. visitcaymanislands.com/en-ca.
Dominica (pronounced Dom- in-EEK-a, not to be confused with the Dominican Republic) is in the Eastern Caribbean. This mountainous, rainforest–laced, volcanic island — known as the Nature Island — is a magnet for those who want to go off the beaten track.
Tourism was ravaged after Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria both ripped through the island in 2017. The island was recently in the news when it was announced that through their new charity, the non-profit Archewell Foundation, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, will fund a community relief centre there. (This is part of über-chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen, which has been feeding the hungry in disaster-hit areas since 2010.)
In November 2020, Dominica was recognized by National Geographic Traveller UK as the only Caribbean island to make its Best of the World 2021 list for adventure. Known for deep-sea diving and whale watching, it was its rich rain forests and hiking, however, that gave it the winning edge. Forest bathing takes on greater meaning here: take a walk through the rain forest of Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a World Heritage Site, and you’ll arrive at the mouth of a volcano. But not just any volcano. Boiling Lake is a fumarole that was flooded with water, creating a lake-like pool. No swimming here, however, but viewing this unique bubbling cauldron of steam and vapour is worth the journey.
And then there’s the island’s Creole heritage, influenced by its historic melting pot of Carib, English, French and African, celebrated through the cuisine and the arts. French cooking techniques get the local treatment for stewed chicken and beef or soups of fish and dumplings. Local delicacies include crab backs – seasoned crab- meat baked in its shell; the sausage-like black pudding you may know from the Brits; and souse, pickled pigs feet served with cucumber and penny bread. But there’s also an emphasis on plant-based ingredients. Lettuce, spinach and watercress feature highly along with dasheen, yams and callaloo, which is the base for Callaloo Soup, Dominica’s national dish.
The World Creole Music Festival, where one can toast with a rum-based Ponche de Creme, is held annually over three days at the end of October (with a brief pandemic-driven hiatus last year) and accounts for about 10 per cent of the island’s annual tourism. For more information visit dominica.com/en
A version of this article appeared in the Feb/March 2021 issue with the headline “Destination Next,” p. 82.