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Stay on the ‘nice’ list as you explore Ontario this season

Five tips for staying safe — and protecting others — as you enjoy your region.

As the COVID-19 pandemic keeps us hunkered down through the chilly holiday season, we’re looking on the bright side and exploring our own backyards. Road trips and staycations are going to look a bit different this year as we mask up, sanitize and hit the open road. “With travel restrictions in place globally, this winter is a good time to reconnect with Canada and our home province,” says Rebecca Mackenzie, president and CEO of Culinary Tourism Alliance. “But we all need to do our part and stay six feet apart, whether you’re in the city or the countryside.”

Whether you’re really into local cheese and beer or township hopping in search of the best butter tart, there’s a Great Taste of Ontario passport to help you. Before you hit the road, passports in tow, make sure you follow these five tips to stay healthy—and keep others safe.

Build a COVID-19 care kit

Never leave home again without your mask, hand sanitizer, alcohol wipes and gloves. Repurpose an old cosmetic case or use a sealable plastic bag to store your COVID-19 essentials and stash it in your car, backpack or purse so you never forget what you need. Remember to keep your mask in a sealed bag separate from the rest of your items to make sure everything stays clean. And it’s not a bad idea to keep extra masks in your car or luggage, just in case you misplace or break one.

Plan in advance

This isn’t the time for spontaneity—you don’t want to find yourself stuck without accommodations! Instead, make sure to call ahead to book your room in advance. And pack smart. Many restaurants and other tourism businesses won’t be able to handle reusable materials, like water bottles, so pack a big jug of water to refill your own and bring eco-friendly utensils so as not to contribute to landfill waste.

Research your route

Before you pack up the kids and hit the road, be sure to do more research than normal on the route you’re hoping to take. Whether you’re heading into wine country or Ottawa for maple taffy and ice sculptures, you’ll want to check that rest stops and bathrooms you’re set to pass are open.

Mask up, sanitize and keep your distance wherever you go

Remember that using your mask and sanitizing your hands not only keeps you safe, it’s also the best way to protect others—potentially immunocompromised—people, too. Always wear your mask and sanitize your hands when entering an establishment and walking through busy areas. Whether you’re out walking nature trails or inside a local boutique, do your best to stay six feet apart from anyone outside of your household.

Pack your patience

Tourism and hospitality operators across Canada are doing all they can to remain open while complying with safety standards required to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Despite doing their best, things are a little different these days, and simple things that were quick and seamless before—like ordering a cup of coffee or ringing up a purchase—might take a bit longer now. Be patient and gracious. “We are all learning how to be better citizens,” Mackenzie says. “And that takes time.”

as part of the Great Taste of Ontario Special Report