With the flight ban now lifted and Hong Kong hotel quarantine reduced to seven days, many families are finally travelling again. But what is it REALLY like to quarantine with kids in a tiny hotel room?
Like many Hong Kong parents, Sassy Partnerships Manager Charlotte was desperate to get home for Christmas. It had been over two years since she’d been home to the UK, she’d had a full COVID pregnancy and a brand new baby who’d never met his grandparents. A situation that is familiar to us all. After weighing it all up, the decision was made, the family would fly to England for the winter holidays and return early in the new year, being fully prepared to tackle up to three weeks hotel quarantine (thankfully it hasn’t come to that!).
What was it like returning to the UK?
After a very long, 12-hour flight, solo with two young kids I was exhausted but we survived! It was a freezing cold UK winter, but even with COVID restrictions in place, it was a million miles away from what we experienced in Hong Kong. Although everyone was wearing masks, people were able to go about their normal lives which gave me a sense of relief. With the excitement of Christmas too, I felt very lucky to be home surrounded by family and friends. The weather was cold but sunny and we spent a lot of time in pubs, local parks and on long walks with the family.
How difficult was it to change your flights and quarantine bookings?
With multiple flight cancellations throughout our stay, we needed to change our quarantine hotel dates several times. Knowing that there was a shortage of quarantine hotels, I knew that as soon as the latest announcement was made, there would be a surge in people returning so I reacted fast and was able to keep my booking. This journey ended up being the 11th revision of booking!
We knew the risks of flight bans before we travelled, but we didn’t appreciate how long we would be stuck. Luckily we had friends and family to lean on but this was pretty unsettling to have such uncertainty ahead of us. It all worked out in the end but I do reminisce when travel used to be so straightforward!
Arriving Into Hong Kong Airport With Kids
In February we relocated to Singapore to be able to work remotely on the same timezone. The flight was relatively straightforward but the airport was unusually busy so the queues were really long. There was help available for parents if you ask! We were generally taken to the front of the queue to progress through each step more quickly.
Sassy Mama tip: Have hard copies printed of ALL documents so you don’t waste time scrolling through your phone. This includes your quarantine hotel booking, vaccination records and PCR test results
Getting through Hong Kong Airport was long and drawn out. From landing to getting on the bus took us six hours! This could have been because we travelled on the first day that quarantine had reduced.
- Landing and documents: Two hours – Various stages of documentation checks, the dreaded PCR test (which was surprisingly quick and efficient). Then everyone is handed a basic snack – sandwich, water and biscuits.
- Test results: Two to three hours – We were taken to a holding area where you are sat at individual desks to wait for your results. This process seemed unnecessarily drawn out. Some passengers waited two hours but we were there for three.
- Immigration, baggage and bus lines: Two hours – Once you’ve got the all-clear, you clear immigration, collect your luggage and then onto the next holding area where you wait for your allocated bus. Again, there were very long queues but we asked to be taken to the front as we had very young children. We then still had to wait half an hour for a bus!
- Bus ride to quarantine hotel: Two hours – By this point everyone was very tired and hungry. What would have been a 30-minute drive to Hong Kong Island took over 90 minutes with traffic and other hotel drop-offs (it was Friday night rush hour so this may have been the reason).
Sassy Mama tip: Pack lots of your kids’ favourite snacks and drinks to keep you all going.
We eventually reached our hotel at 8pm. Who would have thought we’d feel grateful heading into a locked room for a week! Check-in was a smooth, 15-minute process, mostly covering the testing schedule, rules and requirements of our stay.
Settling Into Hong Kong Hotel Quarantine
We’ve come prepared with Lego, puzzles, toys, hand paints, tunnels, balloons, stickers, slime, bath bombs, a Bluetooth microphone (sorry other hotel inmates!), play-doh, books and ALL the snacks. Oh, and some face masks and bubble bath for some self-care once the kids are down.
The kids actually love hotels so this is more exciting for them than anything.
“We created meaningful spaces and segmented the day spending time between each one. So dedicating a space to eat, reading time, arts and crafts, active play (usually jumping on the bed).”
We are luckily enough to have a connecting room so their favourite thing to do is to call each other from each room!
Both my husband and I are trying to work during our quarantine stay. Having the interconnecting rooms and even just being able to divide the space is a godsend. We had the kids play in one room, while we took turns taking calls and meetings from the other.
Sassy Mama tip: Landing on a Friday night meant that we had the weekend to settle/focus on the kids before we had to go into a work routine. We were really grateful for this time!
Hong Kong Hotel Quarantine Food
I was prepared to be placing food deliveries on a daily basis but we were pleasantly surprised. It was pretty basic, but inoffensive and definitely edible. We ordered additional snacks, fruit and wine (lots of wine!) from M&S which has helped us get through. There was also a Saturday night takeaway treat which was great as there are loads of options online! The thing I was most looking forward to was a home-cooked meal!
Activities For Kids In Hong Kong Hotel Quarantine
Find out if your hotel has a WhatsApp group for quarantine guests. In ours, people were trading all sorts of exercise equipment! We rented a toaster, an exercise bike and a treadmill.
I try to fit at least one physical activity with the kids each day. My two boys have A LOT of energy to burn! Musical statues has been a hit, as well as Jo Wicks workout.
We had packed an activity for each day we were there, which created excitement and anticipation for the kids. Plus there was always the TV to fall back on. It was more screen time than usual but in my opinion, it was perfectly fine given the situation!
COVID Testing During Hong Kong Hotel Quarantine
We had to provide daily rapid antigen tests and leave them outside our door at 1pm. We also had to do PCR tests on days five and 12. For kids under three, the rules changed on 1 April, meaning that they have to provide stool samples on days one, five and 12. Because we got in so late on our arrival day, they accepted the sample on day two. Also worth mentioning that the Department of Health were really helpful on the phone. Likewise, the staff at reception were friendly and supportive with any concerns or questions we had.
Getting Through Hong Kong Hotel Quarantine With Kids
Of course we have had a few moments of madness but overall we got through it okay. This was definitely helped by our hotel sending us small thoughtful gifts. One day we received a velcro tree with animals for the kids to stick on. It was these small things that go really far when you’re in a situation like this. They also dropped off a bag of candy which I immediately tucked away! Giving these kids sugar in a confined space would be a very bad idea for everyone involved.
With only seven days of hotel quarantine, the time is going remarkably fast and weirdly (I can’t believe I am about to say this) it was lovely not having to be anywhere and getting some quality time with the family. It forced us to be creative with our days, overcome issues and set firm boundaries. I feel lucky that my kids are at the ages where the older one can be distracted by the TV and my one-year-old is a bit more independent. And their two-hour nap in the middle of the day is a lifesaver too!
“It wasn’t until day six that my older boy asked if he can go outside…I am not sure whether to be concerned or thrilled at this!”
Best delivery: M&S food for us and Toys Club for the kids. I must do a special shout-out to the team who managed to get an order together for me that same day!
Highlights: Spending time with my family and not having to be anywhere.
Low points: The lack of fresh air and no outside space, along with no other social interaction.
Checking Out Of Hong Kong Hotel Quarantine
Opening the door of our hotel room was definitely a moment of relief! With no one to escort us out, it seemed very strange and almost felt like we were breaking the law! Overall, the process was smooth and fast.
I thought after being cooped up for a week I would want to just be outside, but the reality was that I just wanted to be at home on my own sofa with a nice cup of tea. I found it slightly overwhelming getting out and it definitely took me some time for me to adjust. The kids were so excited to see their room and be surrounded by their toys that we actually didn’t leave that day but just enjoyed being in our own surroundings.
When we arrived home I felt like everything was louder, brighter and slightly overwhelming. This feeling soon left after a few days but it made me realise that quarantine definitely had more of an effect on my mental state than perhaps I had appreciated.
Final Tips For Families Entering Hong Kong Hotel Quarantine
One week is absolutely doable, keep busy, keep active and try not to overthink it. I was extremely apprehensive about how it would all work, but just take each day as it comes. And remember, whatever time you arrive, that is day one, so actually, your journey starts with just six days ahead of you. You might even think you can enjoy it – appreciate the time being with family and accept that things are temporarily chaotic but you will get through!