Surviving Australian quarantine with a toddler

Due to COVID-19, Australia started mandating that all international visitors go into government-mandated hotel quarantine for 14 days. Although it sounds annoying, it is an incredibly responsible way for the country to control the virus coming in from overseas.

Before we arrived, we read about some great and not so great experiences. Overall, we feel so grateful for the experience we had and how accommodating everyone was to us. Here’s how we did it and what we learned.

Most important tip

Mindset is everything. You can see it as being forced into a room you can’t leave for two weeks, or you can make the best of it and see it as the epic adventure that it is…which it is. For me, it helped tremendously when I made a plan for each day and had a checklist (I even created a little sticker chart for myself) which included the calls/emails I had to send that day, the workout I was going to do and some kind of self care. You’ve got to take care of yourself to get through this and be there for your kiddo.

In the end, we actually enjoyed this time and in some ways, we were sad to leave.

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How to get the best accommodations 

This is it largely out of your control and a bit of a crapshoot. After you clear customs, they separate folks with kids from folks without kids. Usually, all families end up at the same place. In Sydney, it was very common for families to go into furnished apartments (commonly they are sent to one of the many locations of Meriton Suites). Each of these had laundry, kitchen and even a balcony!

After exiting baggage claim and customs at the airport, the police will ask you about your family and the ages of everyone in your party. They are the ones to determine what room to give you and they let the hotel know. For us, they assigned us a 1br apartment. Had Juliette been a bit older, and certainly if we had more than one kid, they might have given us a, 2br, but once this was set, it wasn’t negotiable. Also, we didn’t know what we were getting until we got to the hotel.

    • TIPS:
      • If you have any considerations you want them to be aware of, let the police know at the airport, don’t wait for the hotel — that is often too late.
      • From everything we read, exemptions are few and far between, but it never hurts to ask.

What to do upon arrival

We heard the great advice to sit at the front of the shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel, which we did. Upon arriving at the hotel, they only allowed two parties into the hotel for check-in at the time. And check-in took a while. It was already late at night and we were grateful to not have to sit on the shuttle with our hungry and tired toddler for an extra 30-40 min.

We settled into our room after dinner, so our first priority was getting Juliette fed (they sent up milk right away) and getting all of her things ready for bedtime (they already had a cot set up in the room).

After she went to bed, we ordered Uber Eats (which you can do once per day — awesome!) and started to unpack a bit. We were too tired that night to do much after dinner, but the following morning, the next order or business was to place a grocery order. Both Woolworths and Coles deliver (with a small delivery fee). We placed a decent-sized order — which we were able to do since we had a fridge/freezer — and received it the next day.

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Given we were going to be there for two weeks, it was nice to unpack our things. Set up your toiletries, take out your clothes, get all the toddler gear/clothes/nappies in a convenient place and make yourself comfortable. It really makes a difference.

What to bring

Think about what you want to bring vs buy. You can buy anything from the grocery store and have it delivered. We also placed an order from Chemist Warehouse when we needed some pharmacy items and more nappies (they deliver same day). We didn’t bring any snacks since we didn’t want to declare them at customs and figured we’d buy them upon arrival.

Here’s what we found helpful to bring:

    • Arts and crafts activities for the toddler — Water Wow, crayons and a notebook, stamps, window crayons, reusable stickers, masking tape etc.
    • Books for the toddler — we were glad to have a small assortment of books for her.
    • Travel container of her bath soap (which lasted the whole quarantine) and small cup for the bath.
    • All the toddler’s cups, bibs, fork etc. for eating.
    • Small exercise ball which doubled as a soccer ball for her.
    • Exercise bands for working out.
    • Comfy clothes for us — we stayed in leggings/sweats almost every day.
    • Some self-care items for us — face mask, journal, slippers etc.
    • Plenty of adapters and a step-down converter if needed.
    • Hand sanitizer and masks.
    • We packed a lot of our clothes in packing cubes or plastic compression bags. This was helpful for staying organized. It’s ideal if you can designate a few bags that you know you won’t have to touch during quarantine.
    • The wifi in the hotel was not strong enough for high quality video calls and so we borrowed a MyFi from a friend who lived in Sydney and this made a big difference. If you are taking video meetings, think about a hotspot or wifi option if the hotel wifi isn’t great.

Here’s what you may not need (that we brought):

    • Drying rack for clothes — this would have been handy if we were in a hotel room, and we brought this cheap one since we didn’t know what set up we would have.
    • Travel laundry detergent — we ended up buying a box of detergent and stain spray from Coles since we did so much laundry. Might have been helpful in a hotel room if we were washing just a few items in the sink, but we didn’t use it here.
    • Snacks — we bought them.

What to buy

    • Snacks! We got food and snacks we knew the toddler would like as well as some extra pouches. We got ourselves yogurts, lots of fruit and veggies, bread, hummus, tea and ice cream 🙂
    • Laundry detergent and stain spray — somehow the toddler was always covered in pen/stamps/food and this made laundry much easier.
    • Nappies and wipes — the hotel will provide some but they ran out of her size so we ended up buying our own. We brought enough to get us through the first few days but no need to schlep enough for two weeks since they are so bulky.
    • Uber Eats! We didn’t do it every night (since some of the dinners were good) but we did order in most nights.
    • Big bottles of water — to remind ourselves to drink enough every day.

You’ll be surprised at how easily a toddler can be entertained in a small space. She ended up using the room as her personal obstacle course (including her high chair) and we even taught her to take dirty laundry from the bedroom to the basket in the laundry room. Pretending to talk on the phone also occupied a good amount of time 🙂

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Getting over jet lag

This was a breeze for us when Juliette was 12 months old and we came to Australia. This time at 18 months, it wasn’t so easy. It doesn’t help that you can’t get outside for walks, breath in fresh air and feel the sunshine. But, we did our best. Here’s what worked for us:

    • Set an ideal schedule. We had an awesome schedule at home. Our goal was to get back on that schedule as soon as possible. Know that it will take time, but each day try to stretch wake times/bed times to get closer to that ideal schedule.
    • And then be flexible as needed. For the first 5-6 days, Juliette woke up at 4-5am (fun!) — this is coming from a girl who usually wakes up around 8-9am. Although we were aiming for her to nap at her usual time of 1:30pm, there were some days where she was falling asleep during her morning snack and we then put her down for an early nap (and kept her up until her regular bedtime that night). Listen to your kids, they will tell you what they need.
    • Recreate the toddler’s normal routine. We had her sleep sack, white noise machine, toothbrush and books with us. We tried to recreate the routine as much as possible. The only difference was spending a bit of time during the day and before putting her down to talk to her about her new bed/room and singing to her near her bed so she would be more comfortable with the strange space.
    • Use dark/light to your advantage. We love our SnoozeShade and travel with it everywhere. As she gets older and can stand up in her cot so it doesn’t block her from seeing out (which is why we had her sleep in the bathroom and not our room with us). But it did make her sleep area dark which really helped. We also kept the living room light/dark depending on the time of day. When she woke up early, we would play in the living room, but kept the shades drawn and lights dim so it wold still feel like nighttime. Similarly, kept windows open and lights on when it was daytime. This was helpful since we couldn’t get out for sunshine to remind our bodies of the correct time of day.
    • Eat and hydrate. For us and the toddler, eat healthy food and be sure to drink plenty of water.
    • Go with the flow. Things won’t go to plan. We have a toddler that is usually a superstar sleeper and had a tough time this first week. But that is fine, and we napped when she napped. Eventually, you’ll all get back on schedule!

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So, quarantine is not so bad and you’ll be great. Be sure to take care of yourself. Get on text and video calls every day with your friends and family. Workout where you can, treat yourself to alone time each day and see this as the adventure it is. Before you know it, it will be over and you’ll be free! Enjoy!

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Did you quarantine in Australia? Were you with kids? What did you find most helpful? Are you heading to Australia with your family? Add any questions about quarantine below.

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