Hotel quarantine survival guide

Photo of a girl in hotel quarantine

In March 2020, the Morrison Government introduced mandatory hotel quarantine for all residents returning from overseas. Whether the drastic measure is considered effective or a costly overkill is hotly debated, and it looks like it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. 🏨

After looking on from afar for months, it’s now my turn to do my time in quarantine. Following a string of flight “cancellations” due to caps on international arrivals, it seemed like the least of my worries. ❌

Note: this is based on my personal experience as a single in Brisbane; check out this great guide for families. There are also a number of variations between hotels and jurisdictions.

At the airport

On arrival, you will queue (observing social distancing) and continue to wear masks. There may or may not be Wi-Fi; Sydney provided it, Brisbane did not.

First, you’ll follow standard e-passport customs clearance and baggage collection. If you need to pee, go now! 🚻

We also queued for a sniffer dog check.

Next you’ll speak to the police and have the Quarantine Direction read out to you and be informed of your hotel name and address. You’ll also receive a bunch of paperwork, so carry a pen and a document sleeve.

Afterwards, you’ll be ushered to a waiting area until everyone has been processed.

Finally, you’ll be called to board the coach under military supervision. They will load your bags while you have your attendance checked before you board. There’s a police escort to the hotel and more military waiting at the other end.

Ah, great to be home circa 1788. ⛓️

At the hotel

Photo of empty food delivery paper bag

Check in was quick as we’d filled out our forms at the airport. Plus, hotels have been going through the motions for months now.

You’ll be informed of your room number and handed a welcome pack containing details about meals, room facilities and services, as well as who to contact if you feel unwell or need help.

Some people get lucky, but chances are your room won’t have a window that opens or a balcony. I find setting air-conditioning to 23Β°C is tolerable but you may struggle to adjust initially. 🀧

Three meals are provided per day and you cannot opt out of this service, nor the cost. Food intolerances are accommodated, but overall meals are hit and miss. There will be limited kitchen facilities (if any) in the room; I have a kettle and a coffee machine, and I do dishwashing in the bathroom basin.

Your room will resemble a studio flat and will most likely feature a desk, futon, large bed (or two), cupboards, shower and probably a separate bath.

You’ll receive calls every other day from both the local health department and the Australian Red Cross. This is to see how you’re coping, check whether you’ve developed any Covid-19 symptoms, and to ask for your consent to do testing.

I advise that you opt into testing (which occurs on the 4th and 10th day), as failure to do so will mean you stay an additional 10 days at your own expense. πŸ’Έ

Getting ready

Photo of a person typing on a laptop

Knowing what to expect can take the edge off the experience, especially in the first days. But being prepared is even better. This is what made a big difference for me:

  • Bring Vitamin D supplements β˜€οΈ
  • Pack travel adapters for all your electronic devices from overseas or a power board, which would only require one
  • Pack a HMDI cable or Chromecast to stream from your devices to the TV
  • Bring cutlery, a bowl and plate. Hotels provide disposable cutlery and packaged food. So unless you want to cut steak with a plastic knife or pour cereal directly into your mouth, BYO
  • If you don’t have an Australian SIM card, see if you can pick one up at the airport or order online
  • Bring snacks and a bottle of alcohol. Hotels sell both at marked up prices, as you’d expect
  • Pack resistance bands for easy weight training. They’re cheap, effective and are light to carry
  • Bring 2-3 sets of activewear to tide you over in-between laundry service
  • Join groups to see how others are managing quarantine. You can also keyword search threads: Australians in quarantine facilities, Hotel Quarantine Australia, and Mandatory 14 day Hotel Quarantine chat Group.
  • Check out my story highlight “Quarantine” on Instagram for a blow-by-blow of what happened at The Westin Brisbane!

Survival guide

Photo of a hotel bedroom

So now you’re “home sweet home” for the next 14 days. Before you throw your arms up in despair, try this:

  • Arrange for a friend to deliver a care package. Reception accepts “reasonable” deliveries and will check it for contraband and excessive alcohol first. Aside from snacks, I requested air freshener, chewing gum and paracetamol
  • Set a routine. Each day I set aside time for productive tasks like life admin and exercise, as well as “me time” and calls
  • Make video calls fun by playing games online and host a trivia night or weekend brunch virtually
  • Exercise regularly, especially if you find yourself confined to the bed or sofa all day. There’s plenty of no equipment/limited space exercises you can try via an app or on YouTube
  • Walk around when answering calls to help stay active
  • Treat yourself to food delivery from time to time. It’s tough trying not to be wasteful but, let’s be honest, quarantine meals don’t win Michelin stars
  • Draw a bubble bath, sing in the shower, or paint your nails. Take this time to yourself while you have it. πŸ›€

What happens next

Discharge is like a cliff edge after such a challenging experience. Some choose to walk away and never look back, and that’s fine. Others continue the narrative. If you’re the latter, you can:

  • Challenge paying the invoice. No doubt the costs of even getting this far have been crippling, and having to fork out for this biosecurity measure imposed on us by the government is such a slap in the face. If you can demonstrate financial hardship, you might as well try
  • Share your story online and to reporters. Keeping the pressure on politicians and continuing to raise awareness locally and globally will help fellow Australians still struggling to come home
  • Consider joining a class action.

Make the most of staying at home

Photo of a London home exterior

From nationwide lockdowns and mandatory quarantine to self-isolation, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected us all in one way or another. πŸ™ƒ

You may feel overwhelmed at times and that’s totally normal. To combat lethargy and feelings of isolation, try to establish a routine and find ways to use this time productively.

From self-development to redecorating, these activities will inspire you to make the most of extended periods at home!

Get organised

If your travel photos are a mess or your tax return is almost due, why not redirect your “lost” commute time to getting your life admin under control? OVERDUE notices, begone! βœ‹

With all this extra time at home, you might also consider reorganising the furniture, too. It’s surprising how small tweaks can really transform a space. A nice air-filtering plant is a nice addition!

If the tired sight of dirty dishes and laundry gets on your nerves, now you can easily tidy up here and there without exhausting yourself. It’s also a great excuse for getting up throughout the day – this is especially important if you live a sedentary lifestyle.

Speaking of lifestyle, whether you have a special diet plan or a fitness or mindfulness goal, don’t forget to prioritise your health. Set aside some time to plan your meals for the week and identify optimal times to exercise and unwind. 🧘

When was the last time you refreshed your CV? You never know, might come in handy at short notice!

Create and innovate

While getting your life under control is important, it can get a little tedious. To avoid procrastinating, break up the admin checklist with some creative flair. 🎨

From colouring to coding, there’s a creative activity to suit everyone’s interests and skill level. There’s loads of great online resources like free tutorials and apps to get you started.

Who knows, you could even take your creations it a step further and open an Etsy store or Patreon. πŸ›οΈ

If words are more your strength, why not start that blog or dust off that manuscript you’ve been meaning to finish for years?

Entertainment escapism

From mobile phones to gaming consoles, there’s a gadget for everyone these days. πŸ¦–

When you’ve got plenty of time on your hands, it’s the perfect opportunity to indulge in an epic open world adventure or series marathon.

When you’re feeling a little more sociable, you can co-op with your housemates or host a virtual cook-off with your mates.

While it may be tempting to go down the video streaming rabbit hole, remember to strike a balance and switch off regularly. This is especially important to get a decent night’s sleep. πŸ”Œ

Keeping a novel on the nightstand or a crossword puzzle book on the coffee table is a great starting point.

Get physical

If the gym or your local sports club aren’t an option, you’ll be surprised how much fitness you can achieve in your humble living room. πŸ‹οΈ

A yoga mat, resistance bands and dumbbells are perfect for a more confined space such as a bedroom floor. If you’re looking to expand your home gym, add a medicine ball, hula hoop or skipping rope (high ceilings are recommended).

For something a little different, there’s a range of fitness software and games with motion controls to try. I’m a fan of Ring Fit Adventure for Nintendo Switch, but there’s also more affordable options for for boxing, dancing, yoga and other cardiovascular exercises.

No equipment? No problem! There’s a plethora of no equipment online workouts for all fitness levels. πŸ’»

If cabin fever strikes, get out for some fresh air by going for a walk or run around your local park. You can also check if there are any cycle hire options in your neighbourhood for a more adventurous journey.

Learn something new

Last but not least, try learning something new. What better time to stream podcasts while prepping lunch or curl up and watch a documentary in-between meetings?

There’s also plenty of free seminars and tutorials online from every industry to explore – perfect for playing in the background while completing monotonous tasks. πŸ“

With a little more dedication, you can take it a step further and enrol in e-learning modules for free or quite cheaply. Easily up skill, network, or learn a new language or instrument from home!

With the lack of commute time in your day, you might even fancy attempting a mid-week slow cooker meal or tricky dessert recipe you’ve been putting off for ages.


How have you been keeping cabin fever at bay when spending extended periods of time at home? Share your tips in the comments below! πŸ‘‡


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