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‘I Quarantined with my 8 Kids’: Mums Share Experiences of Quarantine Orders, SHN, and Hotel Quarantine

quarantine hotel with kids
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What is hotel quarantine really like with small kids? What happens when your child is issued with a quarantine order – how do you manage the set-up at home? Real mums share their experiences and tips!

We chat to mums who have gone through different quarantine experiences with their kids – here they share their stories and tips on how best to survive quarantine life! One mother had to quarantine in a hotel with eight of her fourteen kids, another had to isolate at home with her 4-year-old who was issued a quarantine order by MOH, while one family had a false positive Covid test which messed up their return from the UK to Singapore (pre-VTL flights) so this affected their quarantine stay. We share all their quarantine stories, personal photos and tips. Plus don’t miss our quarantine packing list, gift suggestions and stay home notice activity ideas!

Jump to:
Hotel quarantine with my 8 kids
My 4-year-old was issued a home Quarantine Order
I quarantined with 2 kids in Qatar when we moved country
My (much-needed) hotel quarantine with NO kids!
A false positive Covid test messed up my family’s return to SG
Quarantine packing list
Stay Home Notice (SHN) & Quarantine Order things to buy/prepare
Quarantine gifts

Real Quarantine Stories and Tips

Quarantine tips and stories

‘I quarantined with my eight kids’

Tammy Hitchens, Australian (one of our previous That Mamas): travelled from Singapore to Australia with eight of her fourteen kids (18yr old son, 16yr-old son, 13yr-old daughter, 11yr-old daughter, 8yr-old son, 5yr-old daughter, 3 yr old son, and a 9-month-old baby).

What’s your quarantine story?

We returned to Brisbane, Australia in September 2020 from Singapore where we had lived since 2014. My oldest daughter had delivered her first child and my first grandchild Sienna who had been diagnosed with high risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) which is very rare in children under 12mths, she was given a 50/50 prognosis of living. The day we found out I told my children to get their suitcases, we were going to fly home – though at this stage Australia had locked its international borders completely. After 3 days of contacting every government and airline contact, I officially gave up. It was utterly impossible. Thankfully a miracle occurred and a lovely Singapore local friend found a contact who graciously moved heaven and Earth and got my children and me on a flight home together. At that time re-entry to Singapore was banned so taking the children with me while my husband stayed to work was essential, as there was no guarantee of getting back to them or vice versa.

quarantine hotel tips

Hotel quarantine in Australia has not changed much since September 2020 when we did it, home quarantine is rarely granted. There is no prior organisation, you arrive at the airport, you are assigned a hotel based on availability that day and then you are placed on a bus with any other travellers who also arrived, no social distancing. We flew into Brisbane but were driven almost 2 hours to the Gold Coast and arrived at 3am, some people had been in transit for 24-36 hours. The police and army are very present at the airport and hotel. Every state in Australia has different rules and limits and at this time in late 2021 there is still not a unified approach to welcoming returning Australians or visitors by the different states, border closures to other states remain frequent and sudden.

The hotel: We were given two standard interconnected hotel rooms, no kitchen/food prep or washing facilities. Our floor space was only a few square metres, despite having a crawling baby and a toddler. We spent a large part of our day rearranging furniture to make more floor space, the hotel did try to be kind and any calls for help or more linen were quickly answered.

quarantine hotel kids
Limited access to outside breaks and routine Covid testing at hotel door

Quarantine life: Breaks to go and have fresh air in a small outdoor space were in place in our hotel, but not guaranteed. There was an email address on one of the many documents I didn’t realise I had to apply for in order to be put on the roster for these. We probably got breaks every 2-3 days and always tried to make the most of them with a picnic rug, skipping ropes and an outdoor speaker. We were not given advance warning of these breaks, often I would just get the baby to sleep and try to nap as my little ones weren’t sleeping but that would be when the knock on the door was.

PCR/ART tests: Phone calls from government departments are also frequent to check on you. Testing at the doorway occurs at least twice although frequency can vary I believe.

quarsntine order hotel quarantine
Three steps to dring our own laundry

Any quarantine tips?

  • As soon as you arrive arrange furniture better. For us that meant pushing the beds together up against a wall so we had a bit more floor space and so small children can’t roll off. Even if children are injured medical attention is not assured so extra care is needed.
  • We brought an apple iMac, Apple TV (only usable if you have a computer to get you hooked up to the wifi), several devices, card games, basic schoolwork and some toys and food preparation items like chopping boards, sharp knives, a tiny draining rack for cups and dishes and real cutlery (the bamboo cutlery they provide is unusable). We disassembled an Ikea high chair that fit into a suitcase.
  • Any clothes washing service will be hot washed and hot dried for health reasons, which shrinks things if you don’t usually do that. I ended up washing clothes every day in a bathtub – we used towels to layer and twist much of the moisture and hung on a drying rack someone delivered.
  • We got a small Kmart vacuum for $29 and it was used constantly. Foldable fabric shelves help turn hanging space into shelving. Lots of collapsible boxes for organising cupboard space, toys and excess food/snacks. We bought tea towels and suction hooks to hang them on. Having a mat or picnic rug with a baby is essential, the floors are not very clean at all and it’s definitely not a good time for baby to be picking up things off a floor.
  • Food was alright, some days abundant, most of the fruit was very unripe and not eatable, I was determined to only eat the food provided and not waste money, in hindsight I’m glad other people went against my insistence and had extra food delivered, it’s one of my children’s favourite memories and meant the world to them.
quarantine personal stories
We rearranged the hotel furniture to accommodate the kids better

What do you wish you had known before your quarantine experience?

It is hard to explain the effect that having your freedoms taken has on you. At the time I was in quarantine I didn’t know if my granddaughter would survive long enough to even meet her. She had a few hairy moments during my stay and the feeling of helplessness of waiting to see a sick family member can feel torturous.

Changing time zones impacts children hard but the food delivery times etc are set to the time here, factor in the jet lag aspect.

I was never given assurance, even though I asked daily in the lead up to travelling, that our family would be kept together. I’ve found out since our trip that the last chance to appeal your placement is at the airport, once you are on the bus and placed in a room, your chances of getting moved are almost impossible.

Facebook groups for quarantine can be a lifeline, however at one stage I saw a family with two young children who put up a video of their massive suite with two balconies and living areas, kitchen facilities etc right near the hospital my granddaughter was in and had a breakdown, it felt so unfair. The truth is room availability is hit and miss, dependent on the day you arrive, expecting assurance of anything leads to great disappointment.

Once in quarantine I now think it’s best to not compare and to only seek specific information in online groups to protect your mental health. Days 8-11 were the hardest, we all felt a bit forgotten but the last two days flew by. It’s great to have an ideal of no screens and healthy food and hands-on activities but I found the downtime screens and a nightly movie provided an absolute necessity.

Best thing anyone sent you while you were quarantining?

Comfort foods, a beautiful grazing platter, a carton of donuts, some frozen cokes (my kids love them), fish and chips, ice cream etc. Just having people wave to us from the street meant so much too.

Would you do it again?

For the same situation I would do it again in a  heartbeat. Sienna, my granddaughter ended up having a bone marrow transplant in January and has since tested cancer-free at all of her frequent checkups. It has been a long road for everyone but having the chance to know and support them has been priceless.  I wouldn’t however choose to quarantine again for a holiday or short term reason. The effect on all of the children took months to wane, it’s not something I would choose with very small children on a whim.

Read More: VTL with Kids: List of Countries, Number of PCR Tests Needed & What Else We Know So Far

‘My 4-year-old and I were issued a home Quarantine Order’

Zahra Hamzah-Libby, Singaporean: 10 days quarantine order served with her son Jeremiah, aged 4 at home.

What’s your quarantine story?

On Saturday afternoon, we were informed by the Principal about a positive case at my eldest son’s school. MOH only contacted us the next evening, issuing Jeremiah a quarantine order. And we were told that since he is a minor, one of us needs to be isolated in a room with him. This is a difficult task, as we have a 1-year-old son and a helper as well. So we don’t have the luxury of space – and both of us are working from home. However, we were advised by the MOH that should our son need to come out from the isolated room, to just ensure that he wears a mask and doesn’t share his drinks and food with others for precaution. Even though the quarantine order was given to Jeremiah and myself, we as a family decided not to go out of the house during this period. We were lucky that our grocery order arrived that Sunday itself!

Sleeping arrangements; my husband has to sacrifice himself sleeping in the living room while Jeremiah and myself have the Master Bedroom. And moved our youngest crib into our helper room temporarily.

Communication: The quarantine order process can be confusing, but luckily Jeremiah’s school has a parent group chat where we assist each other whenever we are in doubt. Some of the parents were given different instructions while some of us have not been issued the quarantine order documents until the 3rd/4th day of our quarantine. However, we were well advised if we have any questions there were hotline numbers to reach out to.

Covid tests: PCR test was conducted on Jeremiah only on the 2nd day and 6th day of quarantine order. Some things I prepared for him, was showing him videos of kids doing PCR tests and reading the USBORNE “What is a virus?” book. This helped a lot and to understand why he had to do swab. During the PCR test he squirmed a lot so we had to hold his hands and head down. We did the ART test as well in front of him, showing him that it’s fine.
We were given a bag of ART Kit for Jeremiah on the 3rd day of quarantine order together with the quarantine order documents. We have to submit only Jeremiah’s result via online portal every day before 12 noon. Also, to keep track of Jeremiah’s temperature every day. We also made known, if during the quarantine order Jeremiah’s temperature spike up – we were told to call 995 to bring him to the hospital.

quarantine order singapore with kids
Jeremiah on a Zoom call with his teacher

Any quarantine tips?

  • I took some notes from this site.
  • I had to inform my helper about washing the clothes and dishes with high temp water during this period.
  • For Jeremiah, he is at the age of being curious so we kept on showing him videos of what is happening and why the virus is dangerous, the importance of good hygiene etc. Books like Usborne’s “What is a virus?” helped.

What do you wish you had known before your quarantine experience?

To arrange meal arrangements – like tingkat meals. Have lots and lots of kids activities on standby.

Best thing anyone sent you while you were quarantining?

My mum sent us dishes on alternate days, since we have our hands too full to prepare a nice dinner.

‘A false positive Covid test messed up my family’s return to SG as well as our quarantine stay’

Natasha Banwell, British: travelled to Singapore to the UK and back with her husband and two kids, a 7-year-old and 9-year-old.

What’s your quarantine story?

We decided to head back to the UK this summer (before the UK VTL was in effect). We are fortunate enough to be PR which made the process a lot easier. The flight to the UK and the arrival process in the UK was relatively straightforward. After completing an ART test at home we were ok to go about as normal in the UK. We had booked a suite in a hotel in Singapore for our 14 days quarantine. However, unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. One of us tested positive and we therefore could not fly on the planned date. We queried the test result and after a week the company apologised and admitted it was an error/ false positive. After another load of PCR tests we were finally allowed to fly back a week later than planned. We had lost the suite due to our late arrival into Singapore, so we had to wait to see what hotel we were given.

The hotel: We were given a hotel where there were no windows that opened nor balconies. They also asked us to split the family up, one of us to go with one child and the other with the other child for 2 weeks because they had no interconnecting rooms available. This of course caused quite a bit of anxiety amongst us and particularly for my children. Eventually after providing medical evidence they moved us to a hotel with a balcony and interconnecting rooms which made the experience much better. We were very grateful for all the lovely friends that dropped off thoughtful care gifts, it really was the highlight of the day.

quarantine hotel kids
Glass safe markers helped keep the kids busy

Quarantine life:
Each day we followed a schedule. We spent the morning doing some workbooks and exercise. The afternoon involved some iPad/movie time, art and craft activities and board/card games. We hired a running machine and treadmill from Happy shn which we used daily. We also followed Joe Wicks, and just dance workouts. We packed up 2 or 3 boxes of necessities for the quarantine before leaving Singapore and we then ordered a Go Go van to deliver it to us on day 1.

quarantine hotel with kids
Kids activity – building their KiwiCo activity box

Any quarantine tips?

– Make a list of movies you want to watch.
– Make a grocery order to be delivered to the hotel on day one.
– Keep to a schedule.
– Organise pizza nights and take away nights to have something fun to look forward to.

What do you wish you had known before your quarantine experience?

Not much really – we were quite organised.

Best thing anyone sent you while you were quarantining?

Marks and Spencer treats.

Would you do it again?

Yes but not for a while.

Read More: VTL with Kids: List of Countries, Number of PCR Tests Needed & What Else We Know So Far

quarantine tips
Travelling with pets before quarantining at a facility abroad

‘I quarantined with two kids in Qatar when we moved country’

Sharon Sim, Singaporean: flew Singapore to Qatar (with pets) and quarantined with kids ages 8 and 10 years old in a facility.
What’s your quarantine story?

My husband was assigned a role in Doha and he moved there in February. He returned in April to help with the move and we flew out in mid-May. As he was vaccinated and we had a cat with us (most hotels don’t take pets), he returned home with the cat while the kids and I were quarantined for 7 days.

The hotel: We chose a quarantine facility that had 3 bedrooms, a living and dining space as well as a small kitchen. Our kids have little to no screen time at home and it was the same during quarantine.

quarantine hotel tips

Quarantine life: We had quite a bit of things to occupy our time and here’s what we did:
For sport, we packed a skipping rope because they wanted to learn how to skip and also balloons and a fabric cover for the balloon that allowed us to turn it into a ball. We skipped daily and also played ball in the living room. We used our empty 1L drinking bottles to play bowling and also used them as bats to play baseball. (We had moved furniture in the room to make space for skipping and ball play were restricted to only certain areas).

For learning, as we had moved to a new country, we researched the country flag, map and some other interesting facts and wrote letters to our friends using the paper bags that came from our food delivery during the stay. We cut out the paper bag and wrote on it and turned some into envelopes so that when we were out, we could send them to our friends back in Singapore. As they brought books along and enjoyed reading them, I suggested they create book reviews with illustrations using those paper bags. Having some art supplies (small paint palette, scissors, glue, colour pencils, sketch book, washi tape and some stickers) helped us with our letters, book reviews and art time.

Lastly, my children continued to have Zoom class with their piano teacher who was in Singapore as they were working on their theory exam; hence they had some homework to do as well.
Happy to report that there was no cabin fever, and our mental health was still in good shape when we left quarantine.

Any quarantine tips?

  • For kids, having craft items like scissors, glue, colouring pencils, sharpener and some stickers can go a long way. Airlines would usually give out toys and/or colouring books. Take them out as these are new things and kids are usually interested to check out new things. Prior to flying, pack some new toys, new books, simple DIY kits and slowly take them out during the stay so that they have something new to work with.
  • A countdown calendar might be fun for the kids to look forward to.
  • We knew that there were issues with FaceTime and WhatsApp video call from Qatar so we had VPN set up on our devices. Communicating with family and friends is fun for kids so they can share and catch up.
  • I packed a mini diffuser that comes with a light from MUJI with some bottles of essential oils so it doubles as a nightlight and fills the room with a familiar smell for my younger child when he goes to bed. We moved the diffuser around the apartment during the day so the rooms would smell nice.
  • Our routines did not change even when we were in quarantine, they still went to bed at 7pm and woke up at 6am.
  • Lastly, find out what online shopping and food delivery platforms are available. Have it set up when you arrive so that you can order familiar food like pizzas, sandwiches and perhaps fresh milk, fruits, etc if the hotel doesn’t serve kid-friendly food. For us, our children are adventurous with food so we did not do much online food delivery except for fresh juices, yogurt and milk. Also, I do enjoy browsing supermarket items so it’s nice to explore what they offer in a new country.

What do you wish you had known before your quarantine experience?
I think because we had a lockdown in Singapore, the kids were ok with staying indoors and finding things to entertain themselves. We also pre-empted the children about the quarantine and I think they were excited to be able to travel to a new country that they did not mind the 7 day quarantine period.
Best thing anyone sent you while you were quarantining?
My husband surprised us with breakfast one morning!

‘I enjoyed my quarantine without kids – it was a much-needed respite!’

Sharon Sim, Singaporean

I did my second quarantine when I came back to Singapore alone because I had to bring the dogs back with me to Qatar. I was quarantined for 14 days at Swissotel The Stamford and the days went by so fast.

Quarantine life: As a stay home mom for the past decade, I really enjoyed this respite. For the first time, I could catch up on my sleep (I once told my husband I’d like to sleep for a year) and painted without interruption (I am usually distracted by the kids, and pets: bird, cat and dogs).

The hotel: I was impressed by the thoughtfulness of the hotel as they set up a private Facebook page managed by their staff for people in quarantine (SHN) to connect with one another. There is usually a flurry of activity every day along the lines of passing along fitness equipment (e.g. treadmill), extra beverages, fruits and microwaves after a person finishes quarantine or sharing photos of the great sights from the hotel. Some guests would set up quizzes, organize exercise classes via zoom, send photos of what their toddler created with the extra disposable utensils in their room, videos of them dancing with their toddlers. I thought about families with older kids (my kid’s age) and how I could also help make a stay slightly interesting if I had my kids with me and decided to take photos around the room and got them to guess the objects since most rooms were likely to be furnished in a similar fashion and some items such as bedroom slippers and drinking bottles are the same. Below is my submission of the activity I shared with the other SHN guests and it got people interested.


Any quarantine tips?

I know the hotel provided kids’ furniture (kids table, chair and high chairs). Parents with young kids should check with your facility provider if they can help with these items as they can make your stay more bearable and lessen your worry about your child’s safety during meal and playtime.

Quarantine Packing List

When you are quarantining in a hotel or facility without your creature comforts, it’s good to be organised so that you have everything you might need for your family’s stay to keep you all sane, fit and healthy! Here are some ideas:

– Microwave
– Coolbox – keep asking for ice each day – acts as an additional fridge
– Rent an exercise machine
– Handwash liquid for clothes
– Washing up liquid, drying cloths and washing up cloth
– Crockery and cutlery
– Chopping board and sharp knife
– Arts and craft activities – for kids and adults: colouring books, painting materials, arts and crafts materials (pom poms, scissors, tape etc), sewing, sticker books, markers for windows
– Workbooks: English, Maths and Language if needed
– Toys: new or old favourites including Lego
– Reading books or kindle
– Board games
– Diffuser with essential oils
– Snacks and food essentials (your own cereal, snack bars, nuts etc)
– Nintendo switch or/and iPad plus headphones for kids (so adults can work/rest without hearing the programme)
– Special equipment for small kids: cots, babychair, flexible bath tub in case hotel has no bath (plus bath toys),
floor mat/picnic mat for crawling babies
– Children’s medicines

stay home notice tips

Stay Home Notice (SHN) & Quarantine Order Ideas

If you are travelling on a VTL to Singapore you’ll be able to do a Stay Home Notice at your residence. Likewise if you are issued a quarantine order, as long as your residence meets the requirements you’ll be able to stay at home. As you won’t be able to go out for exercise or to keep the kids active, here are some extra ideas to make your SHN more comfortable.

– Rent an exercise machine (Happy SHN or Sweat Spot SG)
– Consider buying or borrowing a blowup mini pool (fill with toys or water) to keep toddlers busy
– Buy or rent a small indoor slide
Order groceries to be delivered regularly
– Get the kids to make a countdown calendar
– Organise your favourite takeaways to have something to look forward to
– Plan some educational TV programmes that the kids can watch
– Try these stay home activities

Quarantine Gifts Ideas

Humming hampers

Flowers & Hampers

Humming Flowers & Gifts stock some great wellness gifts, flowers and fruit hampers with prompt efficient delivery. Families on quarantine will love receiving the Cheerful Affair Fruit Basket – a beautiful double basket filled with tropical fruits (great for boosting vitamins) and flowers to brighten up the home. You can also customise your ultimate care package starting from $35. Humming is devoted to providing great service with a personal touch, quality products, and reliable delivery for their customers.

$8 off your next purchase (min. spend $80) when you order any wellness hampers or fruit baskets before 15 November 2021. Terms & Conditions apply. Only applicable for call-in, WhatsApp or email orders. Not stackable with any existing promo or discounts.

Humming Flowers & Gifts, Tel: (+65) 6844 2222, email: [email protected], WhatsApp 8668 5097

Homemade Goodies or Bought Treats

One of the favourite gifts from all the families we spoke to, were homemade goodies – either full meals or snacks like cakes, biscuits or brownies. Or gift your friends their favourite brands – kueh from Bengawan Solo, goodies from Marks & Spencer, or put together your own snack pack from a trip to the supermarket – if all else fails, order some goodies on

Arts & Crafts, Toys and Books

Kids will appreciate borrowed or new games, books and toys – anything to keep them busy for another few hours! Check out our list of open-ended toys here or activity kits like KiwiCo here or our STEAM toy suggestions here.

Thanks to all the families who shared their personal stories with us – we hope their tips help make your experience easier!

Read More: 40+ Stay Home Activities

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