Travel During COVID-19: Quarantine with Kids
Published on: November 08, 2020
Being trapped in quarantine with small kids could be demanding. Our assistant editor Chyi spoke to several parents who went through quarantine and shared their first-hand experiences of this isolation period.
By Chyi Lee, Photos courtesy of Julie (@ourexpatdiaries) and Alice Lyons
In this time of COVID-19, travel is just not the same. Although cross border travel has been restricted, some still travel for family and work reasons. Not only are tedious medical tests and paperwork required before traveling, upon arriving in many countries, including Thailand, a 14-day quarantine at designated facilities is mandatory.
Traveling and being quarantined with kids, especially the younger ones, could be challenging. A few families shared their first-hand experiences of quarantine with kids in Bangkok.
Preparation before Quarantine
Since going out is not allowed and very often online shopping is not permitted, it is important to pack wisely for the quarantine. Most parents packed their kid’s favorite things and practical items to feed, educate and entertain the children, and more importantly, to keep them occupied.
It is also equally vital to mentally prepare parents and kids to overcome this isolation period in a room with little personal space. Parents need to be ready with a positive mindset, communicate with kids beforehand, and speak about what’s going on and why we are going through this. It’s important to listen to them and emphasize their feelings.
Everyday Life during Quarantine
Most parents admitted that everyday life was VERY SLOW during quarantine.
Other than the three meals delivered to the room every day, routine activities are only some health or temperature check sessions and the one hour a day outdoor time at the courtyard/garden area. Most of the time is spent in the room, with no physical interaction with the outside world.
To fill the monotonous days, parents came up with some kind of ‘structure’ that suits their families.
Before the trip, one creative mom put together little packs with different things to open and do with her 14-month-old each day, from a swimming lesson in the bathtub to a little home party with cups and some tit-bits.
Julie and her husband introduced a series of routines for their 3 and 5-year-old daughters. Every morning they did things that required a fresh and focused mind, with short educational activities such as reading and board games. In the afternoons, they got the creative activities out, using what they had in the room to create fun things, such as dens, or using the swivel chair as a roundabout!
Nicole, who quarantined with her three older kids (9, 11 and 13) spent some fun times together – they made a jar and put in cards written with activities that they all like, such as playing hide and seek, making TikTok videos, dancing on Youtube and playing Monopoly. Every day they took a card and did the activity together.
Parents also gave kids more liberty – they were allowed more screen time than usual, either on the iPad, PlayStation, or watching their favorite programs. Some older kids joined online school classes or did remote learning, which gave parents some ‘precious’ time to do their own things.
Parents also tried to make the best use of the one hour outside; as a time to set the kids ‘free,’ let them run and play in an open space. It is also a good opportunity to catch some exercise and do fun activities together – playing balls, catching bubbles, jumping rope, etc.
Food was the biggest challenge for most parents.
First of all, not all quarantine facilities offer a kids menu, and it is especially difficult to fulfill picky-eaters and small babies. Parents who travel with babies should pack sufficient baby solid food and bring snacks for older kids. Secondly, the food was often served cold, and it made many miss warm home-cooked meals. Even though most Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) hotels offer various dining options, families who just relocated to Thailand found it difficult to adjust because they were not familiar with local food, giving them fewer options.
Some parents survived by having their family, helper, friends and even new colleagues drop by some ‘survival’ favorite snacks and fresh fruits. In some ASQs where food delivery is allowed, parents also occasionally ordered some treats from Food Panda or Happy Fresh.
Another major challenge was the COVID-19 nasal swab test, and three tests were required during the 14-day stay. Though some kids could manage it easily, many found it unpleasant and some struggled. Australian mom Alice shared that she had to hold her kids tightly during the test and rewarded them with their favorite chocolate and lollipops after the test to soothe them. Though soon after that, they were fine and moved on with other activities.
It was also tricky for some children not to see other kids for a long time. Veronica, who just relocated to Thailand, shared how excited her two small children were when they saw another child in their second week of the quarantine; they ran to the kid and started playing with him. All were very happy. Cynthia, mom of two kids aged 10 and 14 years old, encouraged her kids to play online games or talk with friends daily so that they did not miss social interaction during quarantine.
In sum, all parents agreed that the two-week quarantine wasn’t a great experience, but it was the price to pay in order to go home, and the good thing was being able to spend time together as a family.
Another relief was very often children adapted easily – they might be confused by the sudden change, but providing emotional connection and explaining the situation to them helped. Like single mom Tina who did quarantine with her son put it, “give them lots of hugs and reassure them that this, too, shall pass.”
About the Author
Chyi enjoys learning about others’ stories, writing and sharing them widely. She recently started volunteering for BAMBI’s editing team to fulfill her passion. If you have a story to collaborate on, write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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