It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of being confined to a hotel room by law would have seemed absurd, but as we all know, times have changed. While most of Europe and the Americas are re-opening to international travel there are still a number of destinations in Asia-Pacific, including Australia, New Zealand, China and Vietnam, where compulsory quarantine orders remain in place for seven, 14 or 21 nights following an international flight.
It’s not fun – I’m writing this from my confinement at the Mira Moon hotel in Hong Kong where I’m obliged to quarantine for seven nights, the current requirement for vaccinated travellers coming from low-risk destinations (the Maldives, in my case). But, it doesn’t have to feel like a punishment – you just need to come prepared. Here are some tips to get you through.
Book a room with a view
You don’t need to be ogling the Sydney Opera House or the Hong Kong harbour front to enhance your wellbeing, but a lack of sunlight will reduce your serotonin levels, which won’t help with jet lag and can cause depression. Airport hotels and out-of-town resorts tend to have brighter outlooks; the Sheraton Four Points Tung Chung in Hong Kong has sunny, uninterrupted views of either the airport or Lantau South Country Park; the Putrajaya Marriott, a 25-minute drive from Kuala Lumpur Airport, has wide-open views of lush jungle from all the rooms. If you’re stuck in the city centre, request a room on a high floor.
Studies have shown that over air-conditioned environments can cause headaches, fatigue and congestion. On the other hand, getting some fresh air every day can lift your mood, reduce stress and help you feel more active. At the Anantara Riverside Bangkok all of the rooms have verandahs, while the premium rooms at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel Hanoi have French doors opening onto pretty gardens. If you can’t bag a room with any outdoor space, ask your hotel if you’re allowed to open the windows, and if that’s not an option, pack a mini air purifier with a HEPA filter. You can always bring the outdoors in with a mini seed-growing kit (growing plants are known to lower-blood pressure and increase wellbeing). Hong Kong’s Hotel Indigo provides every quarantine guest with a plant pot, soil and seeds.
Few of us have the luxury of taking one, two or three weeks off work to hangout in quarantine, so setting up an efficient workspace is key. If your room doesn’t have a proper desk chair with lumbar support, give yourself an ergonomic upgrade with a Travel Pal self-inflating lumbar support pillow, which can be easily squeezed in your suitcase. Most hotels have sufficient bandwidth for streaming, gaming and video chats but a wifi extender will help to maximise the signal, while bringing an extension cable will mean you can charge all your devices at the same time. Put yourself into work mode by getting dressed in the morning, and set clear boundaries for when you start and stop working to help structure your day.
Keep your room shipshape
Laundry services are unavailable and housekeeping won’t be allowed to clean your room, so you’re going to have to change your own sheets – even if you’ve booked the HK$1 million (US$128,600), 21-night package at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental – the world’s most expensive quarantine. Some spick-and-span essentials include a multipurpose cleaning spray, a laundry bag, laundry detergent (try Travelon Laundry Soap Sheets, which are not liquid so won’t spill inside your suitcase)
and a clothes line for drying.
Food for thought
The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore made headlines when guests started posting photos of their amazing quarantine meals – home-made granola, freshly baked madeleines, breaded scallops and rice – while Ovolo hotels offers quarantiners a happy hour cocktail delivery every night. But there are just as many grim social media posts picturing less appealing provisions. Contributing in such a large part to a comfortable stay, it’s important to do your research – Facebook support groups are great for honest food reviews. Some hotels allow deliveries from outside providers, such as Deliveroo, which can help to stave off any culinary boredom. In-house meals tend to come in disposable packaging with throw-away cutlery so you might also want to have your own knife, fork, spoon and a favourite mug. A water filter jug will also help to reduce your use of plastics.
While it might be challenging to exercise in a small space, making the effort will pay dividends not only in improving your overall mood and wellbeing but also when it comes to structuring your day and improving your sleep. Many quarantine hotels offer guests yoga mats and TRX straps, complimentary or for a small fee, while there’s been a boom in sales of second-hand fitness equipment between quarantiners (again, see Facebook’s quarantine support groups). Singapore has the Happy SHN (short for Stay Home Notice) app which offers a huge range of rental items, including bikes, treadmills and weights, as well as microwaves, fridges, electric pianos and hair straighteners. Free fitness apps, such as Yoga with Adriene and Seven’s 7-minute workouts, can help to keep your routines interesting. If your room is cluttered, try to rearrange the furniture or ask the hotel to remove unnecessary items to give you more space.
Whether it’s a scented candle, a comfortable pair of slippers or some family photographs, a few items from home will make you feel less alone. Plan things to do each evening to help wind down from the day: perhaps a bubble bath or face mask, reading a few chapters of a book or bingeing that show you’ve been meaning to watch (download them in advance; some hotels put a block on excessive streaming). A good pair of noise-cancelling headphones can transport you to other worlds, blocking out any traffic or construction noise when you’re working, and giving you the full cinema effect when you’re watching a movie.