How to survive hotel quarantine

While a nice view can help, it won’t get you all the way through a long hotel quarantine.

It’s been almost two years since the start of the pandemic. You probably think you’ve got everything COVID-19 related down pat. But trust me, if you’ve never experienced it, a good, long hotel quarantine can make you second guess just how “resilient” you are on a whole ‘nother level.

Whether you’re single or not, have kids or not, at some point or another the COVID fairy will probably touch your life too and that’s when you’ll be glad you got these tips.

Those travelling to the U.S. can probably skip this article — for better or worse, the U.S. doesn’t require quarantine for anyone! Not even those who tested positive after arriving.

But all travelers to Japan will “enjoy” a hotel quarantine of anywhere from 3 days to two weeks or longer, depending on the complicated algebra of who in your party has tested positive and when. In any case, my big take away is to prepare for the worst before you arrive in Japan. Once you arrive here, you will have little freedom to make the preparations you wish you had.

Prepare for boredom

Being stuck in the same room for days will make you bored on a level you may never have encountered before. So whatever you did to prepare for that “long” flight? Do that, times ten.

Identify some of your favorite content and leave it untouched until you reach the hotel. If you’re not working, you’ll have way too much time. You’ll be thinking about how long you can sleep just the pass the time. Even if you sleep 10, 12 hours, you still have 12-14 hours left to fill.

This is the perfect time to binge watch or read … anything.

Find joy in little routines

We all have our routines and hotel quarantine is a great way to ruin them. Instead, create new routines. Like to go for a run? Do one, or two, or even three online exercise classes a day. Not only will moving your body help cut through the monotony, it will help you feel better and give your day structure.

You can even *gasp* take a bath once or even twice a day just because you feel like it. For bath lovers, this might be one of the rare advantages of hotel quarantine.

Set small, achievable goals each day

Who says you have to put your life on hold because you’re in hotel quarantine? Actually, I’ve been keeping up my job search and professional studies during quarantine. It’s key to not set your goals too high so you don’t risk disappointing yourself but just high enough so they’re still motivating.

Connect with friends and family

The loneliness and isolation of quarantine, even just a few days, is real! Don’t hesitate to set up video chats with friends and family to connect and make your day a little brighter.

Get the good stuff

Love cookies? A particular type of herbal tea? Potato chips? Well, you most certainly won’t get them in quarantine. So whether you pack them in your bags ahead of time or order them through an e-commerce site, make sure you have some of your favorite comfort foods on hand just to get through the long days. This is doubly true on the days when meals are distributed late.

Mine are chocolate and coffee by the way. Yes, our hotel didn’t even have coffee ;(

In Japan, they’ll give you mountains of green tea but you have to supply the coffee yourself.

Use new-found time to start a new healthy habit

Like working from home, hotel quarantine creates a lot of new time because, well, you’re not going anywhere. Is there a daily habit like yoga, writing or meditation you’ve been wanting to start? Now’s a great time.


If you are one of the lucky folks who get to quarantine with family, well, welcome to the club. Quarantining with small children who don’t understand boundaries, aren’t good at entertaining themselves and may not respect your need for relaxation time can make it even more challenging. While there is no perfect solution, doing some of these things can help make it better:

  • Find something you can both enjoy doing together. For my daughter and I, it is online dance lessons
  • Rotate toys and suggest things for them to do at any time of morning, afternoon or evening. Even a bath might keep them entertained.
  • Be willing to break rules about screen time, snack time, etc. Consider this an emergency situation with exceptions that need to be made to maintain everyone’s sanity!
  • Be ready to stop what you want to do to accommodate their wishes, though it might feel like the hundredth time.
  • Set up video chats with other family members when they can entertain the child by reading books, etc.

Time can pass slowly while quarantining, especially with family, so those who can master their mental state will come out of quarantine feeling much better. As the saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” In other words, find ways to make quarantine work for you. Looking at it another way, is there any better time to create quality time with your children? Teach them how to read? Potty train them? Figure out a way to make quarantine work for you and you’ll be much happier.

Everyone’s quarantine experience is different, so these tips won’t work for everyone. The important part is to not give up in despair during quarantine. With a little flexibility, even quarantine can be a positive experience (even if barely!).

Perhaps the most important tip:

When entering Japan, there’s always the chance your hotel quarantine could be extended by an unforseen positive COVID-19 test. So plan and pack with that in mind.

It’s good practice not to promise to meet anyone in person for the two weeks after you arrive, but it will also keep you from having to change plans on the off chance you test positive at the airport upon arrival. This also goes for what you pack. Make sure you have whatever you might need to stay happy during a two-week stay, or that you’re willing to buy it online.

Have any tips from your hotel quarantine? Let me know in the comments!

Some other tips from social media:

Welcoming 2021, even if reluctantly

Countries around the world are in lockdown over the winter holiday season, with various degrees of restrictions. As an American in Tokyo, Japan has felt like a miraculous bubble of normality in contrast with the strict regulations and rapid spread of COVID-19 in the past 9 months of countries like the USA, UK and other heavily-affected countries.

In fact, Japan has only ever had one incident even closely resembling a “lockdown,” which is the State of Emergency that was declared for the period of April 7 to May 25 2020. Since then, various levels of requests have been directed at businesses and travelers about what not to do, but nothing with major enforcement power (実行力) has been set forth. This is due to a lack of legal basis for restriction of travel and other behavior — at most the government can do is strongly request. The situation promises to change, however, as Prime Minister Suga aims to revise a relevant law that would make restrictions on businesses more powerful in the Diet session scheduled to start mid January.

Infection has spread gradually until December 2020, when numbers began to rise rapidly. As I write now, the Mayor of Tokyo has requested the national government declare a State of Emergency again, as soon as possible. The national government is now “considering and consulting with experts.” (Twitterverse has much to say about that: “And what have you been doing up ’til now!?”) Yet, the popular opinion is that the Prime Minister will wait until the law is revised.

Despite the hurricane of COVID-19 ravishing several countries around the world, and the gradually increasing tension in Japan, our small family was able to have a Christmas and New Year’s on par with previous years. One big factor in this is that we are the “Tokyo office” of a much larger firm (read: family) headquartered in Seattle. All of my Christmases have been remote since moving to Japan in October 2011. In that sense, COVID-19 has been a great equalizer because now my American family all, for the most part, connect via video chat. We’ve learned that length of call and seriousness of topic are inversely proportional to the number of participants. We’ve learned not to talk all at the same time. And we’ve learned who to mix and match together. It’s rather businesslike, in a good way. Bonus: I can blame my Christmas presents arriving late to the US due to a major back-up in postal deliveries. This is no joke. When I mailed the presents in November, I was told only via land was available and that they would arrive anywhere between 1 and 3 months later. C’est comme ça.

This holiday season has been a mixed bag. Our family is happy and healthy and our daughter is completely unaware of the extraordinary pandemic. I somehow achieved a personal best at the casual half marathon on December 24, held along the Arakawa River. No warm up but an inkling that I could run a little faster, and lazy competitiveness netted me a time of 1:38:42. This is a full 3 minutes under my previous half marathon PB recorded at a real race — the Tsurugaoka Half Marathon — which I properly trained for. Just another lesson that the universe works in mysterious ways.

Like divorced families with dual custody (that was my family!), bicultural families get to celebrate twice: Christmas and the Japanese new year, oshogatsu. We, of course, take full advantage of this.

Starting off with a local brew from Oregon supplied by my brother, imbibed on New Year’s Eve and culminating in the once-in-a-lifetime, “because COVID-19” splurge purchase of an extravagant new years meal (osechiryouri) by my mother-in-law, this year was by no means lacking. In the back of all of our minds was the likelihood that things would get worse before they would get better, and that we better get while the getting is good. It’s this kind of indulgence that helps catapult us into the self-improvement regimes that are so common during the New Year.

And this year’s omikuji (fortune) was not letting me off the hook. For the last couple years, I’ve been blessed with fortunes on the “lucky” side of the spectrum and life has followed suite. This year gave me a 末吉 suekichi (AKA, not quite lucky). It’s situated so on the grade of luck, with leftmost being most lucky:

大吉 ⇒ 中吉 ⇒ 小吉 ⇒ 吉 ⇒ 末吉 ⇒ 凶 ⇒ 大凶

According to Japanfreak.com,

大吉-Daikichi: Excellent luck, Great luck, Great blessing
中吉-Tyukichi: Fair luck, some luck, Middle blessing
小吉-Syoukichi: A little luck, Small blessing
吉-Kichi:  Good luck, Blessing
末吉-Suekichi: Uncertain luck, Least blessing, Ending blessing, Near blessing
凶-Kyou:  Bad luck, Curse
大凶-Daikyo: Terrible luck, Certain disaster, Great curse

https://japanfreak.tokyo/tokyo-omikuji-fortune-paper-japan/

The omikuji came as a little bit of a wake-up-call. “Don’t take your fortune for granted,” it told me. I was to strive hard at work and at my studies. “But I finished my Masters already!” I thought defiantly.

I can’t deny that there is a kernel of truth in its terse instructions. In my field of communications, one is never done learning. One has to constantly update best practices, keep an ear to the ground for consumer sentiment, and put out high-quality content in order to make the most of the current business situation and achieve the best possible results. This imperative is even more urgent during a global pandemic.

The omikuji was just a gentle reminder that a new year didn’t mean I could just coast. That said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, so I will mix it up this year and challenge myself. More to write on that later.

Thanks to this reminder, I feel that I can pry myself from the myopia that is a new Netflix subscription and delicious holiday food to transition into a proactive and constructive space new year.

I still haven’t colored in the eye of my daruma and set my goal for this year. That’s on my to-do list.

“planet daruma” by Alessandro Grussu is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

How did this holiday season bring you into the new year? Any realizations or new endeavors in 2021?