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Jonica Reveals What 14 Days At A Sydney Quarantine Hotel Looks Like With 3 Kids

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Wondering what it’s like spending 14 days in Sydney quarantine? For anyone travelling to Australia and wondering what to expect at a quarantine hotel in Sydney, read on!

Meet Jonica Williams, a journalist from Cornwall who moved to Australia with her cameraman husband Clint 13 years ago. After following Jonica’s popular Instagram page @thewandertwins for a while, we were fascinated with her recent journey back to UK to adopt her nephew. With two biological children, a foster child and another adoptive child already in her growing family, she and Clint made a decision to help a family member in need and adopt her nephew, Stanley from the UK and bring him back to Australia.

Knowing how difficult it is to leave Australia at the moment, let alone making sure she could get back into the country, Jonica embarked on the trip with her two youngest children, Jonty and Hendry back to UK to bring their new brother Stanley home with them.

I had so many questions about the process and wondered how she knew she would be able to get back on a plane to Australia again. We’ve all seen the heartbreaking stories of Australians struggling to get back home, so how did she do it? Let’s find out.


Moving To Australia And Adopting

I originally studied journalism in New Zealand and became a citizen before moving to Australia 13 years ago. My family were really supportive and still are now. In fact, my mum says even if I wanted to move home she wouldn’t let me, because life is too good here to give up in Australia.

Around four years ago, I was living in Vanuatu and ended up adopting Hendry and now have an open adoption with his birth mum Ruth. Although it wasn’t originally planned, we wouldn’t have it any other way now as Hendry is part of our family. He is a beauty and I don’t know where we would all be without him. He brings our family so much joy!

We then decided to go through the foster care process in Australia and over the last year, we’ve got a beautiful teenager in our care too. Through our Instagram page, we’re trying to normalise fostering and adoption for many families who might be considering it as a next step.

During Covid my dad died in the UK and some members of my family who were already struggling unfortunately never really recovered from the loss. Sadly my nephew was legally placed into my care. Because I had parental responsibility I was given permission to travel to the UK to get him and an exemption to bring him back to Australia. In total, it only took about a month to organise as we had supporting letters from our MP and the UK courts.


Flying Back To UK

After much research we decided to fly with Singapore Airlines back to UK. They seemed to be handling their own pandemic well and it meant flight routes or travel restrictions through there were more stable than other counties who were closing or being classified as red zones.

We had a couple of problems getting on the flight because Jonty is the only one with an Australian passport so they had to call to see if he could depart. We had a similar problem leaving UK too.

When we got on the flight to UK, it was so surreal because the flight was practically empty and all of the airports we travelled through were dead. It was an eerie feeling and made me feel pretty emotional. The demographic of passengers were either lone male business travellers or families like ours all either heading home one way or the other. It felt very somber as there was no happy holidays plans or excited chit chat about the trip ahead.

When I booked the flights from Australia to UK, there was no quarantine in the UK. Two weeks later the UK declared you had to self-isolate on arrival. A week after I finished it, we were back to being green and no isolation again. It’s confusing because they change the rules so fast. But all in all, the UK was not strict at all with quarantining. I was allowed to catch public transport and got on a five-hour train ride back to Cornwall after I left the airport. I was only checked up on once during my self-isolation days but it was the same day I paid for the early release test, so I technically didn’t have to be isolating.


Coming Back To Australia

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I was more concerned about quarantining in Australia, so I joined heaps of Facebook support groups. So many people were having awful experiences with the food, tiny rooms, no opening windows and so on which worried me. It gave me a lot of anxiety as I knew I would be travelling with two four-year-olds and Stanley as well, it could be a lot to take on in a small room. I had no choice in my trip and I needed to focus on what was already going to be a hard few weeks, so I muted the Facebook groups for a while.

It was quite fascinating coming back to Australia because although we experienced a normal transit in Singapore, in Australia it was very different when we landed back in the country. We were stopped at multiple health stations and asked loads of questions before having our documents and temperatures checked. We then cleared immigration in record time(!) and picked up our bags.

Nothing could prepare me for the next thing to happen. Instead of walking through the doors and being welcomed by loved ones as you would usually expect pre-Covid, we had to turn left and detoured into a large room with the Australian army and police personnel waiting for us. Again our documents were checked and our luggage was taken away. We were handed a bag of fresh face masks and directed into one of the three buses waiting to pick up the passengers.

We had no idea where we were going and no one would tell us. My anxiety levels increased as I honestly thought we were going to a single hotel room for the next 14 days.

After a while, we stopped at a quarantined hotel in Sydney and someone from the army came on board and said he didn’t have a name but it was for a solo parent and three children. Luckily it was me and thankfully we ended up with a two-bed apartment and a small balcony. As soon as I stepped into the apartment, I just knew everything was going to be OK.


Quaranting In Australia: The Next 14 Days

Over the next 14 days while in quarantine in Australia, we were tested for Covid three times. I also got a mental health call daily which was great because apart from that, I had no contact with anyone else at all.

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Each day we had food delivered three times a day with a knock at the door. We would have to wait a minute or two after the knock, then open the door to find the food in a bag on the floor. I was actually really surprised by how good the food was as we were given more than enough food to keep us full throughout the day. Although you can’t pick the food and have no idea what you’re going to get until you get it, you can give them dietary requirements.

Luckily, some of my amazing friends delivered a whopping 14 bags of toys and an activity for us to do every day during our stay. It was honestly life-saving as we got into a routine pretty quickly. We did loads of crafts and drawing together, made puzzles, baked and had even yelled at the cars from the balcony. Online yoga, reading storybooks and face-timing family helped and we made sure we only watched one hour of TV after dinner.

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Although I wouldn’t be signing up to do quarantine in Sydney again, it was a fantastic time for Stanley to bond with the kids and me. I also enjoyed the smaller things like not having to be anywhere or have anything to do.

It was fun when I found out celebrities Hugh Jackman, Teressa Palmer and Geordie Shore star Charlotte Crosby were all staying in the same hotel as me. It made for some entertaining Instagram stories which also kept me busy as I contemplated hitting the fire alarm to get a glimpse of Hugh Jackman in the corridor!

You know, I couldn’t even compare lockdown to quarantine in a hotel because I knew I had to quarantine so I could mentally prepare for it, knowing there was an end date.


Quaranting In Australia Tips

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View from our balcony at our quarantine hotel in Sydney.

If you’re flying into Australia and worrying about the quarantine hotels in Sydney, just remember it’s completely out of your control about where you’re going to be placed. It’s best to just accept it and deal with the situation.

Try and see it in a positive light and make the most of your time to spend it with your family members. If you’re travelling on your own, enjoy the time you wouldn’t usually have and enjoy taking a bath and sit back and read. Try not to watch too much TV but keep yourself active. Just go easy on yourself and know that there is an end date in reach!


Big thanks to Jonica for sharing her Sydney quarantine story. If you would like to share your expat story and become the next Expat Story Of The Month, please fill out our Expat Story form here. In the meantime, check out the rest of the our expat interviews.

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