How to travel to England to visit your mum in the time of Covid.

You know what this means? It means the hotel doesn't want to put people off by announcing they have a wing of quarantining guests. So I'm a private invited guest. I don't have to ring a bell when I walk around and I'm actually quite special. I'm quarantining in England to visit my mum. I thought it might be helpful to anyone doing the same (travelling to England, not meeting my mum) to let you know what it involves in May 2021.

Pre-covid Dorothy

My mum, Dorothy, has been confined to her care home for 15 months and I have not been able to take her out in all that time. I live in Canada and she lives in England but pre-pandemic I would travel to visit her every few weeks and spend around a month taking her out for day trips around the Northumberland countryside - eating and drinking our way around the county.

At least I have a bath

So here's what I had to do to get to England now that restrictions have been eased in the UK and I am finally able to take her out for the day. I thought it might be useful for anyone trying to do the same in May 2021.


*Firstly I booked my flight and five covid tests (yes five). One in order to fly 72 hours before leaving; one on day two (just your second day not 48 hours later); one on day five (under the private test and release scheme); one on day eight (2 and 8 are mandatory in England) and one fit-to-fly test within 72 hours of leaving the country.

Cheese and pickle. Very English.

*Then hotels - unlike Canada, England does not make you stay in a hotel but I make the decision because I did not want to inflict myself on friends after an international flight (does anyone really believe you're as safe on a plane as we're told?)

At least it's only for 5 days providing my test to release test proves negative on day five.

So that's six nights in English hotel and three compulsary nights in a Canadian hotel. Are you sensing this is getting expensive? All I can say is my mum's worth it.

My view for the next 5 days.

*the phone calls. Someone from the NHS is calling me every day. It is usually a young person reading from a script and it's never speedy. A long speech about how they are recording this. Do you mind? A reminder you must quarantine and if you have symptoms call the NHS and do not go to your doctor. Neither of the two young people I've spoken to on this line seem to be aware that I have to leave my hotel to have my covid test. They are asking me if my test has arrived in the post. I'm going to keep my appointment at the testing site. I check with the testing site and yes the government understand that you must leave your hotel in order to be tested.

The centre of my universe.

*the hotel: I tried to book a hotel in Newcastle city centre where my mum lives. Go through the whole palaver and then told, oh our hotel doesn't accept quarantining guests. I try another hotel. Same thing. I discover that the only hotels accepting quarantine guests are at the airport. Wouldn't this information be useful on a government site?

My hotel under English skies

*What's it like. It's day two and I'm perfectly happy. The Doubletree at the Hilton Hotel Newcastle Airport (snappy name eh?) has a whole wing for quarantine guests. Their room service is quick (not many guests you see) and they are friendly. They drop stuff at your door, knock and run so far as I can tell.(including delivering my suitcase which spent an unexpected night in Paris - thanks Air France). I don't have a window that opens but I do have fearsome air conditioning which I pretend is fresh air. 

Sounds like a cocktail party - actually a covid testing station.

The nice lady at the covid testing station tells me men are the biggest babies when it comes to having their throat and nostrils swabbed. I feel instantly superior and don't even scream when she sticks things up my nose and throat for my Day Two test. Suddenly I'm outside!! I linger around the hotel for a moment hoping to pick a flower from their garden. I resort to picking a few wildflowers on nearby land instead - shepherds purse with it's cute heart-shaped seed pods (capsella bursa-pastoris) and vetch (vicia) AKA poor man's peas. Beautiful.

*What I miss: my garden, my cat, my husband. I would like some greenery in my room - a live plant or some seedlings I could tend? A tomato plant I could love or some salad leaves growing in a pot. I had spent the spring sowing hundreds of seeds for my veggie and flower beds this summer. I ended up coming to see my mum earlier than expected and so these puppies are in the hands of friends and family (yikes).

Feeling giddy at the thought of going outside for covid test

*Travel should only be essential as we know. Of course if you're travelling to make money then it goes without saying it's essential. Visiting a 94-year-old woman who's been confined for 15 months? Not so much. So I made sure my mum's care home manager wrote me a letter saying she recommended I come to visit my mum. I carried it through airports but no-one asked me why I was travelling.

Never seen this much instant coffee since 1975.

*The stress: I'm not a form filler by nature and so booking hotels, tests and passenger locator forms have been a complete pain but seeing my mum again is totally worth it. When she moved into a care home after a stroke I always planned to visit her regularly from Canada. In the year before covid I visited for around a month four times. It's always lovely. We tour her favourite places - fish and chips at North Shields fish quay, ice-cream at St Mary's Island, tea and cake in Corbridge and a look at the little shops there, a visit to Amble - the village where my mum was evacuated during the war, scones in Walkworth tea room.

*My suggestions: for the Hilton: maybe you could give us real cutlery and a plate to keep for the period of our duration? Just one flower in a glass of water would be fantastic. I just picked some weeds on the way back from my day two test. I love them. Also could you not have plastic bushes pretending to be box. How about a local gardener cares for real plants in your courtyard? Also as I am quarantining and not using any facilities other than my room how about a nice present (a surprise glass of champagne/ a foot pampering kit) or a discount for quarantining? And could you recognize that I may be able to cancel at short notice due to a negative test and respect that and allow me to do it? Oh and in God's name a filter coffee machine. (Sorry to break this to North American friends but there are only instant coffee sachets and no machine in my room).

My beautiful weeds

...and now for the bad news- the cost. To break it down I paid 

CAD 881.59  (£516.07) for my return flight from Montreal to Newcastle with Air France;

CAD 377.41 (£220.93) for 6 nights at hotel in Newcastle;

CAD 1193 (£701.37) Government-approved quarantine hotel for 3 nights in Montreal on return (no there is no refund when you get released early due to negative test.)

CAD 465 (£399) for four tests in England (Day Two, Test to Release, Day 8 and Fit to Fly test)

That’s a total of $2916 or £1705 sterling.

If you have to travel to England now I wish you luck and I hope this helps. 

PS bring your own coffee maker!


  1. At least it was Rington's instant coffee! UK hotels are late bringing in coffee machines in rooms.


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