Travel to Seoul + Quarantine

Well, we made it and are officially in the same country as our sweet baby boy! It is so surreal and doesn’t even feel like we are really here yet – probably because we are stuck in quarantine for a couple more days. We can’t wait to start exploring and most importantly, meet nugget on MONDAY!

It’s been a wild ride to say the least – an experience straight out of squid game 🙂

view of seoul from airplane window

A couple updates:

  • Quarantine is being lifted for all vaccinated international arrivals on April 1st, so we missed the cutoff by just a few days. However, this means that we will be able to make 2 trips (one for court and one for custody) instead of staying for 6 weeks like we originally planned.
  • We meet nugget on Monday, see him again on Wednesday, and go to court on Thursday!!
hilari and grant with luggage at ohare airport

Here’s a little overview of our adventure so far (and something fun to work on while we pass the time and a way to document bringing baby home)!

31 Hour Travel Day

Saturday was our very long and very crazy travel day! We flew from O’Hare to Detroit to Incheon – traveling over 6500 miles and many time zones. We still aren’t totally caught up on jet lag yet.

collage of 3 images of travel day
hilari and grant on airplane

Saturday went like this:

  • Up at 2:30am.
  • We were ready to go at 4am with all of our luggage downstairs and waiting for the car. The car showed up 15 minutes early which was a lifesaver because the airport was packed.
  • We were able to skip all of the lines and check 4 bags because of Sky Priority – a huge blessing and time saver.
  • Got to security and Grant made it through, but I was stoped because my TSA pre-check wasn’t linked to my passport. I had to run back to the ticket counter and they were able to link everything up correctly. It took about 10 minutes for it to register in the system.
  • While we waited for our flight to Detroit, we found out that couples were being split for quarantine. Panic set in and definitely added lots of stress to the day.
  • In Detroit, we chatted with both sets of our parents, a friend leaving Sunday for the same trip, and got all of my tech set up in case we would be split up once we got to the quarantine hotel (VPN, all streaming services, activated my Korean SIM card, etc.).
  • Before the flight to Incheon, we had our temperatures checked and had to show our negative covid test results. We got stickers on the outside of our passports indicating we passed the pre-flight health check. They gave us a couple other covid-related papers to fill out on the flight before landing.
  • Boarded and then the flight was delayed 2 hours so we just chatted and got settled.
  • The 14.5 hour flight was pretty non-eventful. I finished a book I started in January (!!) and we both attempted to sleep. The flight was pretty empty – about 40% full – and everyone was so nice to us on board.
  • Touched down in Seoul (Incheon) around 6:15pm local time (14 hours ahead of Chicago time). We are really here!!!
  • Got off the plane and made our way through all of the various covid checkpoints – there were 4 of them. Each checkpoint wanted different documents and gave us a whole variety of stickers and/or paperwork in return.
  • Went through customs and picked up our luggage. By the time we made it to baggage claim only our suitcases were left going around the carousel.
  • We were guided to the next checkpoint and had to show all of our documentation again. They funneled us to a separate holding area for international arrivals waiting for the quarantine bus. It took about an hour for the bus to come. At the very last minute I forgot about the wifi egg reservation I made and had to be escorted by a police officer into the non-quarantine area of the airport. I picked up the wifi egg and met Grant back in the holding area.
  • Got onto the quarantine bus and were hoping to find out what hotel we were heading to. (Typically, the hotel name is listed on the screen on the bus.) About 20 minutes into the ride they turned on the TV which had the hotel name and address. At this point, we still didn’t know if we would be able to quarantine together. There were about 12 travelers like us on the bus and 2 police officers.
  • At 9:30pm-ish, we arrived at the hotel – Royal Emporium. The hotel is not a “working” hotel – it’s for foreign quarantine only. Everyone working here wears hazmat suits. We had to drop our luggage at the entrance and made our way through lots of other paperwork stations. At the first station, we had to download a daily health self-check app linked to our passports. As we sat down at the table, Grant’s chair broke and he fell on the floor. We can laugh about it now because he’s totally fine! After we downloaded the app, we went to the front desk to pay for the week of quarantine and receive our room assignment.
  • Our adoption agency gave us a letter for quarantine to show the hotel asking if we could stay together in one room if at all possible. We also had a couple copies of our marriage license. Because we had our marriage license, we were allowed to stay together – a big win after a really hard day!
  • After all of that, we got a covid test in the lobby, grabbed our luggage, and made our way to the room.
  • The room was filthy and we spent 2 hours (and 80 Clorox wipes) cleaning all of the surfaces, floors, bathroom, etc. It has 2 twin beds and is about 150 square feet. After we cleaned, we unpacked, showered, and went to bed. I was so overtired that I slept for maybe 3 hours. I think the exhaustion was just about to set in.
  • We are expected to be released on Sunday morning, March 27, at 7am local time (as long as our covid tests come back negative on Saturday).
collage of 3 images of travel day
collage of 3 images of quarantine

Quarantine Week

Of all of the hurdles and hoops to jump through related to adopting in the middle of a pandemic, quarantine has been the biggest stressor for me. I spent weeks getting us prepared for this experience, and I’m so happy I did. It’s been much harder than either of us ever imagined. Once we got settled on Sunday night, we kind of looked at each other and still can’t believe this is real life! It’s like we are living in a really weird, strange movie for a week.

Meals arrive cold at 8am, 12pm, and 6pm. There is nothing we can use to heat up the meals – and the hot plate/converter we brought doesn’t work. We are not able to open our door until the bell rings. We have to place all trash in orange biohazard bags and can open the door at 1pm to put the trash in the hallway. We cannot order food for delivery or leave the room. We cannot request fresh towels or sheets, cleaning supplies, or anything except for toilet paper.

I’m thankful we brought so much food with us – comforts of home and also things we can make with hot water from the kettle in the room (the kettle is saving us right now!).

books on bed


Day 1 – Sunday: Simply relieved to be here.

Day 2 – Monday: Really feeling the jet lag. Slept on and off at night and had a rough morning. Called downstairs for more water and they are being pretty stingy. Thanks to a friend who stayed at this same quarantine hotel in January, she helped us work with a concierge app to order more water and a new hot plate. Most Korean websites only work if you have a Korean credit card, so this service was a huge help. We watched tv and movies all day.

Day 3 – Tuesday: Excited to see that the water we ordered arrived! Still no sign of the hot plate. We were both able to workout – at the last minute I ordered a travel yoga mat and a TRX – both have been wonderfully helpful! In the afternoon, we had a 2 hour Zoom chat with 4 other families who are also here to adopt their babies. It was so nice to see some familiar faces! We watched The Tinder Swindler which was a really nice distraction.

On Tuesday, we also received our schedule for next week – we meet nugget on Monday, see him again on Wednesday, and go to court on Thursday!

Day 4 – Wednesday: Found out the hot plate arrived, but the hotel won’t bring it up to us because it’s on the “unapproved delivery” list. Was able to fit in quite a bit of work and we started The Dropout on Hulu.

Day 5 – Thursday: Over the halfway point! Worked for most of the day and going to heat up some soup in the kettle for dinner.

Day 6 – Friday: Another Zoom chat with some friends, lots of Netflix, and just counting down the days until we can get out of here!

Day 7 – Saturday: Our last full day in quarantine! What. An. Adventure. We had our last covid tests this morning – and won’t know the results until tonight (I guess we’ll get a phone call only if the tests are positive). There is zero communication whatsoever with the front desk so I’m having a hard time believing we will actually be released tomorrow! Spent the rest of the day packing up and getting some work done.

Day 8 – Sunday: We’re free! Got the call at 6:40am this morning that we can exit our room. There is another family at the same quarantine facility who is also staying at the same post-quarantine hotel, so we booked a taxi to pick us all up this morning. Fresh air has never felt better!!!

We continue to covet your prayers, positive thoughts, and good vibes. Thank you for all of the love, support, and encouragement carrying us through this week!

All adoption posts here.

collage of 3 images of quarantine
collage of 3 images of quarantine