Our Three Week China Itinerary

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw how cheap the flights were. Perth, Australia to Beijing was just AU$280 return with Singapore Airlines! It was November 2016 and I’d spotted the deal at 5.30am on my way to the gym. I quickly forwarded the alert to my boyfriend, who was still asleep. I got home around 8.30am just as he woke up and I frantically asked him if he’d seen my email. He yawned and rubbed his eyes which indicated no, so I gave him the rundown.

The sale was for September 2017, so 10 months away. The date worked for us as we would return from Europe in May 2017 and have three months to save. We did our mandatory checks for booking flash sales (what’s the weather, are there any national holidays and what’s the average hotel price). By 9.30am, we’d booked two of the four remaining seats. We were going to China for 19 days!

It turns out the airfare was a company error but Singapore would honour our bookings. Six months later, we returned from Europe and sprung into action. China was just four months away! 

Planning our trip

The first task was deciding where exactly we wanted to go, as neither my boyfriend or I had been to China before. Obviously we were flying into Beijing and wanted to see the Great Wall, Shanghai would be easy to get to, and my boyfriend was set on seeing the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an. I wanted to eat Sichuan food so its capital Chengdu was added to the list. I’d grabbed some catalogues from a travel expo and was enchanted by photos of pillar-like mountains in Zhangjiajie, so that went into the possibles too. We had the first draft of our China holiday.

Organised tour or solo?

My boyfriend and I had limited time and wanted to see as much as possible so we looked a few organised tour companies, including Intrepid and G Adventures. However their China tour dates didn’t quite line up with our flights and what’s more, the itineraries weren’t that attractive. There were multiple long train rides (necessary to keep costs down) but also things like ‘traditional performances’ and visits to ‘local culture villages,’ which I generally loathe as entirely constructed experiences.

In the end, my boyfriend and I devised our own three week itinerary for China. It was the best decision we could’ve made! We allowed roughly four nights in each city, booked trains and flights, and then pencilled in essential sightseeing (for example, some attractions were closed certain days). While it was a physically demanding holiday, there was also plenty of food, beer, culture and luxury. If you’re considering doing a self-guided trip of China, I really recommend it! It was much easier to get around than we expected, with trains modern, punctual and organised.

I’ll share specific posts about each location in the weeks ahead, but for now, here’s what we covered in three weeks. 

our three week itinerary

Days 1 – 4: Beijing 

  • Day 1: Arrive in Beijing. Hit a rooftop bar and watch the smoggy sunset with local beers. 
  • Day 2: Drive two hours to the Great Wall of China. At night, head to Beijing’s hutong area for dinner and drinks.
  • Day 3: Walk around Tiananmen Square before heading to the nearby Forbidden City. Continue to Jingshan Gardens for sweeping views of Beijing. At night, head to the shopping and food precinct Wanfujing Street.
  • Day 4: Visit the Temple of Heaven and surrounding park. Check out art and street eats in Beijing’s 738 Art District. Check out My Must-Do in Beijing for more details!
 Great Wall of China: a must-see when going to Beijing
Great Wall of China: a must-see when going to Beijing

Days 5 – 8: Xi’an, Shaanxi

  • Day 5: Catch a high speed train from Beijing to Xian. Have dinner in the Muslim Quarter.
  • Day 6: Cycle around Xian’s city wall before spending an afternoon at the Terracotta Warriors. Craft beer at night.
  • Day 7-8: Hike Mt Huashan, staying overnight on the mountain. Watch sunrise and continue hiking before returning to Xi’an. *See note at end of post.

Days 9 – 13: Chengdu, Sichuan

  • Day 9: Fly to Chengdu. Head to Jinli Street for Sichuan hot pot and street snacks. 
  • Day 10: See pandas at the Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding. Check out the world’s biggest building New Century Mall. Go on a night time food tour.
  • Day 11: Explore the city, taking in Tianfu Square, Chengdu Museum, the People’s Park and pedestrian street Chunxi Road. Check out craft beer and Anshun Bridge at night.
 Chengdu, Sichuan: I wanted to eat as much local cuisine as I could! 
Chengdu, Sichuan: I wanted to eat as much local cuisine as I could! 

Days 14 – 17: Zhangjiajie, Hunan

  • Day 14: Fly to Zhangjiajie and have dinner downtown.
  • Day 15:Head to Zhangjiajie National Park, before driving an hour to the Glass Sky Bridge and Grand Canyon.
  • Day 16: Return to Zhangjiajie National Park to see the mountains featured in the movie Avatar.
  • Day 17: Take the world’s longest cable car to Tianmen Mountain. Walk the Glass Sky Walk and visit Tianmen Cave. Late flight to Shanghai. *See note at end of post.
 Zhangjiajie National Park: I saw these mountains in a catalogue and knew I had to visit.
Zhangjiajie National Park: I saw these mountains in a catalogue and knew I had to visit.

Days 18 – 20: Shanghai

  • Day 18: Explore Shanghai on foot, visiting the former French concession, Xintandi, YuYuan and the famous Bund. Have dinner and drinks in former French concession.
  • Day 19: Learn to make noodles or dumplings in a local cooking class. Head to Nanjing Road for retail therapy before cocktails from the 87th floor Cloud 9 Bar in Pudong.
  • Day 20: Return to Beijing via high speed train.
  • Day 21: Depart Beijing.

Cost

Not including airfares, the trip cost us around AU $5500 plus we each spent roughly $1500 extra mostly on food, drinks and admission fees. Here’s a rough breakdown of costs: 

  • Accomodation: $1800 (3x nights 5 star hotel, 7x nights 4 star hotel, 4x nights hostel, 1x night overnight train). Not included = 3 nights in Zhangjiajie (part of package tour).
  • Internal flights & trains: AU$2000
  • Guided/package tours: AU$1400 (four days in Zhangjiajie) + USD$300 (Great Wall day trip)
  • Activities (i.e. cooking class, food tour): AU$200

I was surprised by how expensive internal transport was, particularly airfares. There were cheaper train options, but they were often much slower and we had limited time.

My boyfriend and I agreed afterwards our China trip was one of the best we’ve ever done! There was a good mix of sightseeing and relaxing, and we didn’t feel like we were moving around too much or rushing any location despite the internal flights and some early starts. I would’ve loved more time in Shanghai but there’s always the next holiday! 

resources

I highly recommend the following websites when planning a trip to China: 

In coming weeks, I’ll share the highlights (and disappointments) from each destination along with my general travel tips for China, such as which apps to download and why you should bring a thermos.

*Note: There was very little information online about hiking Mt Huashan and Zhangjiajie, and most of it was inaccurate. If you’re planning to visit either of these places, I’ll be sharing our experiences in detail in the weeks ahead. Subscribe to my newsletter to stay up to date.

QUESTION: What’s the best airfare deal you’ve scored?

Five Beauty Essentials for Busy People

My daily goals are to eat well, work, exercise and get seven hours sleep. Sometimes it feels like mission impossible, and I’ll race from place to place leaving a tornado of clothing, kitchen utensils and gym gear in my wake. My boyfriend deserves a medal for all the times he’s cleaned our Vitamix after I’ve made a smoothie on the run. He’s also brought socks, hair ties and shirts to the gym when I’ve flown out the door without them. He’s amazing. 

Needless to say, I don’t spend a lot of time on beauty. I do the basics and cleanse, tone and moisturise each night. But I envy those women who always look glamorous, with styled hair, flawless makeup and manicured nails. I tell myself they probably don’t run 10K before work but if I’m honest, these creatures exist at the gym too. They’re catwalk ready at 6am while I’ve still got pillow creases on my face. I silently congratulate myself on at least brushing my teeth.

This post therefore isn’t about the latest beauty trends or techniques. Rather, it’s my lifesaving, time-saving beauty essentials that help me race from a workout to workplace or event and meet basic presentation standards. I’ve also included products that let you postpone beauty appointments or skip them entirely – saving you not only time, but money. Hooray! 

1. MAC Powder + Foundation

This two-in-one compact is unreal. The formula glides on smoothly, giving excellent matte coverage while being completely weightless and breathable. It takes just 30 seconds to apply a full face – ideal for getting ready at the gym or doing touch ups after a lunchtime or evening workout. I have dark pigmentation so I can’t wear this as my daily foundation, but it’s perfect for casual catch ups and travelling. M.A.C. Studio Fix would be adequate coverage for anyone with even tones. Bonus: it comes with a mirror and sponge, so it’s easy to apply on the go.

M.A.C. Studio Fix Powder + Foundation, AU $50 | website

 MAC: super portable powder & foundation formula
MAC: super portable powder & foundation formula
 MAC: A mirror and a sponge to easily apply on the run
MAC: A mirror and a sponge to easily apply on the run

2. OPI Nail Strengthener

I originally bought this product to strengthen my nails but I discovered it’s much more than that. OPI’s Nail Envy also acts as a clear polish that dries within seconds. Literally, your left hand will be dry before you’ve finished your right hand. With a quick file, this polish is glossy enough to instantly give your nails a groomed look. You’ll often find me doing an express manicure while waiting for my bus! Because it’s clear, it’s easy to apply in a rush and you won’t notice if any chips off – saving you maintenance time too. Yay!

OPI Nail Envy, AU $34.95 | website

3. Palmer’s bronze body lotion

Between the gym, my job and a blog, it’s a nightmare trying to book appointments. Skip the beautician and buy Palmer’s Natural Bronzer instead. It works in 6 to 8 hours, and while it’s designed for daily use it’s actually strong enough to use just once a week. I apply it before bed and wake up a shade or two darker. You can be a little more careless when applying this tanner too because the result isn’t as dramatic as others (although still wash your hands thoroughly afterwards!). The smell isn’t too strong either and the fornula feels really hydrating thanks to the cocoa butter. For special events, I apply three days in a row to get maximum glow. It’s so much cheaper and convenient than booking a spray tan. 

Palmer’s Natural Bronze Body Lotion, from AU $9.99 for 250ml | website

 Beauty essentials: basic but they'll save you time and possibly cash too
Beauty essentials: basic but they’ll save you time and possibly cash too

4. batiste Dry Shampoo

I was a few years late to the dry shampoo party but now I’m hooked. A few sprays, gently rub your scalp and you’ve scored another 12 hours of clean hair. It saves time on both washing your hair and drying and styling it. It’s perfect for a post-gym refresh or if you need to mask an oil slick before a class. I use Bastiste Dry Shampoo in Original scent and despite plenty of other brands on the market, I don’t see any need to switch. This is another product I swear by when travelling. 

Batiste Dry Shampoo, from AU $4.95 for 50ml | website

5. Dyson Supersonic 

 Dyson Supersonic: a daily time-saver, albeit at a cost 
Dyson Supersonic: a daily time-saver, albeit at a cost 

This is more of a beauty appliance than a product, but it’s a lifesaver. My old hairdryer blew up a year ago (sparks literally came out of the wall socket) so I invested in a Dyson. What appealed most was it being less noisy – I wanted to be able to blow dry my hair in the apartment without waking my boyfriend. It’s not exactly silent, but more akin to a fan with a low piercing noise like the Dyson vacuum cleaner. I can still talk to people while drying my hair and with the bathroom and bedroom door closed, you can barely hear it.

The Dyson hairdryer is also extremely efficient. I have short, fine hair and it’s completely dry within 3 to 5 minutes. I’d forgotten how fast it was until I used regular hairdryers while travelling earlier this year. The Dyson also avoids that burning hair smell, as it checks its air temperature 20 times a second. It’s not cheap, but this hairdryer saves me at least 10 minutes every day and in my books – that’s worth it. Especially with all the cash I’ve saved on spray tans!

Dyson Supersonic Hairdryer, AU $499 | website

QUESTION: What are your time-saving beauty tricks?

My Pre-Holiday Checklist

Jetsetting around the world may seem glamorous but any traveller knows it takes a lot of work. Even if you’re on organised tours, there’s still the real life stuff at home to take care of before you fly out. Will someone watch your dog? Check your mail? Will your medications last the whole time you’re away? Have you got a miniature toothpaste for the plane? 

My boyfriend and I have been home from Europe for a month but it’s almost like deja vu as we prepare for our next trip. We’re going to China in just 60 days! On top of planning the holiday itself (five cities in three weeks), we need to get our visas, check whether our travel insurance will cover some pretty intense hiking and organise foreign currency.

But there’s all this other stuff too. Like freezing my gym membership. Making sure I have enough iron tablets for the journey. Putting our mail on hold. I’m determined to avoid the last minute rush and panicking. My weapon? I’ve created My Pre-Holiday Checklist! You can download a printable PDF of this list at the end of this post too.

ASAP after Booking Flights

1. Check your passport expiry date

Some countries will refuse you entry if you have less than six months remaining on your passport. Don’t risk it! The current fee for renewing an Australian passport is $277 and more if you need a rush service. Read more on the Department of Foreign Affairs website.

2. Check visa requirements

Depending on your destination(s), you could need a plethora of visas to gain entry. Find out visa applications specifics by visiting Consular websites in your country of residence. Note how far in advance you need to obtain your visa, along with fees and any necessary documents or photo requirements. For example, our China visas require us to submit a full itinerary and apply one month before arrival. I’ve also heard of Australians forgetting to apply for their ESTA under the United States Visa Waiver Program when visiting Hawaii. If you have a criminal conviction such as drink-driving, you may be ineligible for visa-free travel in some countries so be sure to read the fine print. 

3. Check bank card expiry dates

Order replacements now if any of your debit or credit cards expire while you’re away. Be careful if you used any of them for bookings – you may need to show the original card at your hotel or when collecting tickets, for example. 

4. Organise vaccinations (if applicable)

Some vaccinations are recommended for all adults in general, but you might want extras depending on where you’re travelling too. Be aware some vaccinations can require repeated doses over several months to be effective, others may need a booster after 12 months. Vaccinations can also be expensive, so that’s another reason to plan ahead. You can read more on the World Health Organisation website or have a chat to your GP. 

One month before departure

1. Buy travel insurance

Whether I’m going away for a week or a month, I always have travel insurance. Except for one time, when I forgot to activate cover on my credit card before departing. This horrible realisation hit me while my boyfriend and I were sitting on the runway at Athens International Airport, where we were stranded after a flight diversion. Thankfully we had alternate cover but I’ll never forget to activate my insurance again! Be sure to check your chosen policy covers things like car hire, riding a motorbike or quad bike, and even cycling if applicable. 

2. Order foreign currency/ travel cards

I suggest organising foreign currency a month in advance for a few reasons: 1) you’ve ideally saved most of your holiday cash by now, 2) you’ll need some time to compare rates and fees and 3) foreign exchange bureaus can have horrible hours. While you might be fine grabbing cash from an ATM when you land, you’ll likely end up with big denominations and you probably won’t be familiar with what each note looks like. Travel cards can also take a few days to compare, activate and load. Obviously, buy your cash earlier or wait if you expect a better exchange rate. 

3. Check your medications & prescriptions

It could be asthma, vitamins or birth control. Check your quantities and visit your doctor or pharmacist now if needed! 

4. Put your mail on hold

This may not be necessary if you’re just going for a week, but most of my holidays are three weeks or longer. If you’re in Australia, it’ll cost you $24 to hold your mail for the first week and $8 each week thereafter. You can do it all online too via Australia Post. Alternatively, enlist your neighbour to mind your mailbox.

5. Freeze memberships & subscriptions

I freeze my gym membership each time I go overseas and I used to get the newspaper delivered, so I’d put that on hold too. Other examples could include grocery deliveries, language or music lessons, sports club memberships, etc. Scanning your bank statements for regular debits is a good way to remind yourself of ongoing commitments. 

6. Grab travel essentials

The sooner you get your non-perishable travel essentials, the better! My shopping list includes mini-toiletries for the flight, travel-size toothpaste, dry shampoo, baby wipes, a good book and of course some travel-friendly snacks. Don’t forget electronics – check you have travel adaptors, power packs, camera cables and so on.

7. Birthdays? Special occasions?

Have a look at the dates you’ll be away. Any birthdays or special events? Organise cards, gifts or flowers now. The same neighbour watching your mail might be able to post items closer to the special day, or why not give your little brother or sister a pile of presents and delivery instructions? Yes, I’ve done the latter (thanks sis!).

8. Donate blood

Travelling overseas can make you ineligible to give blood for a short time afterwards. Before I’m treated to the wonders of the world, I like to roll up my sleeve and give something back to the community. I hate needles and dread the appointment for days, but I always feel proud afterwards. Bonus: you can book an appointment online via the Australian Red Cross website.

One week before departure

1. Share your itinerary

I use TripIt to easily send my travel plans to friends and family electronically. If you’re Australian, register your holiday with Smart Traveller so authorities can try locate you in case of an emergency.

2. Clean out your fridge

If you’re going away for any length of time, you’ll likely be out for dinner with friends or family the week before you fly out. Eat or freeze anything that won’t last the distance. 

Download a print-friendly PDF of this checklist by clicking here.

QUESTION: What would you add to this pre-departure checklist? 

Travel-Friendly Foods

Hands up if you’ve succumbed to $7 Pringles on a plane? Or spent $28 on room service after a late night arrival, only to realise your body just needed a few mouthfuls? Whether you’re flying a low-cost airline or want to avoid 2am jet lag hunger, I’ve found some creative ways to eat well in transit. These ideas are particularly useful if you have food allergies that limit your on-board menu options, if you have unusual arrival times, or you simply want to avoid overpriced airport food. Some of these will work for bus travel too! 

My Top Travel-Friendly Foods

1. Herbal & green teas

 Herbal & green teas: these individually-wrapped tea bags from T2 are my favourite for travelling. 
Herbal & green teas: these individually-wrapped tea bags from T2 are my favourite for travelling. 

I first spotted this idea when flying to Queenstown, New Zealand. A woman asked the flight attendant for a cup of hot water, and then brewed a fruity tea right on her tray table. I’ve done the same ever since. It’s especially nice on long haul flights when you want to stay hydrated or try induce sleep. Yes, I feel a bit a pretentious asking for hot water on a flight. But my request is yet to be refused and it’s absolutely worth it!

My favourite: Grab a box of T2 All Sorts (AU$10) for 10 assorted, individually packaged teabags. You’ll find one for whatever mood you’re in! 

2. A granola/energy bar

It’s an obvious snack choice but for good reason. Granola bars are portable, filling and tasty. With a cup of tea or coffee, it almost feels like breakfast. When choosing a bar, look beyond marketing buzzwords like ‘natural,’ ‘superfoods’ or ‘low-fat’ and read the ingredient and nutrition labels. The healthiest options will have ingredients you recognise and not too much sugar. I prefer my granola and energy bars to have 5 grams (1 teaspoon) of sugar or less, but I allow a little more if they contain dried fruit as these will have naturally occurring sugars. A sickly sweet bar is the last thing I want before an adventure!

My favourite: I love Larabars (AU$8 for box of 5), as they contain just dates, nuts and a little sea salt. They’re gluten-free, vegan and packed with fibre. I’ll often eat half a Larabar at my hotel before a morning run if I need. For long-lasting energy, I like Clif Builders Bar with 20g protein (AU$33 for 12 pack) although it breaks my self-imposed sugar limit. 

 Travel snacks: the most common foods you'll find in my carry-on luggage or on my hotel dresser! 
Travel snacks: the most common foods you’ll find in my carry-on luggage or on my hotel dresser! 

3. Instant oatmeal

If you’re a regular High Rise Hayley reader, you’ll know how much I love my oatmeal! A sachet of quick oats is ideal for travelling as it requires little more than hot water and a mug. Just pour and cover with a saucer, wait a few minutes and voila! Oats are exceptionally good for you and budget-friendly too. If your hotel room has milk in the mini-bar, even better. I’ve also raided fruit & nut mixes for toppings. For some serious hotel room creativity, soak your oats overnight with mini-bar orange juice for a refreshing Bircher muesli. If you have food allergies though, be sure to check your oatmeal packet for potential milk powder, nuts or sulphites (often in dried fruit).

My favourite: I like Macro Organic Quick Oats (AU$4 for 10x34g sachets) as they’re 100% rolled oats, without any sweeteners or flavourings. If you must have a flavoured variety, check the sugar content. Some brands contain up to 15g of sugar in a 35g serve – that’s 3 teaspoons, or more than one-third sugar!

4. Cup of soup

 Instant soup: an easy hotel room snack for late night arrivals.
Instant soup: an easy hotel room snack for late night arrivals.

It’s midnight, you’ve checked into your hotel room and you’re a little hungry but not enough for a meal. If your room has a kettle, make soup! A cup of vegetable broth is both comforting and hydrating, and the water content can help you feel full without consuming lots of calories before bed. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of sodium in most commercially available soups. But it’s better than a bowl of room service fries, right? 

My favourites: La Zuppa’s lentil soup (just 26 calories). I also like instant miso soup, even though it doesn’t have the probiotic benefits when making it yourself from miso paste. 

5. Nut butter

Being lactose-intolerant, my plane meals usually include just half of the cheese and crackers course. Some flights I’ve been given butter with my bread roll too, which isn’t going to happen. Solution? Nut butter! Nuts are a delicious source of protein, fibre and minerals including magnesium, zinc and calcium. I bring a small sachet when travelling as a substitute for cheese or butter, or to boost my protein intake at a hotel continental breakfast. Be mindful that nut butters are calorie dense and you won’t be using much energy sitting in the sky. Luckily, I bring sachets, not a jar. 

My favourite: Justin’s Classic Almond Butter (AU$17 for 10x34g serves). I’m always on the prowl for mini peanut butter packets at cafes or buffets too. 

6. A banana

 Bananas: the original travel snack! 
Bananas: the original travel snack! 

Nature’s breakfast on the run, no packaging required! Bananas are the original energy snack, with a nutritious combination of carbohydrates, potassium and vitamin B6. I often eat a banana for breakfast in transit with a cup of tea, which gives me enough energy for the day ahead without feeling weighed down. Just make sure your banana is the last thing you place in your carry-on luggage, or you’ll find yourself with an unintended banana smoothie. 

Other ideas

  • For early flights: Cut up fruit salad and put it in a take-away container. You’ll be the envy of every other passenger and you won’t land full of starch and fat from toasted ham and cheese sandwiches. You could even freeze some yogurt to eat with it, or top your fruit salad with mixed nuts. 
  • Day time flying: The night before, put 1/2 cup hummus in a tall container and freeze. Before leaving for the airport, put some carrot sticks on top. The hummus should be defrosted yet chilled when your seatbelt sign goes off.  
  • Night time flights: I frequently BYO sushi onto planes. Being vegetarian, I’m fine with avocado rolls being out the fridge for a few hours. Bite-sized food is a total win too. 

don’t forget!

You can take liquids on domestic flights but more than 100mL (3 oz.) of liquids is a no-no when flying internationally. Coconut water is a refreshing and healthy way to keep hydrated. 

Keep all your food in its original packaging and before going through customs, toss any food that’s opened. I make sure all ingredients are listed too, in case quarantine or other authorities want to inspect. 

Lastly, don’t forget utensils and storage. I put all my travel snacks in a zip lock bag with a ‘spork’ (a hybrid spoon and fork, available at most camping stores) and an extra zip lock bag inside to store any half-finished foods. Sound like a lot of work? Maybe. But it’s better than a soggy $10 sandwich!

QUESTION: What snacks do you pack when travelling? 

Essential Apps Before You Fly


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mso-ansi-language:EN-US;}On my first big holiday, I carried a discman and a case of 10 CDs. I had Lonely Planet’s ‘Europe on a Shoestring,’ travellers cheques and a Nokia 3310. It was 2004 and calling home involved getting a phone card, finding a pay phone and hoping someone picked up the landline. I also had an address book to write down the details of newfound friends. Thankfully, email and Internet banking were a thing.

Fast forward 12 years, and my phone is my life. It contains my calendar, emails, Runkeeper, food tracker, music and messaging.  But it’s when I’m travelling my device really shines.

I’m assuming Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Skype are already smartphone staples and maybe you don’t want to use them on your holiday anyway. While I’m all for a digital detox, going offline, and so on – I also want to know the latest exchange rate before I blow $500.

Here are my essential travel apps:

1.     Skyscanner

Download this free app to kickstart your trip (or bookmark the site on your work computer). Skyscanner compares flights on all airlines, and even mixes and matches flights in case the cheapest option is to fly there with Jetstar, and come home with Virgin. By far, this app’s best feature is the ability to search “EVERYWHERE” because sometimes, you have a spare week and some cash. Other times, you really want to visit Melbourne and just want the cheapest flight in coming months. Skyscanner has you covered for both those scenarios and unlike other websites, it doesn’t remember your searches and bump up the prices. You can also create price alerts for your searches. 

2.     Trip It

You’ve booked flights, hotels, a day tour and an ice hockey game… how on earth do you keep track of it all? Download TripIt and forward every email confirmation to plans@tripit.com, where they’ll instantly be generated into single itinerary. You can then share the plans with your travel buddies (and give them editing access too) or quickly email a link to your family. It’s a lifesaver when you need your hotel address for immigration forms or want to check flight times but you don’t have WiFi. Bonus? TripIt is free! The paid Pro version will send alerts if your flight times changes, which is handy too. 

3.     Xe currency

A simple but essential app allowing you to list up to 10 currencies and have up to the minute exchange rates. XE Currency easily calculates any amount of local currency into your home dollars, or vice versa. It’s handy in the booking stages (particular for hotels or tours) to see what the damage is. Take care if you’re abroad and the rates prompt a spending spree though – your banks won’t be giving as generous rates and international transaction fees can have some bite too.

4.     Yelp

You want cocktails in Copenhagen? Feel like sushi in San Fran? Yelp is your saviour. This app is the gateway to thousands of reviews on food, services and places across the world. I’m all for exploring a new city and letting the streets guide the way, but think of Yelp as a compass to guide your journey. I did a search for dumplings in Washington D.C. and ended up at a great place called CopyCat Co. It’s a cocktail bar above a Chinese restaurant, so you can get exceptional drinks with a side of gyoza and Sriracha.  As Yelp reviews promised, the crowd was awesome and staff mixed some of the best drinks I’ve ever had. The night was an absolute highlight of our trip to the capital. Thanks Yelp!

5.     For fitness fans: MindBody

I downloaded MindBody while in New York in 2015. It’s fantastic! Search for classes such as yoga, spin or boot camp in your neighbourhood. Best of all, you can book and pay via the app which avoids the need for pre-class paperwork. I used this app to check out Sacred Sounds Yoga (Greenwich Village) and my first hot yoga class at Modo Yoga NYC (West Village). It was a breeze! I was really excited when I saw Perth businesses were signed up too. TIP: You can also search for beauty and spa services.

6.     For music lovers: BandsInTown

An app that scans your music library and suggests gigs you might be keen on? Yes, it exists! Bandsintown also lets you set a location and a radius, so in the months leading up to New York I received local concert alerts and could buy tickets. Skrillex on Halloween = score! My boyfriend and I even got pre-sale tickets thanks to this app. Live music is great anytime, but even better when you’re raving with local crowds. Double points for this app working in your home city too.

7.     Get some language skills: Duolingo

Why play Candy Crush at the bus stop when you could learn a language instead? Featuring Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish and more, Duolingo is easy to use and most of all, it’s FUN and FREE! Download a few months before your trip to get as savvy as you can. Will you become fluent? Probably not. But will Duolingo enrich your knowledge of the country and help you avoid Googling menu items? Absolutely.  

8.     Manage money with a buddy: Splitwise

You paid for Universal Studios and dinner, but your friend got the cab to the airport… so that’s like… uhhh… FORGET IT. Sometimes you’re in a cheap destination and no-one cares about a few dollars. Other times, you’ve had a six course degustation and also pre-paid the helicopter tour for two while your buddy covered the Broadway tickets. The ‘back and forth’ of who paid what is an unwelcome chore on vacation and, unless you have a joint account or are wealthy enough not to care, SplitWise can avoid those “keeping track” conversations and calculations. Set it up before you go and then keep tabs along the way.

and on a serious note…

While you’re planning a holiday and thinking digital, it’s worth signing up for the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller alerts. I tracked the spread of Zika virus while in the USA in 2016 before we went to Mexico. Thankfully, it didn’t hit Cancun but the email updates were a good way to stay informed without trawling through news sites. Register your trip as well in case a disaster strikes. It’s unlikely, but letting the government know your whereabouts gives them a head start for any rescue or other efforts that might be needed. 

QUESTION: What are your top travelling apps?