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? 

My Favourite Protein Products

I’ve been vegetarian for about 10 years now. It was a gradual thing, but I already hated poultry because of childhood trauma over ‘Apricot Chicken’ and our family mostly ate beef. When travelling in Asia in my 20s, I avoided meats I couldn’t identify (for fear it was chicken) and over time, I stopped eating meat altogether.

I used to think I got enough protein from food, given I ate plenty of tofu, beans and nuts. But when I started tracking my nutrition info in MyFitnessPal, I got a shock. Some days I’d barely get 50 grams of protein – far below the recommended intake of 1g per kilo of bodyweight, especially with exercising almost every day.

Protein is essential for building muscle and is valuable for those trying to lose weight, as it can help keep hunger at bay. I’m a big advocate for eating whole foods, preparing your own meals and making smart choices when you’re out but some days, I just can’t get over the protein line. Other times, I’m 100% on the go and need my protein to be portable, practical and non-perishable. You can’t eat canned tuna on a bus, right?

Here’s what I turn to when I need a protein boost at home or on the road:

1.    Teresa Cutter Healthy Chef – Organic Pea Protein

 Teresa Cutter Healthy Chef: perfect with coconut water

This is my ultimate protein product! I started buying Healthy Chef protein powder about three years ago and have a half or full serve most days, either in a smoothie or just with water. I’m not a body-builder or a marathon runner, and it’s almost embarrassing shaking this up at the gym or work. But it’s a filling and tasty way to help me reach my protein goals. 

What I love most about the Healthy Chef protein powders is the ingredient list – it’s pure and simple. A 28gram serve (two heaped tablespoons) of the Organic Pea Protein gives you a whopping 22g of protein. I love the vanilla flavour for banana or berry smoothies and the chocolate variety shaken up with coconut water. My friends and family also report good things about the whey protein isolate range. 

Where to buy: The Healthy Chef website and selected stockists
Price: AU $38.95 for 420g tub, about 30 servings (Free shipping on orders $100+ or $10 standard).

2.    Bell Plantation – PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter

Are you a peanut butter lover? I’m an ADDICT. But if your goal is weight loss, bucket loads of the good stuff is not going to help your cause. Introducing… PB2! It’s peanuts with most of the fat stripped out so you can get a peanut butter fix with far less calories. You just mix the powder with water. I love PB’s protein content – a two tablespoon dry serve (12g) is just 50 calories and 5g of protein. Add it to oatmeal, smoothies and Asian dipping sauces or for those that prefer, just mix and eat straight off the spoon! Personally, I love to layer it all over homemade pancakes. PB2 is vegan and gluten free too! 

I buy a few tubs every couple of months from iHerb.com (one of my favourite stores for grocery and supplement shopping). The downside of PB2? It’s processed, and by stripping the fat and oils from the nuts you lose the health benefits of monounsatured fats along with the satiety fat provides. The chocolate PB2  also has a notable amount of added sugar. But I still LOVE IT!

Where to buy: iHerb.com or Nutrition Warehouse 
Price: AU $10.50 for 453g tub via iHerb (free shipping orders $55+), or $15 at Nutrition Warehouse.

3.    Clif Bar – Builder’s Bar

I discovered these bars on my last trip to the USA. Being lactose-intolerant since I was a teenager, I struggle to find dairy-free protein bars and I also haven’t had a true chocolate bar for about 15 years. Needless to say, Clif Builder’s Bars BLEW MY MIND. Crunchy, sweet and totally addictive. I’m not going to lie – they violate all of my whole food, clean eating mantras. But they’re vegan, filling, damn convenient and pack in 20g of protein. My favourite flavour (and I’ve tried several) is Cookies and Cream. They’re great for hiking, travel or days when you’re on the go. I’ll occasionally have half a bar pre-workout if I’ve run out of raw balls. 

The downside? The ingredients. EEK! While there aren’t crazy numbers or additives, the long list of products in these bars includes palm oil, brown rice syrup and dried cane syrup. It’s no surprise the sugar content is a huge 20g per bar. And sodium is 250mg. Moderation folks.

Where to buy: Online via iHerb or if you’re in the USA, stock up at Whole Foods.
Price: AU $34 for 12x68g bars, or a few dollars sold individually

4.    Lenny and Larry’s – Complete Cookie

Do you get the sense this list goes from purest to most polluted? These cookies are DELICIOUS but also the perfect lesson in reading food labels. Yes, they’re vegan, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free and don’t contain any genetically modified ingredients. But one of these heavenly baked treats weighs in at 360 calories and 24g of sugar. My favourite flavour is Chocolate Chip, followed by White Chocolate Macadamia. I didn’t like Oatmeal Raisin, which essentially tasted like my breakfast had been left in the sun.

Now I’m not too familiar with cookie nutrition so I’ll compare Lenny and Larry’s Complete Cookie with two Subway chocolate chip cookies: 

  • Subway (2 x 45g):
    456 calories, 4.2g protein, 28.6g sugar, 21.6g fat, 62.8g carbs, 440mg sodium, 2.4g fibre. 
  • Lenny & Larry’s (1 x 113g):
    360 calories, 16g protein, 24g sugar, 12g fat, 48g carbs, 440mg sodium, 8g fibre.

Clearly, if you’re going to have a cookie you might as well make it Lenny and Larry’s. They contain 16g of protein, 8g fibre and fewer carbs. I have these cookies only occasionally, such as at the movies, when travelling or with a cup of tea on a rough afternoon when I’m out of healthy treats. Yes, the sugar content is confronting. The ingredient list is also long and includes palm oil, cane sugar, and some other things I don’t like the sound of. But again, all in moderation. 

Where to buy: Goodlife Health Clubs, La Vida Vegan or (you guessed it!) iHerb.com.
Price: AU $32 for 12x113g cookies, or around $4-5 individually.

QUESTION: What are your top protein products?