I don't want to make this post like a war-and-peace epic, so I'll just start with a few things, and add to them each week - please share your experiences and tips too - knowledge shared is fantastic for all!
1. Join Frequent Flier schemes
Even if you just travel once, it's not a waste of time. Points can add up slowly, and if you use a credit card or shop regularly at particularly supermarkets they can make a big difference.
I have 3 frequent flier memberships - primarily I use Qantas - I am a platinum frequent flier with them (which isn't easy to get!) but it allows me into first class lounges, first class check in, business class baggage allowances and double frequent flier points.
|First class lounge at Sydney International - free Neil Perry ala carte meals, Payot spa with massage, facials, manicures and pedicures - my tip - arrive well in advance of your flight to book in, opens at 10am.|
I also have Mabuhay Miles because I travel on Philippine Airlines from time to time and have just joined velocity (Virgin) as I will start taking more flights with them..Choose one program from each alliance - Star Alliance, One World and Virgin - SkyTeam seems to straddle a few of these too.
Most of those above are free to join (Qantas has fee waiver schemes, easiest is to sign up for Woolworths Everyday Rewards)
|I got frequent fliers for all my kids via Woolworths Everyday Rewards - for free!|
2. Don't discount lounge benefits
If you are going to travel frequently on go on an extended trip with kids on long haul flights, buy lounge access. Qantas Club is only available if you're travelling Qantas, not even a partnering airline. I learned that one the hard way at 5am in Hong Kong. If you get to Gold tier in Qantas and you are travelling any partner airline (One World) you can get into the lounges gratis.
|2 hour delay at Manila airport - left at 1am - not the most posh or airport lounges but it had drinks, snacks, wifi and a comfortable seat... no complaints from me. August 2013|
Just one member of the family really does need to have it if you're travelling together (unless there's tons of you) and you only need to be delayed on one leg and you'll be thanking me and you for doing it. Priority Pass is a good one to have if you're travelling in the US, Europe and some parts of Asia, but only available at two airports in Australia.
|Sydney Domestic Qantas Club - Kids corner with iMacs, books, TVs and fruit at the ready - cuts down on the 'are we boarding the plane yetttttt?' harassment. August 2013|
3. Organise your transfers/airports pick ups before you go.
Now I realise that taxis and shuttle buses are often the cheapest way around, but sometimes they aren't.
There's absolutely nothing like arriving after a long flight and waiting in a long queue in immigration, followed by a long wait picking up your bags to a long wait to get through customs and then getting in a long queue for a taxi. That last queue I can do without. Booking a car service for me is a no-brainer. It's generally about 10% more than a taxi, and being a fixed price, if you're in traffic, same price! Having someone meet you, take your bags, know where they are going and even at times even have water and snacks waiting for you - that's what is required!
|at 2:43am your time, and in this case, it was snowing, I've never been so glad to see a driver and not catch a local taxi - especially as I don't speak Mandarin - Dalian - November 2012|
Hotel cars can end up being somewhat more expensive - like double sometimes - but pick and choose your battles. If you are arriving at a peak time other aircraft do, and the exchange rate makes it attractive - sometimes you think 'whatever, I'll pay $25 more'.
In Australia, I use Towncars in Sydney and Melbourne Airport Transfers in Melbourne, and for our upcoming round the world trip I'm using Blacklane - which also accommodates you with Mini-vans if you have more than four people. All of these guys can offer extra services like separate luggage trailers, car seats and anything else you need - just ask.
Some people who travel domestically swear by the airport train in Sydney, and the airport train in Shanghai and Hong Kong are quite good too if you want to save money and don't need the door-to-door transport. Do note though with the Maglev in Shanghai, it's fast but it doesn't go all the way to town - you'll need to taxi it the rest of the way...
Is there any tips you want to impart? Your experiences with frequent flier schemes, lounges or airport shuttles/car services you want to recommend?