No one likes a self-appointed expert but after taking 53 flights last year (mostly long-haul, coz what isn’t long-haul from Oz!) I discovered a few nifty tricks and survival tips.
So, if you’d like to up your travel game in 2018, read on to discover the travel hacks that can help you claim free tours, upgraded flights, airport shopping vouchers and more.
Free city tours for transit passengers
Did you know that several international airports offer free city tours to transit passengers with layovers of 5 hours or more? If you’re facing a long layover this year, or want to break up a long-haul journey without spending a penny, visit the website of the airport you’re flying through to see what’s on offer. The best complimentary transit tours I’m come across are:
1. Hamad International Airport – Doha, Qatar
2. Singapore Changi Airport – Singapore
3. Incheon International Airport – Seoul, South Korea
4. Taoyuan International Airport – Taipei, Taiwan
5. Narita Airport – Tokyo, Japan
6. Ataturk International Airport – Istanbul, Turkey
If you’ve got time for more than a city tour, break up your long-haul flight with a free stopover instead. Most airlines will include one stopover for free with your airline ticket but for maximum freebies scour the internet for airline stopover deals. One of the best on offer comes courtesy of Qatar Airways who offer a free night in a 4 or 5 star hotel plus your transit visa if you book a stopover in Doha. (Valid until 31 December 2018.)
Top tip: Another favourite of mine is the free coach service that Etihad offer from Abu Dhabi to Dubai – a great way to see 2 amazing cities with just one flight.
Food and shopping vouchers at Singapore Changi Airport
Not only are the facilities at Singapore’s award-winning airport first rate but they also throw in free money for transit passengers to have a blast while there.
As part of the Changi Transit Programme, passengers of Air New Zealand, SilkAir and Singapore Airlines who transit through Changi receive S$20 Changi Dollar Vouchers in both directions of a return journey – valid for travel from 1 October 2016 until 30 September 2018, inclusive.
Sign up to a frequent flyer programme
If you’re not already a member of an airline frequent flyer programme what are you waiting for? It may sound like a whole other language at first but if you’re planning a long-haul flight this year you’d be mad not to be earning points on it.
Even if you don’t fly that often you can earn frequent flyer points without flying and if you keep an eye out for reward redemption offers you may be able to book your next flight for an absolute steal.
(We head to Tasmania in a few weeks thanks to the Qantas 25% off reward redemptions sale last year.)
Find the best seats with SeatGuru
Ever wondered what section of the plane is the best to sit in? Check out SeatGuru for seat plans of almost every major airline and aircraft with notes on what are the best seats according to space, noise level and comfort.
Top tip: My personal fave is the upper deck of the A380. There are just 5 rows in economy on the top deck of an A380 so it feels like a premium cabin – albeit with the usual economy seats. Service tends to be faster as there are less passengers to look after and you have your own loos up there too so there is less of a queue than in the main cabin. These seats obviously go fast so I recommend reserving them as soon as you book your flight – you’ll need to click the ‘upper deck’ tab on the seat plan to find them.
Get a travel credit card
If it’s your dream to fly in a first or business class cabin the best way to make that happen (without winning the lottery) is with a travel credit card. Some of my best flight experiences ever have been thanks to credit card sign up bonuses.
Each card comes with some caveats so make sure you read the fine print. Bear in mind that nothing is 100% free – there may be card fees, minimum spend stipulations and, of course, taxes to pay on the flights themselves. Websites like Point Hacks and The Points Guy are great for spelling out the different benefits of each credit card scheme.
Pay for lounge access
Even if you aren’t flying business class there are ways to make your journey feel a little classier such as paying for lounge entry. Plaza Premium run pay-per-use lounges around the globe and No 1 Lounges are a great option for flights out of the UK.
Top tip: The only way I feel (half) human when travelling between Australia and the UK is to pay for a shower during the layover. Facilities and fees vary at each airport – Doha was the most expensive I’ve encountered at 90 QAR (approx. $30AUD) for use of the shower room and KL the cheapest, it’s just 32 MYR (approx. $10AUD) for a shower at Sama Sama Express Lounge. Dubai International has free showers but no towels (so not massively helpful for transit passengers!) and Singapore Changi (unsurprisingly) is one of the best with fancy rainforest showers.
Get flight price alerts
Finally, if you’re yet to book your flights for 2018 my top tip for getting the best deal is to search for flights on Skyscanner and set up a price alert for your chosen route. You can get a notification via the app or an email via desktop whenever the price changes – for better or worse.
For Aussie travellers, Skyscanner have recently launched a Deals Club on Facebook where they post daily flight deals they spot on the app. Warning: It can get rather tempting when deals for the likes of Hawaii pop up!
I hope some of these insider tips are helpful!
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Featured image thanks to: Jordan Sanchez