7 Frequent-Flyer Tricks Worth Learning

Master the art of earning miles, attaining elite status, and working the system to earn free flights and other perks.I honestly don’t know how some frequent flyers manage. Travel can be so discombobulating and disruptive, yet some road warriors spend half their lives on planes (sometimes just to collect miles and attain elite status). Many of these expert travelers know how to maximize their elite status. Here are seven tips and tricks worth following.

Get in the airline lounge even if you have an economy-class ticket.

Airports aren’t much fun, but one way to make the whole flying experience more pleasurable is to wait for your flight in an airline lounge. Savvy travelers know that even if they are flying in economy class, they can access business-class lounges when flying overseas. If you’re a member of Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge, Continental’s Presidents Club, the United Red Carpet Club, or the US Airways club, you can access any Star Alliance business-class lounge when flying internationally. No matter what class of service you are flying or elite status, show your club membership card and you gain access to alliance member lounges across the globe. Here’s how it works. And if you’re not familiar with the range of airport lounges, this article lays it all out.

Earn elite status.

Elite status is an important tool in every road warrior’s bag of tricks, but achieving status can be troublesome if your travel patterns change each year. Did you know that most airlines award elite status for life upon reaching the milestone of flying one million miles? Sure, it takes a lot of flying to get there, but you are a road warrior and you will live a long time. Which airlines offer this valuable benefit? Read more. And speaking of elite status, the smartest travelers know that if they attain status in one airline’s program, they can often get a competing airline to match that status.

Reach elite status faster.

Want a fast track to Grand Poobah status in your fave airline? There are easier ways to achieve alliance-wide status if you are willing to collect miles in foreign programs. Aegean Airlines, for example, awards Star Alliance Gold elite status at a much lower threshold than many of its alliance partners bringing with it lounge access benefits and baggage fee waivers. Here’s how to do it.

Know when it’s wise to buy miles.

Ever seen those promotions about buying miles and wondered if it was worth it? Well, there are some promotions (often with US Airways) where buying miles can save you big bucks and help you to fly business class overseas for as little as $1,000, a bargain since most business-class fares cost $4,000-$7,000. Read about exactly when you should buy miles and when you should steer clear here. And if you collect American Express Membership Reward points, check their site frequently for bonus transfer offers. Recently, for example, British Airways was offering a 50% bonus on transferred points (transfer 100,000 points and you actually get 150,000 miles).

(And speaking of American Express points, you’re probably aware that later this year Continental Airlines will no longer participate. But since Continental has merged with United, you can take advantage of your Amex points with Continental after the cut-off date by transferring points from Amex to Continental now, and then immediately transfer them, if you wish, to United. Here’s how to do that.)

Find secret ways to book award seats on partner airlines.

When you have miles burning in your account, what’s the best way to redeem them? The process can be complicated, and calling an agent to have them do the work for you is a bad idea. Because they may not do a great job! You have to do the homework first. Star Alliance has a secret backend tool to finding the award availability for your next trip, thanks to partner airline ANA All Nippon Airways of Japan. Here’s the inside scoop.

SkyTeam has its own method of searching for availability (that luckily does not involve the clunky Delta.com site. Sign up for Air France-KLM’s Flying Blue frequent flyer program to search for award inventory on Delta, Air France, KLM, CSA Czech, Alitalia, Kenya Airways and other partners. (And speaking of Delta SkyMiles, you might want to check out this advice on how to spend your miles wisely.)

There’s also an easy way for oneworld alliance fans to find seats on partner airlines. If you collect miles in any of the oneworld alliance member programs, you can scour award availability by using the British Airways and Qantas Airways websites. These give access to most partner availability online so you can do your homework before calling your airline’s reservation number to make the booking. Read more.

Shop for bonus miles.

Experienced mile collectors know that it’s a sin to buy anything online without checking first to see if there are bonus miles to be had. Sure, they collect a mile or maybe 1.5 miles for each dollar charged to their credit cards, but that’s chump change compared to the bonus miles. Buying a Mac iBook? How about collecting your additional 5,000-10,000 miles? Continental might be awarding an additional four miles for each dollar spent at Apple.com, but only if you reach Apple’s website by clicking over from Continental’s shopping mall first. Buying a $200 pair of shoes at Saks? You might earn an additional 2,400 miles with British Airways. Each airline has their own shopping portal through which you can access your favorite stores (you know, the ones you already go online to use for your shopping). And, of course, online shopping is a fine way to prevent your miles from expiring. Find links to the airlines’ malls here.

Get award seats even when you’re told no.

Yes, it seems to be getting harder to cash in those hard-earned miles (especially on popular routes) even when following the advice above. Tim Winship, editor of FrequentFlier.com, offers this advice on how to get the seats you want even when the website says there aren’t any.

George Hobica is a syndicated travel journalist and blogger whose website, www.airfarewatchdog.com, tracks unadvertised airfare wars and fare sales, including the most helpful and always updated Top 50 Airfares.

Talk with fellow Frommer’s travelers on our Air Travel Forum today.

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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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Travelling With Kids a Waste of Time and Money?

We are passionate about travelling. We’ve always been avid travellers, having grown up in the early pioneering days of the travel and tourism industry, voyaging into far-reaching places of the world. Since having our own children we have travelled the world extensively as a family since they were infants.

It seems that many people tend to think that travelling with children is a waste, as they may not remember the trips. Other people are reluctant to venture too far from home with children, so they avoid challenges faced in travelling with children. Firstly, get your kids to write  about their travel experiences. Journaling not only helps kids keep the trip alive in their memories when they re-read, it provides a great downtime activity. We love this ‘kid’s travel journal’ by Mudpuppy Press. It is light to carry and well set out for kids, so they don’t feel like they have a huge page to fill. Kids under writing age, can draw pictures, collect tickets, photos and brochures along the way to make a scrapbook of their travels. Our experience of traveling with young kids has been quite different to what most people think and for us and many people we have spoken with who do travel with kids, we all concur that the overall benefits, far outweigh any challenges.

We have found travel to be a great catalyst for many desirable changes in childrens’ behaviour- one child stopped wetting the bed, and others gave up bottles, pacifiers, tantrums and favourite cuddly toys. We even had a three month old infant who stopped screaming 10 hours each an every day, thanks to the Fijian heat and wonderful Fijian women who sang her to sleep ( and Mommy too)- this, all during trips away. No wonder we have positive associations to travelling with kids!!

We believe that travelling with your family is not just a vacation or holiday. It is a great opportunity to relax, enjoy each other, learn and grow together, providing an integral component of your little person’s early experience and education. It broadens a child’s view of the world and there is nothing for parents quite like experiencingtravel through the eyes of your child. They see stuff that you would never notice. Travelling with your family is wonderful experience, it gets parents away from their usual distractions creating a space to spend quality time with your kids. I think most importantly, travel helps shape young children into who they will be as they grow and find their place in our awe inspiring world.


Our Best Tips for Travelling with Kids- Planning and preparation is key!

A great family holiday requires planning. Here is the first in a series hottest tips articles for traveling well with children. Kids do travel well!

1. Involve kids in planning trips and adventures. When children play even the smallest role in planning and organizing, the whole family’s enjoyment increases. Even little kids love to have their say and feel included. Older kids can research where to go and what to do, and share some responsibilities.

2.When planning activities, aim for balance between activity and rest, planned activities and free time. Co-ordinate travel during kids rest times, so they sleep at similar times to their normal routine within the new time zone. This is particularly beneficial to reduce the effects of jet lag, which can be hard on little kids. Balancing cultural, adult-orientated and kid orientated activities is also important. The key is to keep everyone happy. Mix museums in a day with other activities. Having said that, many cultural attractions like museums and galleries, and tours like The Big Bus tour in London, have specific activity packs that you can pickup, or download beforehand. My experience has been that if balanced appropriately, kids enjoy far more cultural experiences than adults dream possible.

3. Packing. Culling is key! Refine your packing list over the course of a week to identify what you will likely use, then go back over your list and remove everything you don’t absolutely need. Strike balance between what you think you need, free space in your bags, and tough airline weight restrictions. Pack your bags early – a couple of days before you leave is ideal time for a couple of culls reducing clothes and shoes. Handwashing and hotel laundering is invaluable. The less you take, the easier it is to find and manage the stuff, and more space you’ll have to collect treasures along the way. Pack toiletries in travel-size containers, and remember: you can usually pick up most things you will need along the way. Part of the fun of experiencing your destination from the feminine perspective is checking out what the locals use. Keep your list in your suitcase for the next family trip and modify as kids needs change.

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4. Get kids to make their own packing lists and have their own bags. It’s a great opportunity to teach children how to make decisions. A wheeling international carry-on size bag is perfect to keep all their belongings in, even for extended trips (we recently did 5 weeks, 3 kids and two climates). Keep space free for new treasures. It teaches kids responsibility, it’s easier to find things, and provides the perfect reason to refrain from buying everything they see. They quickly learn how to prioritize what they need in terms of the space required to carry it. Give the kids their own backpack to store their gear for travel on planes, cars, trains etc and during day trips. Carry water, snacks, toys, books and jackets. Less jobs for adults and life skills for kids.