Back in 2000, I found a book called "The Penny Pincher's Passport to Luxury Travel (Travelers' Tales Guides)l" at the local library as I was preparing for my first overseas trip. It emphasized how to accumulate and work the frequent flyer system to get upgraded and get better and better treatment. It could have been a template for George Clooney's character in "Up in the Air [Blu-ray]".
The book was in my big backpack of travel-ready goods including new glasses and contact lenses and new camera and so forth, which was stolen from my locked and occupied shared office at the University of Technology, Sydney. I normally don't carry much of value, but I probably had more than $800 worth of stuff with the new glasses adn contact lenses. UTS insurance doesn't cover thefts of employee property from their offices.
I booked around the world tickets, because they were cheaper than direct flights from Australia to anywhere. The airline could save money by placing me in empty seats from Australia to the USA to Europe to Asia and back to Australia. So I spent less money. I built up more mileage, I earned more frequent flyer points. And no flight was over 12 hours, so I got to rest between stops, instead of a mad 27 hour dash.
There are two main frequent flyer systems in the world. I chose the Star Alliance. In 2000 this meant I got a free upgrade to First class on the flight from Canada to Britain. This was unfortunate, because Ansett were the only Star Alliance presence in Australia. Ansett was bankrupted and stopped trading after I accumulated many many points from several years of around the world trips to Canada. No other Star Alliance airline took their place.
The Star Alliance, through Air Canada, remembered my frequent flyer points, but they had no way for me to redeem the from Australia. Only flights within Canada were available. Last year they emailed me that if I didn't make a transaction on my account, I'd lose all my points. So I surfed their website and ordered a very sweet geeky 10 megapixel Pentax Optio M60, and had it delievered to a Canadian friend who shipped it to Australia for me. 9 years later I had a new camera, care of my frequent flyer points.
I had booked the tickets with my credit card, which accumulated mere reward points. This year I cashed out my credit card reward points for a return flight to Melbourne for a convention.
Naturally I've registered the flight with the Qantas frequent flyer program for free by getting a Woolworths Rewards card. Now I just need funds for a few more trips around the world, and I can get back to getting upgraded to better and better treatment by airlines. Just like "Up in the Air [Blu-ray]".