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Ultimate Opal Hack Day 5: Hacking is in the genes



One final hack for the week in honour of my grandfather.

Throughout this week, editor-in-chief Angus Kidman is undertaking the Ultimate Opal Hack to celebrate the imminent end to free Travel Reward journeys for Opal customers. Learn about why he's doing it and what's involved.

The picture above shows my late grandfather's handwritten travel itinerary for Friday 18 July 1986, almost 30 years ago. Rising at a suitably early hour, he caught the 6am service from Wick to Inverness. Then he switched to the 10:25am from Inverness to Aberdeen. Finally, he boarded the 1pm service from Aberdeen to Stirling, arriving in time for dinner. I hope he enjoyed some haggis.

I mention all this because throughout the week people have been asking me: why are you doing this? Part of the answer is that I really do want to highlight what a good deal you can get from the Travel Reward on Opal right now. But part of the answer is that it's genetic. My grandfather caught trains all day when he could. My father caught trains all day when he could; his jaunts across Europe in 1976 and 1983 are equally the stuff of family legend.

So I'm just carrying on the tradition. Blood tells. As I've already said once this week, "it's the journey, not the destination". Plus , we all have Scottish ancestry (my grandfather was visiting his mother's birthplace during his holiday) so frugality is a given.

Timetable cramming is also a given. When I planned this trip, I feared that Opal hacking might be dead as soon as July (the earliest possible date for price changes). The only week in June I could manage it was the one just passed, and even that was a stretch because of my insane schedule. In the nine days to today, I'll have also been in four different Australian states, and that means that the final journey I need to make with my Opal card is to Sydney Airport.

Except I can't do that. My key accomplishment this week has been to go everywhere I want for just $19.72. If I hit the airport station, I'll have to pay a platform access fee of $13.40, nearly doubling my bill in a single hit.

Hence, my final Opal Hack for the week is to get off one station earlier, at Mascot Domestic, and take a 20-minute walk to the domestic airport instead. That's a free trip I can't resist. (The alternative is the also-free-after-eight-trips 400 bus, but getting onto the route for that would be more trouble and more time-consuming from my CBD office than the walk from Mascot.)

Angus at Mascot

Between now and 5 September, when the Travel Reward disappears, I'll keep Opal hacking. I might sneak in the odd weekend trip to Newcastle or Goulburn. I might cover off the ferry extremities I didn't do this week, like Watson's Bay or the Stockton Ferry. I won't catch a bus to the Northern Beaches or Rouse Hill, because there are limits to anyone's suffering. But even come September and the new rules, I'll be sticking to my Scottish principles: if you can get something you enjoy cheaply, why not?

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