Wisdom from attending 13 days of the Aussie Open

I'm between jobs at the moment, so I took the opportunity to extend my Aussie Open pilgrimage from 4 days to 13 days. 2011 marked my fourth trip to the 'Grand Slam of the Asia-Pacific' since 2000 so I'm pretty well acquainted with the city, the grounds and the venues.
Pico and Feli take on the Indian Express

Not only am I superbly lucky that Melbourne is a mere four-hour flight from where I live, but I rate the Aussie Open as the best slam out there. Yes, I admit I've only been to the US Open and Aussie Open, but I've visited both the French Open and Wimbledon grounds and feel confident that in terms of ticketing, access and crowds there is no beating the Australian Open.

I will give more rationale for my Grand Slam opinion at another time, but I have a lot of tips for anyone looking to attend the Aussie Open or wanting tips for how to go to nearly two weeks of a slam in the hot summer sun without fully breaking the bank or getting sunstroke. Here goes:

  1. You can bring in food to the Aussie Open. DO IT! Buy a sandwich or sushi from outside Melbourne Park, make up your own lunch, whatever - just don't waste your time and money buying food inside. You'll waste too much valuable time queuing up for food that's understandably overpriced. 
  2. It's blimming hot in Melbourne in January, so the first few days I bought a Powerade once or twice a day At $5 a pop (I think) it's much better and cheaper to buy Berocca tablets and make your own drink. I mixed mine up at night then it was nice and cold in the morning.
  3. Keeping on the beverage front, there are drinking fountains all over Melbourne Park (gold star for that) so bring in some extra bottles. I always had two plastic bottles I could fill up so I didn't waste money or time buying water.
  4. I loved walking by this every day.
  5. Buy one of the Aussie Open seat cushions or bring your own. I used mine every day, and one day accidentally left it behind so I had to sit without one for a few hours. Wow - huge difference when you're sitting on plastic seats day after day. They are cheap ($10 I think) and a great souvenir.
  6. The heat can be unbearable even for those of us who live in the hot New Zealand sun. Bring a cool sunhat, put on sunscreen, use a fan (the free sponsor ones work well) and get out of the sun when possible. My friend and I found Hisense Arena to be a great place to escape the heat. Grab a seat, a Raspberry Coke slushee and cool your body down while watching a match on TV.
  7. Smartphones are so handy to have. I can't imagine what I would have done without Twitter and Aussie Open app access. Props to the IBM Scout and Aussie Open Twitter account for letting us know when/where players were practicing and without the Aussie Open scoreboard on your phone it's not always easy to see progress of matches on other courts. This is all very important during the first week especially when you're bouncing between courts.
  8. Bring your phone charger to the tennis. I luckily threw mine in on my first day at the tennis and what a smart move. Smartphones use so much power and I was at the tennis up to 15 hours a day so my battery was constantly running low. Another nice way to cool down is to sit in Rod Laver Arena or Hisense Arena next to a power outlet. I did this nearly every day and never got told off. So many people commented on what a good idea it was to bring a phone charger and I'm happy I thought of it.
  9. For the best value - get a one-week ground's pass. For just Aus$100 you get a five-day grounds pass and can access all courts other than Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena. I saw nearly all top players in the first few days - practicing, walking to/from courts and in doubles action. It's unbelievable value.
  10. Li Na practices the day before the women's final
  11. I had no idea that Rod Laver Arena ticketholders can sell their session tickets back when the session is sold out. Who knew!? So there's always a chance to get RLA tickets the day before or even day of. Just go for it but word of warning: don't listen to ushers in Rod Laver Arena. I was queuing for tickets and an usher told us that that night's session and the next days' sessions were all sold out. People left the queue, and when got to the counter we learned this guy was full of crap.
  12. The Aussie Open membership is well worth it. I initially bought the Finals Five package, so I opted for the membership to get early access to tickets but you get so much more. For just Aus$79 you also get access to a member's lounge that is well worth the money alone: air conditioned, comfy chairs, big screen showing the tennis, a big bar, waiters, better food, etc. It's a nice place to hang out if you want a break from the heat or to hang out before the night sessions. You also get the official programme (which sells for $15) and a 10% discount for merchandise.You can buy membership now here: http://www.australianopen.com/en_AU/event_guide/membership.html?promo=promobox.
I could probably go on, but these are my 10 main tips for the Aussie Open. If you're thinking of going and have questions - fire away!