I operate a hotel booking service for self-employed business travelers, those who work for small firms, and for people at large companies who are not required to use a designated corporate travel agency.
A question I always ask a new client is whether he or she belongs to AAA.
My experience is that AAA membership is by far the most common lodging discount for individual travelers. For the price of a basic annual AAA membership ($54 in northern California) an individual business traveler gets access to discounts at most hotels up and down the price ladder. This goes for both chain hotels (Marriott, Starwood, Hilton, Best Western, etc.) as well as independent properties.
In the interest of full disclosure, I worked for several years at the northern California AAA club’s headquarters in San Francisco in the 1990s.
Let’s look at prices for three different properties: a motel, a mid-price hotel, and a high-end hotel. The rates shown are for one person, king bed, and do not include tax. (Rates were checked on 20 January.)
Best Western Roseville Inn, 3 nights, 23-26 February
Lowest non-AAA rate: $73.99
AAA rate: $66.59
Savings = $7.40 per night + tax
Hilton San Jose, 2 nghts, 1-3 March
Lowest non-AAA rate: $199.00
AAA rate: $189.00
Savings = $10 per night + tax
Le Meridien San Francisco, 2 nights, 6-8 April
Lowest non-AAA, non-refundable rate: $259.00
Lowest non-AAA rate, not prepaid: $285.00
AAA rate, regular: $242.25
AAA rate, special includes breakfast: $199.00
Savings = $60 per night or more + tax, plus two breakfasts
Of course there are other discounts hotels may offer that include AARP members, senior, military, government business, and more. But AAA is the most widely found, and it does not require attainment of a certain age, or employment by a specific entity, plus it can be used whether you are traveling for business or for pleasure.
Furthermore unlike bookings made through third-party vendors such as Expedia, Priceline, Hotels.com, and so forth, AAA rates are considered “full-fare”, and thus eligible for upgrades and hotel loyalty program credit.
Finally, AAA rates are very seldom of the prepaid/non-refundable/non-changeable sort. Typically they simply require a credt card guarantee to hold the room, and come with the same cancellation deadline that a hotel applies to its other normal rates.
AAA membership also offers discounts for Hertz car rentals and Amtrak, plus the fine AAA maps and TourBooks at no cost..
If you travel even just a few nights annually for business, you’ll find one of your best investments in travel savings is AAA membership.