This $12 annual membership can save you hundreds on flights and hotels

Sep 7, 2020

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You might say I’m an old soul.

I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. I’ve never longed for a wild night out — instead, I’d much rather stay in and sit on my couch, catching up on my never-ending Netflix queue. I’ll take a night of watching movies with my grandparents (hi, Gram and Jerry!) over a bar or club any day.

And now, my new American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) membership is really just the icing on the cake — and it’s not just because it solidifies my status as an aspiring retiree. As an AARP member, I have access to pretty significant travel savings. And no, you don’t need to be over 50 years old to get it. Let me explain.

For just $12, if you enroll in automatic renewal (or $9 per year when you commit to a five-year term with the Labor Day special), you can get an AARP membership that comes with a host of great travel benefits. And travelers of all ages and employment can sign up, so there’s really no reason not to have this on your radar.

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Travel benefits

If I need to rent a car when I travel, I’ll have access to savings from Avis, Budget and Zipcar, just to name a few. With Avis and Budget, for example, I can save a whopping 30% off base rates and get upgrades on certain vehicle types, as well as an additional driver at no cost.

(Photo by Roman Tiraspolsky/Getty Images)
A membership can help you save on car rentals at places like Avis or Hertz. (Photo by Roman Tiraspolsky/Getty Images)

If I’m considering a cruise in the future, I can choose from the AARP Travel Center Powered by Expedia, Collette River Cruises or Grand European Travel. With Grand European Travel, for example, I can save $100 per person on over 30 different itineraries. The operator sets sail to popular destinations such as Italy, France, Greece, Spain, Morocco and Egypt.

Where the program really shines, however, is with its hotel benefits. There are over 60 participating hotel brands, including a few of Hilton’s luxury brands (Waldorf Astoria, Conrad and Curio Collection), that confer discounts and even elite-like benefits to AARP members. At Conrad and Waldorf Astoria hotels, I can take advantage of a 10% discount off the best available rate and a 2 p.m. late checkout, when available.

If anything, this means I have a really good excuse to go back to one of my favorite hotels in the world: the Conrad Tokyo. Room rates usually go for around $545 a night, but with my 10% discount, I can pay $490.50 per night … and put that $55 in savings toward sushi, ramen and udon.

I can also utilize this benefit at budget properties such as Homewood Suites, Embassy Suites and Wyndham. You’ll have to book your stay directly with the hotel, but for a Hilton Diamond member like me, getting 10% off plus elite benefits is a major win in my book.

For Marriott and Hyatt loyalists, the program does fall flat. Neither brand has properties that participate in the program. Instead, the bulk of the AARP collection comprises hotels from Hilton, Choice, Wyndham and Radisson, among other lesser-known brands.

One of the most prominent AARP benefits is the ability to save up to $200 per year on round-trip, trans-Atlantic British Airways flights. Travelers can save $65 on World Traveller and World Traveller Plus fares, and as much as $200 when flying business class.

(Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images)
While it’s not guaranteed, the British Airways benefit is a big plus with AARP. (Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

While British Airways might be the buzziest of the bunch, there are a handful of other airline and vacation package perks that could be a better fit for your travel plans. Tour company Collette, for example, offers $50 to $100 off select tours of seven days or more — and that includes everything from river cruises and rail itineraries to traditional land tours.

Just keep in mind that these benefits and partners can change. Xanterra Travel Collection — manages lodges in some of the most popular U.S. national parks — is no longer participating.

Related: Tips for taking a vacation on a budget

Other perks

Though we’re obviously here for the fun travel deals and discounts, an AARP membership comes with many other benefits. You can save 20% on a Medjet membership; get 10% discounts at major restaurant chains including Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill; and even save money on cellphone plans, home security plans and Audible memberships.

If you’re under 50, just keep in mind that you’ll have an “associate” membership, not the full AARP membership. That means you won’t get access to age-restricted insurance products or other benefits limited by the vendors.

You don’t need to be a mathematician to know that it doesn’t take much for the membership to pay for itself. For just $1 month, I could save approximately $50 at my favorite hotel in the world, between $65 and $200 on flights to London and even earn 50 points for every dollar spent on Walgreens-branded health and wellness products, to say nothing of the discounts on car rentals and restaurants.

Depending on your travel style, interests and budget, you can easily maximize an AARP membership. Just one trip could make the membership worthwhile for years.

Featured photo by Nazar Abbas Photography/Getty Images.
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