How to use your AARP discount on travel
When AARP — the 38-million-strong organization for people over 50 — starts contacting you about becoming a member, you may freak out. My first reaction was, "'I am not that old.'"
But after I got over my initial consternation, I realized that becoming an AARP member might open up a treasure trove of travel savings for me, including some that are always available and others that come and go periodically.
And it's a small investment: Either pay $12 a year for a multiyear membership with automatic renewal, or $16 if you rejoin annually.
Join AARP at this link to begin saving on your next trip.
"One of the strengths of the AARP program is it's always on and always available," Matthew Phillips, director of travel for the membership organization, tells TPG. "Another strength is there's the AARP discount and AARP member rate, and you also get those awards points with the programs you are enrolled in."
Significantly, members have access to discounts and member-specific deals at eight big hotel chains that together have more than 90 brands.
There are also exclusive AARP deals for Avis Budget Group car rentals and through a cobranded AARP Travel Center powered by the Expedia portal.
Here are all the ways that you can use AARP discounts on travel, including a few you might not know about.
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AARP travel deals
Hotel savings for AARP members start at up to 10% off the best available rate. Some hotels offer additional perks, too, such as a late checkout until 2 p.m., when available. The ongoing travel discounts are clearly spelled out on the AARP travel benefits website.
Members can click through to the AARP Expedia booking portal or link directly to the booking sites of select providers.
With an AARP membership you can score discounts for brands in the portfolios of companies such as Hilton and IHG (including Kimpton and InterContinental Hotels). The specific deals vary by brand. The IHG partnership offer is 10% or more off the best available rate. Hilton brands are up to 10% off plus a late checkout, when available. When you click on the AARP rate when booking, you should be able to see the terms, conditions and benefits.
The savings are 5%-15% off stays at Best Western Hotels & Resorts, 10% off at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and up to 10% off Choice Hotels, whether booked through the AARP Expedia portal or directly with the brands. AARP members also save 10% on stays with budget brands Motel 6 and Red Roof Inn.
On bookings made directly with hotel companies (websites or call centers), you typically qualify for loyalty points, too. Best Western incentivizes its loyalty members even further with a bonus of 10% additional points. Radisson, which offers a 10% discount, fast-tracks AARP members to Gold status in its loyalty program after four stays.
At some point during the booking process you may be asked for your AARP membership number. In some cases, you will need to show your membership card at check-in at the hotel.
AARP's car rental partnership with Avis and Budget gives members discounts of up to 35% on base-rate rentals when you pay in advance. Other perks from the Avis and Budget brands include an upgrade on a booking for a compact through full-size car, based on availability, and you can add an additional driver at no cost. There's also a 5% off deal on Payless rentals.
As with hotels, you may need to show your membership card at the car rental counter.
Related: 11 common rental car mistakes — and how to avoid them
This may come as a surprise, but AARP has a longstanding relationship with British Airways. The deal is $65 off World Traveller (standard economy) and World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and $200 off Club World business-class fares. The discount does not apply to basic fares.
The savings offer applies to round-trip transatlantic tickets purchased online only, with connections available to more than 130 destinations in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
"It's an airline discount that is in the market all the time," says Phillips. "We've always been very proud of that."
With the offer, you can collect Executive Club points based on the fare booked.
Other AARP deals
Through the Expedia portal, AARP members booking cruises have access to whatever sale fares are being offered plus an onboard spending credit of up to $100 you can use for drinks, massages or other purchases on the ship, Phillips says.
Cruise companies featured include Royal Caribbean Group brands Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Silversea (with the exception of Galapagos sailings); Carnival Corporation brands such as Carnival, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line; MSC Cruises; and Disney Cruise Line. AARP members booking vacation packages with flight and hotel or flight and rental car on the Expedia portal receive the bonus of a $50 Visa prepaid card.
Three escorted and guided tour companies — Collette, Grand European Travel and Vacations by Rail — also offer discounts to AARP members.
There's a discount offer too on airport parking — 12% with ParkRideFly — at around 40 airports throughout the U.S. Popular locations include Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD) and Midway International Airport (MDW) and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Albany International Airport (ALB).
Exclusive AARP offers
In addition to the anytime deals, there are other targeted sales of travel products. If a car rental company is, for instance, having a sale open to the general public on SUVs, there may be an added offer exclusive to AARP members, Phillips says.
As an AARP member you receive the organization's magazine and printed bulletin, both with some travel content, and can sign up for various newsletters such as "Hot Deals" with limited-time offers in a number of areas such as dining and insurance products — and sometimes travel.
How to become an AARP member
While AARP is focused on people over age 50, there is no set minimum age to join. Anyone of any age can take advantage of the travel offers, plus discounts on a lot of other products.
The official AARP line is access to "200+ benefits." The exception for those under 50 is access to products that are age-restricted by vendors, such as certain insurance products.
A catch for anyone younger is that everything AARP does is geared to and heavily marketed toward those age 50 and up. You'll get pitches that may be irrelevant to your age group.
It's fast and easy to sign up on the AARP website.
So is an AARP membership worth It?
The low cost of joining AARP makes it a good bet for all ages, even if you just take advantage of the travel discounts. You'll get an immediate return on your $16 membership investment with just one car rental or one hotel stay.
In addition to multiple travel benefits, including hotel, car rental and airline discounts, you can take advantage of dining discounts at over a half-dozen brands — why not save 10% off your oysters, steak and truffle fries at McCormick & Schmick's?
Ultimately, for a small annual investment, your wallet will thank you.
You can join AARP for free at this link.