How to Use AARP Discounts to Save a Little Extra on Vacation

AARP discounts on hotels, flights, car rentals, group tours, cruises, and other modes of travel can help you save a little extra on vacation.
AARP discounts can help families save on multigenerational vacations (Photo: @poshnonnie via Twenty20)
Photo: @poshnonnie via Twenty20

If your upcoming family vacation ideas include a multigenerational trip with one or more seniors, or a grandparent-grandchild skip-gen vacation, chances are you’re already familiar with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). That organization has touted special membership travel deals for decades, and although some of its best offers are no longer around, AARP discounts can still be a useful option if you can’t find a better deal somewhere else.

The best AARP discount that almost anyone can use is its hotel discounts program. AARP has winnowed its list down to four giant multinational chains plus two large independents. But those four giant chains—Choice Hotels, Hilton, Radisson, and Wyndham—together operate more than 50 individual brands that cover the complete price spectrum, and AARP discounts can come in handy when booking with them.

Also participating in the AARP discounts program are Best Western, Motel 6, Studio 6, and Extra Holidays. The deal is generally “up to 10 percent off” the usual rate, and 15 percent at a few. Lots of other organizations, notably AAA, get the same kinds of travel discounts, and many other hotels give similar discounts to any seniors. This AARP discount is a classic fallback option that’s useful if you can’t find a better price some other way.

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In the past, many U.S.-based airlines offered some really helpful senior discounts on flights, but the days of cheap flights for seniors are long gone. AARP’s only current airline deal is a discount on British Airways’ round-trip flights: $65 off in economy class, $200 in other classes. It’s helpful if you happen to find yourself flying on British Airways, but otherwise of limited value. 

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AARP’s rental car discounts are with the Avis family—Avis, Budget, and Payless—and these same AARP discounts are generally available elsewhere. However, the AARP discount with Avis and Budget does include a waiver of the annoying extra-driver fee and a discounted GPS, so you could potentially save more money with an AARP car rental discount than through other discount offers. 

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AARP continues to offer various percent-off, dollars-off, and other promotions on tour packages and cruises with Collette, Grand European Travel, and Vacations by Rail. It also provides up to 20 percent off Medjet enrollment, and 12 percent discounts at Park Sleep Fly airport hotels

One advantage AARP has over many other discount programs is that you book your travels through special AARP links to the actual suppliers’ websites. That means you don’t have to forego any “book direct” benefits that might be available. 

In sum, don’t look to AARP discounts for any huge savings—but AARP is there when even a little discount helps.

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Ed Perkins
Ed Perkins is a longtime consumer advocate and reporter. He spent 25 years in travel research and consulting and was founding editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter. He is the author of "Online Travel" (2000) and "Business Travel: When It's Your Money" (2004). He was also the co-author of the annual "Best Travel Deals" series from Consumers Union. Perkins' travel expertise has led to frequent television appearances, including ABC's "Good Morning America,” "The CBS Evening News," CNN, and numerous local TV and radio stations.