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AARP 2011: More Than Just Hotel Deals

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Although hotel deals were once the main travel discounts available to AARP members, those discounts have shrunk significantly. As I noted last week, you should view them as a fallback position only when you can’t do better with some deal available to travelers of any age. Fortunately, however, AARP offers some other travel benefits that are well worth considering.

CRUISES. AARP members receive extra benefits—typically a small additional discount of 5 percent, a shipboard credit up to $100, or a cabin upgrade—that vary among the individual lines and sailing dates. Deals are with Blount Small Ships, Hurtigruten (Norwegian fjord trips, some Arctic/Antarctic trips), MSC cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Variety Cruises. As far as I can tell, at least some of the AARP benefits are in addition to the same discounted prices that the large cruise agencies offer. Comparing cruise prices is tough, however, so before you buy an AARP deal, check out prices on one or two other agencies.

RENTAL CARS. AARP promises reductions of “up to 35 percent” on car rentals from Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, and National. Typically, the biggest discounts are for ordinarily high daily weekday rates; weekend and weekly discounts are usually lower. More than just discounts, however, AARP members who book using the appropriate AARP promotional code receive considerably higher insurance benefits than are available to most other travelers:

  • Primary liability insurance of $25,000/$50,000/$10,000, liability coverage on ordinary rentals is usually much lower, and in some states, rental cars come with no liability coverage at all.
  • Collision damage cap of $5,000, most ordinary rentals provide no collision limit.

Comparable rate discounts are available through may other programs, including big corporate programs, but I know of no other consumer program that offers comparable insurance benefits.

AIRPORT PARKING. Park Ride Fly offers 10 percent discounts on reserved airport parking to AARP members. Park Ride Fly arranges parking in off-airport parking lots at most major U.S. airports; service includes shuttle service to/from terminals, and base rates are usually better than available at on-airport lots. Although the dollar amount of the discount is apt to be small, it’s certainly worth using.

MEDEVAC. AARP members can get discounts up to 18 percent on the Medjet Assist medical evacuation and repatriation program. The base policy prices—$205 per year for an individual or $315 per year for a family—represent 18 percent discounts for travelers up to age 75. Discounts are also available on the more expensive coverage for travelers up to 85. If you travel overseas for short trips only once or twice a year, you’re probably better off buying comprehensive travel insurance, by the trip, which typically includes adequate (although less comprehensive) medevac benefits along with cancellation, medical, and other minor benefits. But if you need yearly medevac coverage, this is a good deal.

ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE. AARP Roadside Assistance, provided by Allstate, provides roadside assistance at $45 per year, which is substantially less than regular AAA programs. Although Allstate provides fewer benefits than AAA, this is a good program for anyone who just wants basic roadside help.

OTHER DEALS. I covered AARP’s hotel, resort, and vacation rental discounts last week. And neither AARP nor any other program I know currently offers senior airline discounts, beyond Southwest’s senior fares that are typically higher than the lowest fares available to travelers of any age but lower than unrestricted any-age fares.

CORRECTION. AARP informs me that its former website posting of 5 percent discounts at LaQuinta was wrong; the discount is really 10 percent, now also corrected on the AARP website.

MAKING THE DEAL. The easiest way to book any AARP deal is through the AARP website, which posts links to each participating supplier. Overall, despite the relatively weak hotel program, I’d say that the other travel benefits easily justify the $16 annual membership charge. Membership is open to anyone age 50 or over.

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