Members of AAA (formerly known as the American Automobile Association if you haven’t been paying attention lately) have long-relied on guide books and the famous AAA TripTik page-by-page maps that looked to be doomed as Internet applications like Google maps became more popular. But now, things are looking up for the world’s largest auto club.
Announced today, AAA members can take along the free digital guides for their Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad, Barnes and Noble Nook, Sony Reader or smartphones equipped with an e-reader application. Site visitors to AAA.com/ebooks can view the available eTourBook titles, but only AAA members can initiate a download. To complete the process, members login to download titles to their personal computer and then sync the files to their portable device.
The AAA library is extensive too. AAA publishes 26 regional TourBook guides covering the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean .The information is gathered by a team of travel editors and inspectors conduct in-person evaluations of all AAA Approved lodgings and restaurants.
Listings include 58,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated lodgings and restaurants, 17,000 attractions, 23,000 events and 7,000 destinations.
Printed AAA TourBook guides and maps are still available free to members through AAA offices or online at AAA.com/travel. I just ordered a bunch of them for an upcoming trip to Italy at the end of the month. I think it is one of the best benefits they have…well, next to coming out for free road service that is.
At one time, staying in a “four-star hotel” meant you were experiencing the peak of luxury. Luxurious rooms, top-notch accommodations and plenty of amenities. But increasingly a four-star hotel is no longer enough, with uber-high-end properties in Europe racing to claim six or, in the case of the Burj-al-Arab in Dubai, even seven-star ratings. At what point do the hotel stars become meaningless? The BBC took a look at the hotel-star “ratings game” in a recent article, noting the jumble of competing systems and confusion it causes for consumers.
According to the BBC, the ratings have become a subjective measure of amenities depending on the place. In much of Europe for instance, stars are assigned based on random factors such as whether the property has an elevator or includes breakfast, not by factors like building age or cleanliness. There’s similar confusion in the United States, where competing organizations like AAA and Forbes Travel offer customers conflicting systems. Those in the hotel ratings business acknowledge the confusion, though minimal steps have been taken to change the process.
The next time you check into that “Five-Star Hotel,” make sure you know what you’re paying for. In a world of increasing hotel rating inflation, there’s still plenty of room for debate.