As the Memorial Day weekend approaches, the unofficial start of the summer travel season, millions of travelers are beginning to plan road trips. For many, planning a vacation full of excitement and fun while staying within a comfortable budget can create anxiety. But with more than 31,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels, and more than a third of these at the One and Two Diamond Rating levels, AAA can help point the way to affordable options with appeal.
AAA evaluates lodgings on a scale of One to Five Diamonds, from budget-oriented hotels and motels offering basic accommodations to luxurious hotels and resorts offering extensive services and amenities — all with acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. For those seeking an exciting summer vacation without high costs, AAA inspectors have compiled a list of their favorite One and Two Diamond lodgings.
Read about rustic mountain cabins, charming beach-side motels and locations convenient to popular tourist destinations, all offering modest but memorable accommodations. A sampling of AAA inspector favorites is listed below:
Armada-By-The-Sea, Wildwood Crest, N.J., AAA Two Diamond Motel
This is one of the best of the many classic old motels along the Jersey Shore in the Wildwoods area. The beachfront motel is extremely well maintained, as the owners spend their time in the off season keeping it in top condition. The beach in this area is exceptionally wide, and the motel also offers a sparkling pool and large sundecks for lounging. An open green park next to the motel affords great southerly views. Rooms have a clean beach-y décor with modest but comfortable furnishings, and many rooms have kitchenettes.
Au Pic de l’Aurore, Percé, Québec, AAA/CAA One Diamond Cottages
Rustic knotty pine cabins perched on a hilltop just outside of the town of Percé on the Gaspé Peninsula offer sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. This lobster-fishing village is famous for its Pierced Rock (Rocher Percé) natural arch, whale watching excursions and Bonaventure Island walking trails and bird sanctuary. Verandas and wood-burning stoves or fireplaces outfit the well-spaced cabins, some dating back to 1932. Wood-floored motel units and a large vacation home are also available. The lobby area, where boat tour tickets may be purchased, has an art gallery and a bar overlooking the coastline.
Strawberry Creek Bunkhouse, Idyllwild, Calif., AAA One Diamond Motel
There aren’t any phones here, but Wi-Fi is available at this quaint establishment just north of the Village, where shops and restaurants abound in this mountain hamlet in Southern California. Besides the rustic, knotty pine-filled cozy guest rooms with balconies that overlook the forest, there are two cabins on property with fireplaces and private decks. Some units have full kitchens while others offer the basic efficiency; all are comfortably and attractively furnished. Hiking in the nearby woods is a popular pastime at this quiet yet memorable get-away-from-it-all lodging. Insider tip: Enjoy the free organic continental breakfast delivered to your door in a replica fishing basket, or opt for the Hike-to-Breakfast option for a hot gourmet breakfast at the nearby B & B.
“This was a great weekend getaway place for hiking with my husband,” said Marie Montgomery, spokesperson for the Automobile Club of Southern California. “It was very charming.” Montgomery and her husband stayed at the Strawberry Creek Bunkhouse in 2011.
Best Western Inn of the Ozarks, Eureka Springs, Ark., AAA Two Diamond Hotel
This hotel accommodates a variety of traveler needs in an economical manner. Guests find plenty of nature in the wooded area that runs the length of the west side of the property. Sporting facilities include an outdoor basketball court and complimentary miniature golf in the game room. The pool area offers family friendly movies shown on a big screen (weather permitting) and a hot tub in the nearby gazebo. Insider tip: Visit Myrtie Mae’s, the on-site, home-style restaurant, for mouthwatering fried chicken prepared with a recipe dating back to the 1920s.
Mayberry Motor Inn, Mount Airy, N.C., AAA Two Diamond Motel
If coming to town in search of yesteryear Americana by way of the TV classic, “The Andy Griffith Show,” three things will complete the journey: a pork chop sandwich at the Snappy Lunch, a visit to the Andy Griffith Museum and a stay at the Mayberry Motor Inn. The vintage motor court offers large, clean rooms with simple, comfortable décor, and an outdoor pool open in summertime. The office is decorated with Andy Griffith memorabilia, and replicas of the sheriff’s squad car and Emmett’s pickup are out front.
Snowmass Mountain Chalet, Snowmass Village, Colo., AAA Two Diamond Hotel
Near the Village Mall, the well-known Aspen Snowmass Jazz Festival is held each summer directly across from the outdoor deck of this popular ski-in/ski-out slope-side chalet. Floor-to-ceiling windows surround the many seating arrangements and snug nooks that occupy the spacious lobby. Relaxing, reading, socializing, resting and — in winter — watching skiers and boarders have fun outside on the picturesque mountain will have guests thinking that they are part of a scene from a postcard.
Swan Motel, Stratford, Ontario, AAA/CAA Two Diamond Motel
The outstanding grounds and gardens are a highlight of this quaint family-run motel. The seasonally run property operates around the Stratford Shakespeare Festival schedule, which guests have made a tradition for a relaxing mini getaway. Original art adds interest to the comfortable rooms, and the large outdoor pool area is a great place to relax while reviewing show schedules. A short drive to town offers an abundance of fine restaurants and shops.
The Thomas Bond House B & B, Philadelphia, Pa., AAA Two Diamond Historic Bed and Breakfast
This cozy lodging alternative in the historic area of Philadelphia is a restoration of an 18th century home of Thomas Bond, close friend of Benjamin Franklin and co-founder of the Pennsylvania Hospital. While the guest rooms are small, guests enjoy the charming colonial décor and lovely parlor area equipped with a marble fireplace. The convenient location is in easy walking distance of multiple restaurants, shops and historic sites — a great spot for anyone visiting the city of Philadelphia!
The Woodsman Country Lodge, Crescent, Ore., AAA Two Diamond Motel
Located on US 97 between Bend and Klamath Falls in the heart of Central Oregon’s recreation play land, this motel is close to hiking, boating, skiing, and the great outdoors in general. The owners’ pride in this motel is evident in the fantastic condition of the property, variety of bronze statues set about the grounds and well-maintained rustic décor of the guest rooms. Rooms feature log furniture and a variety of outdoor or western themes. Insider tip: Try to get a different room on each visit to see all the interesting decorative touches and artifacts.
Yuma Cabana Motel, Yuma, Ariz., AAA Two Diamond Motel
Serving weary travelers at the halfway point between San Diego and Phoenix since 1965, this retro cute motel can be spotted from far away by its massive ‘60s kitschy neon sign. Independently owned and operated, this excellent and very affordable option offers something different than standard lodgings. The small but immaculate rooms offer useful amenities, and guests can visit the lobby for free coffee all day and continental breakfast. There’s also a cool kidney-shaped pool and shaded patio for those many triple-digit Yuma afternoons. Insider tip: If staying for a few days, ask for the larger corner rooms with kitchenettes.
For more AAA inspector picks, insider tips and travel stories, visit AAA’s travel blog at AAATravelViews.com.
About AAA Inspections
AAA rates more properties than any other rating entity and is the only rating system that covers the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. It is one of only two that conduct physical, on-site evaluations. AAA Approved lodgings and restaurants are assigned a rating of One to Five Diamonds. For 75 years AAA has used professional inspectors to conduct in-person property inspections and publish the results for member travelers.