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Check Out Fine Print on Rates Before Checking In

June 18, 1989|BILL HUGHES | Hughes is a 30-year veteran travel writer living in Sherman Oaks

It's summer touring season again and time to review the discounts and deals being offered by major chain and franchise hotel and motel companies.

First some caveats.

Remember that discounts are just marketing tools to lure mature travelers.

Things can change quickly in the lodging industry. Offers can be altered or even dropped after a change in management.

More frequently, individual hotels have the right to suspend senior or other discounts for special events, or just limit the number of discounted rooms they offer during peak seasons.

Key Phrases

It's important to check such key phrases as "good only at participating properties" or "subject to space availability" or "not offered on minimum-rate rooms."

Although the industry is getting much better at eliminating these exclusions from their senior rate programs, they still pop up.

When making reservations, check to make sure that the discount is in effect during your stay; double-check before you check in at the accommodation.

And make sure that the senior discount is the lowest rate available. Frequently, hotels and motels offer weekend specials that could include lower rates or meals, that are not known to the national reservation service. Often, these kinds of specials are a better buy than a regular room at a senior discount.

Proof of Age

Be sure to have a membership card for AARP, Mature Outlook or another recognized organization, plus a driver's license, passport or other proof of age. Social Security cards don't help.

Discounts of 10% are common. Many "Mobil Travel Guide" accommodations provide them, as does the American Automobile Assn. But don't expect to double your 10% discount if you belong to both AAA and AARP.

Major Offerings

Here's a rundown on major hotel discounts:

Best Western: More than 1,300 independently owned franchise properties, 10% to those 55 or older or to members of AARP. Reservations required. Call toll-free (800) 528-1234.

Budgetel Inns: String of economy motels in Midwest and South, 10% to those over 55. Call (800) 4-BUDGET.

Comfort Inns: See Quality International.

Compri Inns: 15% to AARP members at 24 hotels, including three in California. Call (800) 426-6774.

Days Inns: Straight 10% to AARP and other organizations. If 50 years or older, pay $12 and join the September Days Club for discounts of 15% to 50% at various properties, plus savings on hotel meals, car rentals and tours.

Drury Inns: Modest-priced chain with 10% to AARP or others age 55 or over. Call (800) 325-8300.

Econo Lodges: More than 450 budget properties with 10% off to AARP and others 55 and older. Call (800) 446-6900.

Embassy Suite Hotels: All-suite properties with 10% to AARP. Check individual properties. Some provide the same discount to those 55 and older, others say 65. Also, individual properties often have special weekend package plans. Call (800) 362-2779.

Hampton Inns: Offers LifeStyle 50, where up to four adults over 50 can share one room with two double beds for the single rate. Call (800) HAMPTON.

Hilton Hotels: Has its Senior Honors for those 60 and older for $45 a year, $75 for life. Provides from 10% to 50% discounts, varying with hotel and/or season, at nearly 300 hotels, inns and resorts. Call (800) 492-3232 for information.

Holiday Inns: Gives 20% on rooms, 10% on hotel meals to Mature Outlook members, 10% to AARP and other organizations. Call (800) HOLIDAY.

Howard Johnson's: 15% to 50% off, depending on property and season, to AARP, Mature Outlook and others. Also the Road Rally program allows visitors who stay three nights or longer to receive extra deals and a chance to win prizes.

Hyatt Hotels: Has no corporate senior policy, but individual properties may offer their own senior rates, mostly during off-season periods.

Imperial 400 Inns: 10% off this budget chain's rate for AARP and those over 55.

Inn Suites: Offers its Silver Passport for those 55 and older, for 10% midweek, 15% weekend stays. Call (800) 842-4242.

Knights Inns: Budget chain mostly in the South, 10% off to 55 and older. Call (800) 866-1569.

La Quinta Motor Inns: Another budget chain, with 15% discount to AARP and other senior organizations, or to those 55 and older.

L-K Motels: Midwestern budget chain that is expanding to the West, has 10% discounts for AARP and those 55 or older.

Marriott: Has a very good Leisurelife Program for AARP, or those 62 and older. Provides up to 50% off rates at almost all properties. Sometimes is limited in capacity during peak seasons or special events. Also 25% discounts on hotel restaurant meals (up to eight in a party), 10% on hotel gift shop purchases. Call (800) 228-9290.

Master Host Inns: See Red Carpet Inns.

Omni Hotels: Provides up to 50% off on space-available rooms at its 37 hotels for AARP, but only with reservations. If you get in, there's also 15% off restaurant meals. Call (800) THE OMNI.

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