Learn about travel clubs and consider the benefits of joining this type of organization.
Travel clubs are organizations that offer membership and provide customers with travel services, such as information on destinations and lodging, vacation packages, planned routes, maps, discounts and coupons.
The American Automobile Association (AAA), for example, has been assisting members for more than 100 years with automobile travel, roadside assistance and insurance needs. There are more than 50 million AAA members in North America, making it the largest and most widely-known travel club in the United States. While AAA is open to anyone who would like to become a member, other travel clubs are more exclusive and selectively offer membership only to certain employers, special interests or credit card holders.
Travel clubs are popular in the United States, and have grown to offer a great diversity of benefits, services and membership packages. People may be interested in using a travel club for a number of reasons such as:
• Lack of time or desire to research their own travel arrangements
• Security of booking travel that's backed by insurance the travel club can provide
• Frequent traveling
• Interest in the other perks a club has to offer
Travel clubs are typically created to serve members of a particular group. The American Automobile Association for instance, was once the exclusive group for automobile drivers. Today AAA has expanded its services to assist members using any mode of transportation, not just automobiles.
American Express Travel is another travel club that offers unique services to its members. Members must be American Express card holders, but they have access to a wide variety of benefits, including in-person travel assistance, travel, accident and rental car insurance, and access to a global assistance hotline, weather alerts and travelers checks.
Tourists may decide to join travel clubs for many different reasons. Before settling on a specific club, those interested in membership should consider:
• Where, why and how they travel
• Club services and benefits they'll need and actually use
• Membership fees
• Contract requirements
• Eligibility requirements
Travel clubs like the Better World Club differ from competitors such as AAA because they offer a unique take on travel planning. For example, Better World appeals to people with a particular interest in environmentally-friendly travel and lifestyles. In fact, the Better World Club offers services that include eco-tourism planning, discounts on hybrid rental cars and bicycle roadside assistance.
The federal government offers a travel club for people affiliated with the Department of Defense (DOD). Eligibility to become a part of the Armed Forces Vacation Club is open to active, retired or disabled members of the U.S. military service, foreign exchange service members, DOD civilians, DOD dependent teachers and any American Red Cross staff working with the military overseas. For those who qualify, the Armed Forces Vacation Club will provide services with a vacation counselor to book a "space available" vacation. "Space available" means utilizing last minute, transportation and lodging that has yet to be booked in order to get a better rate.
Many travel clubs provide members with extra benefits not related to travel, such as access to warehouse and discount shopping. Two of the largest membership-only warehouse shopping clubs in the United States, Sam's Club and Costco, offer travel club benefits to their customers. By planning and booking travel arrangements with these clubs, members can receive shopping gift cards or added travel incentives.
Members of credit-card based travel clubs like American Express can often apply their credit card reward points toward lodging, dining or leisure activities. They can also take advantage of discounted rates offered to card members by other partner companies in the travel industry.
Some travel clubs also function as non-profit organizations and donate a percentage of their collected membership fees to certain charitable activities. For example, one penny of each AAA members' annual fees goes towards AAA's federal advocacy activities like roadway and airway infrastructure and car and truck safety initiatives. The Better World Club donates one percent of its annual revenues towards environmental cleanup and advocacy.