AAA Diamonds Take Guesswork Out of Where to Stay and Eat


By Samantha Brown, Host of “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love”

It’s never been easier to research your next trip. Simply type “Northern California road trip” or “Florida family vacation” and voila! You’re bombarded with hundreds of hotel, restaurant and activity options—with reviews and rankings, to boot!

Hold on a second. Who’s writing those reviews anyway? Crowd-sourced review sites play a huge role in the travel and hospitality industry, but should they? For me, the overwhelming amount of reviews to read is a daunting task. And then there are only two types of reviewers: those venting about a terrible experience and those wanting to share notably fantastic service. Worse yet, after a few hours of reading through reviews, I am even less confident about what I want to do! But the real issue is you have no idea who’s behind the username on crowd-sourced sites. It could be an objective person who frequently travels for business, or your crabby uncle who finds something to complain about, no matter where he goes. It could even be a made up review from the business itself, trying to boost its ratings.

Travel is such a treasured experience. Whether it’s a road trip to a town an hour north, or flying across the country, the time set aside to travel is special. I’m not leaving my hotel accommodations or anniversary dinner up to a random person’s opinion on the internet. That’s why I love AAA’s Diamond program.

The Diamond designations – formally called “ratings”– are determined based on inspection criteria and processes, which are newly updated to reflect current industry trends and member experience factors. Hotels and restaurants receive three-, four-, or five-diamond designation. A three-diamond designation doesn’t necessarily mean a place isn’t as good as a five-diamond; it’s more of a reflection of an establishment’s luxury and price point. You can’t really compare an epically delicious pizza joint to a 10-course tasting menu that costs almost as much as your mortgage—both are fabulous, but one definitely checks the special occasion box.

AAA takes great pride in training their Diamond inspectors, who inspect and review thousands of hotels and restaurants annually across North America and the Caribbean. In a hotel, that means everything from ensuring the room is free of dust bunnies, the property offers speedy WiFi, and light switches are next to a hotel room’s entrance. In restaurants, it’s as much about great services and excellent food as it is about the details—from quality of the table linens and flatware, to the cleanliness of the bathroom.

These professional inspectors travel incognito, ensuring they receive no special treatment from hotels and restaurants. Collectively, they inspect 16,000 restaurants and over 23,000 hotel rooms every year. Diamond-designated hotels are evaluated annually, and restaurants reviewed every one- to five-years, depending on their diamonds. The AAA mobile app and website gets updated frequently to ensure that members have the most up-to-date information.