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Beds on a Budget

AAA inspectors pick 10 favorite One and Two Diamond Lodgings
for budget-conscious travelers.
By Heather Hunter

Summer is in full swing and millions of travelers are on road trips. For many, planning a vacation full of excitement and fun while staying within a comfortable budget can create anxiety.


In Title: A vintage neon sign outside the Armada-By-The-Sea in New Jersey. Armada-By-The-Sea photo

Above: During summer, guests at the Best Western Inn of the Ozarks in Arkansas can see movies while taking a refreshing evening dip in the pool. Inn of the Ozarks photo

Below: Replicas of vehicles in “The Andy Griffith Show” are parked in front of the Mayberry Motor Inn in North Carolina. Mayberry Motor Inn photo


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 properties listed here have 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.

Armada-By-The-Sea, Wildwood Crest, N.J., AAA Two Diamond Motel

This is one of the best of the many classic 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. Clean rooms have a beach décor with modest but comfortable furnishings, and many rooms have kitchenettes.

Au Pic de l’Aurore, Percé, Québec, Canada, 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 also are available. The lobby area, where boat tour tickets may be purchased, has an art gallery and a bar overlooking the coastline.

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. 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.

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. In addition to the rustic, knotty pine, cozy guest rooms with balconies that overlook the forest, there are two cabins 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. Enjoy the free organic continental breakfast delivered to your door in a fishing basket, or opt for the Hike-to-Breakfast option for a hot gourmet breakfast at the nearby B&B.

Swan Motel, Stratford, Ontario, Canada, AAA/CAA Two Diamond Motel

The outstanding grounds and gardens are a highlight of this quaint family-run motel. The seasonal property operates around the Stratford Shakespeare Festival schedule. 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, Penn., AAA Two Diamond Historic Bed-and-Breakfast

This cozy lodging alternative in the historical 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 historical sites. It’s a great spot for anyone visiting the city of Philadelphia.

The Woodsman Country Lodge, Crescent, Ore., AAA Two Diamond Motel

Located on U.S. Highway 97 between Bend and Klamath Falls in the heart of Central Oregon’s recreation playground, 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. 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 1960s 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. If staying for a few days, ask for the larger corner room with kitchenettes.

Heather Hunter, part of the AAA public relations team, is based in Heathrow, Fla.

Jul/Aug 2012 Issue


For rates and availability concerning these motels and inns, visit and click on the hotel tab at the top of the page.

To visit these cities listed in the article, first stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks® and TourBook® guides.

Order free information about Arkansas through Free Travel Information found online.

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