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The AAA Diamond Rating System Explained

What do AAA Diamonds mean, anyway? Here's your complete guide to decoding the AAA Diamond Rating system for your next trip.

aaa diamond ratings explained

If you eat out or stay in hotels with any regularity, there’s a chance that you’ve eaten or stayed at a AAA Diamond Rated property. With around 60,000 establishments across North America and the Caribbean, the AAA Diamond Rating system is a trustworthy source for travelers to find  hotels and restaurants that suit their budget and preferences. Yet for the uninitiated, AAA Diamonds might at first seem confusing.

Unlike many other rating systems that weigh an average based on customer reviews, AAA Diamonds are based on price range and standards set by AAA inspectors. They connote cleanliness, quality and comfort across the board – no matter how many or how few Diamonds are assigned. If an establishment does not meet a certain level of excellence in these areas, they are removed from the list of AAA Diamond Rated properties entirely. Any Diamond is a good Diamond.

Here’s how to decode the AAA Diamond Rating system.

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Professional AAA inspectors are fastidious, exacting and discreet. They have a background in travel or hospitality, and are experts in the field. AAA inspectors conduct unscheduled evaluations of AAA Diamond establishments as well as AAA Diamond hopefuls. Inspectors only identify themselves when absolutely necessary, like when they need access to spaces that guests don’t normally see. For potential Five Diamond establishments, complete anonymity is maintained.

AAA has conducted field inspections for over 80 years, and periodic reviews and adjustments make sure their recommendations stay up-to-date. AAA Diamond standards change periodically to align with industry trends and guest expectations. Ratings are updated every five years, taking industry trends, focus groups and member surveys into account. Consequently, AAA inspectors typically visit over 80 properties in a month.

aaa diamond rating

AAA Diamond Rating: Restaurants

The AAA Diamond standards for restaurants are based on food, service, decor and ambiance.

A One Diamond restaurant is usually a simple, quick-service eatery with a clean and functional environment. Picture your favorite place to get a bite to eat for lunch. The food is good, the people are friendly, and it’s casual and affordable.

A Two Diamond restaurant offers familiar food served in a casual setting. Like One Diamond establishments, Two Diamond restaurants have affordable, quality food.

A Three Diamond restaurant offers trendy cuisine, expertly prepared and served in an enhanced setting. This is sometimes considered an introduction to fine dining.

A Four Diamond restaurant offers fine dining with skillfully served, creative food prep. Here, you’ll find upscale ambiance and decadent food.

A Five Diamond restaurant is the best of the best, offering cutting-edge cuisine using the finest ingredients. The restaurant will have an acclaimed chef, an expert service staff and extraordinary decor. It is the height of taste and class.

AAA Diamond Rating: Hotels

The AAA Diamond standards for hotels are based on quality, facilities and services.

A One Diamond hotel is a budget hotel with basic comfort and hospitality. It’s a good place to stay for a night or two, and it’s most likely a chain.

A Two Diamond hotel is affordable, with slightly enhanced facilities and amenities. It’s a little bit more refined than a One Diamond.

A Three Diamond hotel is distinguished, with advanced attributes, amenities and guest comforts. It probably has a really nice pool.

A Four Diamond hotel is refined and stylish, with upscale decor, plush amenities and exceptional hospitality.

A Five Diamond hotel is luxurious and sophisticated. It has beautiful decor, personalized service, extensive amenities and impeccable standards. The “I never want this vacation to end” hotel. The “their restaurant is also Five Diamond” hotel. The “but you have to see the spa” hotel.

AAA Diamond Rating: Finding Diamonds

Knowing about AAA Diamond Ratings isn’t very useful if you don’t know where to find Diamond properties. If you’re looking for a quality place to dine or stay, here are some resources you can consult.

    • AAA Mobile app: Available on both Android and iOS devices, the AAA Mobile app has information about nearby AAA Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants, as well as AAA Approved attractions.
    • eTourBook guides: AAA members can download these comprehensive guides for specific locations. They’re perfect for your smartphone, tablet or e-reader, and they have great recommendations for the AAA Diamond Rated properties you’re sure to find along the way.
    • AAA Travel Guides: On the AAA website, you can find interactive travel guides for cities around North America. They all include information on the city’s best AAA Diamond Rated properties.
    • TripTik Travel Planner: The TripTik Travel Planner is an interactive map where you can plan your trips and search for AAA Diamonds. Printed TripTiks also contain information on AAA Approved and Diamond Rated establishments.

For more information on AAA Approved and Diamond Rated establishments, visit AAA.com/Diamonds.

Did you know the meaning behind AAA Diamond Ratings? Let us know in the comments below!

Comments
  • The articles were very helpful. But nowhere did you mention “cleanliness” in any of the ratings. Why is that? Anna Ievolo

    • Sarah H.

      Hi, Anna!
      Any amount of AAA Diamonds connotes a high standard of cleanliness, quality and comfort. Establishments that do not meet these standards are not given a AAA Diamond Rating.
      – Sarah

  • Jeffrey M.

    I remember years ago AAA had a star rating system. There was a sign near the hotel sign or parking lot/driveway entrance saying AAA approved. Is this the case with AAA diamond ratings also?

    • Sarah H.

      Hi, Jeffrey!
      It is! You’re most likely remembering the AAA Diamond Rating system itself, since AAA does not use stars (it appears Australia’s version of AAA does, though). AAA Approved or Diamond Rated establishments often (but not always) display signs stating the AAA Diamonds they hold.
      – Sarah

  • I wasn’t impressed with the diamond rating system, especially, but not entirely, where the restaurants are concerned. The system appears more focused on cost than quality. A simple hamburger can be reasonably priced & juicy, or as dry as a shoe sole, having more to do with the quality of the cook than anything else. A low-priced motel can have lumpy beds or comfy ones. So I’d be more impressed with quality ratings than cost references.

    • Sarah H.

      Hi, Louisa!
      AAA Diamonds do measure cost, if only because more luxurious things tend to be costlier. In the past, AAA restaurant reviews were more interested in ambiance and service, but in recent years the actual food has been given much more weight. All AAA Approved and Diamond Rated establishments have to meet a base line of quality. As the amount of Diamonds goes up, so does the luxury of an establishment.
      – Sarah

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