Destination Spas: Tips to Help You Get the Best Bliss for Your Buck

Spas are among the most popular leisure attractions in the U.S., with Americans spending $13.6 billion in 156 million day and destination spa visits alone. But, while a spa vacation sounds like a good idea, how do you choose a destination that will fit your needs—and your budget? I asked a few experts, who advise to keep in mind the following considerations:
Your Budget

A spa experience should transform you, and it’s hard to put a price on transformation. But “not everybody can spend $5,000 for week,” says Sally Fraenkel, Executive Vice President of SpaFinder Wellness. The site has a search function to find destination spas and deals. “There are options that fit all different budgets.”

In fact, nearly half of all spa vacations booked came in under $299 a night, according to SpaFinder State of Spa Travel Report. And since the base price at a destination spa usually includes meals, classes, treatments, and other activities, “you get quite a bit” for what you’re paying for, Fraenkel says. Take Red Mountain Resort, near St. George, Utah. Its “Red Mountain Essential Retreat” package starts at $270 a night and includes meals, classes, and activities.

Your Goals

Are you looking to lose weight, jump-start your fitness routine, or just relax? Make sure the spa includes the activities you need: weight-loss menus, hikes, meditation, massage, or any other features. If it’s your first spa visit, does the spa have a beginners’ program? The spa industry has gotten very good at addressing the entry-level customer, says Michelle Kinney, Vice President of Trilogy Spa Ventures, which develops hotel-based spas.

Matching the spa’s focus to your goals is a way to make sure you get the most out of your money, says Marissa Gold, Editorial Director of SpaWeek Media, a spa and wellness marketing company. Since many spa packages are all-inclusive, a mismatch means you’d pay for treatments and features that you’re not going to use and pay extra for things you do want, she says.

The Length of Your Stay

Spending a day each way flying to an exotic destination is impractical if you only have a long weekend. Consider trading a beachfront spa across the country for a lakeside resort closer to home, Gold suggests.

About half of all spa vacations booked last year came in under $299 a night.

Special Deals

SpaWeek’s site has a search function that sorts destination spas and a section with package deals. It also sponsors specials in April and October with reduced-price packages and treatments.

Another option: You can choose a hotel/resort with spa facilities, where you can book nights and treatments à la carte to fit your timeframe, says Kinney. Her company recently opened Well & Being at Willow Stream in the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Arizona, which offers such features.

Even after you’ve picked your spa, there are still things you can do to make you money go farther:

An Off-Season Trip

Just like hotels drop room prices during low periods, their spas also cut rates to fill treatment rooms, says Kinney. For example, according to the Park City (Utah) Visitors Bureau, spa stays in that tony ski town during spring, summer, and fall can cost half to one-third the price of a peak winter getaway. The area has a selection of high-end spa resorts including the Golden Door Spa at Waldorf Astoria Park City and the Remède Spa at St. Regis. “There is absolutely a seasonality aspect,” said Fraenkel of SpaFinder Wellness.

“Friend” the Property

Most spa locations will do either a monthly e-mail blast or a newsletter you can subscribe to for updates on goings-on, including specials, says Kinney. SpaWeek and SpaFinder also offer newsletters and deal alerts.

Newsletters are a good way to find out about last-minute travel deals, says Fraenkel. For example, she notes that the well-known spas Canyon Ranch and Rancho la Puerta recently were both offering 20% off last-minute packages, and Sparkling Hill Resort in British Columbia had an offer of 40% off a three-night stay with spa treatments.

Split the Cost

“It is always going to cut costs to go with a friend,” says Gold. “Sharing a room will cut the cost dramatically.”

For example, the Tennessee Fitness Spa in Waynesboro offers a weekly rate as low as $875 for four friends staying together. Or you can get a three-night special package that’s $425 each—including full fitness program, all meals and a beauty treatment—if two people share a room.

To simplify cost-sharing on trips, you can use Citibank® PopMoney® to pay friends directly from your existing Citibank checking, savings, or money market account. You can send money to anyone in the US with a bank account by using his or her email address or bank account information, even when you’re at the spa, by using the Citi MobileSM App.

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