Older couple enjoying a massage.

By Chris Ryall

Making the right choice matters. You want your spa holiday to be a relaxing, rejuvenating and ultimately rewarding experience whether you are going alone, with a loved one or family member.

The task at hand can be overwhelming and time-consuming especially if you have never been to a spa or wellness retreat before. I have had the opportunity to visit hundreds of spas and sampled a variety of treatments like caviar facials, chocolate bean polishes, bamboo stick massages, whiskey pedicures and sacred Indigenous sweat lodge and Temazcal ceremonies. There has been everything from heavenly blissful experiences to “stop pummeling me!” tortuous treatments.

Visiting a spa is hot right now and we’re not just talking about springs or rocks. The Global Wellness economy is booming. Try $5.6 trillion (yes trillion) US in 2022 according to the Miami-based Global Wellness Institute. Wellness tourism made up $651 billion of that figure. There is plenty of competition for your wellness dollar. Just in the U.S. alone almost 22,000 spa locations are generating 181 million visitors.

Let’s break down the key factors you should consider when choosing a spa holiday.

What’s Your Goal?

Are you in the mood for pampering, need time to destress or want to shed a few pounds? This is a
critical first step in determining the type of spa you
select from multidisciplinary medical-focused spas to luxurious over-the-top pampering spas. Many spas specialize in controlled weight loss programs with a detox menu to match. Others will spoil you with champagne and strawberries after your treatment. Decide what you want to get out of the spa holiday first – better health, relaxation, or just time to chill.

Location, location, location 

It’s crucial in real estate but also when choosing a spa. The location will have a huge impact on your experience. Do you want a tropical Caribbean paradise with the melodic sounds of waves while enjoying a massage? Or perhaps a more rustic setting where you can go forest bathing and listen to Mother Nature. Or breathing fresh air in the Swiss Alps? Do you want to be close to home or travel to a faraway land? Check the weather for the best time to visit especially if you plan to engage in outdoor wellness activities. 

Is it time to leave already? 

Are you the type of person to get into the chill zone immediately or does it take a couple of days? The last thing you want to feel is rushed during a spa holiday. If time is very limited a Day Spa may do the trick but for most at least three nights is the preference. Many spas offer a variety of weekend, one-week to one month-long or more stay packages, especially for weight-loss or medical-related guests.

What’s your Bliss Budget?

Spas can be expensive but with so many spa retreats and resorts to choose from there are deals to be had. Determine your focus – accommodation and spa facilities with all the bells and whistles, free airport transfers, included daily spa treatments, all-inclusive packages, or meals/drinks separately, tipping policies (is it already included or at your discretion), airfare/car rental and other personal expenses. If you’re on a budget, visit during off or shoulder season, mid-week and avoid holiday periods. If you don’t need certain services ask for a discount. Sign up for any special promotions or discounts if you are a senior (AARP member), military, or AAA member. Determine what you want and what you don’t.

What’s Cooking?

It’s not just water, tea and salads any more. You can eat healthy and have your cake too. Spas now offer vegan, detox and vegetarian menus while others offer beef, chicken, pork and seafood – even dessert to top it off. All washed down with your choice of healthy beverages or indulge with wine, craft beers and cocktails. It’s your choice.

Who’s Going?

Are you going alone or with a loved one, friend or family member? Many spas accommodate single guests and do not charge extra for the guest room. If going solo you have control over the activities and treatments you want. As opposed to other types of resorts, spa resorts and retreats are used to guests going on their own and leaving their partner at home. It’s your wellness journey. Alternatively,
couples find a spa holiday (especially if you have kids) a chance to reconnect and reinvigorate the relationship. When selecting a spa find one where you both would enjoy the environment and activities on offer.

Spa Programming 

What spa treatments can you experience – first-time goers may enjoy the basics like Swedish and Deep Tissue massage, facials, and mani-pedis but regular spa enthusiasts may want to expand their treatment horizons with tech or indigenous focused treatments or ones that incorporate the destination’s plant extracts, herbs or seaweed. Are different modalities available like reflexology, Ayurveda and touchless therapies? How well trained are the staff? Do they have both male and female therapists? Are there steam rooms, couples treatment rooms, saunas, relaxation lounges (indoor/outdoor), cold plunges, mineral springs, and medical staff?

Beyond the Spa?

Besides various treatments, many spas offer a range of activities and programs like forest bathing, desert or mountain hikes, water activities, beach yoga, meditation, breathwork, couples workshops and nutrition and culinary classes. Decide if your preference is a spa with numerous activities or just time to put your feet up and relax.

The Reviews are In

Check out Google, Tripadvisor and other review sites but take any extremely flattering or negative comments with a grain of salt. Look for reviews detailing the level of accommodation, spa treatments, staff service and food and beverage. Pick a spa that matches your style and the feeling you’re after – casual, informal, refined, luxurious, pampering, scheduled or free-wheeling. Find out what type of guests go there – singles, couples, old/young, open to LGBTQ+, multicultural, local and international visitors.

The spa industry has evolved worldwide to include spas for every interest, age and gender. They have laid out the welcome mat. Like any vacation you need to do your homework but what fun homework this is – finding the right spa to bring you to a blissful state of being to help keep you on the road to good physical and mental health. Let the relaxation begin.



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