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Planning a spa getaway: Be pampered for less

Nowadays, planning a spa vacation is a bit like picking a restaurant: There are many varieties to choose from, a plethora of services (many inspired from around the world), a host of star ratings, and of course, a sliding scale of prices. With so many choices, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and possibly overspend. In order to get the best experience for your vacation, first determine what you’re in the mood for, then decide where you’d like to go, as well as what type of spa fits your tastes.

What type of spa do you want to visit?

  • Day spa: A business offering services by the hour or day
  • Resort/hotel spa: The spa is a feature of the lodging property, much like a hotel casino, restaurant, or boutique
  • Destination spa: A facility with coordinated programs of cuisine, fitness, healthy living education, and traditional pampering
  • Medical spa: Spas offering services administered by medical professionals, usually in the areas of health and wellness or aesthetic and cosmetic treatments

What should you expect to pay?

For resort spas, Conde Nast Traveler categorizes facilities charging $249 or less per day (including accommodations) as low-end, and those costing upwards of $450 per day as high-end. Michelle Kleist, executive director of the Destination Spa Group, notes that the price of destination spas will vary by services and length of stay. However, as destination spas are more all-inclusive in nature, prices can run the gamut of $200 to $1,200 per day. Day and medical spas will have rates customized to the services performed.

As a general rule, Kleist recommends “comparing apples to apples.” She says, “Often times resort spas look less expensive because they advertise a room rate. After adding in meals, activities, and spa services, the resort spas are often more expensive.” However, if you are looking just for a few services here and there while staying at a hotel, rather than the more comprehensive program you would find at a destination spa, an a la carte facility may be a more affordable option.

How can you save money?

  • If you’re going to a resort spa, consider booking a package deal. You may get a better rate (both on the room and the spa services) than by choosing services a la carte.
  • Kleist recommends visiting during off-peak times. If you’re not sure when the high-demand or occupancy times are at the spa you wish to visit, call the spa or resort facility manager to inquire about the most affordable times of year to visit, and plan your trip accordingly. Kleist also suggests checking spa websites for “value added or theme weeks,” which may offer additional savings. Longer stays and midweek visits are also usually available at competitive prices.
  • Ask if discounts are available. Just because an offer isn’t publicized doesn’t mean it can’t be requested. Inquire with the spa manager to see if any deals will be offered during your visit.
  • Compare, compare, compare. If you’re staying at a resort or hotel spa, check out the offerings at other hotel spas in the area. Many have day packages that include pampering services as well as the use of hotel facilities (pools, fitness centers, etc.), and you won’t have to pay for a room rate. You may find that mixing and matching day offers at different hotels, rather than choosing a comprehensive package at one hotel, can save money.
  • If you like where you stayed, make plans to go back. According to Kleist, “many spas offer loyalty programs and special pricing for return visitors.”
  • Bring friends or family members. You may be able to request group discounts or get better accommodations rates for having more than one or two occupying a room.
  • For international spa destinations, Kleist recommends checking exchange rates. Do some research to see where the dollar is strongest, as you may be able to get more pampering for your money by where you choose to go. “Depending on the economy,” Kleist states, “it may be worthwhile to venture north, south, east, or west.” However, should you choose this option, make sure your spa savings aren’t canceled out by the cost of traveling to the spa itself.

Points to remember

To make your spa experience the most enjoyable, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Not sure what type of treatment you’d like? Read SpaFinder’s glossary of terms to familiarize yourself with different types of spas and treatments, and to become well-versed in the latest spa lingo.
  • Book treatments well in advance. Without advance booking, you run the risk of not getting the services you’d like, or perhaps not getting scheduled for your treatments at all. In addition, look into booking treatments during off-peak hours or during the week to get greater availability, and perhaps a discount.
  • Plan to spend more if you schedule complicated, trendy, or exotic treatments. “The more elaborate and involved the treatment, the higher the cost,” notes Kleist.
  • Arrive early for your appointments to relax and get settled in, as well as to get the full time allotted for your treatment. If you arrive late, that’s less time to enjoy the service you’re paying for.
  • Inquire to see if tips are included. If not, expect to tip about 15 percent.

Sites to visit

Once you’re ready to start researching your spa vacation, check the listings, recommendations, and feedback on, the Destination Spa Group, and SpaFinder. You can also check recommendations and book a spa vacation on Orbitz.

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