Spas: An Option for All

No longer a destination solely for the wealthy, spa vacations can fit many budgets

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By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, March 4, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Once considered secluded getaways where the rich and famous flocked to slim down, spas now offer a wide array of services -- everything from aromatherapy to personalized yoga instruction -- priced to fit about any budget.

The International Spa Association (ISPA) reports that 57 million Americans have visited a spa, and more than 30 million have done so during the last 12 months. The top reasons people cited for visiting a spa were to reduce and relieve stress, soothe sore muscles and joints, and to feel better about themselves.

"Spa vacations aren't just vacations to get away. You'll come away with something more than a postcard," said Michelle Kleist, executive director of the Destination Spa Group. "Spas can be life-enriching. Many peoples' lives do change, and a lot of people develop friendships with fellow spa-goers."

While females have traditionally been considered the spa-seeking gender, nearly one-third of those visiting spas today are men. Kleist said it used to be that most men at a spa were there to make their wives happy. But these days, she said, groups of men are planning destination spa vacations on their own.

"With destination spas, which include activities like fitness and hiking, men are really realizing how much they need this," said Kleist.

Not all spas are created equal, however. There are three main types: destination, resort and day/club spas.

  • Destination spas. These spas are dedicated to helping individuals develop healthy lifestyles, both while staying at the spa and afterward. Spa services -- such as full body massages -- are available, as are fitness and wellness classes. One-on-one instruction is usually offered as well. These types of spas may also have health professionals on staff to offer medical services, such as bone-density screening or an annual physical. Destination spas are usually all-inclusive, so one price often covers your stay and all of the services offered.
  • Resort/cruise spas. These types of spas are as much about the travel destination -- think Cancun, Mexico or Key Biscayne, Fla. -- as they are about the spa services. These spas offer a variety of services and often have fitness and wellness classes. Their restaurants may also offer spa cuisine menu selections.
  • Day or club spas. If you don't have the time or the money to commit to a destination or resort spa, a day or club spa can offer you a pleasant break from the daily grind. In the past 12 months, 77 percent of those who visited a spa have visited a day spa at least once. Day spas are a good way to check out the types of services that spas offer without making a big financial commitment.

The types of services you'll find vary, depending on the type of spa you choose and even within each category of spa. Most offer amenities such as massages and facials, but many include personal training, fitness classes, nutrition counseling and more. Before you choose a spa, make sure it offers the services you're looking for.

The most commonly requested service, by far, is a full body massage, according to the ISPA. Other popular services include manicure/pedicure, facials, movement classes, body scrubs and wraps, aromatherapy and lifestyle classes, such as stress management.

When choosing a spa, ISPA President Lynne Walker McNees said, "We highly recommend that spa-goers do their homework. Before going to a spa, talk to the spa director and ask if employees are licensed." ISPA has a feature on its Web site that allows you to enter what you're looking for from a spa and generate a list of spas that can provide those services along with contact information.

Kleist said people should really consider what they want to get out of their spa experience before booking one. "If you want a spa that has a lot to offer, such as life enrichment, choose a destination spa. If you're just looking to relax, a resort spa might be right for you," she said.

Costs vary widely, Kleist said. For destination spas, weeks start at about $1,000 and can run all the way up to $8,000. "That includes accommodations, meals, activities and, in some cases, spa services," she said.

Resort spas may offer low room rates, she said, but then you may have to pay for each service. Again, it's a good idea to sit down and figure out exactly what you want -- is it massage, yoga classes, nutrition counseling, or all of them?

And you'll need to figure out what you're willing to spend and find the spa that offers the most services within your budget. Day/club spas typically charge for each individual service, and costs vary, depending on the area of the country you live in and the spa you choose.

More information

To learn more, visit the International Spa Association.

SOURCES: Michelle Kleist, R.D., executive director, Destination Spa Group, New York City; Lynne Walker McNees, president, International Spa Association, Lexington, Ky.

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