We serenity-seekers are all too familiar with this scenario: You book a dreamy getaway to escape the grind and reclaim your sanity for a few days. The hotel you scored a great deal on is spectactular. Your room is airy and luxurious. But when you unfold that slick brochure listing the property's spa services, you see the exorbitant prices—$185 for a 60-minute chakra-balancing ritual? really?!—and your heart drops a little. Springing for any of the treatments would blow the money you'd set aside for important extras, like beachside piña colada floaters.
"Spa services and treatments at some hotels are more expensive because the hotel or resort's operating expenses and overhead can be more expensive than a smaller day spa or chain—and that overhead is reflected on the spa menu," says Mia Kyricos, chief brand officer at Spafinder Wellness, Inc.
Still, Budget Travelers deserve every perk that tranquil vacations offer (including luxe spa treatments!), so we collected the best under-the-radar spa-insider tips to help you bliss out without going broke. First, a little expert intel on how to save at any hotel spa. Click through after Secret #5, and we'll reveal six unique hotel spas that offer posh treatments at sensible prices.
Spa savings secret #1: Casino spas are surprisingly cheap.
"As a rule of thumb, many casino resorts and hotels have very attractive spa pricing," Kyricos says. Look for à la carte "express" treatments, like a simple manicure or basic facial, to snap up a service for a fraction of the price of the usual longer, more elaborate menu item.
Spa savings secret #2: Show up far earlier than your appointment time to create your own personal spa day.
One thing that hotel spas have going for them that your neighborhood beauty parlor doesn't? Sprawling, up-to-date spa facilities that you can use gratis. "A spa treatment at a hotel often includes use of pools, saunas, steam rooms, relaxation lounges, etc., extending a one-hour massage to a full 'spa day' experience," Kyricos says. "These extras may not be available at a day spa." Peel yourself off your beach chair early (more difficult than it sounds!), and take advantage of every spa station: They advertise that invigorating cold marble plunge pool for a reason.
Spa savings secret #3: Always ask about discounts and special packages, especially during non-peak hours or seasons.
Even at swanky spas, there are bargains to be had. According to Spafinder Wellness 365's most recent State of Spa Travel Report, the "deal culture" in spa marketing is here to stay, even though the economy has improved—32 percent of travel agents reported that spas were more aggressive with special pricing and packages last year over the year before. Fifty-three percent said deals were equally strong. Ask your hotel directly about specials, but you can also position yourself for a flood of hotel spa discounts and credits by browsing sites like Groupon.com, LivingSocial.com, Travelzoo.com, GiltCity.com, and Spafinder.com, Kyricos says. We searched Groupon and found a hefty $120 discount at New York City's Eventi Hotel on two treatments, including the Jet Lag Recovery Body Scrub.
Spa savings secret #4: When in doubt, choose the massage.
"A massage is generally the best value, and few things beat the benefits of a truly therapeutic massage," Kyricos says. One exception: If there's an identically priced facial that lasts just as long and involves a smorgasbord of expensive serums, fruit extracts, and masques, you'll get your money's worth and then some.
Spa savings secret #5: Absurdly high prices? Bring the spa to you instead.
Say what? Yep! In today's app-happy culture, if you can't afford the spa on property, you can summon an outside technician to come to your hotel room—and you don't have to make movie-star money to swing it. The PRIV app dispatches beauty and wellness pros in New York, L.A., and London who can give you a 30-minute chair massage ($45), gussy you up with a braided 'do ($30), and more—tax and tip included. Hair- and makeup-centric Glamsquad, based in New York, L.A., and Miami, lets you choose a specific hairstyle post-blowout, like "chic, beachy waves" or "sleek, straight, and shiny" for $50. A special manicure category will launch later this year, nailphiles.
Now, where should we relax first? These hotel spas have been noted by insiders for their reasonable rates and excellent value:
1. The Roosevelt Spa at Gideon Putnam Resort: Saratoga Springs, New York
Therapeutic individual mineral baths that start at only $30 per 40-minute soak are what Michael Tompkins, chairman of the International Spa Association and CEO of Hilton Head Health weight-loss resort, likes best about the Gideon Putnam Resort's certified-green spa's menu. Rich history accompanies the bucolic small-town setting: People have long traveled to "take the cure" in Saratoga's legendary waters, and former president Franklin D. Roosevelt himself commissioned the current iteration of the spa, which opened in 1935. After you thoroughly prune in the bath, tack on a Signature Roosevelt Massage, starting at $55. Hot tip: Treatment rates are discounted Monday through Thursday (services from $20, rooms from $112 per night, gideonputnam.com).
2. The Spa at Trump Hotel: Las Vegas, Nevada
Who'd have thought The Donald would go el cheapo? Technically, the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas isn't a casino hotel, but its prices are just as appealing, Kyricos says. (Perhaps the hotel's proximity to the slots encourages spa deals to filter in by osmosis.) Through January 31, 2015, the spa's Trumptations 25-minute express treatments, such as the Desert Hydrating Facial and Express Manicure & Pedicure, are $50 with this printable coupon (services from $40, rooms from $115 per night, trumphotelcollection.com).
3. The Hills Health Ranch: British Columbia, Canada
Voted the best budget-conscious wellness experience by Spafinder in 2014, The Hills Health Ranch lets you build your own all-inclusive spa package from a menu of affordably priced services, most of which incorporate local rosehip oil that's cold-pressed right on property. Staff picks include the 50-minute full-body Rosehip Seed Scrub ($89) and the Hydro Foot Spa—15 minutes of delightful water-pummelling followed by a 24-minute foot and lower leg massage ($59) (services from $17, rooms from about $110 per night, spabc.com).
4. Cannery Pier Hotel Spa: Astoria, Oregon
Every full-body wrap and facial at the Cannery Pier Hotel's spa is less than $100—even the Marine Minerals Wrap, which swaddles your body in kaolin clay, marine fango, and organic kelp. A regular 60-minute massage? A reasonable $70. If there were ever a time to be "that person" who spends an entire day in the spa, this is it: A three-and-a-half-hour itinerary of sauna time, a body wrap, a soak, an hour-long massage, and a custom facial—plus spa snack!—is $245, which might as well be free in hotel spa world. Tompkins likes this property, a former fishermen-owned cannery with stunning Columbia River views, for the town's stellar fishing and charming shops (services from $2, rooms from $179 per night, cannerypierhotel.com).
5. Zentropia at Grand Palladium Vallarta: Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
Spanish hotel chain Palladium Hotels & Resorts recently launched its Zentropia Palladium Spa & Wellness brand, made up of five different spas at its properties in Mexico, Ibiza, and Jamaica. The most affordable spa of them all is at the Riviera Nayarit location, part of the all-inclusive Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa, where you can spring for fun, somewhat frivolous services in a zen tropical environment for pennies—and isn't that what an affordable beach vacation is all about? Have a salon technician give you a single braid for $2, try out a set of false strip eyelashes for $10, or surprise your partner with a 50-minute couples' massage—accompanied by two free mimosas—for $150, less than half of what you'd pay at a luxury resort in Punta de Mita (services from $2, all-inclusive accommodations from $147 per person per night, zentropia-spa.com).
6. Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa: New Mexico
Quirky and local, the treatments at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa are inspired by the property's 147-year-old history as a health resort; its mineral waters considered by early Native Americans to be sacred. Nowadays, 11 pools of varying temperatures contain four different types of purportedly healing mineral water: lithia to alleviate depression, iron to boost immunity, soda to aid digestion, and arsenic to heal skin conditions (access from $18). The 25-minute Signature Milagro Relaxation Wrap is only 12 bucks, but this isn't just any spa wrap—it's an ancient ritual: You're wrapped in a light cotton blanket, then a heavy wool blanket to encourage the release of toxins, all while soothing music plays. Not feeling particularly earthy? The Native American Blue Corn & Prickly Pear Salt Scrub is $50 as a 25-minute add-on; spring for 50 minutes for $85, and a scalp massage and herbal oil hair therapy treatment is included (services from $12, rooms from $139 per night, camping and RV rates from $20, ojospa.com).