Spa on a budget

True, the spa isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when we think “budget getaway”, but a little luxury doesn’t have to blow your travel budget. Finding good value can be tricky, but there are many ways to save.

Here are some getaway ideas and tips to help make the most of your travel cash.

Spa break ideas

Do it yourself. Thinking staycation or short getaway to visit friends? You don’t need to be an expect to enjoy the basics — like a facial, mani-pedi or hair mask. If you’re willing to provide the setting and labour, you can enjoy some pampering for a fraction of the costs, especially for a group gathering.

Budget aside, there are many reasons to consider home treatments. It’s a fun idea for a girls’ get together, and you can take the spa to someone who is not able to get out (like a friend or relative in a long-term care facility). Many people have outdoor rooms, gardens, hot tubs, saunas or pools to enjoy so why go elsewhere? And if allergies or chemical sensitivities are an issue, you can make your own products using ingredients right from your cupboard. (Check out the Do-it-yourself spa for ideas, recipes and resources.)

Of course, you can purchase your favourite spa products for a more deluxe experience. Round out the experience with some healthy cuisine — keep it simple with a pot of tea (or a bottle of wine) and dessert.

Head to your local college. If extra amenities and atmosphere aren’t your focus, check out the spa and massage training programs in your area. After all, massage therapists and aestheticians learn their skills somewhere, and many schools offer spa clinics to give student interns some hands-on experience.

For example, the West Coast College of Massage Therapy in New Westminster, British Columbia has a Sunday Spa Clinic featuring a wide range of services at attractive prices. A 60-minute Swedish Massage costs just $41 and a 45-minute Aromatherapy Herbal Bath just $21. Packages are also available, like the half-day Best of the West Coast package including complete facial, massage and pedicure for just $106 (including tax). Services are also available at the college’s Halifax, Toronto, Cambridge, Calgary and Victoria campuses. (For more details, visit and look for the “Student Clinic” tab for each location.)

If you decide to give it a try, book well in advance and be aware that an instructor may be supervising and evaluating the intern. If you have concerns, ask what to expect before you book.


Make it a day trip. Spas seem to be popping up everywhere, from independent businesses to full-fledged destination spas, so it isn’t hard to find one nearby if you’re planning a day trip.

However, you don’t have to book a itinerary of pricy treatments to get the full spa experience. While modest packages only include a treatment or two, you’ll enjoy amenities to round your visit like a lunch or afternoon tea, fitness classes, luxurious lounges, saunas, relaxation pools and hiking trails.

For instance, the Spa Eastman Health and Wellness Retreat in Montreal, Quebec has an Exclusive Day Spa Package starting at $149. The package includes a 60-minute massage, lunch and access to the Eastman-les-Bains (pools, hot tubs and hydrotherapy) as well as guided fitness and relaxation activities, like nature walks with fitness experts. (For more information, visit

Another option: The Renewal Day Spa package at Ste. Anne’s Spa includes a 3-course lunch, afternoon tea, a group wellness class as well as $100 in spa treatments. Starting at $149 per person, amenities include hiking trails, fitness and relaxation pools, fitness facilities, a Eucalyptus Steam Room and tennis courts. (For more information, visit

Make it a weekend getaway. If you really want to take full advantage of the amenities, make it a weekend getaway instead. For example, The Hills Health and Guest Ranch in 108 Mile Ranch, British Columbia has a full range of spa services, not to mention amenities like six meals, aerobics and aquafit classes, daily guided hikes and full use of its pools, saunas and fitness equipment.

If you’re looking for a little romance, many spas also have side-by-side treatments as part of their spa getaway packages — plus some perks like flowers, chocolate and champagne.

What about a family-friendly getaway? Look for additional activities like golf or horseback riding to please everyone. For instance, in the warmer months Hills Health and Guest ranch also offers Hike’n Spa, Golf’n Spa and Ride’n Spa getaway packages starting at $361 per person, double occupancy for a 2-night stay. They also have 5 night Family Boot Camp packages for those looking to give their health a boost. (For more details, visit

Go last minute. Far flung destinations aren’t the only ones taking advantage of this trend. If you’ve got flexibility in your preferences and schedule, you can land attractive discounts on more deluxe overnight or weekend packages. Be forewarned that your best bet is to look in the off season or shoulder season (like spring and late fall). During peak season and special events, resorts won’t need to lure travellers to fill empty rooms.

Rates and perks vary as much as the availability, so be prepared to invest some time and effort in your search. (Some deals we found offered 20-30 per cent off the regular rate, especially if you were willing to go that night or that weekend.) Full payment is often required when you book, and refunds or cancellations may not be an option.

The savings aren’t limited to destination spas and spa resorts — many mainstream hotels also have spas and complimentary treatments could be part of the negotiated perks.

How can you find out about the deals? Look to spa websites, and subscribe to their newsletters and social media accounts (like Facebook and Twitter) to keep tabs on all promotions.


More tips to stretch your budget

Set priorities. Notice a trend is these getaway ideas? They don’t include a lot of pricy treatments. Consider what you want to get out of the experience: if your goal is a getaway rather than a whole lot of pampering, you’ll save some cash by enjoying the complimentary amenities and the atmosphere. If the treatments are the focus, think about whether you want to pay more for atmosphere and facilities you might not use.

Do your research. There are a wide variety of options out there, including spas that focus on wellness, weight loss and wellness. Be sure to look at the “big picture” such as the location and variety of activities as well as price. Consider: how big is the spa? What services are offered? What else is there to do, especially if your spouse or family comes along?

Ask friends or coworkers for recommendations, and check out online reviews and magazines to help you explore the options.

Go midweek. Avoid peak times like weekends and you can avoid crowds and even score some deals. Many coupons and promotions aren’t available for weekends.

Go as a group. Double occupancy isn’t always the best deal for overnight ventures at resorts. When space allows, “triple” and “quad” rates are even better. Many destination spas have cabins and lodges as part of their offerings too.

While some places offer spa party packages for groups of up to five or ten people, you may also be able to negotiate deals if you’re visiting in a group.

Buy a gift certificate. Many spas offer special promotions for gift cards as well — like a bonus gift certificate or complimentary spa treatment. (Beware there are often time limits on their use.)

Watch for discounts online. If you aren’t fussy about where you go or when, you can find steep discounts on spa treatments through discount sites like Groupon, Wagjag or LivingSocial. Expect to pay upfront, and make sure you read the details carefully before committing. (For details, see Find a deal online.)

Also, don’t forget to check the spa’s website and social media accounts to keep an eye out for promotions.

– Read the fine print. Regardless of what package or promotion you book, always make sure you understand the terms and limitations — especially what is and isn’t included in the price. For example, many spa treatments at resorts are offered a la carte rather than as part of the room rate.

Whether you want to spend a little or a lot, there are options for just about any getaway budget — but that doesn’t mean you have to pay full price.

Additional sources:,

Photo © Cagri Özgür

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