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Is Wellness Travel Worth It?

Explore wellness-focused travel and learn how to save on this kind of health- and well-being-focused vacation.

Woman on wellness retreat, doing yoga at resort pool.
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Vacations are typically meant as a reprieve from the everyday stresses and obligations of home and work. But a vacation can be so packed with sightseeing, culinary overindulgences and visits with family and friends that you need a vacation from your vacation when you return. An increasingly popular type of tourism, called wellness travel, takes a different approach, and it just might interest you.

What is wellness travel and tourism?

Wellness tourism is travel that is designed to boost your health and well-being in some way or another. Some wellness travelers plan their entire trip around one or more specific health-conscious goals often at a designated wellness destination like a spa. Others simply incorporate wellness-based choices into their travel plans like deliberately choosing restaurants with healthier menus or consciously scheduling time for things like yoga or mediation among other sightseeing activities.

It’s recently become such a popular form of travel that major hospitality brands have jumped into the market, including these:

  • Four Seasons: Properties like its Sensie Lanai in Hawaii and Westlake Village in California offer curated wellness experiences. For example at the former, you can schedule a private wellness consultation where you’ll set nutrition, movement and rest goals. Then you can opt for their curated wellness experience to begin achieving your goals or you can pick and choose the activities and classes you want to participate in on an a la carte basis. Among other offerings, the Westlake’s Center for Health and Wellness hosts three distinctly themed four-day retreats: Sustainable Weight Loss, Optimum Performance and Spa and Beauty.
  • Hyatt: The Miraval brand under the Hyatt umbrella features all-inclusive resort and spa destinations located in Arizona, Texas and Massachusetts that promote “a life in balance.” Each features a Body Mindfulness Center that includes movement studios and fitness classes. Their spas offer body renewal rituals for your hair, skin and body, while the outdoor adventure courses let you stretch your physical boundaries.
  • Marriott: This brand invites guests to “lean into healthy living” at all-inclusive resorts in places like Barbados, Mexico and Costa Rico that offer a range of wellness activities. In addition to things like saunas and yoga and Pilates classes, guests can enjoy aromatherapy and hydrotherapy.

Of course, there are also boutique hotels and spas focused entirely on wellness. Examples include:

  • Cal-a-Vie in California where, among other things, you can enjoy spa treatments like a herbal poultice massage, antioxidant-rich vinotherapy, leg rejuvenation and facials.
  • Civana in Arizona that features experiences like gratitude meditation and walking meditation, hikes, a Joyful Journey, aquatherapy and floating sound healing.
  • Lake Austin Spa Resort in Texas where you can take chef-led nutritious cooking classes along with enjoying a full range of massages, facials and other services like collagen boosts and age-defying spa treatments.

Although the exact wellness experiences vary by resort, most include health-conscious chefs and experts in nutrition, exercise, relaxation, mindfulness and more. Some even have physicians and therapists onsite. Many are all-inclusive with package prices that include a daily schedule of complimentary activities, plus the option to add more extensive services to your bill. Others charge separately for accommodations and for wellness experiences. When booking, make sure to ask how their rates are structured, what amenities are included in the quoted price and how you can access additional services. Questions like these will help you avoid any surprises once at your destination.

Four Primary Factors in the Cost of Wellness Travel

The cost of wellness travel depends on how far you want to take it. The following factors play the biggest role in how much you spend. Understanding these can help you save money on your next vacation:

  • Destination: Choosing to stay at an exclusive resort dedicated to providing a comprehensive wellness experience will almost always cost more than choosing standard accommodations and visiting a nearby spa for a day retreat or taking advantage of local yoga or meditation classes. For example, the Miraval Arizona Resort and Spa can run you $1,700 to $1,800 a night, whereas staying at a Hyatt Place nearby costs about a tenth of that per night. But the all-inclusive aspect of the former along with the convenience of having everything available in one place may balance out the added expense in some travelers’ minds.
  • Location: In addition to your choice of accommodation, how far or near you choose to go can increase or decrease the total cost of your trip. Let’s say you live in Charlotte, NC. It will cost you hundreds less to drive the two and a half hours to stay at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, visit its spa and enjoy hiking on its grounds than it will to fly overseas to stay at the wellness-focused Arctic Bath Hotel in Sweden or the Aro Ha Wellness Retreat in New Zealand.
  • Length of stay: Even a weekend getaway doing things to improve your well-being can be beneficial. It can also be significantly less expensive than traveling for a week or more. Let’s say you want to experience the private Spa Houses of Aman New York and give its cryotherapy chamber a try. In 2023, its least expensive accommodations reportedly run around $1,700 per night. That amounts to a three-night stay of $5,100 versus a seven-day one of $11,900.
  • Extent and type of activities: While you have the option to go for the full-on wellness retreat, you can always go another route: Planning a normal trip and consciously choosing to eat healthier at more casual restaurants versus fine dining establishments; opting for group exercise, yoga or meditation classes versus one-on-one sessions; booking an al a carte service at a nearby spa (many of the above examples welcome day guests who want to experience one or more of their offerings without staying overnight) or even simply spending time outdoors hiking, biking, swimming or relaxing for free.

Other Ways to Save on Wellness Travel

In addition to paying attention to the above cost factors, you can enjoy wellness travel for less by adopting these financial hacks:

  • Cash in your credit card, hotel or airline travel points to help fund your vacation.
  • Use any accumulated credit card cash-back rewards toward your trip.
  • Check sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and Slickdeals for discounts on activities and dining and Expedia, Hotwire and Priceline for travel deals.
  • Be flexible with travel dates to snag better prices on flights, hotels and, potentially, activities.
  • Understand how restaurants, hotels and airlines use dynamic pricing.

No matter what you end up spending on a trip partially or fully focused on your well-being, you should experience some financial benefits related to a healthier you. This can include lower medical and prescription drug expenses, fewer sick days away from work and more energy to do things to progress your career like taking a course or getting certified in a skill needed at the next level of your profession.

Editor’s note: Quorum derives no benefit from businesses for placement in this article.

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CUNA 2023 diamond award trophy icon

CUNA 2023 Diamond Award Winner

Financial Education

Quorum derives no benefit from businesses in return for placement in this blog.

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