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Vacation Rx: Wellness Travel May Be Just What the Doctor Ordered

Liz Merritt
May 19, 2017
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In this crazy hustle and bustle world of ours, there comes a time when we push back from the long hours and onslaught of stressors and seek solace in a massage, a spa day or a leisurely round of golf. But that’s not nearly enough to quench our senses for the long haul. And that’s where wellness travel comes in.

Baby Boomers and travelers of all ages are taking this concept to a new level. They’re seeking out exclusive health and wellness travel destinations that cater solely to visitors’ emotional and physical well-being.

In the last few years, we’ve seen marked increases in travel packages that cater to fitness adventures. Now the focus includes relaxation, meditation, mindfulness, healthful nutrition and spiritual growth. Sounds like nirvana to me.

From spa vacations to wellness cruises and land tours, travel and tourism operators and properties throughout the world are responding in unison by designing exclusive experiences to sooth our bodies and souls.

Clear the Chaos

According to a survey by Westin Hotels & Resorts, more than 50% of travelers who responded say they will seek mindfulness opportunities to clear their minds and center themselves from the usual chaos of travel.

Wellness Tourism Worldwide (WTW), a leader in education, development and promotion of wellness travel, found similar leanings in a study it conducted in 2014. “Wellness travel is as much about psychological well-being as it is physical health,” says Camille Hoheb, WTW founder and president.

Wellness Travel

Women report twice as often as men the need to reconnect with themselves by having personal time away.

“In our study, women reported twice as often as men the need to reconnect with themselves by having personal time which is consistent with gender studies showing women actually have fewer minutes of ‘free time’ – both in reality and perception,” Hoheb says.

Ahead of the Trend

Carving out the right wellness vacation is key, says Susan Boehnstedt, President of Critics Choice Vacations in Phoenix. She notes the booming wellness travel niche has properties such as the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess remodeling and retooling the offerings to meet the demand.

“They are recognizing the trend and acting on it. We’re also seeing more and more male travelers in that 45 to 70 age group not only interested in fitness classes of all types, but also in spa services,” she says.

International destinations are no exception, as properties scramble to assure guests are pampered from head to toe. Offerings extend way, way beyond basic spa services.

“Internationally, we’re seeing a lot of eco-friendly and green initiatives. And in British Columbia, nearly all of the properties are in the process of expanding their wellness services, expanding healthy menu options, growing their own gardens and focusing on organics,” Boehnstedt says.

What’s Hot in Wellness Travel?

Wellness Travel

Growth in spiritual, yoga and meditation retreats are leading the wellness travel pack.

The growth in spiritual, yoga and meditation retreats designed to educate and enhance overall wellness is also taking off, says Boehnstedt.

From Canyon Ranch Spa in Tucson, Arizona to Mii amo Resort in Sedona, Arizona, properties are going above and beyond to cater to every last detail. Mii amo’s Journey packages range from spiritual exploration and crystal therapies to transformational wisdom, where travelers are supported through life transitions, such as becoming an empty nester or finding new relationships.

Boehnstedt says beach destinations are high on the list for wellness vacations. “There is something about beaches, water, and blue tropical destinations that signal relaxation,” she says. Perennial favorites include Hawaii, Tahiti and Fiji. The Mision del Sol in Cuernavaca, Mexico – about 2 hours outside of Mexico City – offers a unique take on wellness. This resort’s focus is human consciousness, health, ecology, and art.

Close to Home

But do we really have to venture too far from home to bask in the aura of health and wellness? No! In fact, off-the-beaten-path wellness hubs are cropping up in areas all across the country. This can make wellness travel affordable and accessible to most anyone.

In Arizona, Boehnstedt mentions the small-town charm of Pinetop, a mountainous retreat popular with skiiers in the summer and campers in the summer. Many locals may not know there is also a hidden gem nestled in the mountains. La Vie Marketplace Café and it’s next-door neighbor Spa Estique can make a rustic weekend getaway complete, with cozy organic dining and a menu of spa services.

What You’ll Need to Know

Wellness Travel

Do your research and prepare ahead for the wellness vacation of a lifetime.

If a wellness vacation is appealing, Boehnstedt recommends chatting with your travel agent to get some ideas. Here’s what you’ll want to decide ahead of time.

  1. What’s your budget range? Are you looking for luxury or close-to-home accommodations?
  2. How much time to you have? Two weeks or a weekend getaway?
  3. What time of year do you want to travel? Are you open to off-season travel that may save some costs?
  4. What’s your goal? Are you newly retired? Reinventing your career? Or do you need to do some soul searching. No matter the goal, wellness offerings are tailored to suit your needs.
  5. Will you need a passport, visa or other documentation? You may need to back up your travel itinerary if travel documents are needed.

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