How to Have a Luxury Spa and Hotel Break For a Budget Price

Ever since Gok Wan went from making us look good naked to creating catwalk outfits for less than the price of dry cleaning a designer outfit, I’ve been pulling out my craft glue (and the occasional DIY supplies) to glam up New Look basics into must have “pieces”. I’ve even taken a couple of their comfortable wide fit shoes and made them into sparkling triumphs courtesy of Claire’s Accessories and some Superdrug nail varnish. I know, these are not names that generally inspire, but when the resulting sandals are mistaken for the latest season sandals from Dune (and are actually comfortable enough to walk in) I knew I was on to a winner.

Fast forward to a girlie weekend in Barcelona this March and a visit to a local spa and suddenly my mind was working overtime again.

As much as I love the idea of a long weekend at a luxury spa hotel, if I’m honest the prices have always put me off, and my recent experiences at day spas in Morocco and Barcelona have convinced me that you don’t need to pay through the nose for an exceptional spa experience. In fact the best massages I have had to date have been the cheapest ones:

- Around 32 pounds for a hammam, with a gommage “scrubbing”, followed by a rhassoul, and then the most relaxing massage I’ve ever had. I can’t tell you how long I was in there – only that the sun had gone down, I had lost all track of time, and I was on a completely different planet.

- Even in Barcelona, with the euro at an all-time high, the top rated spa cost us around 54 pounds for the hammam, (with extra hot steam room and plunge pool), followed by a gommage “scrubbing” and another extremely relaxing massage. Three hours of luxury for 54 pounds compared to UK prices is a total steal.

The fact is that in many cultures the local spa is an everyday (or at least every month) treat, which, combined with good exchange rates (when they are available), makes them a great bargain on holiday. So why aren’t we taking advantage of them? Well personally I think it’s because, whereas guide books are stuffed with restaurant, sight and hotel recommendations, very rarely do they spend any time on spas. The spa in Morocco was recommended by friends, and the spa in Barcelona was found with some pre-emptive internet research. Later in the year I’m off to visit China, which has some world class hotel spas, but also boasts a proud massage tradition, which leads me to hope that as well as the day spas I’ve been recommended (where prices are about a quarter of UK rates) I’ll also be able to find other more authentic bargains.

Which leads me to the hotel part of the spa and hotel break. One of the reasons that staying at a luxury spa hotel can cost so much is that you are paying for the option to use it 24/7. If, like me, you see your spa time as part of a whole trip rather than a destination in itself, you’ll probably find that one day spending 3-4 hours in a spa is enough (taking into account the detox effects) at least for a couple of days. So just by choosing to stay in a separate hotel you will probably save a hefty chunk of your holiday budget, and you’ll also avoid the temptation to stay locked up in your hotel for your entire stay and miss out on the local treats.

By then choosing an affordable hotel, reasonably close to your spa, which features the required level of pampering (slippers, robe, fluffy white towels), you can relax back in your room safe in the knowledge that you’ll be going home with a designer glow and a budget bill.

Of course this is not to say that there aren’t spa hotels offering affordable deals, but by being flexible and savvy you can make sure that your relaxation time isn’t spent feeling ripped off. And perhaps more importantly, by being more creative in choosing your hotel, you have a much better choice of spa. You are not limited to an in-house spa experience, very important considering the number of excellent day spas available, even in the UK. Take for example Spa London in Bethnal Green, voted 2010 Professional Beauty Awards “Day Spa of the Year”, where 3 hours of thermal experience will set you back 21.50 pounds at the top of the scale for non-members, down to 6.75 pounds for concessionary local members (including towel, robe and flip flop use) and which is truly a luxury experience compared to the slightly run down Porchester Spa. And then there’s Thermae Bath Spa, the only place in the UK where you can bathe in natural healing spa waters, voted 2010 “Best Spa in the World” by readers of the Daily Telegraph’s Ultra Travel Magazine for the second time running, where a 2 hour session in the New Royal Bath (recommended) will set you back 24 pounds (plus 9 pounds hire cost for towel, robe and slippers if you need them – and you get to keep the slippers!) Unlike many spas the Thermae Bath Spa also offers reductions for locals, disabled guests and their carers, so a local disabled guest (and carer) could pay as little as 9.50 pounds each for a 2 hour session in the New Royal Bath. (You can also buy a glass of spa water at The Pump Room for only 50p!)

Of course London and Bath are not known for their cheap hotel rooms, and certainly in central Bath you might be pushed to find availability, let alone an affordable room rate. However, if you widen your search to the surrounding area, you’ll also find some wonderful B&Bs which would put many hotels to shame, and where you can wake up to the sound of a horse clip clopping past, right in the heart of the countryside. Then it’s up to you whether you decide to explore some old fashioned villages, head back home refreshed and revived, or pop back to the Thermae Bath Spa for just a little more bargain relaxation.

Luxury Spa And Wellness Resorts In Rajasthan

Whenever work takes over completely and stress kicks in, one is left with only 2 choices; to stay back at home, remain indulged in work and drown in sheer monotony, or get the earliest ticket to Rajasthan, the state famous for its rich heritage, luxury living and overwhelming spa and wellness resorts.

For complete rejuvenation, detoxification and invigoration, one needs to blindly indulge in spa and wellness resorts in Rajasthan.

Let’s take a look at some of the finest hotels in Rajasthan that offer best in class spa and wellness treatments to their customers.

1. The Tree of Life – Resort and Spa: This is one of the best resorts in Jaipur, tucked away from the chaos prevalent in the city. It offers its guests all the solace they came looking for, along with unmatched relaxation, beauty and service.

The luxury resort comprises of 13 luxurious villas and is just an hour away from Jaipur International Airport.

2. Leela Palace, Udaipur- Overlooking the shimmering Lake Pichola, Leela Palace in Udaipur seeks to provide its guest with the ultimate pampering. The holistic spa curated by ESPA lets the guests restore the balances of life and heal their mind, body and soul.

Aromatherapy, hot-stone massage, spa facials, pedicures and manicures, Indian head massage, etc. are just some of the wellness therapies and treatments.

3. Umaid Bhawan Vilas, Jodhpur-The royal abode of Jodhpur royalties, Umaid Bhawan Palace provides its guests with a rejuvenating journey of harmony, healing and wellness.

Umaid Bhawan offers a multitude of wellness treatments including body scrubs and wraps, Ayurveda therapies, yoga and meditation, and a number of signature treatments like samattva, Trupti, Chandana, etc.

4. The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambore- A beautiful avenue running along flower-filled water bodies takes guests to a sunlit courtyard, where they are provided with some of the finest natural and plant-based therapies. The hotel offers rejuvenation rituals both for men and women.

The holistic treatments include massage therapies, reinvigorating body therapies, specialty baths, and signature indigenous rituals.

5. Raas, Jodhpur- Raas is an altar of serenity set amidst the chaos of Jodhpur which offers a world-class spa treatment known for its ethical, sustainable practices. Ila promises to work with utmost dedication and purest of intentions, and with its meditative practices and carefully chosen wild ingredients.

Controlling Your Health Care Costs in Retirement

It’s no secret that health care becomes a bigger concern for most of us as we grow older. More ailments are likely to develop, which means more money spent to visit health professionals and buy medication. Even if you remain healthy through your later years, the costs of preventative care and preparing for potential unexpected health situations are rising.

Health-related expenses will likely be one of the biggest components of your retirement budget. You need to be prepared to pay for comprehensive insurance coverage and potential out-of-pocket costs for care. Here are three strategies to help you manage this critical expense in retirement.

Understand how Medicare works

The good news for Americans age 65 and older is that you qualify for Medicare. That makes increased dependence on health care services more affordable. At age 65, most people automatically qualify for Medicare Part A at no cost, which primarily provides coverage for hospital stays and skilled nursing care. Medicare Part B must be purchased (approximately $109 per month in 2017 for most retirees). Part B covers the costs of visiting a physician, but with some deductibles. Many people purchase additional coverage to use for out-of-pocket expenses, such as a Part D prescription drug plan or a Medicare Supplement policy.

With Medicare, timing is important. Signing up when you first qualify for coverage will keep costs at the lowest level. If you maintain insurance through your employer after turning 65, you can delay Medicare enrollment without risking late penalties.

If you retire prior to age 65, you will need to purchase insurance on the open market to cover health-related expenses until you become eligible for Medicare. Individual coverage tends to get more expensive as you grow older, so work the cost into your retirement budget. Some employers offer retiree health insurance as a benefit. Check with your human resources department to see if this option is available to you.

Allocate sufficient funds for health care costs

As you develop your retirement income strategy, make sure you have money set aside for health expenses that will be your responsibility. By one estimate, the average 66-year-old couple will need to tap more than half of their lifetime pre-tax Social Security benefits to pay for health care expenses throughout retirement. Most people will likely have to rely, in part, on their own savings to help offset some medical expenses.

Along with other retirement savings, you may want to establish a health savings account (HSA) during your working years. HSAs are designed to help build tax-advantaged savings to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses you incur during your working years. However, any leftover funds can be applied to health expenses later in life, including premiums for Medicare and long-term care insurance. Keep in mind that you must be enrolled in a high deductible health plan to open an HSA.

Focus on your own health

One way to potentially keep health care costs under control in retirement is to create or maintain a healthy lifestyle. Small changes you make today, such as eating right or prioritizing sleep, could reduce the likelihood that medical issues will impact you later in life. Being physically active may also benefit your finances in retirement – according to the American Heart Association, it could potentially help you save $500 a year today on health-related expenses.