Hot rocks
Photo: istockphoto

Check out the gender ratio. More men visit destination spas these days, but they’re still in the minority. (A few spas prohibit men altogether or allow them only on certain weeks.) If your husband or boyfriend would be miserable stuck in a female-heavy retreat, leave him at home.

Consider going alone. Friends or family not up for joining you? No problem. Destination spas attract lots of solo travelers. The friendly atmosphere ensures that you won’t dine by yourself (unless you want to).

Consult a map. Some spas scatter their guest accommodations on a large property, meaning you could be stuck in a spot that’s more remote than you want—or that’s not remote enough. While making your reservation, ask for the location you prefer.

Schedule treatments early. Savvy spagoers book their massages, facials, and other treatments well before their trip. If you wait until you arrive, the prime slots—such as late-afternoon massage times—may be gone.

Ask about the beverage situation. Some spas don’t serve or sell wine; ditto gourmet coffee. (After all, they are about getting healthier.) But if you tuck a few bottles or ground beans into your luggage before leaving for the airport, who’s to know?

Bring a book. Many spas are located in remote areas with poor cell reception and Internet access. Some deliberately limit such access—even eschewing in-room TVs and phones—to foster a sense of escape. Embrace going off the grid.

Don’t overdo it. Spa newbies often pack their first couple of days with so many activities—hiking, swimming, power yoga—that they spend the next two days lying exhausted by the pool. Pace yourself.


When You Want to Get There ASAP

Five great Midwestern spas—listed in ascending order of drive time from Chicago—where you can escape for just a few days. Prices per person, double occupancy.

Sundara Inn & Spa
Sundara Inn & Spa Photo: Courtesy of Sundara Inn & Spa

Heartland Spa in Gilman, Illinois (90 miles south of Chicago): A straight shot down I-57, this small spa is perfect for solo travelers (guests often congregate at a communal table). Healthy, low-fat food is included. About $858 for a Sunday-to-Wednesday stay, including two spa treatments;

Kohler Waters Spa in Kohler, Wisconsin (150 miles north of Chicago): Water-focused treatments—such as Lavender Rain ($165; 50 minutes), an exfoliation followed by a Vichy shower
and hot-stone moisturizing—hydrate skin and lower stress. About $408 for two nights, including breakfast and 50-minute massage;

Aspira Spa at Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin (150 miles north of Chicago): Local plants find their way into many of Aspira’s signature treatments, such as its Wild Chamomile and Lavender Body Masque ($130; 50 minutes). About $400 for a Sunday-to-Thursday two-night stay, including a $175 credit toward spa services;

Sundara Inn & Spa in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin (190 miles northwest of Chicago): Healthy food? Plenty of treatments and activities? A quiet setting? Check, check, and check. And with a feather bed and fireplace in every suite, you won’t mind being here in winter. About $100 a night midweek, including breakfast;

Crystal Spa at Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville, Michigan (300 miles northeast of Chicago): Granted, it’s a long drive—but the resort offers both winter sports, such as snowshoeing, and first-rate treatments, such as the Deep Forest Massage ($160; 80 minutes), which incorporates pine, sage, and pink peppercorn. About $89 a night;