This post may contain affiliate links.
When I tell people I write about spas I get one reply and one reply only. “You’re so lucky!”
Clearly I am lucky (knock on wood) and I never take these amazing opportunities for granted, but – and I know you’re about to laugh in my face – writing about spas can be hard work. Which is why, if you want the real scoop on spa trips, I have decided to illustrate the difference between spa vacations and spa press trips.
Spa press trips are not always easy
I can hear your groans already. I’m groaning myself. But I swear, going on a spa press trip is not always the laid back vacation you might be envisioning.
So here it is: The real dirt on spa press trips
Am I paying when I’m on a spa press trip?
This is the number one question people want the answer to. The answer is ‘ no.’ The spas I visit are often subsidized – though I frequently add one or two nights on my own, plus transportation, the odd meal and extra spa treatments that I won’t be able to resist, so it can add up to the same amount as if I took a spa vacation to a cheaper spa and just lay around.
How does a going on a spa press trip compare to where I’d go on a spa vacation?
Generally the digs are way more swanky than if I were to go on my own. It’s one of the very best things about being a spa and luxury travel blogger, the opportunity to check out some of the top luxury spas in the world.
Isn’t reviewing spas the easiest job in the world?
It might be the best job, but it’s not a vacation. Instead of being able to sloth around for a week in my usual mindless manner I have to be alert on a spa press trip. When you’re writing about a spa treatment, you’re torn between wanting to sink into bliss and trying to record it: What is she putting on my face now? What kind of essential oils is she using? How can that product actually penetrate my skin rather than just sitting on top of it? This is opposed to the spa vacation when you are thinking: mmmmmmmm.
What is one of the downsides of going on a spa press trip?
There is generally a lot more moving around. The problem with writing about spas rather than going on a spa vacation is that you don’t have the luxury of time. In fact, I’ve often been shown a spa rather than getting to experience it – which is when I usually rebel. I get that I can’t spend a week here, but at least let me put on a robe and get in the sauna!
A spa trip means more than getting a treatment
How many meetings do you have on a spa vacation? Exactly. To really understand a spa, especially a European spa where the spa culture is so different than at North American spas, when I do spa press trips I like to meet with as many people, managers, PR reps, etc, as I can.
I love getting under the skin of a place – every spa is so unique. But it’s not exactly relaxing, unless you really click with the person you’re interviewing and then start gossiping about your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/shopping/puppy while drinking Chianti. Which does happen.
Lack of sleep
Going to a spa is supposed to be restful, right? Not on spa press trips. It’s usually rush rush rush instead of laze laze laze. Go to this appointment, meet this person, take these notes, look up these sources, eat, sleep, run off to the next place. That’s why I so often add on days of my own.
The experience lasts longer on a spa trip
After a spa vacation you might relive your trip through photos. After a spa press trip you can relive the experience forever, with articles, blog posts, photos and more articles. This is especially true with European spas, since there aren’t all that many spa experts in this area – and you never know when a magazine will come after you, desperate for someone who knows about Italian, German, Czech or Hungarian spas, so I’m always psyched to add a new region, a new hot springs or a new spa treatment to my repertoire. You never know where it will lead.
Read more about wellness: The Spa and Spa Travel
Oh, thanks, FrugalBeautiful! I’ll look yours up as well.
OMG this.. .yes yes and yes! I was just talking about this with a friend of mine who is going on a day cruise with me. Luckily my travel partners have always been good about not digging into a scrumptious meal before I can take photos, or not getting annoyed when…no…yet again, the photo didn’t come out of the ship…sigh… but it’s truly WORK.
Found you through the Pro travel bloggers and can’t wait to read more posts :)
Thanks, Boomergirl! Michele, a slapping silly spa? That’s a new one on me – at least it certainly gave me a good laugh.
Definitely a worthwhile read especially for anyone in travel or spa marketing. I think I can speak for a lot of travel PR people. We walk a fine line sometimes with this industry. We’re anxious to fulfil the needs of writers so they get a great story but there’s still a perception with some in the industry that press trips are “freebies”. It’s a PR pro’s job to convince the non-believers in the industry that this is simply not true. PR budgets give the greatest bang for their buck but often we have to fight pretty hard to get marketers to recognize this. Press trips are exhausting but in my opinion, nothing beats a first hand experience told by a professional writer. That kind of coverage get bums in beds and on spa tables.
So true. One of the most gruelling press trips I ever took was a spa press trip through Costa Rica. There were some nice moments but because I had to try every new and signature treatment for research purposes I couldn’t opt for a nice facial or relaxing plain old massage. Instead I had to suffer through a 2 hour exfoliation with what felt like sandpaper, a freezing cold rain shower and hours of getting slapped (I’m not even sure why). And then there was that Ayurvedic oil treatment in India that filled my ears and every pore with greasy smelly oil that gave me zits. I feel your pain I really do! It’s a bit safer writing about food.
Jenn Smith Nelson
I am so glad you wrote this and can totally relate. It is rare to actually enjoy a moment’s relaxation when visiting a spa during a press trip. My mind doesn’t stop trying to take every detail in and there is NEVER enough time.
That said – I need a spa vacation. Like now.
Try me. Sigh. I want to suffer. Let me analyze a hot spring. Just once. Maybe twice.