Editor’s Note: NEA Member Benefits understands how much you love to travel and how much you’ve missed it. As states begin to relax their regulations with regard to COVID-19 and more Americans become vaccinated, travel is opening up more and more. Before planning a trip, read the health and safety protocols and requirements for visitors to any destination, as well as those of airlines, car rentals and hotels before booking and again before traveling.
Although not all of us can afford to escape to the famed Canyon Ranch in Arizona for a weekend of wellness and relaxation, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a similar kind of getaway—and we all know most of us can use a wellness-focused vacation after dealing with the pandemic for nearly two years.
A wellness-oriented getaway can help you build positive habits that you bring back home with you. Exercise, mindfulness and healthy eating choices all can encourage long-term lifestyle changes that will benefit you and your family.
These affordable wellness vacations range from yoga retreats to meditation-focused weekends to mental-health holidays. Here are five budget-friendly destinations that help you prioritize your wellness while giving you a relaxing break from the everyday.
Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts
A respected yoga center in the Berkshire Mountains that has been around since 1983, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health offers various retreats and workshops, focusing on yoga, meditation, mindfulness and spiritual practices like Rumi and Kabbalah, all year long. Check their calendar for their extensive offerings that run weekdays and weekends (from $349 for a two-night program, not including accommodations and meals).
If you’re looking to save money, skip the structured retreats and simply take advantage of the daily yoga and Kripalu Yoga Dance offerings that are included in your room rate. But, if you’re really looking to treat yourself, services like Ayurvedic bodywork (from $115), massages (from $100), Reiki (from $95) and craniosacral therapy (from $95) can be added, as well as various lectures.
Accommodations (from $195) are simple but comfortable. You can save money by booking a shared or dormitory-style room (note the dorms have not been available during the COVID-19 pandemic but should be reopening March 2022 with proof of vaccination). Plus, three healthy meals in the Kripalu Kitchen (various dietary alternatives are available) are included each day with your accommodations, as well as use of the fitness room, lake, meditation garden and walking trails.
And if you can’t get away now, the center now has a robust offering of online workshops that you can join from anywhere.
NEA member travel benefits: Book a flight through the NEA Travel Program to Albany International Airport (ALB) or Bradley International Airport (BDL) in Connecticut, which are both about 50 miles away; or Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), which is about 130 miles away. You can also rent a car via the NEA Travel Program.
Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado
Nestled high in the Colorado Rockies, the Shambhala Mountain Center was founded in 1971 by a Tibetan meditation master. The 600-acre mountain valley retreat hosts weekend and weeklong programs (from $100 for a two-night program, not including accommodation and meals) focusing on Shambhala, a type of meditation, as well as mindfulness, yoga, art and creativity, and relationships and work.
Accommodations range from rustic cabins, shared quarters and seasonal platform tents to lodge rooms with modern amenities (from $90, including meals). A dining hall serves healthy meals, including a vegetarian and/or a vegan/gluten-free option. There’s an impressive stupa monument and hiking trails, which day visitors can access even if they’re not staying overnight.
NEA member travel benefits: Visit NEA Travel: Airfare to book a flight into Laramie Regional Airport (LAR) 70 miles away or Cheyenne Regional Airport (CYS) 86 miles away. Denver International Airport (DIA) will have the most options, and is 112 miles away.
The Christine Center in Willard, Wisconsin
Set amid a 125-acre woodland sanctuary, the Franciscan-inspired Christine Center is known for its warm, welcoming spirit, healthful and delicious meals, contemplative practices and high-quality programming that ranges from yoga to mandala making to silent retreats (tuition from $80 a day). The peaceful grounds include a chapel, a meditation hall, a library full of spirituality volumes, an outdoor canticle meditation circle, walking trails and an art studio.
Lodging is unique, with 18 hermitages to choose from, all with electricity but only some with electric heat, kitchenettes and full bathrooms (from $55). The more rustic cabins don’t have running water but guests can use an adjacent Siloe bathroom and laundry facility, and they use a wood or gas stove for heat (from $35).
Camping (from $20) is also an option, as are rooms inside the guesthouse that sleep two and have private baths, skylights, tile floors with radiant heating and pine ceilings (from $45).
Buffet-style mostly vegetarian meals (from $10) are homemade and use fresh, locally grown and organic ingredients as much as possible. They can accommodate gluten-free, vegan and dairy-free diets.
Plan your itinerary: Clark County Economic Development Corporation & Tourism Bureau | Travel Wisconsin
Magic Tree Sanctuary in Meadows of Dan, Virginia
A secluded, bucolic haven in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Magic Tree Sanctuary offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The focus at the 53-acre property is the outdoors and most guests camp on the land that features rhododendron-filled woods, creeks, spring-fed ponds, pastureland and walking trails that invite you to slow down and appreciate nature. Several times a year from April to November, they offer guided programs in meditation, art and yoga, along with nature, gardening and writers’ workshops.
Facilities are rustic but include a quartz rock garden, covered dining area, covered yoga platform, campfire circle and an off-grid bath/shower house. There is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom cabin available for rent (from $175 per night); otherwise, a tent and sleeping pad are provided (BYO sleeping bag).
Weekend retreats (from $185 for the weekend) include various meditations and workshops, such as mandala coloring, creating sacred rituals and doing yoga. Vegetarian meals, herbal tea and healthy snacks are included. Single-day retreats (from $85) are also offered as well as forest bathing sessions (from $150).
Esalen in Big Sur, California
Quite possibly in the most stunning setting of all, Esalen is perched on 120 acres above the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, atop Big Sur’s famous cliffs. The holistic retreat center focuses on humanistic alternative education and houses philosophers, yogis, sociologists, theologians, psychologists, artists, dancers and writers who lead various workshops.
Retreats and programs range from yoga, meditation and sound healing to breathing and massage and have themes like caregiver burnout, trauma recovery and self healing. Here, tuition prices are included in the accommodation fee, along with three meals a day (see below for pricing).
The gorgeous campus’ best feature is probably its outdoor natural hot spring baths (where clothing is optional, so be aware!), but there is also a pool, meditation hut and art barn for guests’ use.
Accommodations range from shared sleeping bag spaces (from $265) to standard rooms for two (from $670 per night for both people) and up. Meals, which feature many ingredients grown on the on-campus 4-acre farm, are vegan or omnivore, and gluten-free.
NEA member travel benefits: Visit the NEA Travel Program to book a flight to Monterey Regional Airport (MRY), which is about an hour-and-15-minute drive away; San Jose International Airport (SJC), which is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive away; or San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which is about a three-hour drive. To get affordable prices on car rentals, check the NEA Travel: Car Rental program.