Spas on Demand
A day at the spa with your girlfriends is pure bliss—until you retire your robe and head home. But a new breed of mobile spas is bringing the Zen experience right into your living room, where technicians re-create every detail of a day spa, from the fluffy robes to the tranquil soundtrack. "It's just like catering, but instead of bringing a truckload of food, we're delivering massages and facials," says Janet Rotella, owner of Sparties Mobile Spa, who set up a recent party for a tight-knit breast cancer survivors' support group in Chalfont, Pa.
The idea is simple: You and your friends choose packages or individual services from a treatment menu, order them about a month in advance, and then spend an afternoon being pampered at home without having to set up—or clean up. Since the first company launched in the late 1990s, the spa-on-wheels trend has spread across the country. SpaFinder president Susie Ellis estimates that there are now close to 500 mobile spas operating in the U.S.
Perhaps the best perk of at-home pampering is that treatments cost about the same as what you'd pay at a day spa: A 60-minute massage, for example, averages about $110. Still, it's important to determine exactly what the company's fees cover. Most mobile spas don't require a set number of guests, but they often have a minimum amount that must be spent. For example, MobileSpa has a $200 flat fee, regardless of whether you book a whole package or just individual treatments. And while some of the companies include everything in their rates—gratuities, goodie bags stuffed with products, and even monogrammed robes and slippers that you get to keep—others tack on service charges and travel fees if you live in a more remote area.
Beyond clarifying the bottom line, there are also ways to stretch your spa bucks, such as booking à la carte services. For instance, Sparties Mobile Spa will let you hire a massage therapist for two hours ($220), and you can divide her time however you wish—even down to five-minute chair massages. With a big enough group, she can do 12 five-minute massages in an hour, which works out to less than $10 per person. Don't be shy about asking for specials, either. Relax & Rejuvenate, which is based in Charlottesville, Va., will throw in two free treatments if you buy eight of any one service. Of course, you don't need nonstop treatments to have a great time. "The whole point of this is to not feel rushed," says Conan Owen, co-owner of Relax & Rejuvenate. "Like at any good party, you'll want to budget in time to catch up on the latest gossip, too."