Top 10 Tips For Preparing For A Health/Wellness Retreat…

Top 10 Tips For Preparing For A Health/Wellness Retreat

If you are reading this, then you have either been on or are curious about taking a health-conscious vacation. I’m an avid traveler and have spent years learning which destinations are the best. I love to mix and match the type of vacation I take and have perfected how to plan my trips and travel properly.

With the growth of technology and social media, it seems as if we have the world at our fingertips – it is quite literally our oyster. Traveling can be as easy as picking a destination and making a reservation on any booking site. Sure, I can escape to a gorgeous beach in some far off place and come home feeling good. But as soon as the golden tan starts to fade, the stressors of daily life begin to surface once again. I’m sure many of you have experienced coming home totally exhausted and feeling like you need to relax and unwind from your latest adventure. I know I have! But what if you could come home feeling rejuvenated and armed with the new knowledge that will improve your daily life. Did I mention you can still have that awesome tan?

It is my belief that traveling should be much more than an escape from daily life. My ideal vacation is the perfect mix of adventure, relaxation, and cultural enrichment that satisfies the mind, body, and soul. If I am taking the time and spending money on a vacation, I want to come back as a better version of myself. I want to return relaxed, satisfied, and armed with tools that will continue to enrich my life. After countless trips that only gave me temporary satisfaction, I shifted my perception of what traveling means to me and what I want to get out of my time away from home. When planning your next adventure, ask yourself the following:

•  What do you want to do on your next destination vacation?

•  Do you want to travel domestic or international location?

•  Is there anything special you are looking for? Perhaps you’d like to learn a new meditation or healing technique?

•  Do you want to go alone, with friends, or with a group?

•  Do you prefer all-inclusive trips or a la carte services?

For me, a wellness retreat is the perfect vacation option. I am able to maintain my healthy lifestyle, I have learned new wellness modalities that changed my life, and visit some of the world’s most amazing places. There is a reason why wellness retreats have become the number one travel option in our stressed-out society. They are a fusion of the best elements that bring us mind, body, and soul satisfaction.

Maybe you’re setting off on your first retreat adventure and are unsure what to expect or how to prepare. Maybe you have already taken a retreat vacation and didn’t quite get the most out of your trip or wish you pre-planned a bit better. Believe me, I’ve been there! To help you get ready for your retreat, I’ve made a list of my Top 10 Tips to help you decide which retreat is perfect for you, prepare for the unexpected, and have the time of your life.

SEE ALSO: Using Ayurveda To Treat Colon Cancer

What are Health/Wellness Retreats, Really?

Health retreats became popular in the last century when people realized they needed to get out of the routine and spend time somewhere else to improve or maintain their health. In fact, maintaining the health is even more important then restoring it, because if you maintain it diligently and properly, there will not be a reason to restore it. You will be healthy.

The main misconception is the belief that a health retreat is a place where you have to eat vegan, drink water, and have a very boring life. This is why some people stay away from it. But it’s simply not true. There are wellness/health retreats matching that description, and this is why you need to know how to research and prepare for the retreat that will match your preferences. I, for example, love to eat good organic food, learn about local culture, enjoy luxurious massages (even in some Indian village I found one), have an occasional glass of local wine, and have my morning coffee. I design my retreats with these preferences in mind.

1. Think about why you want to experience a retreat getaway

This may seem like an obvious tip but you need to really think about why you feel this type of vacation is best suits you. Maybe you’re exhausted from your job and all you can think about is pampering yourself with massages, naps on the beach, and delicious food. Or maybe you’d like to have a more active experience with yoga, visits to cultural sites, and hiking in a rainforest while still enjoying good food and indulging in body treatments. There are retreats for everything under the sun!

Once you figure out your ‘why’ (relaxation, boot camp for weight loss, silent meditation for inner peace, detox from the holidays, the list goes on and on…) the rest will fall into place. Grab a cup of tea, quiet your mind, and spend some time really thinking about your why.

2. Location, Location, Location…

Not all places are created equal. Location plays a HUGE role in the making of a good retreat. You need to be really honest with yourself when deciding on a location to visit. If you’re a city person and hate the outdoors, chances are you won’t enjoy a mountain destination with lots of time spent hiking. Yes, it is great to get out of your comfort zone but do you really want to take the risk of potentially ruining your trip by being miserable someplace far from home? Of course not!

After you’ve established why you want to take this journey, take a moment to think about the places you’d enjoy spending some time in.

3. Booking Your Trip in Advance

The earlier you start planning your retreat getaway the better. There are two reasons why you want to book in advance – getting the best pricing on travel and preparing your mind and body. We have all experienced the frustration of booking flights. The more you look the more pricing and availability changes. [ FYI: I’ll be sharing my super secret flight search tips on how to score the best flight deals with you soon. ] Booking sooner rather than later guarantees you won’t miss out on a flight within your budget.

When booking your retreat accommodations, booking sooner may give you the advantage on a room upgrade, snagging the last available private room or booking that shared room with a friend. Many retreats offer an early bird discount for booking and paying in full by a certain date. You definitely want to take advantage of that! It is money in your pocket for massages and extras at your destination.

Another important reason to book in advance is to get your mind and body prepared. If you drink caffeine and have booked a silent meditation retreat where stimulants are prohibited, you will need to slowly detox your body before you go. The last thing you want to do is suffer caffeine withdrawals on your dream trip. If your trip will include more physical activity than you are accustomed to in your daily life, you will want to get your body ready for this. The same thing goes for long periods of sitting in meditation. If your body is not used to this, it will cause discomfort. Yoga classes will get your body ready for sitting in the lotus position.

Lastly, if you’re heading to an international destination, learn about the culture, language, and customs before arrival. You may want to take some language lessons or research side trips you can take in your free time. Whether it’s visiting a remote Buddhist temple in Vietnam or speaking to the locals in their native language, if you don’t prepare early, you could miss out on some wonderful experiences.

4. Always Prepare for the Unexpected

No matter how excited you are for an upcoming trip, many people suffer from pre-travel anxiety worrying about the many what-ifs that could happen before or during their trip.

What if something happens and I can’t go?

What if I get really sick while in a foreign country?

What if I lose my passport?

How will family back home be able to get in touch with me in the event of an emergency?

The most imprint thing I do before traveling is to make a copy of all my documents. One comes with me and one stays with a family member or friend. It’s always good to have a backup and the bonus is that your family member or friend has all your important details (flight info, a copy of passport, travel insurance, hotel/host information, etc.). Secondly, I make sure my home and pets are properly looked after in my absence. Have the post office hold your mail if there isn’t anyone to collect it on your behalf. Set automatic timers on your lights so it looks like someone is home in the evenings. If you’re not boarding your pets, perhaps you have a house/pet sitter that will be staying in your home while you’re away. Make sure this person has your travel information as well and knows how to handle an emergency with your home or your pet.

This may sound basic but it will relieve a lot of anxiety on your end if you know your home and pets are safe while you’re halfway around the world.

5. Get to Know your Hosts

Getting to know your hosts is important when going on a retreat. These are the people who are looking out for your wellbeing and are there to make sure you have an unforgettable experience. Whether you are booking a room at a large wellness sanctuary or going on a small group retreat, you must make sure they are licensed and qualified to offer such services.

Before booking and traveling, contact your prospective host or sanctuary and ask them these questions if this information is not clearly listed on their website. All health professionals, body, and light-workers must have proper certifications. There are many retreats offered by people who do not have the education and certifications to offer what they do. Do your research before booking to ensure the hosts, their staff, and the venues they work with are properly certified.

Additionally, if you will be visiting a medi-spa or health retreat where supplements are administered, make sure you find out if they will interfere with any pre-existing health conditions and current medications. If your retreat is more medically focused and the host doctors are not doing a full evaluation prior to treatments, stay away!

6. Set your Expectations

What is it that you are hoping to achieve, experience or accomplish on your retreat? If you’re attending a weight loss boot camp, how much weight do you expect to lose? If you are attending a Qigong retreat, will you come home with a practice you can build upon? If you’re visiting a medi-spa, how can you maintain or follow-up your treatments at home?

What if your trip is a fusion of cultural emersion and relaxation, will you be seeing the sights you want to see while getting enough rest? Once you set your expectations for your retreat journey, you will be able to find the perfect trip to match your desires. Once I know what I expect to get out of my trip, I start looking for all-inclusive options. I value my time and my money and find the all-inclusive option works well. They are thoughtfully planned without feeling micro-managed and all my major expenses are upfront. I don’t have to budget for food, excursions, and spa treatments. I bring enough extra spending money for gifts and extras and this keeps me on budget.

7. Make a List of What to Pack

Packing for your retreat can be as easy as making list. The location and type of retreat you’re taking will determine your packing needs [ I have many packing lists for a variety of destinations and travel scenarios that I’ll be sharing with you later ].

Some retreat venues offer shared accommodations and bathrooms so make sure you pack shower flip flops and something to wear back to your room after your shower. This seems trivial but if you’re in a hot weather destination and need to walk back to your room from the shared showers, you’ll want something cool to throw on. If you’re visiting a luxury spa, you may want to bring your own robe and a pair of comfy slippers. If your retreat is spiritually based, many have dress codes that are strictly enforced. Be sure to pack clothes that cover you shoulders and knees. An extra large scarf is the best travel accessory. It can be used to cover up on the plane ( forget those dirty blankets ), at the beach, in religious places, and will keep you warm during meditation.

If your retreat is medically based, make sure you bring your medical records with you including a list of allergies, medications, and reset lab results.

8. Boost Your Immunity

Chances are you will be eating slightly (or a very) different food than you do in your everyday life. A health retreat should provide you with healthy, organic choices.  Many offering mostly vegetarian/vegan options. While I am not a vegetarian, a primarily plant based diet is an excellent way to reset your body before traveling. A couple of weeks before your departure, start eating fewer animal products and include more fruits and vegetables. This is especially important if you are planning on attending a detox or meditation retreat. Gradually changing your diet will prepare you for a full body detoxification or the lighter menu offered at meditation retreats.

Another important component of preparing for your trip is to begin boosting your immune system. Up your water intake and adjust your supplements to match the place you’re visiting. I have a whole regiment for international travel, especially to third world countries where illness is prevalent. As a rule of thumb, I begin taking a full spectrum probiotic, increase my Vitamin C, and pack digestive enzymes.

9. Start Moving Your Body

Being in relatively good shape helps your travels. For the most part, you will not encounter very strenuous exercise at your retreat unless you’re on a boot camp style trip. Strength and mobility will help you a great deal when it comes to airplane travel, luggage handling, and adjusting to a new place. If you are in great shape, keep doing what you’re doing and add some stretching or yoga into your routine for greater flexibility. If you need to work on getting into better physical shape for your upcoming trip, I suggest a balanced  3-5 times/week 30 min cardio/weights routine with 10 minutes stretching after.

Start waking more. Park as far away as you can everywhere you go. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. A little extra effort goes a long way.

10. Post Retreat Planning

For many, it can be difficult to return to your normal routine after you’ve spent some time focusing on yourself and your health interests while in the retreat zone. I know that was my experience until I learned how to prepare my mind and body for my return home. During your retreat, you may have learned a new skincare regiment, established a new meditation practice, embraced a more healthful diet or perhaps you made some new like-minded friends.

One of the main reasons why people go on a retreat holiday is to take more time for themselves and cultivate new healthful habits. While a 90-minute yoga session or spending an hour in meditation every day is not feasible for most, integrating an earlier bedtime, a few silent minutes in the morning or cultivating more awareness in your daily life is feasible.

I recommend journaling daily while you are at the retreat so you can reflect on the thoughts and feelings you experienced when you return home. If you find your new zen-like persona starts to fade, pick up your journal and remind yourself of all the amazing things you learned. It will quickly help you bring these things back into your daily routine.

Remember, your hosts are there to help you before, during, and after your retreat together.


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Dr. Maya Sarkisyan


Doctor Maya is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and an Expert in Health Tourism. She has a holistic medical clinic…

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