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DIY Health Spa

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5 November 2022

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Massage, yoga, healthy eating, time out… If you’ve always wanted to go on an indulgent retreat but haven’t had the funds, try creating your own. Whether your budget is two-star or a little more, here’s our DIY guide.

We’ve all dreamt of giving ourselves the ultimate gift of a health retreat. The chance to disappear for a while, eat lots of healthy plant-based food, do some yoga and have a massage day in and day out sounds both blissful and beneficial. 

But it can also be expensive. With prices for health retreats ranging in the thousands – per day, in some cases – it can be a treat we must retreat from to protect our bank balance. Which is why Woman has put some thought into doing things differently. 

Instead of suffering an attack of FOMO (fear of missing out) as you read about one of our journalists enjoying a freebie at that health retreat you can’t afford, we’ve decided to give you a handy guide on how to create your own health retreat on a budget. 

It turns out it’s not that hard. A scan of luxury health retreats available in New Zealand reveals some common components. We’ve taken these and worked out how to make them happen for yourself without the huge expense.

First, you must decide how long this retreat will be. A two-night weekend is a great start but if you can manage a week, even better. Then you need to decide if you’ll just drive across town for the duration or treat yourself to a stay out of town. Closer to home is obviously a money-saver. 

Once you have these two things worked out, it’s time to give your retreat a name. You could just call it “Time Out” or “Me Time”. You then need to come up with a mission statement for your retreat. Most will use phrases like “fostering wellness” or “regenerating body and mind”. You might like to just say: “Getting some well-deserved time away to myself to rest and restore.” 

Now it is time to start putting together the components of your DIY health retreat.

A bed away from home is a must

As we all know, shutting the front door on family life and merrily jingling the car keys in our hand as we make for the safety of our vehicle while pulling an overnight trolley bag with the other hand can reduce stress by more than half. Find an Airbnb, motel or hotel that’s quiet and near nature, such as native bush or a beach. Check that it has a nice bed with crisp, white hotel-like sheets. Also check that the services you’ll need, such as massage and yoga, are nearby or at least a short drive away. It might be just around the corner from your home or in another town. Book it. Rule number one: don’t tell anyone where it is.

Cost: $50 to $200 a night, depending on level of luxury

Unplug devices

Every retreat will insist you leave the emails and social media at home, so you must do this too. Leave the phone at home. You are allowed your laptop for essential retreat purposes. (More about that later). If you’re worried about needing to be contactable by your family, leave the phone in the car and only check it occasionally – and respond only if it is a real emergency involving ambulances or similar.

Cost: Free

Yoga, stretching or pilates

Something involving a lot of good breathing and contortions on a mat is the first activity you’ll need on your retreat. You could find a practitioner near your accommodation and book in for a class each day you’re away, or download a good class on your laptop and do it in your Airbnb or hotel room. Be sure to pack your best exercise gear for this. Some luxury retreats will have you doing yoga three times a day, but once a day should do if you want to fit everything else in.

Cost: Approximately $30-$50 per class 

Good food derived from plants

Whether it’s vegan or vegetarian, it’s just lovely having food cooked for you rather than having to feed your family. Most of us would happily chow down on sage pasta filled with pumpkin and pine nuts if we didn’t have to make it ourselves. There are several ways you can arrange this. If you’re on a budget and really well-organised, you can prepare lovely plant-based salads and soups and snacks ahead of time and take them with you. Otherwise, you could make Uber Eats your friend, or find a local healthy restaurant in the area for dine-in or takeaway. If you’ve gone the hotel route, order room service. Most hotels have good vegetarian options.

Cost: Approximately $30-$60 a day

A good massage

Relieving stress is absolutely essential, and nothing does this quite as well as a good massage. Thai massage is particularly good for kneading out the knots, so if you can find a clinic nearby, book a massage each day. If not, see if there is a general massage therapist and book them to come to you, or arrange to go to their clinic.

Cost: About $100 for a traditional 65-minute massage

Give up coffee and alchohol

Most retreats insist on this, probably because they don’t want hyper-caffeinated people running around and ruining the Zen moments, nor do they want clients who are drunk and argumentative and refuse to go to bed. We’re going to leave this one to your discretion – it’s your retreat, after all.

Cost: Free if you abstain, $30 if you have a couple of coffees and a couple of glasses of BYO wine


Some retreats insist you don’t talk for a certain number of hours, which seems harsh. Being on your own is a great way to be silent – but do commit. Don’t arrive at your accommodation and immediately start chatting to the person next door. Get used to the feeling of solitude and the silence it brings. If your life is particularly hectic, it might be the first time you’ve actually heard the sound of your own breathing in years! You’re allowed to have a nap or read while being silent, if you wish.

Cost: Free

A hike or a walk in nature

Studies show that time spent in nature is not only relaxing but also rejuvenating. You’d have to be mad not to include this in a health retreat, and it’s free! Plan to walk or hike for at least an hour every day in the bush or on the beach. Be thankful that you’re not at one of the expensive retreats that make you hike all day to prove how fit their “leaders” are.

Cost: Free

Cost: $50 to $200 a night, depending on level of luxury


Some retreats offer the chance to take your problems and lay them at the feet of someone who will help you deal with them. You can do this online from the comfort of your DIY health retreat. Simply make an appointment at one of the many online counselling services available in Aotearoa. Make sure you have Wi-Fi where you are staying and book as many appointments as you think you will need. You don’t have to be suffering from a mental illness to enjoy an hour of counselling. Finally, you can talk to someone who will listen to you and not intrude to tell you about their unique experience – and you won’t be interrupted by a child who can’t find their shoes! Use this time to get some valuable help for dealing with issues such as work-life balance, parenting dramas or putting yourself first for once!

Cost: Approximately $120-$200 a session

Early night

You probably won’t need any encouragement to be in bed with lights out by 9pm but this is a must for all retreats. No late-night chats or anything resembling a party are allowed. So pack a good book and tuck yourself into bed nice and early. Face mask and earplugs optional.

Cost: Free

Your DIY health retreat is planned! If you’re going for the two-night option, with yoga, massage and counselling, your total cost could be less than $500 (if you abstain from coffee and alcohol, stay at a cheap Airbnb, bring prepared food and have one counselling session) or around $1000 if you stay at a nice hotel, drink coffee and alcohol, eat out and have two counselling sessions. For a week, make your dollars go further by doing yoga and massage every second day and spreading two counselling sessions out.  Whatever your budget, you’ll have had a nice time away, some healthy mind and body regeneration and have fostered some wellness in yourself. You’re welcome! 

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