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It all starts with the thought: "I really need a vacation." Amidst the hectic 24/7 work and social life cycle, coupled with the past year and a half of living in a pandemic, this thought has become rather universal. But people aren't just looking for any vacation, they're seeking out vacations rooted in self-care and rejuvenation, causing the ongoing rise in wellness tourism.

According to the Wellness Tourism Association, some of the key things travelers are looking for in 2021 are "de-stressing," "relaxation," and "self-healing," (things we could all use right now!). Sofia Mascotena, co-founder of bespoke travel planning company Naya Traveler, says that travelers have a lot to gain from taking self-care-focused vacations. "We've noticed as well, that those who embark on wellness trips have a tendency to feel inspired to stay on the wellness path long term, even planning to revisit the destination, or exploring new, unknown ones," she says. So there are more than enough reasons to travel for self-care, the first being, quite simply, that you deserve it. 

Travel, however, can be a hassle, and the planning is often a nightmare that mounts extra stress. So to make the process easier, we've gathered tips below for self-care vacation ideas, and advice on how to make your getaway a truly relaxing one from start to finish.

How to Make the Most of Your Self-Care Vacation

To make the most of your retreat, start by considering the type of self-care you need, be it physical, emotional, social, spiritual, or sensory. This will help you determine what kind of self-care activities you want to guide your vacation. Sensory self-care, like meditation or intentional time spent outside, can help calm your mind or help you reconnect with nature. Physical activity, like yoga or hiking, can also act as self-care, helping you to get more in touch with your body. 

No matter what type of self-care activities you choose, though, make sure to keep the goal of relaxation in mind. "Don't try to tackle too much," Henley Vazquez, founder of the travel agency Fora Travel, warns. "Self-care doesn't mean running yourself ragged between planned activities and events." She adds that it's important to "allow for downtime" and "forget the schedule for a minute" without entirely under-planning. A great self-care vacation offers a balance between time to rest and time for activity. 

With this in mind, it's time to plan your own getaway. Keep reading for more ideas on where to go and what to do for a rejuvenating vacation.

Self-Care Vacation Ideas

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Animal Therapy Vacation

AirBnB's data has shown a shift in travel away from urban destinations and toward more rural areas and smaller communities. Farm stays are one way to participate in this trend, while also offering a chance to reconnect with nature, trace our food chain, and support eco-driven, often family-run, businesses at the same time. Spending time with animals can also have a healing effect on both mental and physical health. In fact, a 2019 review analyzing various animal-intervention programs found benefits including reduced stress, pain, and anxiety. While you can always spend time with a beloved pet at home (if you have one) or head to a local animal shelter, animal therapy can also make for a great vacation. 

How about a farm stay in the French Alps for just $89 per night and plenty of the local delicacy (cheese) to taste and go around? Or an Alpaca Retreat with sweeping views of Port Susan and Mt. Rainier in Washington can host you and nine friends on a farm with close to a hundred alpacas. For something more active, a horse ranch in California offers a private horseback riding lesson with each AirBnB booking.

Looking for a day trip? Search nearby farms and eco-conscious efforts to find opportunities to go hug a goat or volunteer with the animals.

Beach Vacation

Research published in the journal Health & Place shows that proximity to the ocean, it's azure waters, sounds, and wind, have positive impacts on overall and mental health. (It is vitamin sea, after all.) Depending on your desires, a vacation perched on the seaside might be exactly the healthy dose of self-care that you need. In fact, the beach isn't exclusive to the summer months, its benefits are year-round, especially for those who live far away from it.

A vacation at Palm Heights in the Cayman Islands may be the perfect Caribbean medicine, or the Rockaway Hotel on New York City's Rockaways is a lovely way to breathe in the salty air away from the city noise. A serene option might also be located in Santorini's Canaves Oia Suites and even Mexico's AZULIK villas.

RELATED: 8 US Beach Vacations That Aren't Budget-Busters

Spa Vacation

Spa therapy has many benefits for both mental and physical health, as well as a long history to support it that dates back to ancient civilizations (Think: baths, massages, acupuncture, etc.). It continues to be one of the most popular ways to relax—and let's face it, who doesn't love a spa day?

In fact, even science says it's a good idea. Studies have found that frequent sauna treatments can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, massage therapy can reduce inflammation, and week-long stays at health spas can lead to decreased cholesterol and risk of type 2 diabetes—all in addition to the mind-soothing effects. 

These could span across a variety of treatments from a simple massage to beautifying and/or anti-aging retreats and even health sanatoriums.

"For wellness journeys, we tend to delve deeper into [patients'] health concerns, and what practices they are interested in experiencing and learning about," says Mascotena. And sometimes, she says, bringing one's health history might be helpful. Spa trips are highly customizable, according to one's needs and desires. But first, she starts off with the question: "What is your goal?" From there, a spa trip takes shape.

If you're looking for a full-on spa vacation, you could head to The Phoenician in Scottsdale, Ariz.—a short flight away from most major cities—or make an international visit to Las Catalinas in Costa Rica. For travelers who just want to add a spa day to their trip, Miami's NOBU or Calabash Cove Resort and Spa in Saint Lucia are options that feature extensive spa menus. 

Natural Springs Vacation

Nature has its own kind of spa service and it comes free of charge at many natural springs. Thermal tourism can be as swanky or as connected to nature as you please. For example, the whole state of Idaho is filled with natural hot springs that you can locate on the state's official tourism site. You can also access an interactive map of thermal springs across the U.S. to find a spot near you. Road trip, anyone? 

You've surely seen Utah's Mystic Hot Springs on Instagram with its viral bathtubs located in the middle of a hot spring. The 24-hour spa offers entry for $15 per adult. Or, if you'd like to spend a whole luxurious vacation bathing in natural springs, a trip to Costa Rica's Tabacón Resort (featuring an azure private spring, of course) or France's swanky Evian-les-Bains Resort (yes, like the water brand) is sure to satisfy your desires. 

Yoga Retreat Vacation

Movement and alignment help connect the physical body, mind, and soul and offer a truly grounding experience. A retreat that features yoga classes, pilates, or other meditative physical activities can be a great way to access self-care through relaxing time spent in nature. A yoga retreat, often done in community with others, can also offer deeper human connection—which many of us are needing more of right now.

"As adults, the modern world can be so draining," yoga instructor and retreat leader Kiki Duvault says. "Naturally, by routinely taking time out to see ourselves in a new group all with the inspiration to make a change or dive deeper is refreshing." No matter the retreat, she says, human connection and the opportunity to see that you're not alone, is powerful. Mexico's Holistika offers both the option to participate in solo physical practices as well as group events, while also offering exchanges and residencies for artists and teachers. With their dorm-living option available too, it is a lovely escape that could be budget-friendly and yet enriching.

Mountain Vacation

Whether through hiking them, skiing on them, or just having them as part of a panorama, the mountains can offer some serious health benefits. Not only can general time spent in nature lead to improved mood and emotional well-being, but the fresh air in the mountains can help us breathe easier (which is good for both our lungs and our anxious minds). You don't have to go far to reap these benefits—head out to your closest mountain range and soak up the fresh air and peaceful landscapes. 

A drive out to the Adrirondack's magical little village of Lake Placid could land you a storybook cottage (it's been featured in magazines for how quaint it is). Or you can book a stay at a remote Vermont chalet—that is literally located above the cloudline—for gorgeous mountain and sunset views.

Beyond the U.S., many European mountain getaways offer chalet service, spa options, and skiing altogether. Beauty brand Valmont just opened their Valmont Residences earlier this year, with a ski chalet in Verbier, Switzerland. Filled with the owner's exquisite art collection, all amenities provided by Valmont skincare, a spa, and ski access, the space offers prime self-care opportunities.

Digital Detox Vacation

Unplugged, internet-free vacations are becoming a rarity. All those emails, pings, blue checks, and messages are often still prominent and tag along with us even while traveling leisurely. To access a more signed-off vacation, you can put personal limits on your screen time and avoid bringing your laptop altogether. If you really want to challenge yourself, though, you can opt for a full off-the-grid experience. Some places, like certain areas of Yellowstone National Park, have absolutely no service, thus pushing you to interact solely with nature.

At Newfoundland's Quirpon Lighthouse Inn, there is no TV, no phone service, and no WiFi—it's just you and the Arctic, and all its majestic creatures. Enjoy a fully disconnected experience and reconnect with what really matters: you. If you're looking for the option of WiFi, guests can actually turn off their internet connection and electronics—with the touch of a button—at Villa Stéphanie in Baden Baden, Germany. The Spa and Medical Center follow a European model that joins medical benefit and pleasure in a digital detox destination.