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Get the stress out of your life with a spa vacation
Air Pockets
By Gail Todd | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 10/31/2009 9:56 PM

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Last week as I waited to take off on a flight from Salt Lake City to Chicago, I watched an angry passenger board the aircraft. Apparently, security agents had singled him out as a possible threat, which made him late for the flight. He had run through the terminal and arrived at the gate minutes before the agent closed the door. His aisle seat had been given away and he let everyone within earshot know he would never fly this airline again. The guy looked like he could play lineman for the Chicago Bears. He did not look like he could fit in a coach seat. And there was only one seat left on the plane - the middle one next to me. The man mumbled expletives under his breath and screamed at the flight attendant to bring him a seatbelt extension. Finally he was able to squeeze into the space.

I felt his pain - mostly in my ribs where his elbow rested for the entire flight. But I didn't really care. I was returning from a visit at the Red Mountain Spa in St. George, Utah, and I was mellow. I had hiked through the gorgeous red cliffs of Bryce Canyon. I practiced yoga on the rocks overlooking a sandstone gorge. I dined on roast duck, cauliflower mousse and fresh peach cobbler. In the evenings, I discovered my ancient soul while steaming-hot lavender oil was gently kneaded into my skin and sore muscles.

The best part, while I lightened up, my savings account didn't. Because of the problems with our economy, many destination spas have become more affordable. And, because of those same problems, many of us need to release stress. Together, great food, great pampering and great exercise make the perfect solution.

The Mountain Spa (redmountainspa.com) offers special programs online that start at $189 per night (double occupancy), which includes meals, daily guided hikes, personal discovery activities and unlimited exercise classes. Book online and you save another 5 percent.

If you prefer something closer, a 90-mile drive south of Chicago takes you to the Heartland Spa in Gilman, Ill., (heartlandspa.com). Operating for 26 years, this converted dairy farm caters to only 32 guests at a time and offers an escape from city stress. Morning walks take guests on nature trails through 32 acres of woodlands with meditation stops along a 3-acre lake.

According to executive director Mary Quinn, some of her guests say when they travel, they often need a vacation from their vacation - but not here. "It's a spa where there's 'no pain, no gain and no plane!'" Quinn says.

Specials during November allow two guests for the price of one. A five-night stay from Sunday to Friday costs $2,190 (for two) and includes accommodations, all meals, exercise classes, four massages, one facial and all the exercise clothing and equipment you need.

While Americans have increased in size over the past several years, seat space has either remained the same or decreased. Larger passengers often spill over into their seat partner's space, making it frustrating and uncomfortable for every one. Southwest tried to alleviate the problem by enforcing a 20-year rule requiring obese passengers to purchase a second seat. Now other airlines, such as United Airlines and Air France have followed suit. And some airlines are considering charging by the pound.

Clearly, with crowded airplanes, crowded aircrafts and crowded terminals, air travel takes its pound of flesh in some form. A spa vacation might just be the ticket to change your outlook both mentally and physically.

• Gail Todd, a freelance writer, worked as a flight attendant for more than 30 years. She can be reached via e-mail at gailtodd@aol.com.