One of the byproducts of the cross pollination of luxury and family travel has been the rise of the children's spa concept. In the last decade or so, the adult-only sanctum so popular with upscale hotel guests has increasingly been invaded by teens and, in some cases, young children.
Leaving aside the question of whether children actually need or even want spa treatments, the trend has caught on enough that spa staff at high-end resorts and some premium cruises lines no longer bat an eye when asked for a kids' spa menu. Like anything to do with travel products aimed at children, however, spa programs aimed at youngsters are not created equal.
For one thing, clients should be aware that many spa programs for kids are aimed at teens and preteens and, despite brave attempts at gender-neutral treatment descriptions, are primarily geared toward girls. Typical offerings include salon treatments, such as acne facials and scrubs, with inventive names that usually include fruit, candy or sports.
Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, for example, offers a menu of teen packages that fall into this category, like a 25-minute Ice Cream Float bath or a Spreckels Sugar scrub.
Celebrity Cruises offers a Yspa program that offers an Acne Attack Facial, a Fake Bake treatment for a pseudo tan and, in a departure from the girls-only ethos, a Father/Son Chill Out Massage, whose description includes the words "vigorous" and "after shooting hoops" to separate it from the pampering massages offered to women and girls. Yspa programs are available on several cruise lines and resorts, including Atlantis Paradise Island, and are generally aimed at kids age 13 to 17.
In our explorations of children's spas, we found them to be a mixed bag in terms of success. My then-12-year-old son once cut short a foot massage because the treatment tickled, and he laughed all the way through it, to the obvious annoyance of the masseur. At the Stepping Stone Spa in Vermont, on the other hand, a property that endorses a philosophy that children can benefit from therapeutic touch as well as adults can, my daughter gave a thumbs up to her 60-minute massage, although the masseuse informed me that a lot of children aren't comfortable staying still for that long.
As with most spas offering hands-on treatments for younger kids, I was required to stay in the room during the treatment.
Other resorts prefer to limit treatments for children to manicures and pedicures, which can be booked for kids or in combination with a parent for a mommy-and-me experience. The Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World, for example, offers 25-minute nail treatments for young guests as a contrast to a day at the theme park.
Finally, the thing to keep in mind is that while the clients may be smaller, the price tag for kids' spa treatments typically is not. Facials can start at just under $100, while massages can top out at double that. Mani-pedis, on the other hand, offer a taste of pampering for usually less than $50.