Planning my “living like Oprah” vacation to Miraval Spa and Chicago

Posted on Posted in Chicago, luxury hotel, Spa, Tucson

I was pretty much drained and in need of a vacation – you know when you get to that point – sleep, work, gym, wash, repeat. The winter days slowly go by, you want the sun on your face, you want to put the winter coat and gloves and other layers away.  You are tired of the dark days, the winter snow, the lack of energy you have for anything. Work was draining me, life was draining me – i was pretty spent and then came the flash sale notice in my inbox.  Miraval Spa in Tucson which I had always wanted to go to but couldn’t afford, was going to have a flash sale the next day on Rue La La.  I had read about Miraval for years and the pricing was out of my range so I was curious to see what the sale would offer.

At 11 am the next day, i logged into Rue with my research ready to compare the offer (some travel flash sales offer good pricing, others not so much so always do research to compare) and was surprised to see that it was great offer, below my budget. But was I going to buy it?  I read the terms and conditions and there would be no refund- there were only a set number of packages being sold so i didn’t have much time .  I mulled this over for a few minutes before pressing “add to cart”, then with it in my cart, weighed whether or not, I would buy it (i over think things a lot) before entering my credit card data and pressing buy/agree/etc.  This would be the most expensive lunchtime purchase to date.

I bought the solo traveler deal which included room, daily meals and airport transfer but no daily spa credit.  If I chose to use the spa or private session services, it would be charged to my bill. This was great for me as i wasn’t going all that way to spa, I do that here at home!I wanted to hike the desert, I needed to shake things up and open myself up to the experiences that would make me ask the big questions of my life.  I called Miraval immediately upon receiving my email confirmation voucher and found the dates to book so I was good to go.

Now to airfare, shouldn’t be a problem right? Without dates prior to the purchase, I wasn’t able to research flight or award flights. I didn’t think Tuscon was a problem, surely there are award flights because it is not as popular as Las Vegas. My quick spa visit in Tucson, required two flights connecting somewhere and were expensive (i should have thought this one out, i know).  No award flights were available on USAir.  USAir’s routing would be Philly to Phoenix with a few hours to connect to Tucson.  Southwest for about the same price was Philly to Chicago connect to Tucson.  I booked my first round trip flight with Southwest.

So now, i had the spa and the flights but thought it was an expensive weekend going to Arizona so having never been to Chicago figured I could take advantage of the connection and stay in Chicago a few days to explore?  I know of some great hotels in Chicago that I’ve always wanted to try since I’ve recommended them for years to my business travelers. This could be good, I thought….until i realized after coming off of the high of the spa deal that I needed to stay mid-week in a major business city where deals are rarely offered to the leisure traveler (the weekends sure no problem, but not during the week sadly).  You see where this is snowballing right?  the costs kept adding up from my “deal” – at this point, why not go for broke as they say – I decided (or the universe contributed) to just live it up a bit, I deserved the break and needed a mental reboot.

Now, for years, my business travelers have only stayed at The Peninsula, Chicago, which is one of the top hotels in the US every year in the polls. The Peninsula would be a dream stay for me was out of my budget. As i continued to browse hotel options online, the Peninsula kept popping up  (the internet big data guys have me pegged, scary).  It wasn’t until i was on the Frommer’s guide to Chicago that the Peninsula box popped up a third time and I said “what the hell, the universe wants me to click on this” and clicked on it to prove it was out of my price range.  I entered my dates and the return page showed a promotion available- pay two nights get the third free. I was surprised by this and then a little hopeful that maybe I can afford it.  Doing the math, the total stay averaged over the three days was only slightly higher than the rest of the hotels I was looking at so at this point, with my AMEX continuing to say “why not”, I booked the promotion at the Peninsula.

I kept laughing at myself, this trip was getting expensive!  I booked my dream spa, my dream hotel and was flying a low cost airline.  I’m staying at a fancy spa that Oprah and Gayle stayed at with viewers .  I still smile watching this clip of  Gayle conquering her fear of heights (this also served to remind me I would not schedule this activity).  I’m staying at a hotel that Oprah has used, a hotel located a block away from her home.   I started dubbing the vacation “living like Oprah without her money” tour.

So have you booked travel via travel flash sales?  Ever had an expensive lunch like me?  Ever throw out the budget and just treat yourself (otherwise known as ignorant bliss courtesy of the AMEX card…until reality (the bill) arrives)?

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