How Customized Vacation Rentals Can Maximize Fitness Travel

Wellness tourism is booming, and according to the Global Wellness Institute, it's growing at a rate double that of the general tourism industry as of October 2018. The reality is, people are prioritizing their health while traveling, and they're looking for travel experiences that help maximize their well-being.

In some respects, this is nothing new. A Colorado (or New Mexico, or Utah) ski trip has always prioritized activity as a cornerstone of the experience. Clearly, skiing and snowboarding are excellent opportunities to get outside and burn serious calories. But what's changed since the 1990s and 2000s is the desire for travel experiences that are custom-tailored to the traveler, providing everything from healthy meals to activity planning to spa services. Often, these experiences are provided as retreats, tours, or all-inclusive spas. While incredibly enjoyable, the downside is that they still limit the traveler to the foods and programs provided directly by the resort or guide. 

To answer the call for truly customized fitness vacations, some vacation rental companies are providing a full-service experience. Moving Mountains is one such example positioned in the luxury ski vacation market. This catered ski chalet and vacation rental company is located in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and it's breaking the mold of the wellness tourism industry.

Think of Moving Mountains as a high-end Airbnb meets a personal assistant, personal chef, personal trainer, and personal mind-reader. While it's not the only custom fitness vacation company out there, it offers an excellent case study in what you can expect from a personalized fitness vacation—I've detailed my own experience with the company below. That said, always do your own research before placing your vacation into someone else's hands—handing over the reigns for vacation planning and execution can be a relief, but not all companies are created equal.

High-End Lodging

moving mountains creekside chalet
Moving Mountains

Moving Mountains isn't a resort or a hotel, it's a vacation rental service. Rather than booking a single room, you're booking a high-end house or condo. This is a great option if you're traveling with a group of friends or a large family, especially since each property includes a full kitchen, multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, and often additional amenities, such as hot tubs, outdoor grills, and game rooms. In fact, some of the Platinum Collection homes Moving Mountains added to their portfolio of rentals in 2017 offer over-the-top amenities, such as indoor climbing walls and multi-shower bathrooms.

One obvious health benefit to staying at a vacation rental is its full kitchen. Rather than feeling limited to restaurant meals, you have the flexibility to purchase groceries and prepare your own food at home. This is particularly nice if you have dietary restrictions that make eating out more challenging.

Of course, these properties come at a cost, so they're probably not appropriate for anyone traveling on a limited budget, unless, of course, you're able to split the expense with a group of friends.

Activities Concierge

snowboarding steamboat
Chloe Matelski/Peach Veil Photography

The Guest Services department at Moving Mountains is what takes the company from a standard vacation rental company into the realm of full-service wellness tourism. For instance, their connections with other organizations in the area help them secure the best possible deals on lift tickets, gear rentals, and lessons at Steamboat Resort, which they can wrap into the price of your stay.

They're also able to connect you with guides for activities like ice climbing and snowshoeing, and they're happy to help you decide where to hike or bike in the area. Basically, if you need any advice or ideas for how to get active during your trip, Moving Mountains has the hookup.

And this goes beyond fitness-focused activities. If you need a restaurant reservation, they'll make it for you. If you want to book a post-ski massage at The Spa at One Steamboat Place, they'll set you up. And if you want someone to deliver groceries to your vacation rental, they'll take care of the shopping for you.

Grocery Delivery

Grocery delivery is quite possibly one of the best wellness-related benefits that Moving Mountains offers. It's hard to keep your nutrition in check when you're traveling, and no one wants to spend part of their vacation shopping at the grocery store. The fact that you can call ahead, put in your grocery order, and have your groceries delivered to your vacation rental before you even arrive is pretty phenomenal. This means you can plan your meals in advance and stick to your regular eating patterns without missing a beat.

Catered Meals

catered meal
Laura Williams

In addition to grocery delivery, Moving Mountains offers two other in-house meal service options. First is the V.I.P. Catered Chalet Experience, which includes a personal chef who customizes breakfasts, snacks, and dinners based on any and all dietary restrictions.

This full-service option also includes daily housekeeping and limo service. So, as you might expect, it doesn't come cheap. But if you have the money to spend and you like the idea of being waited on hand and foot, it's worth the splurge, giving you the flexibility to spend your time on other things, like going stand up paddleboarding, or spending an extra hour lounging in the hot tub.

But if paying for an in-house chef for your full stay is out of the question, there's also the option to employ a personal chef for a night or two. As with the catered service, the chef comes in to cook, serve, and clean up a healthy, customized meal for you and your party. It's an awesome way to kick back the night before your vacation is over and really enjoy your final evening away.

Again, this is an especially nice option for individuals following a strict or restricted eating plan because you don't have to worry about the complicated ordering process at a restaurant. Rather, you can communicate your needs to the chef in advance, and come up with a satisfactory menu that's tailored to you and your family.

Comparing the Moving Mountains Experience to Other Wellness Vacations

ice climbing
Chloe Matelski/Peach Veil Photography

Having enjoyed wellness travel to several spas and retreats, I have to say that the Moving Mountains experience allows for the most flexibility in terms of planning and activities. This is especially nice when traveling with a larger group.

For instance, some resorts and tours don't allow children under a certain age to attend, particularly at higher-end, adult-focused spas. This is a problem if you want to plan a family trip. Likewise, most fitness vacations provide basic hotel rooms as lodging, rather than vacation houses or condos. These rooms may be nice, but with few exceptions, they don't allow you to cook or prepare your own food, forcing you to plan your schedule around the retreat's dining hours or off-site meals. Again, not a terrible thing, but it can be limiting.

Similarly, most spas and retreats have pre-planned classes and hikes scheduled into the day. You can choose whether to attend, but if you don't attend, you can't necessarily go "off book" and schedule something away from the least not with the help of the retreat company itself. With Moving Mountains, the Guest Services department is happy to schedule any activity or event you want to try, but they're not personally invested in providing activities for you. This means you're not limited by what they offer or when they offer it. Depending on your goals or preferences, this could be considered a positive or negative thing.

In the case of my trip, I was able to go night skiing the first night I arrived before preparing my own in-house meal after coming in off the slopes. The next day my group hiked and went ice climbing in the morning, headed to the hot springs in the afternoon, then enjoyed a very nice, leisurely meal at The Laundry that night. My final day in Steamboat started off with snowboarding during the day, then finished with a relaxing evening in the hot tub while a personal chef prepared a three-course meal for dinner. We ate when we were hungry, slept when we were tired, and spent lots of time getting active, all on our own schedule and terms. It was one of the most active and most enjoyable vacations I've experienced, and while Moving Mountains didn't plan all the details, they did facilitate everything we did.

Essentially, Moving Mountains, and other, similar customized fitness travel companies, flip the script. They put the power in your hands to plan your own wellness vacation, but then they take over the hassle of scheduling and arranging the details. It's really the best of both worlds.

The main challenge, of course, is the cost. High-end rentals, particularly large vacation homes in winter meccas like Steamboat Springs aren't cheap. But then again, high-end fitness resorts aren't cheap, either. Ultimately, it all comes down to expectations and priorities. If you want to plan your own vacation activities, then let someone else organize the details, using a company like Moving Mountains is the best possible option. If, however, you'd prefer to show up at a retreat and follow whatever activities are already on the schedule, that's a great choice, too.

Who Customized Fitness Vacation Rentals are for: 

  • Individuals with high expendable incomes. You have to be able to afford the cost of a high-end vacation rental and at-your-beck-and-call guest services staff. 
  • Large groups or families. The Moving Mountains experience is particularly nice for families who want to stay active on vacation, or large groups of friends. When you can split the cost of the rental and meal service between multiple parties, it becomes much more affordable. Plus, the flexibility of activities and meals is especially nice when you have many people with different needs and expectations. 
  • Anyone who wants an especially nice vacation. If you're saving up for one killer trip, this type of customized vacation rental is a great way to go. Just be careful—if you enjoy the experience once, you'll probably be spoiled for life. 
  • Individuals who want to plan their own activities. If you're not a fan of following a pre-planned retreat schedule, or if you really like to spend your vacation seeking out lesser-known activities and events, using a full-service vacation rental company is a great way to go as they can help you find and schedule the activities that are most important to you. 

Lodging was provided by Moving Mountains. All experiences and opinions are my own.

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  1. Global Wellness Institute. Wellness Industry Statistics & Facts.