Back in the day before the sharing economy, if you wanted to be pampered or primped you slipped on terry-cloth slippers and shuffled off to the hotel spa.

Today, home swapping is commonplace, and vacation rentals are a $24-billion (Dh88.2 billion) market in the United States alone, according to Phocuswright, a market research company.

One can still pop into a hotel or local spa for a massage or manicure. But the rise of on-demand beauty and wellness apps and websites doesn’t mean you have to forgo the convenience of on-site beauty and fitness treatments if you’re staying in a vacation rental. Rather, the spray tanner and the Zumba instructor will come to you.

Tap an app 

Such services aren’t widespread yet. But if you’re vacationing in a major city like New York or Los Angeles, or any of the others mentioned below, you can lounge around your Airbnb rental and order a pedicure as fast as an Uber.

Take, for instance, Priv, an app for iOS and Android users in New York, Los Angeles, Austin, Texas and London. With a few taps of its lavender interface a New Yorker can book massages ($150 for an hour session with a table provided by the therapist), make-up applications (starting at $75), even mink lash extensions and make-up lessons, manicures ($35), women’s haircuts ($100, including a blow dry), blowouts ($50) and men’s grooming ($50 for haircuts; $35 for beard trims and styling).

There's also personal training (starting at $80 an hour) including yoga, Pilates, kickboxing, Zumba and beach body boot camp. In some cases you can book a service for multiple people such as manicure for three.

After choosing a service, users can then see photos of the professionals, read about them and check out their star ratings from other clients, as well as their next available appointment time.

The app includes tax and tip so you know exactly what you’re spending; a plus for those on a tight budget. There’s no charge if you cancel within the five-minute grace period after receiving your appointment confirmation or more than an hour before your appointment.

If you cancel within less than an hour of your appointment, you pay 50 per cent of the fee. That’s one of the more generous cancellation policies.

Soothe yourself

If all you want is a massage, Soothe, an app and a website, offers Swedish, deep tissue, sports, prenatal and couples massages from licensed therapists practically around the clock: seven days a week from 8am to midnight, including holidays.

The pricing is simple: $129 for an hour, $179 for 90 minutes, $219 for two hours. Gratuity is included.

You can’t choose your therapist, though if you like someone you’ve used before, you can request him or her again. And you can cancel or reschedule up to an hour before the appointment with no penalty.

If a therapist has been assigned to you and you cancel with less than an hour’s notice, it’s $50; if you cancel with less than 30 minutes before the appointment, you pay in full (fees are lower for rescheduling).

Soothe is not only available in popular destinations like Miami and New York but also in places other wellness apps have yet to reach like Atlanta, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.

Zeel, a massage-on-demand competitor with an app and a delightfully minimalist website, offers appointments from licensed therapists every day of the year (holidays, too) in more than a dozen cities, including New York (and on Long Island and in Westchester County), Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and Washington.

Clients can choose from Swedish, deep tissue, prenatal and sports massages, as well as couples massages and back-to-back massages (massages for two or more people, one after the other).

Glamsquad, an app that offers make-up, nail and hair services, is not as far-reaching. It’s only for iPhone users (if you don’t have an iPhone you can request an appointment online) in New York City (where one can also get manicures and pedicures), Los Angeles and Miami. Appointments are available on demand or up to 30 days in advance, a boon for planners.

In New York, blowouts are $50; make-up applications are $75; manicures are $35; and pedicures are $50. A 20 per cent tip and a service tax are added to those fees. Unlike Priv, however, you can’t choose your stylist.

The cancellation policy is also tougher: If you cancel within an hour of your appointment time, you’re charged in full for whatever you reserved. If you can cancel within four hours of your appointment but at least an hour before your appointment, you’re charged 50 per cent of the price.

Local options

Salon-booking apps and websites are fast gaining traction in the Middle East, especially in the UAE. Similar to food delivery solutions, these apps and sites help you book beauty appointments online or on your smartphone. 

Vaniday is an online booking platform for salons and spas in the Middle East. The site,, currently boasts an impressive 600 salons and spas. The app is available on both Android and iPhone. 

But Dubai’s first home-grown app for booking beauty appointments has to be Beem, an acronym for Beauty Emergency. Launched last September, allows you to browse and book appointments, anytime, anywhere.  

The nail spa is still to launch an app but its online booking option lets you choose the treatment as well as pick from its multiple locations across the UAE. 

Even the US-based Spafinder ( allows you to book luxurious spa treatments anywhere in the world, including Dubai.

New York Times, with input from Sanaya Pavri/ Special to GN Focus