The travel industry thrives on fantasy: walking on white sandy beaches, snorkelling in azure waters, bonding over s'mores at the campground, skiing in fresh powder.
But why does that fantasy need to be overrun with cliches when Mother's Day rolls around? Pampering packages at destination spas, fancy hotels offering special high teas and "Queen for a Day" indulgences – it's like all women are privileged, high-maintenance divas.
The press releases start rolling in as early as February and don't stop until the industry turns its attention to Father's Day.
The upselling is unending. "Why celebrate Mom for just a day when you can give her the entire weekend off?" asks the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld. Don't just go for brunch – order a champagne brunch at the Peninsula Beverly Hills, where "spending time together has never felt more special."
Even the New Agers get in on it with "Feet in the Creek," a mother-to-Earth Mother spa treatment at luxury resort L'Auberge de Sedona in Arizona. Apparently, the oil used in this one "supports a feeling of being cared for" and allows a woman "to view the world with a pure childlike perspective."
Are mothers so easily bought? Maybe.
"Our special Mother's Day offerings and packages tend to sell out well in advance," Jeff Doane, Fairmont's vice-president of sales and marketing, Americas, wrote in an e-mail. Apparently, reservations begin in March for Mother's Day tea at the Fairmont hotels in Vancouver and Victoria.
At the luxury hotel the Peninsula New York, Mother's Day brunch and spa treatments need to be booked up to three weeks in advance. And at the Peninsula Beverly Hills: "The demand in our restaurants for seats on Mother's Day is to the point where we temporarily suspend our afternoon tea operation and reconfigure the room for our Mother's Day brunch," said James Overbaugh, the hotel's executive director of food and beverage operations, in an e-mail.
Starwood Hotels and Resorts reports the holiday is a "big draw" at its urban hotels – the Westin Nova Scotian in Halifax is preparing for up to 1,000 guests for its Mother's Day brunch, which takes over the ballroom, lobby, club space and bar.
But just because we cash in those spa gift cards or smile quietly at our offspring over Earl Grey in a delicate teacup – wouldn't you be hurt if we admitted the stereotyping was annoying? – that doesn't mean mothers wouldn't appreciate a shakeup in the packaging of the holiday. (And the shakeup seems to be starting: This year, Ontario Tourism suggested "11 things mom wants more than flowers this Mother's Day" and the list started with CN Tower's 116 storey-high Edgewalk.)
It's not just moms, of course. Dads are offered the same old dull packages year after year, too. Gender bias rules from golf – would he like the Golf Around the World excursion from TCS World Travel (14 courses, nine countries, $78,450, U.S.)? – to barbecue (such as having brunch at "Dad's BBQ Zone" at the Brookstreet Hotel in Ottawa).
While the name of the "Boys will be Boys" package at Topnotch Resort and Spa in Stowe, Vt., is eye-rolling (and the beer and pretzel delivered to the room arguably laughable), at least this preplanned effort goes against type by suggesting a resort credit be spent at the spa.
Mother's Day is lucrative for hotels – restaurants are filled (more than 500 people are expected at afternoon tea at Victoria's Fairmont Empress), estheticians are booked back-to-back and staffers aren't being paid extra holiday pay. It's a win-win-win.
But could they please put an end to the guilt-tripping, over-the-top and oh-so-predictable Mother's Day mayhem of upselling? If you need to make up for a year of not calling or forgetting Mom's birthday, it'll probably take more than a paraffin pedicure – even if it is in a spa halfway around the world. Buying into the travel industry's Mother's Day hype is the easy way out. Invent your own to win her over.