Make the most of your first luxury health spa experience by knowing exactly what to expect from a spa before you arrive. Perhaps you’ve heard a tale of decadent pampering and complete relaxation from one of your co-workers. Or maybe an acquaintance returned from a weekend away, possessing skin that glowed, and a more positive outlook on life. Or perhaps you’ve decided that you’re finally going to set aside some time to treat yourself like royalty. Regardless of what it was that inspired you to do so, you’re ready to book your first visit to a luxury spa.
Whether you’re getting away for several days, or just visiting a day spa, you’ll want to ensure that you make the most of your spa adventure. Even if you’ve never set foot in a luxury spa before, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed or intimidated. Here are some spa basics to help you prepare for a great spa experience.
The first step in having a positive spa experience is choosing a location that meets your needs. Can you only fit a single day away into your schedule, or are you looking for a full week of rest? Do you want an isolated, away-from-it-all location, or would you like to stay somewhere where you can leave the spa in the evening for entertainment or meals? Are you looking for a resort atmosphere, where the family can golf or play tennis while you recline in the steam room? Do you want to alternate your treatments with aggressive workouts in a fitness area, or are you looking for a place where you can indulge in spa treatments and read by the pool?
Once you’ve chosen the spa that best meets your needs, don’t be afraid to ask for more information. How many treatments are covered in your base fee? Do you need to book individual treatments well in advance, or can you decide on impulse that you’d like to squeeze in one last massage before you return home? Most spas are more than happy to send you an information packet that will provide you will all the pertinent details on their treatments and amenities.
Finding Your Way Around
Once you arrive and check in, it’s likely that you’ll be taken a quick tour (if not, don’t be afraid to ask for one). Here are some of the amenities that you may see:
Locker Room: Most spas will have a locker area for you to change out of your street clothes and into a robe and spa sandals. Some spas will hand you a key and let you handle your belongings; others have a spa attendant who is assigned to manage the locker area. Although locker rooms are rarely unisex, they are usually communal, and you should expect to be changing in front of others. Most spas expect you to be nude under your robe, so that your clothes aren’t ruined during a treatment. You’ll most likely find that nudity is the norm in the whirlpools, as well. If you’re uncomfortable with baring in it all, check with the spa in advance to establish whether swimsuits are fine for the whirlpools, or other types of clothing are appropriate for certain spa treatments.
Whirlpools & Baths: Many spas have communal whirlpools or Jacuzzis that are of varying temperatures. Some have private whirlpools for those individuals looking for rest and isolation; some spas offer baths in special ingredients, like warm milk, hot mud, or clay. While some spas will have a communal whirlpool room that’s focused on nothing but bathing, others will use their whirlpool room like an indoor pool. You may find comfy lounge chairs arranged around the whirlpools, making the whirlpool room the ideal place for reading or napping between spa treatments. So, you may want to tote reading materials along if your idea of relaxation involves going back and forth between roiling bubbles and a good book. A special note: some spa treatments (whirlpools included) are not recommended for pregnant women. If you are pregnant and planning a spa visit, be certain to consult with your physician to establish which treatments are right for you.
Steam Room: Steam rooms are usually small tile-lined rooms with tile benches. You’ll generally find hooks outside the steam room for hanging your robe, and towels outside the room to sit on, and to dry off with after you leave. These rooms are generally very warm and very wet, so tread carefully. While some spas will use pure steam, others will feature eucalyptus or some other type of therapeutic steam. Contact lens wearers may want to consider skipping the steam room or removing their lenses prior to stepping inside, as some people find that the steam irritates their lenses.
Sauna: Similar to the steam room, the sauna is a warm enclosure, but without the moisture. Saunas will generally have wooden benches, often composed of redwood. Like the steam room, there will usually be a spot outside for you to hang your robe, and a stack of fresh towels nearby. The sauna is a great place to spend a few moments following an oil massage. The dry heat will allow the oil to soak into your skin, and you’ll leave the room relaxed, with skin that feels incredibly soft.
Treatment Rooms: There will generally be rows of private treatment rooms, and a lounge area for you to rest while waiting for your appointment. Be certain to establish how many minutes prior to your treatment you should be sitting in the waiting room.
Salon Area: If the location offers hair and nail treatments, there will usually be a communal area that resembles a typical salon.
Showers and Vanity Area: Most spas will provide you will everything that you’ll need to shower and leave the spa looking great. If you have sensitive skin or problem hair, you may wish to bring in your own products, but the vanity amenities provided by many spas should cover most people’s basic needs. Also, some spas may ask that you shower prior to receiving a treatment. Be sure to find out if this is the case, and allow plenty of time for you to shower without sacrificing any time at your appointment.
Fitness Area: Many luxury spas also feature state-of-the-art exercise rooms. Some will provide you with workout clothes, but most will let you wear your own fitness attire. Don’t let unfamiliarity with the equipment keep you from getting some exercise; the spa staff should be able to answer any questions that you may have about the machines.
Snack Area: Most spas will provide you with light snacks to keep hunger at bay while you go from treatment to treatment. While this may be contained to certain areas, some spas will allow you to have a meal delivered to you while you rest poolside. If you have food allergies, you will want to find out prior to arrival if there will be snack options that won’t trigger a reaction.
Spas are adding new and exciting treatments to their menus every day, so it’s impossible to list every relaxing service that may be available to you. Here are some basic descriptions of the most commonly performed treatments.
Massage: Ask someone for their favorite spa treatment, and you’ll likely hear that a great massage is the one indulgence that everyone agrees can’t be skipped. The varieties offered are seemingly endless: Swedish, hot stone, Japanese shiatsu, reflexology, aromatherapy, deep tissue, and countless others. Typically, you’ll be brought into a private room, and the massage therapist will ask you to disrobe and give you a brief overview of the massage. The therapist will then leave the room, and you’ll slide between the fresh sheets that are draped over the massage table. Then the therapist will reenter the room, and begin your massage. Let the therapist know if there are any sore spots that need extra attention, or if there are any spots that you’d like them to avoid, due to injury or for any other reason. The therapist will generally keep any part of your body covered that isn’t currently being worked on, but let the therapist know if you become too warm or too cold, or are in any way uncomfortable.
Facials: Facials vary greatly from spa to spa, so consult with the spa staff to establish which type of facial is right for you. Usually, the facial will begin like a massage. You’ll disrobe and lie down on a table, between sheets. The aesthetician will most likely analyze your skin and ask you questions about your skin type. A facial will usually consist of some combination of cleansing, exfoliation, steaming, extraction, a mask, moisturizing or massage. You may have your hands or feet treated, as well. If there are any portions of the facial that you think may be irritating, be sure to communicate your concerns to the aesthetician. One other pointer…some people turn a bit pink immediately following a facial, due to the heat and contact. If you’re fair skinned, you may want to schedule your facial at a time when you’ll have a few hours to let your skin color return to normal.
Body Wraps & Scrubs: There are a multitude of different body wraps, designed to do everything for exfoliation to hydration to reducing inches. The types of wraps vary greatly, but usually, you’ll have a substance applied to your body, and then you’ll be wrapped in cotton, linen or film. If you schedule a body scrub, be certain to not shave within a few hours of your appointment, or you may end up with irritated skin.
Waxing: While most people don’t find waxing to be relaxing, it is a service usually offered at luxury spas. Waxing is usually performed in a dark room, with a bright moveable spotlight overhead so that the technician can do a thorough job. If you’re getting a bikini wax, you will most likely be given a paper undergarments to wear while you’re undergoing the treatment. If you’re having your brows waxed, you should be able to describe to the technician how you’d like your finished brows to look. The technician will usually apply the wax to the area you’re having treated, press a linen strip over the wax, and then quickly pull the strip away from your skin. Some people may experience redness and swelling for up to twenty four hours after a wax, so don’t plan to have your eyebrows waxed and head immediately out for a night on the town.
Manicures & Pedicures: Nail services will generally be similar to what you’d receive in a typical nail salon, but somewhat more luxurious. Spa staff will probably spend a bit more time soaking and massaging that you’ll get at a salon. If you’re an athlete or work on your feet, and are concerned about having too much of your protective rough skin removed be sure to communicate that to your technician.
Tipping: Spa staff will generally go out of their way to ensure that you’re feeling pampered and relaxed around the clock. Be certain to tip according. The standard tip for specialty technicians is 15% to 20%. Even though they may not give you the same personalized service that the service staff gives you, don’t forget to tip the spa attendants, as well.
A trip to a luxury spa should be a blissfully relaxing experience, and not a stressful occasion. With a bit of research and preparation, you can be certain that your first spa visit will be so enjoyable that you’ll be counting the days until your next spa getaway.