Before you head out to a spa, there are a few things you should know. Different spas have different policies. They'll have different treatments, specialties, pricing, and features. Whether you're a spa newbie or a relaxation expert, you can get the most out of your spa experience with these tips.
How to Choose a Spa
Choosing the right spa takes a little bit of research. Location is obviously important, but you'll also want to balance pricing with the level of pampering you're looking for. A mani/pedi is going to cost a lot less than a man/pedi with an organic coconut facial and 30-minute massage. Before booking, give them a call to find answers to your questions. Here are some ideas for questions to ask spas:
- What do I need to know if this is my first visit?
- Can you explain the different types of massage you offer?
- Do you use organic or fair trade ingredients?
- What do I need to bring?
- Is there a dress code?
- Are all therapists licensed?
- What couple's treatments do you offer?
- Should I shower/bathe before or after any of the treatments?
- Do you have any current specials or offers?
Take a Tour
Calling the spa with your questions at hand is a great way to learn more. But even better is to ask for a tour. Most spas are happy to do this as long as there is enough staff availability, and then you can feel the vibe of the facilities and staff. There's no way to make sure you'll be comfortable than to see the spa in person before booking. Make sure to check out the bathroom facilities, as beautiful bathrooms are a good indicator of how much pride and care the spa takes in what they do.
How to Book a Spa / Pre Spa To-Do List
If you have a preference as to whether you'll be treated by male or female staff, be sure to mention it when booking. Some spas book very far in advance, so keep this in mind as you shop. Before the spa, avoid too much caffeine so that you'll have an easier time relaxing. As mentioned above, find out if you should shower either before or after one of your treatments. If the reception desk instructs you to bathe beforehand, be sure to do so -- although many spas offer on-site shower facilities.
Make sure you're hydrated before you begin your spa day, but not so much that you'll need to take constant bathroom breaks. Proper hydration will also make for more effective massages, facials, and other treatments, as hydrating will help flush more toxins from your body.
Some treatments go hand in hand. For example, lazing in the steam room is great before a massage, as it helps relax your muscles. This gets your body into the ideal state for the masseuse to do their handiwork. The reception desk can help you plan a sequence of treatments that will get the most out of each. Treatments should never be painful, so be sure to speak up to your therapist if you experience any pain.
If you are getting any kind of body treatment, don't shave for 24 hours beforehand. Shaving irritates the skin, and there are treatments that will damage skin if it is already in an overly-sensitized state. Make sure to ask the reception desk if any of your chosen treatments require you not to shave.
If you spend any time in the steam room, be sure to sit on a towel for hygiene purposes. The reception desk can give you detail on each treatment the spa offers. In fact, if they can't, you might want to book at a different spa.
How Much Do I Tip at the Spa?
Unless otherwise outlined in their policies, spas usually expect their customers to tip, so expect to pay 18% - 20% extra for each service you buy. Spas will allow you to tip on cards, but staff always appreciate getting their tip in cash. This allows them to take it home in their pockets that very day, rather than waiting until their normal paycheck comes. Usually, the spas where tips aren't typical include all-inclusive resorts with a no-tip spa policy.
What to Wear to the Spa
Some spas have dress codes, or may recommend you bring a bathing suit. As for what to wear beneath those spa robes, many spagoers wear nothing at all. During treatments, therapists will use draping techniques to ensure no private parts are ever exposed. If you're more comfortable in your underwear, by all means, wear it. Masseuses and other staff can work with whatever you're comfortable wearing. The most important thing is your own comfort and relaxation.
General Spa Etiquette
All spas share a similar line of general etiquette. First off, the spa is meant to be a tranquil and relaxing place. That means cell phones should be on silent. Don't just set them to vibrate, as the sound of a phone buzzing across a glass table can be just as alarming as any ringtone. Avoid talking in a loud voice to maintain the peaceful, no-stress atmosphere. Basically, pretend you're in a monastery -- spas try to be as serene as possible, and how customers conduct themselves is what keeps the vibe relaxing.
Also, and this is important, arrive 45 minutes early to your appointment! You want to have plenty of time after your arrival to check in and fill out any medical questionairres. Some spas require these for insurance reasons, and arriving late might cause you to miss part of your first treatment.
As for tipping etiquette, spas usually expect a gratuity. For more info on that, check out the "How Much Do I Tip at the Spa" section above.