A trip to the spa should be a relaxing, blissful experience, but if it's your first visit, it can be slightly nerve-wracking not knowing what to expect. The following tips on spa protocol 101 will remind you to mind your p's and q's, even while you're being pampered--and act as a manual to make the most out of your first spa-going encounter.
If you're running late, you lose - spas often can't push your appointment back more than 10 minutes. Need an incentive to arrive on time? We have a serene relaxation lounge -- we even have a sauna and hydrotherapy tubs -- both act as a prelude to get you in the tranquil spa mindset before your service.
Be conscious that short-notice cancellations will probably incur a charge, especially if you've left your credit card number at booking. Know the spa's cancellation policies when you book and give as much notice as possible if you change your appointment plans.
Your cell phone or BlackBerry should be turned off--and kept off--while in the spa; using either is a huge no-no. Better yet, leave both at home and make Miss Manners proud. In a relaxation room, conversation is fine, as long as it's in a soft tone.
It's up to you. Spas make every effort to accommodate guest wishes in this regard. Keep in mind that at peak hours, it may be harder to fulfill your request, and that for less-requested treatments, the spa may have only one therapist available. Remember to book in advance; if you are a fan of a particular therapist, chances are someone else is.
Nudity is probably the aspect of spa-going that causes guests the most anxiety. Let's be serious--baring it all to someone you've just met can feel awkward. But keep in mind that most therapists in the States go to great lengths to maintain guest modesty, stepping out of the treatment room to allow you to disrobe and get comfortable under the sheet on the massage table. If you're uncomfortable about being in the buff, you don't have to undress completely; it's perfectly okay to wear underwear while having a massage. Second, there are select treatments for which spas will often supply disposable undergarments. Though they'll never make the La Perla catalogue, they do ensure some modesty.
Leaving 15 to 20 percent is customary. Tips should be left at the reception desk, which will have gratuity envelopes (you may want to check with your spa prior to paying, as most permit cash tips only). Received services from more than one therapist? Leave a separate tip for each one. Also, more often than not, spa staff appreciates when the gratuity is left in cash. At a medical spa, tip the facialist, not the medical doctor. Some spas include gratuity in the price, so it's always best to check before.
Though many spas offer locker facilities, leave jewelry and valuables at home in order to avoid any worries or stress.
Because the emphasis should be on relaxation and because others may be allergic, it's best not to wear perfume to a treatment.
For the most part, smoking is not allowed at spas. If it is, there are usually designated areas where you can smoke.
Unless the spa is designated as "Pet Friendly," leave pets at home.
Leave phones and pagers at home or turn them off before entering the spa.
If you have any type of medical condition, it is best to mention it when you book your appointment. Certain treatments may not be advisable for you. Also, tell the technician if you are wearing contact lenses before a facial.
On the day of treatment, try to stay out of the sun and avoid alcoholic beverages. Also, don't schedule a physically demanding endeavor after a spa appointment. Keep the relaxed feeling you enjoyed at the spa long after you leave!
A spa is a great place to get a little alone time, so it's best to not to bring children under 16. If children are with you, be attentive to their safety as well as their impact on the comfort and relaxation of others. Some spas are "kid-friendly" and offer spa activities for children or child care. Check with the spa you are visiting.
If you plan on shaving prior to a treatment (as is advised for men receiving facials), do so at least two hours before your scheduled appointment to avoid any irritation.
Try not to eat for at least an hour before a treatment, and avoid the consumption of alcohol on the day of a treatment. Drink plenty of water before and after your treatment.
Always shower before entering a soaking pool, swimming pool or any of the other shared facilities. While enjoying the sauna or steam, it is proper etiquette to sit on your towel and to wear the plastic shoes provided by the spa. Women should not shave their legs in the steam room.
In the relaxation room and elsewhere, keep conversations at a low volume.
Being respectful of your environment is part of the spa experience. Use only the number of towels necessary; washing them uses water and electricity, which are limited resources in some communities. If you spend time in nature, don't leave any trash behind.
Upon arrival and prior to your treatment, request a tour of the spa, which will acquaint you with your surroundings and introduce you to the spa facilities, such as saunas, steam rooms, and relaxation rooms. Generally, if a spa is equipped with these offerings, their use is complimentary with a treatment, although there may be a charge at other times or if services rendered were not above a certain dollar amount.
All aspects of treatment can be modified to your taste: amount of light, music selection and volume, room temperature, talking or no talking. If you would like for the pressure of your massage to be adjusted, let your therapist know. Also, feel free to ask questions. If any part of your experience is unsatisfactory, first tell the therapist. If the response isn't helpful, speak to a manager or the owner of the spa, if available.
When available, advanced booking - by phone or online booking - will likely minimize your wait time. At many hotels and resorts, spa appointments can be made at check-in, though some request that arrangements be made when making your stay reservation.